Potomac Stages Broadway
Chicago first opened on Broadway in 1975. It was a major hit although it was eclipsed by the nearly simultaneous appearance of A Chorus Line which made Chicago’s run of nearly a thousand performances seem negligible compared to A Chorus Line's history-making run of over 6,000. In 1996 the Encores! series staged a concert version of the score which was such a hit that it was fleshed out for a full production which is still going strong – and going strong is exactly the right way to describe the production in its sixth year.
Storyline: A vaudeville of songs and skits, each of which adds to the narrative of a simple story about two women in prohibition-era Chicago who achieve celebrity from jail as they await trial on their separate murder charges. Their notoriety is ultimately eclipsed by even more spectacular crimes but they manage to break into show business when their sleazy lawyer gets them off by doing a little razzle-dazzle on the juries.
The score by John Kander and Fred Ebb (who are also represented on Broadway right now with a great revival of Cabaret) is one of the most exciting, varied and jazziest scores available on Broadway today. Enough of the style and feel of Bob Fosse’s original choreography was retained to make Chicago uniquely exciting. Walter Bobbie’s direction was and remains sleek and clearly focused, allowing the telling of the story through twenty scenes, each one a song in a specific genre all moving the story along but, at the same time, commenting on the decadent world of underworld Chicago of the 1920’s.
Chicago has been blessed with very strong leads for both the original run (Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Jerry Orbach) and the revival (Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, James Naughton, Joel Grey) and the replacements as the years go by continue to be very strong as well. Right now Broadway has Belle Calaway who won the Helen Hayes Award here when she was headlining the tour as well as Roxane Carrasco in the two "merry murderesses" roles. The sleazy lawyer of the moment is George Hamilton making a very credible appearance. The role of the nearly-invisible hubby of one of the murderesses is now in the very capable white-gloved hands of P.J. Benjamin whose "Mister Cellophane" is a vaudeville masterpiece.
Even the ensemble is first rate, each dancer executing the very demanding athletic routines with all the precision they desire. In fact, these renditions of the Fosse style are in some ways better than used to be available next door when the revue Fosse was playing the Broadhurst. One of these fabulous dancers is Eric Jordon Young who also owns a Helen Hayes Award. He won the outstanding supporting actor in a musical trophy for his performance as Jake in Side Show at Arlington’s Signature Theatre.
Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. Directed by Walter Bobbie. Choreography by Ann Reinking. Music Direction by Robert Billig. Orchestrations by Ralph Burns. Design: John Lee Beatty (set) Ken Billington (lights) William Ivey Long (costumes) Scott Lehrer (sound.) Cast: Belle Calaway, Roxane Carrasco, P.J. Benjamin, George Hamilton, Michele Pawk.
Score by John Kander and Fred Ebb
Running time 2 hours 20 minutes
Price range $42 - $90
225 West 44th Street