The Altarena Playhouse

April 2008. One fine day, Dilip asked if I wanted to go to a play. His friend had 2 tickets to a show he could not attend due to last minute change of plans. The play was at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda. The Music Director of the play was a fellow computer scientist at UC Berkeley and so many of Dilip’s friends were attending.

Discounting school and college plays, I haven’t seen many professional plays in my life. I went to see ‘Raktha Rakshas’ by the Kalanilayam drama troupe, during my college days. My parents remember being horrified by the demon in the play, as kids. So when the revised play with updated techniques came to Cochin, my parents were interested. At that age, I didn’t think a play was as ‘cool’ as a movie on big screen. But I was game for a new experience and I am really glad that I went. The play was good. Had I been a lot younger, I would have been scared out of my wits! Definitely the artists deserve a lot of credit for their hardwork.

The play Dilip and I were going to was none other than ‘Chicago- The Musical’. The play is a 1975 Broadway masterpiece uses the vaudeville style. It is based on the 1920′s newspaper reports of two actual Chicago women Beulah May Annan and Belva Gaertner, who murdered their lovers and parlayed their crimes into stardom. Like me, everyone might be more familiar with the musical film ‘Chicago’ (2002) starring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Rene Zellweger, which is adapted from this popular play.

Chicago’s plot is very interesting. The humour and the oozing sarcasm made it even more so. My favourite number from this play is the ‘Cell Block Tango‘ where the 6 muderesses of the jail recount their tales one by one.

The ‘Chicago’ put up by Alatarena Playhouse was superb. All their shows were sold out completely. Each show could accomodate about 150 people, seated in tiered rows along 3 walls of a room. Along the 4th wall were the musicians and their numerous instruments for the live music for the play. The space in the middle was for the artists. The casting was perfect, the music struck the right chord and it turned out to be an awesome experience I will never forget.

Photos: Courtesy the Altarena Playhouse.

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