The Cook County Jail has some Competition

Chicago is quite the dark horse in the longest-running Broadway musical race. Next to The Phantom of the Opera which has become so closely associated with this prestigious honour, Chicago has quietly continued to play eight shows a week with a never-ending rotation of popular stars – exactly what Broadway’s tourist-heavy audiences are looking for! But we have reached the point where, even 20 years on, one Chicago isn’t enough for New York . . .

Chicago 2

Chicago has become quite a cultural revolution. In the day and age where audiences are flocking to big-budget, scene-stealing, magical-inspired productions, Chicago’s simple celebrity and incredible talent-driven model has continued to be a winner with audiences in the theatre capital and around the world.

The answer to its continued success is quite clear. In a world where new celebrities pop up every day, this production has the flexibility to remain topical with the current trends. Take the current Broadway production, for instance, recent leads have been pulled straight from the most popular television shows bringing a completely new fan base to the show, and also a great incentive for travelling tourists to see their favourite stars live. Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara and talk show host Wendy Williams recently took on the role of Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, Jane the Virgin’s Jamie Camil has recently taken over as the conniving lawyer Billy Flynn and Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles was the name on everybody’s lips . . . Roxie, among a whole host of other incredibly famous names who have taken star turns over the years.

But Japan has found another way to capture the attention of an audience when it comes to their recent local production of Chicago. The production at the Takarazuka Theatre has taken a different casting choice. Rather than focus on celebrities, the production has decided to cast women . . . and only women to make an all-female production about the merry murderesses of Cook County Jail which will play New York between July 21 and 24.

Will the Japanese Chicago hurt attendance for Broadway’s production? Will the Broadway production impact the new Japanese production?

I don’t think there’s any need for a prison brawl between these two companies of inmates. My bet would be on completely different audiences for the two productions. By this stage, twenty years down the track, there can’t be many people who haven’t passed through the doors of Chicago left in New York. This new Japanese production will be a great novelty to bring interest back to this White Way stalwart for New York locals, while the tourists are probably still going to go back to the original with its star-studded cast. (But who knows, maybe seeing this Japanese production will inspire a few New Yorkers back through the doors of the Broadway production to check out the original?)

If anything, this Japanese production will increase the desire for audiences to risk their lives in the Cook County Jail!

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