Photo: Andrés Correa Guatarasma / Courtesy
Without heroes, colors, costume changes or great choreography, the satirical musical “Chicago” is not your typical dazzling Broadway production. And yet, it has managed to stay on the billboard for 25 years. and was one of the first to raise the curtain again after the pandemic that paralyzed the theater industry for 18 months, dramatically affecting the economy of New York.
In this return, the three protagonists are Latino: Ana Villafañe (Roxie Hart), Bianca Marroquín (Velma Kelly) and the Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot (Billy Flynn). Although the plot takes place almost a century ago – at the end of the jazz decade in the 20’s -, it looks more relevant than ever, when exploring the theme of the ephemeral “celebrity” and the distortion of values of a corrupt judicial system and a tabloid press.
But he does not do it by preaching, but with irony and comedy: Velma and Roxie are two murderers with dreams of fame, imprisoned awaiting trial, clients of the highly commercial lawyer Billy Flynn. As Velma sarcastically says, “we are an example of the greatness of this country”, referring to the decline in values prior to the great depression of 1929.
With the orchestra occupying most of the scene of the Ambassador Theatre de Broadway, choreographies are limited. In addition, the actors never change their costumes and always wear black. It is a show within another: the characters perform before the press -Which had no color at that time- and the criminal jury, trying to win their sympathy to get acquitted of the death penalty and, hopefully, become “famous.”
No surprises, this musical is based on a play written in 1926 by a reporter from the Chicago Tribune, Maurine Dallas Watkins, who was inspired by two murderers who managed to circumvent the judicial system amid much popularity.
With a libretto by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse and music by John Kander, the musical “Chicago” originally premiered on Broadway in 1975 and ran for two years, including at one point the legendary Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera. And despite adding 10 Tony Award nominations, this time he won none.
The return started in 1996 won 6 tonys and has lasted much longer on the billboard: at the moment It is the most performed American musical in Broadway history. And on a general level it is only surpassed by the imported British “The Phantom of the Opera”, which will not return from the pandemic hiatus until October 22.
“Chicago” is one of the most covered musicals around the world, in several languages. And the film adaptation won the Oscar for best picture in 2003.
In these almost one hundred years of scene as a play, musical and film, the plot of “Chicago” has seen it all, adding millions of viewers in a world shaken by thousands of stories, including now a deadly pandemic that neither managed to defeat or outdate it.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.