So, tonight I went to go see the stage production of "Chicago" at the major theatre on campus. Needless to say, I have been super excited for this show ever since I heard about it last summer. I am an enormous fan of Rob Marshall's film version and have memorized every song on the soundtrack for the film. I'm glad to announce that I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. It's totally different from the movies (as should be expected from a stage-to-screen transfer) but it still offered something special that makes it a must see.
First, the play takes place on one singular set with the band right on stage interacting with the performers. Here is a picture of what the stage looked like (except the one I was saw was a lot less sophisticated than this):
I thought this was an intriguing way of staging the play and even if it took away from the spectacle, it allowed us to use our imaginations and instead get lost in the music and choreography. Even more than the movie, which goes from song to song rather quickly for a movie musical, the songs keep coming one right after the other with very little dialogue in between (until the Second Act anyways). And it also helps to have interesting Roxies and Velmas to keep us entertained and the two actresses who played them were well equipped. I even liked the man who played Amos, who doesn't come off near as annoying as when John C. Reilly played him in the film version.
Another great part was after the song "When Velma Takes the Stand," Velma is told to leave after Roxie interrupts her conversation with Billy Flynn. Before she goes, however, she tells the band to "play my exit music" and in one of the greatest diva moments in history, Velma does a reprisal dance as the hunky boys around her belt once more "When Velma takes the stand!" and she is carried off the stage in a chair as the music swells around her. How fabulous is that?! I now have to get my own exit music and a little routine with tons of feathers, glitter and spandex. Can someone make this happen?
I think the ending to Chicago is one of the best in history and it wasn't until I saw it again tonight that I realized how similar it feels to the ending of Dreamgirls when Effie White tells Curtis that "Effie is gonna win" and walks off stage/camera. Both Effie and Velma/Roxie have been through so much that when they finally get what they want it's a delicious moment for the audience.
And now for the not-so-good parts: I wasn't particularly impressed by the "I Can't Do It Alone" and "We Both Reached for the Gun" sequences, but I was comparing to the marvelous staging in the film and you just can't do those things on the stage, so it wasn't really their fault. I also didn't like Tom Wopat as Billy Flynn. He lacked the charisma that Richard Gere had in the film and seemed really awkward up on stage. But offstage, Tom Wopat had a hilarious D-List moment worthy of Kathy Griffin's reality show.
That's Tom Wopat above. Apparently he played Luke Duke on The Dukes of Hazard back in the day. Anyways, after the show, my friend Sammi went over to buy a program and there was Tom Wopat himself standing right next to the table of souvenirs selling some shitty CD of his. And the hilarious thing was that no one was talking to him. More people were in line to get Chicago t-shirts and shot glasses than to talk to Tom Wopat. I couldn't even look in his direction because it was so depressing/hilarious. At least Kathy Griffin has her loyal legion of gays.
Okay, now flash forward ten minutes later and I am standing outside in the butt-fucking cold with my other friend Laura as Sammi and a friend of hers stands out by the stage door waiting for the actors to come out. They get a couple of random chorus girl/men's autographs ("Ooh, I loved you as the third from the left during the Cell Block Tango," Laura jokes) when this man dressed in cognito with a baseball cap and sunglasses (I think anyways) bursts through the door and walks on the grass, avoiding Sammi and her friend. Suddenly, Sammi thinks she realizes who it was and shouts "TOM!" to get his attention and he turns back around. Her and her friend go running over to him to get his autograph while Laura and I are so embarassed/ashamed that we hide between the dumpsters. After I think about it for a second, I realize how hilarious it is that Tom fucking Wolpat has the audacity to avoid fans and dress incognito when he can't even get people to speak to him after the show.