Vaudeville is entertainment galore. You see feathers, corsets, flashy dresses, legs, and burlesque dancing, which are interpolated with hoots and whistles from the crowd. To many people, vaudeville is simply a form of amusement without any deep meaning to it. But what if there is more to the razzle-dazzle? What if the dancing and the glamour hide a deep, dark story under its playful nature?
Chicago masterfully serves the tea on these questions. Thismusical is a timeless theatre classic. It hypnotizes through glitters, jazz performances, and a good ol’ murder story. As the narrator warns early on the show, this is a tale you will “hold near and dear to your heart.” Experience “all that jazz” and watch Chicago at the magnificent Pantages Theatre, the heart of Hollywood, this coming spring.
Chicago Musical Tickets:
“It is a splendidly cynical satire on corruption, the power of the press, the greed of manipulative lawyers, and the cheapness of life.” – British Theatre Guide
“Edgy, erotic, cynical, funny, nonstop stylish.” – Newsday
“A lot of Broadway musicals don’t age very well, but the long-running revival of ‘Chicago’ seems to have discovered the fountain of youth.” – AP News
In 1924, a writer by the name of Maurine Dallas Watkins was covering two murder cases for the Chicago Tribune when her attention was caught by the stories. The crime involved the death of two men, and the suspects were women. Like her, all of Chicago was enthralled. There was this perception that homicides are not usually committed by a woman. The peculiarity of the crimes turned the suspects into celebrities. The press covered their every move through their trials. Among the most sensational were the articles written by Watkins. She became the go-to source for the stories. That same year, the two ladies were acquitted.
Inspired by these stories, Watkins created a play, which she initially named Brave Little Women. She decided to incorporate the jazz scene as its backdrop, which had relevance at the time due to people’s changing perception of women in the scene. When it was shown in theatres, it was a box-office hit. Two years later, it transferred to Broadway and ran up to 172 performances. It was then adapted into a silent film named Chicago a year later. Afterward, another of its remakes came out in 1942, entitled Roxie Hart.
The play’s adaptation to a musical came decades after its conception. In the 60s, Hollywood actress Gwen Verdon was mesmerized by the tale. Her interest caught the attention of her husband, Bob Fosse, who was also a Hollywood actor and a budding director and choreographer. Smitten by the story, he approached Watkins multiple times to buy the play’s rights. However, the playwright was adamant not to create another iteration of the story. The speculated reason for her resistance was that, due to the play, the suspects became glamourized individuals. She did not want to contribute more to it. Fosse did not surrender in his plight to get the rights to the play, which he finally did after Watkins’ death in 1969.
Alongside Fosse, the people behind the musical’s development were John Kander and Fred Ebb. Both worked on the musical’s score. Using their knowledge of the Hollywood scene, they decided to frame all compositions to the traditional vaudeville performance during the 20s. These numbers are juxtaposed with themes such as “justice,” “showbiz,” and people’s love of sensational stories of celebrities. Meanwhile, the book was completed by both Ebb and Fosse. They stuck to the original and made minimal changes to the narrative. Lastly, the choreography was directed by Fosse. He made use of his expertise in theatre dance.
“Theater is ephemeral, and the magic tends to wear off as the years pass and performances become stale. Chicago makes this a difficult position to maintain. Ten thousand performances later, it’s still dazzling.” -TheaterMania
In this satirical musical, the story first follows vaudevillian amateur Roxie Hart. All her life, she dreamed of becoming a vaudevillian star. She did all she could, trying to break through the scene. She associated with a mobster and did her best to become a socialite. Apart from a chorus line role, she never reached stardom. Disheartened, she decided to halt her career. Right at this time, she fell in love with a humble and kind man, an auto mechanic named Amos Hart. However, as the years passed by, their relationship became stale. To cope with it, Roxie decided to have an affair with a furniture salesman, Fred Casely. Right at the beginning of the show, Roxie kills Fred by shooting him when he wants to stop the affair. Roxie’s alibi was that Casely was a burglar, and she was defending herself. However, she was not sharp enough to fool her husband. But love overcomes Amos, so he decides to take the fall. This did not stop the investigation from reaching Roxie, and she was later arrested. While serving time inside the prison, Roxie was influenced to use her trial to advance her vaudevillian career by a warden called Matron “Mama” Morton. Like a fairy godmother, “Mama” used her connections to make Roxie’s story into a media sensation and appointed a popular lawyer, Billy Flynn. The deception worked well on Roxie’s side. Everyone felt pity for her, and her road to vaudevillian success was as close as ever. Then came another woman into the picture, who has a similar case with her and is an established vaudevillian performer. Conflict arose between the two. What occurs after is a mystery you need to uncover as you watch the show.
The original musical was a hit on Broadway, but its 1996 revival was the true champion for viewers. It is the longest-running musical in the history of Broadway. During the 1997 Tony Awards, it won six awards out of eight nominations. Included in this is the “Best Revival of a Musical.” It also won the Grammy Award for “Best Musical Show Album” that same year.
At par with its recognition is the West End revival, which snatched the longest-running American musical distinction. During the 1997 Laurence Olivier Award, it bagged the Outstanding Musical Production and Best Actress in a Musical awards out of seven nominations. In 1999, the cast recording was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
In 2002, the musical was adapted into a movie. It was critically acclaimed, winning six Academy Awards, including “Best Picture,” “Best Art Direction,” “Best Costume Design,” “Best Film Editing,” and “Best Sound.” Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere were among the star-studded cast.
Chicago will razzle dazzle at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre this coming March 5 to 24, 2024. The cast includes Bianca Marroquin as Roxie Hart, Lana Gordon as Velma Kelly, Peter Lockyer as Billy Flynn, Paul C. Vogt as Amos Hart, Jennifer Fouche as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, D. Ratell as Mary Sunshine, and many more. Don’t miss this spectacle. Get your tickets now.