If you’ve read my previous posts about musicals (here and here), you’ll know I’m a huge fan of musical theatre. When I last checked, I had over 560 songs from various soundtracks/cast recordings on my iPod, which is more than 24 hours of music! Since I love sharing this passion, I’ve decided to do a weekly blog post (Musical Monday), spotlighting some of my favorites.
Credits: Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb. Book by Ebb and Bob Fosse.
Summary: Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, the musical satirizes the concept of the “celebrity criminal,” by focusing on two murderesses—Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly—who rival for media coverage as their murder trials approach.
Dates: The original Broadway production opened in 1975, and ran for 936 performances. However, the revival, which opened in 1996, fared much better, because it’s still running on Broadway! To date, it’s the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. A movie version was released in 2002, with a star-studded cast that included Rene Zellweger, Catherine-Zeta Jones, Richard Gere, and John C. Reilly, and Queen Latifah.
Rating: PG-13 (based on the rating given to the movie)
Awards: The 1996 revival won six Tony Awards, including Outstanding Revival of a Musical. The 2002 film won Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (for Catherine Zeta-Jones)
Why This Musical: First of all, let’s talk about longevity—the 1996 revival has been running for almost twenty years! Plus—what’s not to love about Fosse’s killer choreography (jazz hands!) and those catchy songs. It’s a true classic, and the themes of scandal, corruption, and celebrity culture are as timely today as they were in the 1920s. What’s equally amazing about the long-running Broadway revival is that it doesn’t rely on fancy sets or costumes. The set is stripped down, keeping the focus on the actors and the spectacular dance numbers. Because the Broadway show has been around so long, there has been a lot of celebrity casting over the years, with roles played by Patrick Swayze, Usher, Lisa Rinna, Melanie Griffith, Taye Diggs, Marilu Henner, Christie Brinkley, and Brooke Sheilds.
My Connection: My first exposure to the musical was through the 2002 movie (which I suspect is the case for a lot of people). I loved so much about it—the cool staging, the 1920s costumes, the songs, Richard Gere as Billy Flynn (swoon)—that I bought the soundtrack and the DVD. However, I didn’t get a chance to see a live version of the show until 2009—in Chennai, India, of all places. Although the community theatre group that performed it censored some of the content, it was still a decent adaptation. In 2011, I was lucky enough to see the Broadway version and was blown away by the talented cast.
Where to See It: The movie is available on DVD (both Amazon and Wal-Mart carry it), and you could probably also find it at the library. If you happen to be in NYC, the revival is still playing on Broadway, and it’s not hard to get discounted tickets. Since the revival opened, there have been ten National Tours, with another one coming up in 2016. It’s also a show that’s often performed by local theatre groups.
Favorite Songs: “Cell Block Tango”, “We Both Reached for the Gun”, “Razzle Dazzle”, “Mr. Cellophane”
Final Thoughts: Definitely worth your time, even if you only watch the movie version!
Thanks for stopping by! If you have a musical you’d like to spotlight, let me know, and you can be a guest poster.