Yesterday, PJ and I went to see Chicago, which came to Athens as part of the university’s performing arts series. Here’s a Youtube clip from when the Broadway production visited The Early Show. The touring company we saw was, of course, based on this production.

Until yesterday, almost my entire knowledge of this musical was from the 2002 movie version starring Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-JonesJohn C. Reilly, and Queen Latifah. The only other thing I knew about the show was that Bebe Neuwirth had starred in it (and won a Tony) in the mid-90s. Here’s a clip of her as Velma Kelly performing during the Tony Award show:

I really only have two responses to the touring company version of the musical. On the one hand, this production suffers from the slightness of the musical’s book and the limits of being a touring company. But on the other hand, I finally learned why God created tight, low-rise pants for men!

Chicago barely has a plot. Roxie Hart kills her lover when he states that he’s leaving her. While in prison she meets Mama Morton, the warden who does favors for her girls in exchange for a little something from them (usually denominations of $50s), Velma Kelly, who killed her sister and husband when she found them having sex together, and Billy Flynn, the lawyer who specializes in helping female murderers beat the rap. Billy helps Roxie win an acquittal (for a mere $5000), and Roxie kind of fulfills her dream of becoming a vaudeville act. That’s about it as far as plot goes.

The musical is also making a statement about justice (and the lack thereof) in America, and I don’t want to discount that message altogether. But I can’t help but compare this musical to Cabaret, which has a few similarities to this work but seems to pack a bigger punch.

The musical numbers are great musically — and most of the actors in the touring company are good in their roles — but the thinness of the book really relies on the musical numbers having a wow factor that’s difficult for a touring company to achieve. They obviously have to stage the numbers for the smallest stage rather than for maximum venue potential. One could argue that the production is minimalist, but overall I wasn’t razzle-dazzled.

I will note, however, that Lindsay Roginski is great as Roxie. She’s a wonderful singer and dancer and she imbues Roxie with spunk and some humanity. Roginski makes her somewhat sympatheic. Or, at least, she makes her the most sympathetic character in a cast of totally unsympathetic characters.

Roginski is also a great comedian. Her Roxie is playful and coy. And we see her wise-up and realize how well she can play the system. Hers is an excellent performance. She definitely steals the show.

It’s always been a little weird to me that Velma is usually seen as the lead role in this musical and Roxie as supporting/featured. Roginski definitely makes you forget that her character is on stage less often than Velma.

But the main thing that I liked about this production is that it finally taught me why tight, low-rise pants were made: on the right man, they are hot, hot, hot — all you need are great abs and a round, magnificent ass!

In this case, they were on Adam Pellegrine, who plays a couple of small roles and is frequently seen on-stage as part of (the most prominent member of) the chorus. He, too, is an excellent dancer and all-around performer. While I do think he’s totally hot, I also think he’s really talented apart from his hunky dancer’s body. I hope he gets his shot at a big leading role someday.

Overall, this is a perfectly good production of a perfectly good musical. Nothing tremendously wonderful — except for the pants — but an entertaining night at the theater nevertheless.