Chicago gets a Vietnamese twist

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Poster of the first Vietnamese version of American musical Chicago

Following Japan and Korea, Vietnam has become the third country in Asia to adapt the well-known musical Chicago, with four performances in Ho Chi Minh City this and next weeks.

Young artists of the Buffalo troupe will be performing the musical at the Cong Nhan (Worker) Theater in Ho Chi Minh City on June 18, 19, 28 and 30, starting at 8 p.m.

Chicago is based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and crimes she reported on 1924.

It tells the story of Roxie and Velma who work as cabaret singers but first met each other in prison, accused of murdering lovers who cheated them.

The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the "celebrity criminal."

The Vietnamese version is 135 minutes long, 15 minutes shorter than the original version, according to young director Nguyen Khac Duy, who found the troupe of 20 members early this year, and also plays a role in the production.

"It also does not include two songs, A little bit of good and When Velma takes the stand," Duy, 23, who graduated from Ho Chi Minh City University of Stage and Cinema this year, told Vietweek.

But very little of the original content is changed except to make it more Vietnamese, but the musical retains its American spirit, he said.

He also said members of the troupe have by themselves paid US$3,500 as well as other expenses to stage the four performances.

"My actors and actresses are all young, but talented ones, who can sing, dance and act like professionals. We hope that the locals, like audiences in the US, will pay attention to the content rather than the names of actors, because actors of musicals are often replaced," said Duy.

Chicago is Duy's graduation work. He received the highest marks from his lecturers although musicals are not taught in Vietnam. Duy has decided to build his directing career on the genre.

After Chicago, Buffalo will adapt High School Musical into Vietnamese.

"We do love Phantom of the Opera and other classic ones, but for now, these are beyond our capacity."

Tickets for the Vietnamese adaptation of Chicago, costing VND200,000, 250,000 and 350,000, are available at Cong Nhan Theater, 30 Tran Hung Dao Street, District 1, or can be booked over For booking, call 0932 448 545 or 08. 1900 6130.

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