Chicago - The Musical
Review By: Gringo

Apparently, Chicago is meant to be quite a good musical. It's enjoyed a long run in London's West End, has been performed countless times on and off Broadway in the United States, and a movie version is planned. Which is all very nice, considering Cabaret got the same treatment and that was a great mixture of catchy tunes and a relatively interesting story. However, I can't say the same for Chicago. It's not because I haven't seen the show. Well, technically I haven't, but I'll elaborate on that. It's not because I haven't heard the show. Oh, wait. In a way, I suppose I didn't really hear it too well. What the hell am I dribbling on about? Well, my friends, my dear, dear friends, I'll let you know. A few months ago I went down to London with a friend of mine (yes, I've got some). We spent the first night getting drunk. We ate at Pizza Hut, which was a mistake, and drank cheap wine instead of consuming our grease-laden pizzas. Then we went to several pubs, and drank more. By the end of the evening, we were making idiots of ourselves by dancing along during a Blues Brothers musical. Such high culture!

The story gets more relevant from now on, I promise. The second night, nursing hangovers - nursing them just like Florence Nightingale! - we made our way to the Adelphi theatre in the city, to go and see the musical Chicago. I had no idea how good the seats would be (I booked them over the phone and didn't bother to double-check what level or where in the theatre they would be). Now I've decided to write a review of the musical based on my experience in London alone. Only two or three months late. Listen To Me is such an up-to-date site! When we arrived at the theatre, I dutifully went to collect the tickets from the ticket booth (naturally), credit card in hand. Did we get aisle seats? No. Did we get seats on the ground floor, with a good view of the stage? No. Did we get seats on the first floor, with a fairly good view of the stage? No. Did we get seats on the second floor, with a poor view of the stage, unless you happen to take a pair of binoculars round town with you? No. Did we get seats at the very back of the third floor, what must have been miles of distance from the stage, so high up it was hard to get enough oxygen to breathe and so far away from the musical action taking place that you'd need a magnifying glass as big as a house to see anything? Yes.

See, I thought we'd done quite well with the tickets. They only cost about 㿀 in total. That's twenty Great British Pounds. For my beloved American friends that's something in the region of $35-$40. I am a mathematics wizard! But had we really done well with them? No. Not at all. Our seats weren't even close to being good. They were tiny, with so little legroom my friend had to sit with his legs wide apart in a horrifically vulgar pose. I never want to see that again. Not to mention the fact that I was sat next to perhaps the single most annoying person on the face of the Earth, who was intent on speaking to everyone in the theatre - at least, that's what the volume of his voice told me - as often as he could. The show was about to begin, and the lights dimmed, the yokels kept on speaking and I tried to ignore the numbing sensation the cramped seating was causing my body. From that point on, I only saw at best two thirds of the show. Partly because of the ridiculous seating, partly because a woman with a huge head was sat in front of me and every five minutes would fidget in her seat, blocking out a different part of the stage every time.

However, I tried to put thoughts of beating her over-sized face with an equally over-sized shovel out of my mind and instead was intent on watching as much of the musical as I could. I managed to see some lithe women jiggling about on stage, wearing very little clothing. Then I saw some buffed-up men doing much the same, and strangely doing it to both the men and the women next to them. This was apparently the choreography for the first song. I was ready to start watching the musical, waste a couple of hours, then go and drink. But then the next problem started. Sure, the people on stage looked like they were singing. Their mouths were moving, they were dancing - at least, I assume their frantic groin-pumping was meant to be dancing - and the orchestra were definitely playing their instruments. However, because we were sat at the top of Mount Badview, I couldn't hear a lot. I managed to grasp that the first song was called All That Jazz, but apart from that it was a lot of muffled singing, a barely audible band and a woman with a very big head getting in the way a lot. This continued for what must have been two or three songs, before something glorious happened. Something I am eternally grateful to the staff at the Adelphi theatre for.

