By: Staff –
When ‘Chicago’ premiered in 1975, no one expected it to become the longest-running American musical in Broadway’s history. Reviews were mixed and critics felt that the story was too dramatic for any silliness or lightheartedness to arise. The show wasn’t memorable and, as a result, it only lasted for about two years on stage.
Roughly 20 years later, in 1996, the concept was brought again to the stage by ‘Encores!’, a simplified reformulation of ‘Chicago’ that reawakened audiences and critics’ desire for a good old vintage tale. The show ran for four nights a week, and its popularity eventually propelled the return of ‘Chicago’ back to Broadway. As a result, on November 14, 1996, ‘Chicago’ got a new revival, which has lasted 25 years on stage. The show opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the same theatre where the show premiered in 1975, although at that time it was known as the 46th Street Theatre.
25 years later, the musical has become one of the most famous in the world, winning six Tony Awards, an Oscar-winning film adaptation, and spawning more than 30 international versions. Moreover, this satire of the Jazz Age has also famously become a landmark and cultural reference for New York City. The ‘Chicago’ musical commemorates its 25th anniversary while celebrating a record audience of 33 million people around the world, tours in 36 countries and 10,000 performances presented on Broadway.
Additionally, Chicago has also been referenced abundantly in pop culture and has even inspired a themed video slot. Chicago Gold, featured in Genesis canadian casino online, allows gamblers to place their bets while getting a sense of the atmosphere of this iconic musical. Meanwhile, there are Chicago-themed parties, costumes and film adaptations, highlighting the lasting impression this infamous play has left on not only theatre lovers, but reaching a much wider audience.
25 Years of Glory
Throughout the years, the show continuously revamped its image by featuring Broadway legends such as Norm Lewis or Jennifer Holliday and worldwide famous singers Patti LaBelle, Usher and Mel B. The cast has also included some movie actors in its time, like Brooke Shields and Patrick Swayze, and even media and reality TV figures like Wendy Williams and NeNe Leakes. Adapted from Maurine Dallas Watkins’ 1926 play, based on the dramatic court cases she covered during her career as a journalist, the vaudeville-style musical is set in the midst of the rowdy decadence of the 1920s.
‘Chicago’ tells the story of Roxie Hart, played by Christie Brinkley, a housewife and nightclub dancer. Without spoiling it for anyone unlucky enough to have not seen it yet, she is desperate to avoid conviction, and so she misleads the public and the media. Helped by Chicago’s most skilled criminal defence attorney, she transforms her deeds into a scandalous tabloid story.
Featuring the legendary libretto by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and produced by Barry and Fran Weissler, ‘Chicago’ was the winner of the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
Additionally, the 1996 revival was directed by Tony Award winner Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Tony Award Winner Ann Reinking. The show also featured sets, costumes and lighting designed by fellow Tony Award winners John Lee Beatty, William Ivey Long and Ken Billington, while the sound design was penned by Scott Lehrer.
25 years on and the show continues to attract new audiences and musical enthusiasts, and, for now, it seems that in 25 years’ time the show will be equally celebrated.