• "Chicago" comes to Austin

    “Chicago” has everything: money, murder, sex, and “Razzle Dazzle.” I have inexplicitly found myself humming “Cell Block Tango” on multiple occasions. So when I heard the national tour was coming to the Bass Concert Hall, there was no doubt I would attend.

    Based on real 1920s events, “Chicago” tells the story of murderer Roxie Hart, as she gains fame during her trial, and murderer Velma Kelly, a washed up star, trying to regain the same fame.

    The musical production is very different from the 2002 film version. Rather than shifting from location to location, the entire live show is performed in the courtroom, with the story told through vaudevillian style musical acts. The musical a less realistic feel than the film and emphasizes the idea that Hart’s trial is a performance.

    The musical’s showiness allows the cast to interact directly with the audience and the characters become caricatures at points. This over the top style of the show does make emotional connection to the characters more difficult though.

    “Chicago” is known for its minimalist staging, so I was not surprised when the stage was sparse. The set, as well as costuming, was completely colorless, with the exception of a few gold accents. There were some movable chairs and a ladder on each end of the stage, but the majority of the set was composed of a black bleacher-like structure that mimicked a jury box in a courtroom. This is where the orchestra sat for the entirety of the show. The characters would playfully interact with the musicians and directors, which added a fun dynamic.

    Stand out moments included “Tap Dance,” Roxie’s monologue and "Mister Cellophane." In “The Tap Dance” Billy Flynn (John O’Hurley) uses Roxie as a literal puppet to tell the media what they need to hear for her to be freed from jail. Roxie’s monologue, before the musical number “Roxie” was actress Anne Horak’s most truthful moment in the show. Todd Buonopane’s number "Mister Cellophane" left me feeling sorry for his always ignored character Amos Hart.

    Terra C. MacLeod’s performance as Velma Kelly was particularly great. She played Kelly as a true show woman, constantly trying to sell herself as a star. MacLeod managed to balance Kelly’s show business persona with truth.

    Overall, “Chicago” was an entertaining show, true to the musical’s original vaudevillian style. With all of the engaging numbers and characters, it is no wonder “Chicago” is the longest running Broadway show. 

  • Playlist of the week: week 10

    A weekly playlist made from songs released the week before, complete with commentary by Kris Ohlendorf.

    Lady Gaga feat. R. Kelly – “Do What U Want”

    With every new Gaga album comes a typically outlandish Gaga event. To elaborately release Artpop, she held the artRave, which was a huge concert complete with a giant statue of herself (if Kanye had done that, everyone would have thrown a hissy-fit). Of course, there had to be a coupe-de-grace of Gaga-ness at this event, so she debuted a bizarre flying dress that hovered her a few feet above the ground, because the only thing better than Lady Gaga is flying Lady Gaga. Anyways, this is  the big single off of her new album, featuring the always magnificent R. Kelly. 

    Blood Orange – “You’re Not Good Enough”

    British musician and producer Dev Hynes, A.K.A. Lightspeed Champion, A.K.A. Blood Orange, released his second album under his third moniker, Cupid Deluxe. The songwriter has spanned quite a few genres during his career, and on his newest release he finds himself fulfilling an `80s new-wave funk role. “You’re Not Good Enough” covers these grounds well, with a slapped bass and muted guitar fueling the background music. Hynes’ airy vocals lay on top, creating a song that is of the past but could only have come out in the present.

    Cut Copy – “Meet Me in a House of Love”

    Cut Copy’s newest album Free Your Mind is possibly their best yet. This is evident on huge club-thumping tracks like “Meet Me in a House of Love.” The gigantic track starts off with a simple beat and early-00’s era trance riff, before falling into an 80s pop epic. Crank that bass and hit the dance floor.

    Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs  – “Our Lips Are Sealed”

    The third volume in Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs’ collaborative Under the Covers... album cycle comes with another set of covers. Following suit with Blood Orange and Cut Copy, this album is another throwback to the `80s. Their cover of The GoGo’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” is a fun listen, and makes one question just how much pop music both has and hasn’t changed in the past thirty years.

    Moonface – “Barbarian”

    Ex-Wolf Parade frontman Spencer Krug’s solo project Moonface just released their fourth album, Julia With Blue Jeans On. A record composed entirely of Krug’s voice and piano, it’s a tour de force in expressive songwriting. The album’s powerful opening track “Barbarian” is a swooning tune that displays Krug’s talent. His intricate piano playing and emotional voice combine perfectly with the song’s heavy metaphorical lyrics to create a style at the crossroads between Elton John and Bon Iver. 

    Grizzly Bear – “Taken Down (Marfa Demo)”

    Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear just released Shields: B-Sides, a collection of songs recorded during their Shields sessions that didn’t make the cut. The band is no stranger to releasing side-albums, having put out their previous B-Side collection Friend EP and even an album entirely remixing their debut Horn of Plenty. The B-Sides found in their most recent collection are more than just scraps, though. They still form a coherent narrative of unfurnished tracks. “Taken Down” is a classic Grizzly Bear melancholic pop tune, and sounds like a throwback to their Yellow House days.

    Mount Eerie – “House Shape – Pre-Human Version”

    Phil Elverum’s project Mount Eerie has gone through low-fi folk, dream pop, drone and black metal since its conception in 2004. He continues the eccentrics of this act on his newest album Pre-Human Ideas, which are re-recordings of previous Mount Eerie songs through programs on his Mac. His new version of “House Shape” sounds something like a 90s MIDI tune. His strange vocals make for a questionable but interesting listen.