Last night, Sarah and I took in Chicago: The Musical at a local theatre.
Given the quality of Chicago the movie, we both had high expectations for the stage production. After the show ended last night, both Sarah and I felt the movie was much better.
The movie did a great job cutting the fat from the play. There were numerous musical numbers that little to nothing to advance the story or develop characters. Mary Sunshine’s number, for instance, was a complete waste of time and talent. In addition, the musical number, “Class” seemed designed to bulk up the second act a bit. You know a musical number is extraneous when I lean over to Sarah during a long dance scene and mutter, “gratuitious music video,” a catch phrase we usually use when discussing music video filler sandwiched into a feature film.
While the play was laden with low-quality filler, the movie improved the source material by cutting all the fat and leaving the muscle and bone. The musical numbers left in the film are all high quality numbers that help to advance the story of develop characters. The medium of film, where running times are generally shorter than that of musical theatre, actually helped to improve the source material.
In addition, many of the musical numbers in the movie had more pop. The number “Cell Block Tango” was greatly improved in the movie version. The addition of the red and white scarves, while simple, was a fantastic visual addition to the otherwise sparse staging. There is no reason that the play couldn’t adopt something similar for that number.
That’s not to say that play has nothing on the movie. It’s clear from watching the movie that the director and producers went out of their way to protect Catherine Zeta-Jones’ limited singing and dancing ability wherever possible. By comparison, the woman playing Velma Kelly last night clearly was a superior singer and dancer.
Ultimately, we were disappointed that we shelled out nearly fifty bucks a seat for a show that seemed off in nearly every respect. It would not be inaccurate to say that we enjoy the DVD of the movie more than we enjoyed watching the show last night.