I had originally only planned to see Hairspray on this trip to New York, but at the last minute on Sunday night I decided to see if I could get tickets for that evening. After checking around, I found a seat available for the 6:00pm showing of Chicago. Despite the musical being around for a number of years now, I had never seen it in New York, nor at its many runs back home in Houston (I’ve since seen it again there). After calling to reserve my ticket, I rushed back to the theater district and arrived just in time to pick up my ticket, and find that my last minute call to the box office had resulted in a front-row seat at a discounted price.
Unlike many musicals, Chicago uses very minimal sets, and puts the orchestra right up on the stage in the middle of everything, instead of out of site in the pit. For those who’ve only seen the 2002 film version of this show, the lack of a set may come as a surprise. But it works very well, as the stage version is presented as a vaudeville show. This performance starred Brenda Braxton as Velma Kelly (I later saw her again in the same role in a Houston performance), Charlotte d’Ambroise as Roxie Hart, Mary Testa as Matron "Mama" Morton, and Brent Barrett as the attorney Billy Flynn. All were incredible, and having the orchestra up on the stage adds to the visual excitement of the songs. Seeing Chicago live also holds some surprises for the audience that are not in the film; the best of these comes during the trial scene where a single actor plays the entire jury, and things are revealed to not always be as they seem with one of the main characters.
Overall, I was thrilled with my last minute decision to see Chicago live. Despite the age of this show, and the successful movie adaptation, this musical story of murder, jazz, and liquor is still fresh and relevant, and provides for a highly entertaining evening.