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May 8, 2010

Event: Chicago
Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Run: 16th April – 9th May 2010

I always make it a point to collect programme booklets of every theatre production that I attend, and I have probably amassed quite a tidy pile by now…but I absolutely have to draw the line when it comes to $20 programmes.

I remember the only other time I came across $20 programmes was for “Mamma Mia!” back in 2004. (Didn’t buy it either.)

Same goes for this current “Chicago” production.

Firstly, sad to say but I’m a printer by trade so I absolutely know the true cost of having a programme booklet printed, and even the most beautiful and extravagant booklet I’ve seen yet (for “Victor/Victoria”) cost only $10 if I didn’t remember wrongly, so I don’t see why “Chicago” should be charging $20 for theirs.

It’s plain extortion.

Besides, I don’t see why “Chicago” programme booklets should be charged at $20 when you consider that a ticket that costs a whopping $133 only gets me as near as Circle 2.

(Ok, I hope I don’t sound too critical here. I’m just voicing out my honest opinions.)

Seriously folks, I shelled out $133 just to sit at the 3rd level of the Esplanade Theatre, and the last thing I wanna see is programme booklets that cost $20 a pop.

So anyway, enough griping.

On to the review proper.

I’ve heard lots about the brilliant musical “Chicago” (with songs by the famed Kander & Ebb songwriting team), but I’ve never ever watched the production nor seen the movie before.

Hence, I went to watch it with an open mind and with no preconceived notions whatsoever.

By the time the third scene kicked in, it became apparent that this was going to be a static-set musical whereby there would be no major set changes throughout the entire musical.

I mean, the sets and props were minimal…and it was basically the main central set which housed all the musicians which was the centrepiece of the entire musical.

Which I thought was quite a bold (but neat) concept, and I can’t think of any other major musical production that I’ve watched that could get away with that, apart from “Chicago”.

I liked “Chicago” for its originality and freshness in style, and this is clearly not your typical Rodgers & Hammerstein or Lerner & Loewe fare.

I thought the pace of the story was measured very well, and the overall production had a very slick feel to it.

I liked how they made the musical ensemble resemble the typical “big bands” that were prevalent in the States in the 1920s, both in look and sound.

And I also thought the concept of having two pianists, facing each other, was very cool as well!

The dancing on display was supreme, and this is probably one of the most dance-heavy musicals I’ve seen yet.

Dance definitely plays a huge part in “Chicago”.

I’ve had a number of friends watch the musical and tell me that they totally enjoyed it.

Also, judging by the response from the audience, it felt as though they thoroughly enjoyed the performance as well.

However, personally I would have to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy myself.

I would put my satisfaction rating down as only about 70%, but that’s just me being me.

Perhaps I’m too old-fashioned in my thinking, and I am looking more for the traditional scenes-change-as-you-move-the-story-along type of musical.

Also, I felt that the story and the music just weren’t engaging enough for me.

While there was absolutely nothing wrong with the excellent music, I just felt that it was mostly in the same style, and I would have liked a greater variety of moods and tempi.

Most of the songs were your typical up-tempo, raunchy jazz/swing numbers, but I would also have liked to hear some slower, more romantic and more lyrical numbers as well.

Which brings me to my next point, and that regards the story:

This is not your typical love story.

In fact, there is almost no element of romantic love in “Chicago” at all, which somehow didn’t draw me into its story as much as other musicals would.

The way the story was written, I didn’t find myself being sympathetic towards Roxie nor Velma, and thus I wasn’t rooting for either of them.

There didn’t seem to me like there were any redeeming qualities in either of them that warranted me having to be on their side.

Also, I would have perhaps felt more invested in a story which had a greater element of romantic love in it, which would have naturally led to a larger number of lyrical, romantic ballads, which are right up my alley.

But as I said, it’s just me.

Maybe I’m too particular in my preferences…I think I’m the type that can only thoroughly enjoy old-school style musicals.

Anyhow, I’m really glad to have finally caught “Chicago” after hearing about it for so long.

I think it’s a wonderful musical, and thoroughly worth catching.

Truly one of the great musicals of our time.

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