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PRIME CUTS: Lost Gem from “Chicago”

October 24th, 2011

The Broadway revival of "Chicago". Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

We’re kicking off a new series today! (Cue the confetti cannon…but don’t point it at me. The hair, you know…)

I love getting the chance to see behind-the-curtain of how a show comes together. The creation of a musical, in particular, is a maddening and marvelous thing, each piece carefully balanced against the next like an enormous, four-dimensional quilt. One song out of place, no matter how wonderful, can upset the feel of the whole work. So one of the best ways to learn why a show succeeds is to look at songs that didn’t make it into the “final” production. (It’s like going on a bad date; it helps you learn what you don’t want…and sometimes at least you get a good meal out of it.)

In that spirit, let’s take a listen to our first Prime Cut, “10 Percent”, a song snipped from the long-running smash Chicago during it’s out of town tryouts. It was sung by a character called “The Agent” whose role was similarly sliced. Here, the song is performed by the delightful David Hyde Pierce at a salute to John Kander…

So what do we learn, gang? That Kander & Ebb do backstage sleaze better than anyone else? Yes. (It makes you wonder what sort of characters they ran across in their career.) But more interestingly, it seems to me that as good as this song is, the role of the agent doesn’t feel as necessary as Billy Flynn or Mama Morton. Maybe it’s because including a real show biz character dilutes the conceit that the legal system is show biz; if your lawyer is a performer and your prison matron becomes your manager, why show a real agent? Chicago is such a slinky, stiletto-sharp creation; the authors knew that any fat would slow her down.

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