The story of Chicago is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice.This musical comes from the book Chicago which was written by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. In 1920s America many people became alcohol dependant and the level of alcoholism rose tremendously. During this time, crime increased sharply and the society wasn’t as safe as before. Furthermore, some politicians were linked to the gangs. In order to get more money, they cooperated with each other. Some American cities became centers of crime, cities such as Chicago, New York and Boston. Due to alcohol addiction, crime increased and some people killed others without conscious. In the 1920s, people neglected the law and did not respect it, in their eyes, the police and government meant nothing. However, the officers in the government were very corrupt, they did not do their responsibilities well, and they just wanted to use this environment to get more money. As it can be seen, in this period, the whole American was queasy. This musical uses a symbolic and satiric way to expose the American society in 1920s
A. Now I am going to discuss the set and costume design.
In the musical, there are two ladders on the stage, one is on downstage left, the other is downstage right, but actors just use them in some short scene. When Roxie and Kelly singing on the ladders in different scene (Roxie was on right one and Kelly was on left one), they looked like more powerful than they were on the stage. I think they want to be concentrated on as well, when they on the ladders, they were shinning, whereas surroundings were dark, so audience would focus on them.
The orchestra became part of musical, they have fixed position on the stage. Sometimes, conductor and musicians took part in the show. Their order looked like steps, and the steps could be used by actors as well and they offered different levels for actors, although they small. They were entrances and exits, including trap door and traditional device.
Lighting plays a significant role in during the whole show and it helped actors communicate with audience. Different colors used in different scenes: Red was used for murder, because red seems to represent blood and crime. The mix of red, yellow and blue was used to brighten the stage for ‘A little bit of Good’. Then the yellow foot lights for count scene, the lighting came from the ground, it made actors’ faces solid and serious. From this kind of lighting, audience can understand this is a court now. Actually, all lightings are very artificial, but they can help audience to know what is going on now. So lighting is very important in the show.
Costume: every actor has own basic costume, in this musical, Roxie changed her shoes twice, the same with Kelly. Their skirts were short so that they looked sexy. Roxie’s wig hair looked 1920. All costumes of actors are almost black, so I think it may symbolize Chicago in 1920 was a criminal world.
B. Actors and Audience Relationship
1. At the beginning of the show, an announcer established the direct relationship between audience and performers. Actually, during the show, announce appeared many times, but announcers were played by performers, there was no an immovable person to be the announcer.
2. In order to communicate with audience, performers always face the audience. Although they were talking with each other, their faces were to the audience.
3. As I talked before, they performed on the ladders. It was a form of direct communication to the audience. They were telling the details of the story to spectators; the lines were not the dialog between performers. So the audience would feel they were talking to the actors, they were part of the show.
4.The orchestra is important in communicating as well. At the end of the show, audience hands capped for this successful performance, and the conductor and musicians responded to audience, they continued the music. Then audience hands clapped with therhythm which made by orchestra. This was a typical example of the relationship between actors and audience.
5. When some actors finished their part of a scene, they did not go back to the background; they just sat on the chairs which were at two sides of the stage. Actually, sometimes they sang with the actors who were on the stage now, and their voices were background music. In my opinion, it is a kind of communication with audience.
Personally speaking, actors’ personalities in this show were very clear and their motives were very clear as well. Audience can understand what they were thinking about and what they were doing. Here I want to introduce the characterization of main actors.
Fred Cazily—Roxie’sinamorato. His movements on the stage looked like an animal, maybe he wanted to be sexy.
Roxie—she is the main character. Her movements were full of energy, when she wanted to be innocent, her hands would put across her knees, and arms would become together. And her voice sounded like a little girl, she wanted to make people think that she did not have enough energy to kill her inamorato. However, her voice was loud and raucous in true life, but I think the raucous voice sounds sexy and a little naughty. She liked to wear high -heel shoes, and walked very strongly, sometimes when she was angry she wouldtrample ground forcibly, so I think it suggested she was a violent person or she liked to be violence. When she talked with people, her arms were akimbo, and her legs were a little flexural.
Kelly—her movements were similar with Roxie, but she looked like stronger than Roxie. Her voice was loud and strong but not raucous. She liked power and she wanted to be celebrity, so she tried her best to compete with Roxie, but I think she was more honest, because she did not lie to reporters. Sometimes, when she was angry, she would rise up her arms and splay her legs. In some ways, she was a violent woman as well.
Billy—he is a layer, he looked like can control everything. Because of the money that Roxie gave to him, he made Roxie from a murder to a celebrity. He is a typical of the corruption. His voice was loud and brash, and he looked very confident and charming, it seemed he could arrange everything. He walked and moved his legs strongly. He is a greedy person. I consider that all people at that time were greedy and selfish.
In conclusion, Chicago is a very attractive musical show, compared with the film; it gives me a deep impression, and help me understand its theme better. Before I went to the theater to watch Chicago, I saw the film. And I just thought the songs and dance in Chicago (film) were good, but I did not think more about the theme. But from this musical it seems that I saw American society in 1920. Some scenes gives me deep impressions, for example, the puppet scene, Roxie sat on Billy’s knees, and Billy controlled her and other people just like puppets.
It means that everyone can be controlled by him, so in other words, just means corruption in America at that time was serious. So I think it is a smart and interesting way to expose society. Film and musical has many differences, film can express a story easy, because it can tell the story by the true-live scene, but in musical, the stage is limited, so actors do not have such a huge space to perform. And musical can make this story compact, so audiences can concentrate, and a musical has different kinds of mise-en scene which can attract the audience as well. Overall, Chicago is an unforgettable narrative and either the film or the musical can give audiences the same universal theme but different interpretations.