Monday, September 29, 2014

The Old Razzle Dazzle

Lahden kaupunginteatteri is one of those theatres that are really important to me. It's where I first fell in love with Finnish musical theatre. The year was 2008, the show was Cats, my age was 16 years old – it was love at first sight. I've Lahden kaupunginteatteri a lot to thank for.

Too bad that since 2008, the theatre hasn't really produced any musicals to my liking.

I was bored by their Oliver!. I disliked their Cabaret. I borderline detested their Hair. Last spring, I got so little out of their West Side Story that I couldn't even find words to review it with.

But now, the tide has finally turned. Lahden kaupunginteatteri's production of Chicago is a brilliant take of the musical.

The production has double cast in the two leading roles. I caught Laura Huhtamaa as Roxie and Elsa Saisio as Velma (and am looking forward to seeing Hanna Vahtikari and Maiju Saarinen some day soon). What a fantastic duo! Both are full of charisma and shine brightly in their roles. And when combined with Mikko Pörhölä's perfectly arrogant, charismatic Billy Flynn... They make a delicious combo.

Also, thumbs up for Tapani Kalliomäki as the MC. The Broadway version of Chicago doesn't have an MC, but I have to admit I have grown very fond of narrator/master of ceremonies type of characters over the years. So, it's actually nice seeing one installed here. It took me a while to warm up to the character, but by the end, I enjoyed Kalliomäki's gleeful performance.

For once, the theatre's huge stage isn't too big. The cast is actually rather small, but the stage doesn't feel empty at any point. The orchestra (sounding great!) has a place onstage like in the Broadway version. Unlike that version, though, in this one there are plenty of sets and the scenery is in motion nearly all the time. I like the look of the show as a whole – sets by Minna Välimäki, lights by Jouni Nykopp, costumes by Jaana Kurttila. Nothing too unique, maybe, but still a nice shiny, glittery look.

Overall, Miika Muranen's direction has a great flow. As said, I didn't get much out of his West Side Story. But here, the show has good energy and the action moves from one scene to the next really smoothly. Chicago, with its story of rivalrous murderesses fighting for their fifteen minutes of fame, is not be the deepest or the most thought-provoking musical out there. But when done well... Oh boy, is it entertaining. This production is so much fun.

My biggest snag with the production is that Mary Sunshine is portrayed by a lady, Ilona Pukkila. Not that Pukkila is bad in the role – but has the part ever been portrayed by a man in Finland? Is there simply no one around with a suitable voice..? Having a woman in the role destroys the character's punchline, and her song isn't too impressive if it isn't sung by a dude with a killer falsetto. Eagerly looking forward to seeing the current Stockholm production where Chris Killik wears the high heels!

Also, hopefully I'll one day see a non-replica version of Chicago with The Hot Honey Rag as an actual dance number. Here, the song is played during the very energetic curtain call. That's fun, but The Hot Honey Rag dance is maybe my favourite thing in the Broadway staging. So it'd be nice to see it in other versions too!

Still, these are minor flaws. Watching some other production, I might be more annoyed at these, but here the rest of the show is so good that I can quickly forget some slight disagreements. I decided to see the show again during the intermission already, and bought my next ticket right after the show ended. Kind of like chain smoking, but better for your health.

In short, if you can, go see this one. And if you can't, here's the production's teaser trailer, which I hope gives you at least a little idea of how the show is like:

Photos by Sami Heiskanen.

1 comment:

  1. Well this sounds fabulous! We're going to go in two weeks and now I'm eagerly waiting. I have never (!) been in Lahden kaupunginteatteri so I am waiting to be impressed. Haven't seen any version except the movie though so I have no stage version to compare it to, though.