Category Archives: Musicals
For those of us trapped in the often stressful, monotonous-at-best present day, nothing can spark more enthusiasm than a trip back to the past—especially when that past is set in the roaring 20’s, the era of prohibition in which unabashed debauchery and reckless nihilism soared to new heights. Chicago: The Musical is just such a blast from the past, offering boundless drama which begins from the very opening scene.
The drama begins in Act One in which Roxie Hart murders her lover, Fred Casely, and subsequently attempts to blame her bumbling husband Amos for the slaughter (though she is soon found out and arrested). It’s in the cell blocks that we are treated to the infamous musical number “Cell Block Tango,” in which several other murderesses sing of their crimes. Other characters introduced are Matron “Mama” Morton, a corrupt prison warden with a favors-exchange system via which she provides mutual services to prisoners, and Velma Kelly, a vaudevillian charged with the double homicide of her adulterous husband and back-stabbing sister. Velma and Roxie soon find themselves in a struggle to win the limelight of fame which Roxie ultimately wins when she manages to steal Velma’s lawyer, the renowned Billy Flynn, who spins the truth concerning the murder of Fred Casely (“They Both Reached for the Gun”) and makes Roxie the toast of Chicago at the expense of Velma Kelly’s now-obsolete name. Roxie turns down Velma’s passionate request to recreate her former sister act (“I Can’t Do it Alone”), only to find that the latest crime to make headlines has all but caused Roxie’s name to vanish from the public eye as well.
Act two remains just as sordid an affair: Roxie has decided to earn her fame back by announcing a false pregnancy to the press, who begin to fawn over her once again. Amos is delighted by the unexpected news but we eventually learn that he is severely disheartened by the failure of anyone—including his own wife, who is supposedly pregnant with his child—to notice him (“Mr. Cellophane”). Meanwhile, Billy Flynn calms Roxie’s growing anxiety about her upcoming trial with the witty number “Razzle Dazzle,” assuring her that everything will turn out fine as long as a proper show is put on for the jury. As promised, Roxie is acquitted, but yet another crime of passion makes news and the blood-thirsty press abandons Roxie’s story in pursuit of it. Billy Flynn also leaves, having done his part in the case. Amos is the only remaining character in Roxie’s now-vacant life, and even he is driven away by the news that there is, in fact, no baby. With nothing left of their former fame, Roxie and Velma team up to begin a new double act that shakes Chicago down to the core all over again.
The entertainment value of the story alone is reason enough to see this show, but for those who want additional motivation, here are five reasons to go see Chicago: The Musical:
1. The Music
Guaranteed to keep you interested, each number in Chicago is based on a traditional vaudeville act; many of them are even inspired by particular famous vaudeville performers, such as Judy Garland and Mae West. The score itself was composed by John Kander, winner of the Tony, Laurence Olivier, Emmy, and Grammy Awards.
2. The Awards
Chicago: The Musical itself has been the winner of a number of awards, including eleven Tony nominations in the 1976 original run of the show and a Tony in 1997, the Drama Desk Awards, Outer circle Awards, and Drama League Award. An Academy Award-winning film adaptation of the musical was released to much critical acclaim in 2002.
3. The Choreography
The musical Chicago has become synonymous with its choreography, engineered by praised choreographer Bob Fosse, who himself has won eight Tony Awards for his work. Of particular interest here are the numbers “Razzle Dazzle,” “Cell Block Tango,” and “We Both Reached for the Gun.”
4. The Staging
Sets, design, choreography, and sheer visual spectacle for this production are unparalleled and the show often breaks the fourth wall, drawing the audience into its visceral world.
5. The Idea
If nothing about musicals enraptures you, then the intellectual fodder laid out by the themes in the story of Chicago: The Musical is enough to get anyone’s mind working. Chicago isn’t shy about pointing out how glamorized criminals become once they enter the public eye, nor does it refrain from the central theme that people everywhere are absolutely in love with scandal, no matter how depraved.