I recently went to see Chicago at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End. It tells the story of two women on trial for murder and it is a show that I have seen many times before – it is indeed one of my favourites.
However, on this occasion I got to thinking – why do people actually go to see the show? Is it the razzle dazzle, fantastic songs, and Bob Fosse’s amazing choreography that attracts audiences or is there another reason that millions of people flock to resident productions and tours around the world?
Chicago is marketed mainly on its sex appeal. The costumes are designed to be as revealing as humanly possible in the majority of cases. Indeed the only characters who could be considered ‘clothed’ are Billy Flynn the lawyer who, by virtue of his role, obviously has to be dressed decently, Mary Sunshine – a newspaper reporter revealed at the end of the show to be a transvestite – and the two ‘unsexy’ characters of Mama Morton, the prison matron and Amos Hart, husband of the accused murderess.
I understand that sex is an important part of the show, in that the women in custody for murder have invariably committed their crimes because of extra-marital affairs that have happened. I also feel that the costumes, or lack of them, and the erotic style of dancing fit perfectly with the themes of the show. However, I am concerned that many people in the audiences only go to see the show because of the amount of flesh that they can see compared to many other West End productions. How many women go to see Chicago: The Musical because of the number of half naked men they can see, or how many men go because of the half naked women?
So, what do you think – is the work of Bob Fosse a waste on today’s audiences, or do the millions of people who see the show each year truly appreciate the addition that sex appeal makes to the art form that is musical theatre?
Girl Museum Inc.