Retrospective: ‘Chicago’

Don’t miss your chance to catch Nikka Graff Lanzarone, center, as Velma Kelly with the company of “Chicago” on Broadway.

In 1920s Chicago, a woman’s wiles might be the only thing standing between her and the noose once she’s been convicted of murder — that is, if she can corral the public to see her cause via bold media headlines, a sensationalistic backstory and a slick courtroom performance.

In Broadway’s stalwart “Chicago,” this process also involves singing, dancing and enough wink-wink innuendos that you might develop an eye twitch. Sadly, despite smart lyrics and a fast-paced book, it’s entirely too believable that these jokes have been repeated every night since 1997 (one culprit is Carol Woods as “Mama” Morton, who seems to confuse subtlety with somnambulism).

But the overall strength of the leads — with Charlotte D’Amboise’s hapless charm, Nikka Graff Lanzarone’s finessed footwork and Chris Sieber’s silver-tongued turn as attorney Billy Flynn — buoys the audience back into amused anticipation for the lines and lyrics that many of them already know from owning the original soundtrack or the more recent film (released in 2002). Hopefully their replacements (see sidebar) can maintain this necessary talent triumvirate.

The classic, vaudevillian concept is justifiably upheld; but high kicks, minimalist staging and slinky black costumes might not hold the same allure for modern audiences who are used to blatant blood and sex onstage. Going forward, “Chicago” will surely continue to hit its niche with tourists, while locals looking to drop big Broadway bucks might wish to seek more contemporary razzle-dazzle elsewhere.

History in the making
This month makes major waves in the current rendition of “Chicago,” Bob Fosse’s acclaimed 1975    musical about merry murderesses who attempt to scheme and seduce their way off of death row and into the limelight.

The revival is set to hit 6,138 performances on Saturday, Aug. 27. This makes it the fourth longest-running musical on Broadway, overtaking “A Chorus Line.” It will also be the new longest-running American musical.

The cast is about to undergo one of its many seasonal changes. This summer, D’Amboise replaced Christie Brinkley’s Roxie Hart; former “American Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi picks up the part for an eight-week stint starting Sept. 5. Lanzarone played Velma Kelly in the stead of Amra-Faye Wright, who reprises the role this fall.?And Sieber’s Billy Flynn will be taken up by Tony Yazbeck on Aug. 29.


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