Richard and I saw the Takarazuka company of Japan doing *Chicago* on 7/23. It was part of the Lincoln Center Festival, performed at the State Theater (I don't feel right calling it the David H. Koch Theater). I had never seen the show onstage before, and how could I pass up the chance to see it by an all-female company, in Japanese?
It was a blast. There were supertitles, but we didn't really need them, we both know the show pretty well. It was a treat hearing the songs that didn't make it into the movie ("Class", "My Own Best Friend", etc) and it was a thrill seeing those songs with the second-hand Bob Fosse choreography. Because yes, the production we saw is the same production as has been playing on Broadway for 20 years, with choreography by Ann Reinking, who had played Roxie in the original 1975 production, directed and choreographed by Fosse.
The all-female aspect didn't have much of an impact at all. The male roles are somewhat two-dimensional, it might have helped add some depth to have a woman playing them. And the boys in the ensemble, they move in such a girly way anyway - - you strap a woman's boobs down, give her a black T-shirt, a slim pair of slacks, and a bowler hat, you've got a most attractive young creature. Who cares whether it's a man or a woman underneath.
I should mention that there was one man in the cast: the role of reporter Little Mary Sunshine, played by Christine Baranski in the movie, has always been played by a man in drag on stage, singing in falsetto and giving the audience a shock with the big reveal at the end of the show. I thought it was sweet that they retained that tradition (though maybe it's required in the rights to the show). FYI the male characters in the show were never revealed to be women.
The high point was the "Cell Block Tango", which I think might be one of the greatest numbers ever. "Roxie Hart" was another highlight, it's brilliant how the dialogue that starts the song is underscored with the bass and the drums and then morphs so effortlessly into a full production number.
The audience was RABID for the show. There were a lot of Japanese or Japanese-Americans in the audience, and they shrieked when the lead actors made their entrances. That was a hoot. The three leads (Roxie, Velma, and Billy) came in front of the curtain after the bows and explained that *Chicago* isn't really representative of what they do at Takarazuka. So as a special treat, they were going to do an encore. something more in the Takarazuka style.
The NY Times review said the encore was 15 minutes long, but it felt like it was at least a half hour. It went on and on and was very strange. It was totally frozen in the 1970s: Richard and I decided it was a mixture of Lawrence Welk, *The Love Boat*, and a beauty pageant. The gowns, the dancing, the canned music, the wholesome and slick production style - - it was all very peculiar.