See, the woman with big head - let's call her Big Head from now on, for the sake of convenience - decided it would be a good idea to take some photos of the show whilst it was going on. Bizarrely, she thought this even though her stupid over-sized moon-face was parked right next to a sign clearly saying 'No Photography'. Big Head must have thought those rules didn't apply to her, because she started taking pictures. Not just one, or two. She took so many damn pictures she had to change the roll in the theatre. Not that she went somewhere quiet to change it. Oh, no. She decided to drown out what little sound that was coming from the stage by changing the roll in her seat. Thanks, Big Head! With a new roll in place, she commenced taking photos once more. Only she'd made a mistake. She switched the flash on, and after two photos, people starting whispering. After five, people started saying things to her. After ten, a theatre attendant marched up to Big Head and - for once I'm not exaggerating - snatched the camera off her. Big Head decided to shout "Hey!" and then say nothing afterwards, to which the attendant snapped "See me afterwards, you'll get it back".

There must be something about being embarrassed in a public place and having a large face, because after this Big Head was the perfect audience member. She sat back, keeping her head out of my immediate view, she didn't fidget, and she didn't talk. I think she may even have been dead. Come to think of it, I don't remember her leaving the theatre at the end. Oh well. I'd like to say that was the end of it, and go on to review what remained of the show, but there was to be another interruption. Before I get to that, I'll tell you about the two songs that I did manage to hear most of, and see all of. The first was When You're Good To Mama, which was sung by a butch female prison warden. It was quite catchy, and relatively famous singer Alison Moyet played the character, which was a nice surprise. The other song I managed to hear was Mr. Cellophane, sung by a balding guy. It was a funny tune. And that's it. I'd like to tell you more about the story, I'd like to type something about each and every song, but I can't. And that's not because of any laziness, it's down to the fact that stupid seating and annoying people prevented me from experiencing anything to review.

I thought that when Mrs. Big Head became sedated with her loss of dignity that things would pick up. How wrong I was! Whilst I managed to see a little bit more of the stage, I hadn't counted on the fun that the intermission would bring. I don't know if it's the same in America or anywhere else in the world, but here in the UK, theatre managers seem to think it's a really good idea to sell beer and spirits before and during the break in almost every show. Unfortunately, quite possibly the fattest couple I've ever seen in my life - I'll call them Mr. and Mrs. Gloop - decided that it'd be an equally good idea to drink the beer on offer during the intermission. So they did. They then had a few more. Then they took their bottled, ridiculously-expensive beer back into the theatre with them, ignoring the 'No Bottles' sign with an arrogance befitting Mrs. Big Head. Five minutes into the second part of the show, the vengeful theatre attendant swooped on the expandable couple, and tried to get their beer bottles off them. Only this time, she had a bit of resistance. Mr. and Mrs. Gloop weren't for giving up their drinks, and there was a bizarre yet comic few minutes where the attendant had a hand on both bottle necks, frantically trying to shake the bottles loose from the Gloop duo's fatty grasp.

Eventually, the attendant managed to prize Mr. Gloop's bottle free and she quickly ran out of the theatre with it, presumably to entice the chunky couple to follow her. It worked. They both disappeared into the foyer. Ten minutes or so passed. I heard shouting. I'm pretty sure the whole theatre heard the shouting. Amusingly, a few seconds later, Mrs. Gloop raced back towards the seats, looking very flustered - and strangely her top was now wet - and grabbed her and her husband's coats, then left, never to be seen again. Back to the musical in question! Apparently, Chicago is the story of Roxie and Velma, two singers in 1920's Illinois who both find themselves in jail. There's a lot of singing, and a lawyer called Billy Flynn helps them get out of jail by putting on the charm at their trials. However, I've written about my time at the show, and as you'll now know I didn't get to see or hear much of it. Even worse, I never did find out what happened to Mrs. Big Head or the Gloops. I still hold out hope that someone, somewhere is keeping an awkwardly-placed seat spare for Mrs. Big Head to do her thing, and two beers - bottled - cool in the fridge for Mr. and Mrs. Gloop. Just make sure I'm not there.


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