Growing up in New York, I come from the epicenter of the theatre. The best plays and theatrical performances of the world must pay homage there to earn the respect of industry and fans. If a musical “can make it there, it can make it anywhere”. I now live in Dubai and when I heard that Broadway’s most successful musical was coming to Dubai, I had to see how this performance could compare. So with high expectations and anticipation, I decided to take in the Chicago performance over the New Years weekend. The performance was held at the Dubai World Trade Center and produced by Dubai’s premier event production company Yak Events. I along with the audience of two thousand fans was completely enthralled with an evening of amazing performances by a dazzling cast.
A true New York City institution, CHICAGO has everything that makes Broadway great: a universal tale of fame, fortune and all that jazz; one show-stopping song after another; and the most astonishing dancing you've ever seen. Chicago is one of Broadways most successful companies and is one of the longest running shows with over 6700 performances. It has run on Broadway for over 17 years and has won six Tony awards. The 2002 movie starring Renee Zelwiger, Catherine Zeta Jones, Queen Latifah, and Richard Gere won best picture and best supporting actress for Catherine Zeta Jones. The play and the production came to Dubai with this tradition and a gorgeous ensemble cast performing sizzling numbers choreographed in the style of Bob Fosse.
Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, CHICAGO is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and cabaret dancer who maliciously murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today’s tabloids.
In addition to the stand out performances by the lead characters Anne Horak as Roxie Hart and Terra C. MacLeod and Velma Kelly I particularly enjoyed the performances by Roz Ryan as Mama Morton and Brent Barrett as Billy Flynn. Billy Flynn’s performance of Razzle Dazzle did just that as he spellbound theatre goers holding a note in his perfect tenor voice for over one minute. Flynn is a stage veteran with performances around the world on stage and is also the winner of the LA Drama Critics Award for his performance in Chicago.
I also enjoyed the performance by Roz Ryan as Matron Mama Morton. She entered the stage with so much swagger that one had to acknowledge her commanding presence. She began to engage and captivate with her performance of “When You’re Good to Mama” that was flawless. It’s no wonder; Roz Ryan recently broke the company record with the most performances of any leading actress in that show's 17-year run. She has performed over 230th contracted weeks as Matron "Mama" Morton, setting a new, all-time record. Ryan made her debut in Chicago in January 1999. Since then, she has returned to reprise the role in the Broadway Company every single year; 2013 marks her 15th consecutive year with the show.
The musical was presented between December 19th, 2013 to January 3rd, 2014 in Sheikh Rashid Hall, Dubai World Trade Centre. It was the perfect time for the musical that welcomed thousands of Dubai’s locals, expats, and vacationers in town for the holiday break. There were 20 shows for the Broadway lovers in Dubai who were left breathless by the world class ensemble of 40 dancers and musicians playing live in a spectacle that mixed theater, dance and live music.
The performance was put on by Dubai’s premiere event and entertainment company YAK events. Yak Events is known for continuously stepping up to higher levels of sensational experience and providing outstanding, over-the-top, outrageous, high-quality events. And without a doubt they achieved this in the Dubai World Trade Center with a Broadway like entrance to the musical with the marquis in lights as well as the event’s staging and lights. There were also large the viewing monitors to ensure there was not a bad seat in the house so that those close to stage or away had a perfect view to take in all of the action. Yak Events does a great service to Dubai by bringing cultural experience to town. Their next event, which I’m sure will be on par with Chicago is Peter Pan, The Never Ending Story so looking forward to that as well.
I have lived in Dubai for 18 months and at times am homesick for the culture and experiences of New York. For two hours over the New Year’s break, I was transported back to Broadway with an enthralling performance of Chicago by a captivating cast and a performance worthy of its heralded tradition.