Live from the Salle des Ambassadeurs at the Casino du Liban in Lebanon, Chicago was performed and it was the first time every that the iconic play was adapted to Arabic. The show was such a success that they extended it beyond its original dates, and proceeded to sell out on both weekends!
“Chicago” is a musical written by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, and based on a 1926 play by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Watkins wanted to dramatize real happenings and reporting in Chicago in the 1920s through the portrayal of crimes and mobsters.
Even though the play since its launch has been performed in 45 languages, but this is the first time it is done in Arabic, straight from the heart of Beirut.
All thanks to creative, Roy El Khouri who is a director, actor, writer and choreographer. He co-wrote the play with Lebanese actor Fouad Yammine while Anthony Khoury, lead singer of Adonis, wrote the lyrics for the songs.
In a talk with Arab News, El Khouri talks about the process of ow the play came to fruition, “In order to obtain a license to show ‘Chicago’ in Lebanon, we had to abide by the text. We are bound by the story and songs, it is impossible to add or remove characters or change roles.”
He continued on to explain, “We are even obligated to use specific costumes. But we have adapted the text to suit the Lebanese context, knowing that the show deals with vices that exist in all societies across the world.”
“Chicago” is a story told through perspective of two women, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. For the Arabized version, big names played the roles of the two women, with Mirva Kadi as Velma, Cynthia Karam as Roxie. The interesting thing about this adaptation is how the writers managed to relate it back to Lebanon. Khouri talks about that, saying, “The play resembles our reality, as we also suffer from corruption, media collusion, and other vices that the play highlights. Adapting this work posed a great challenge for us, whether at the level of directing, acting, or dancing. It must be noted that the production house in the US reviewed the Arabized text before we got the final approval. They were very excited to sign with us.”