Screenshot from R. Kelly's "Trapped In The Closet"
Chicago legend R. Kelly's magnum opus, "Trapped in the Closet," is nothing if not gratuitous. Flamboyant lies, brutal green-screen, absurd characters and guns were all abundant in the first 22 chapters of the timeless masterpiece, with a runtime that checks in at nearly two hours. Its mesmerizing extravagance, its life lessons can hardly be contained, let alone appreciated, in a simple living-room movie night with friends.
Thus, the Music Box Theatre in Lakeview is giving "Trapped in the Closet" not the rendition it needs, but the rendition is deserves, in the form of a singalong on Nov. 16 and 17. This won't be the first time that Music Box has put on for a local star. It premiered the hip-hopera's most recent 9 chapters in 2008, when the demigod Kells himself was on hand to bask in his own brilliance and, presumably, the undergarments of both men and women thrown his way.
Dave Jennings, the general manager of the theater, said R. Kelly will not be making a return for the singalong, but the theater does plan to show all 22 chapters of the original collection, in anticipation for the premiere of the next 23 chapters on Independent Film Channel. IFC will help Music Box with the singalong, as well as Alamo Drafthouse, who first had the idea.
"Think about it this way: an interactive experience like this is very similar to going to concert," said Jennings, 28. "You're in the Music Box with 700 other people, all listening and interacting with the music. It's very much like a concert."
Singalongs are regular events at the theater, complete with costumes and fanfare. Jennings said for the three sold-out Halloween showings of "Rocky Horror Picture Show," at least half the audience donned costumes for the event, typical of their interactive shows.
"There are a lot of films out there, regardless of quality, that have a hypnotic effect on an audience," he said. "Seeing them with a large audience surrounding you and participating allow you to really experience it in a fantastic way that's completely different from sitting at home or watching on laptop."
Tickets cost $12 and are still available. Like the 2008 premiere, Jennings expects great enthusiasm, as high as Kelly's falsetto, for these shows, since "the world kind of exploded" when they posted the announcement to Twitter and Facebook.
"Personally I think that it is definitely an interesting event, an interesting opera. A lot of people who love R. Kelly love it as a fantastic piece of art. A lot of others think that it's a bizarre mixture of comedy, art, and music," he said. "I think that it's somewhere in between."
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