While “Cats” has left New York and “Beauty and the Beast” has begun its economic decline, one Broadway classic has remained strong “Chicago.” This sexy and jazzy musical, which was originally produced in 1975, has re-dazzled New York audiences since its 1996 revival. Now, MUSKET, a theater group associated with the University Activities Center, is bringing this popular production to our campus. The Tony Award-winning musical is running this weekend, directed by Sean Clifford and starring University students.
This will not be an imitation of the original, however. “Our number one priority was to make our show different from the 1996 revival,” said Clifford. “I wanted to integrate more of Vaudeville and the Roaring “20s into our production.” With original set design and new choreography, the cast and crew have made this production fresh. Alena Ackerman, who plays Matron Mam Morton, said, “I tried not to listen to Broadway recordings or watch them, because I wanted to make this character my own not completely influenced by other interpretations.”
Clifford spent the summer reading up on Bob Fosse, the legendary choreographer who passed away in 1987. After auditions and casting, the entire production was put together in four weeks. “It is a HUGE show to do in four weeks,” Clifford said. “But the cast has really risen to the challenge.” Ricky Denardis, MUSKET”s producer, said, “The show is going to be simply incredible. The cast is extremely talented, the technical aspects of the production are shaping up to look great and the show itself is truly entertaining.”
Chicago, set in the heart of the Jazz Age, is the story of chorus girl Roxie Hart, played by Christy Faerber. The show traces her story as she murders her boyfriend and manages to avoid prison with the help of her slick lawyer, Billy Flynn. Soon, Hart discovers the truth of the clich “there”s no such thing as bad publicity” when her trial propels her career towards stardom. Velma Kelly, a fellow chorus girl and double-murderess, is shot from her position in the headlines as Hart rises to fame. But, as the show continues, Roxie becomes more aware of the fleeting nature of fame and must face the new world that she has created around her.
This country has always battled with its obsession with the media, and that makes this show especially relevant for these times. The1975 production was initially regarded as too satirical, but its revival has been seen as far more real. And the show hasn”t changed just the audience.
The show features many popular musical numbers, such as “All that Jazz,” “Razzle Dazzle” and “When You”re Good to Mama.” The score was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who are also known for “Cabaret” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” among others. “It”s one of those shows where every single song is awesome,” said cast member Kevin Field. “It”s easy to walk away humming any of these wonderful songs, all filled with great melodies and humor.”
As the posters around campus have clearly displayed this is a sexy production. Above all, however, this is a show that propels incredible energy and serious fun while communicating cynicism and irony at all levels. The demanding dance numbers and complicated choreography will create a visual stimulation at the very least. “We have 20 acting/singing/dancing machines on stage,” Clifford said. “Their commitment is unparalleled to anything I have witnessed from an ensemble cast before.”