The most decadent show I have ever seen

Went to see on the weekend the most decadent show I have ever seen, a show so decadent it could only be seen in an upstairs back alley setting far far from the public eye. Actually, just kidding. It was the musical Chicago which has been playing to rapturous full houses at the Playhouse in Melbourne. Tell me what you think of the plot which is taken directly from Wikipedia: Chicago (musical). These bits are from Act I.

Velma Kelly is a vaudevillian who welcomes the audience to tonight’s show (“All That Jazz”). Interplayed with the opening number, the scene cuts to February 14, 1928 in the bedroom of chorus girl Roxie Hart, where she murders Fred Casely as he attempts to break off an affair with her.

None of this is ambiguous. Roxie, on stage and before the audience, murders Fred in cold blood for the reason given. Most of the rest of the plot revolves around the efforts made by Roxie’s lawyer to have her acquitted, both before the courts and before the public as filtered through the media presentation of the facts and circumstance. These are the relevant bits from Act II.

  • Velma returns to introduce the opening act, resentful of Roxie’s manipulation of the system and ability to seduce a doctor into saying Roxie is pregnant; as Roxie emerges, she sings gleefully of the future of her unborn (nonexistent) child.
  • Billy, Roxie’s lawyer, exposes holes in Roxie’s story by noting that she and Amos (Roxie’s husband) had not had sex in four months, meaning if she were pregnant, the child was not Amos’s, in hopes that Amos will divorce her and look like a villain, which Amos almost does.
  • The trial date arrives. Billy calms Roxie by suggesting she will be fine so long as she makes a show of the trial.
  • As promised, Billy gets Roxie acquitted.
  • Amos (her husband) tries to get Roxie to come home. She admits she isn’t pregnant, leaving Amos.

Indeed, as we all know, Chicago has had quite an illustrious history.

The original Broadway production opened in 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre and ran for 936 performances, until 1977. Bob Fosse choreographed the original production, and his style is strongly identified with the show. It debuted in the West End in 1979, where it ran for 600 performances. Chicago was revived on Broadway in 1996, and a year later in the West End.

The 1996 Broadway production holds the record as the longest-running musical revival and the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. It is the second longest-running show to ever run on Broadway, behind only The Phantom of the OperaChicago surpassed Cats on November 23, 2014, when it played its 7,486th performance. The West End revival became the longest-running American musical in West End history. Chicago has been staged in numerous productions around the world, and has toured extensively in the United States and United Kingdom. The 2002 film version of the musical won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Great music of course. About a married woman who shoots her lover [not her husband] to death because he wants to leave her, and then through the sleazy actions of her lawyer, and in particular through his ability to manipulate the press, gets her off. Having been acquitted, she ditches her husband who still loves his wife. Based on a play also titled Chicago first produced in 1926 when things were obviously very different from today. Some further details:

The play was adapted as the 1927 film Chicago, then as the 1942 film Roxie Hart, and the 1975 stage musical Chicago, which in turn was adapted as the 2002 film Chicago.

You can watch the silent film version in full at the above link. Worth every minute if for no other reason than to see how the morality of our world has changed since 1927. You can also watch the the 1942 version at the above link. We are more like 1942, starring Ginger Rogers, a comedy from end to end with a very very different kind of ending.

As for Bob Fosse who wrote the book and choreographed Chicago for the stage:

He is the only person ever to have won OscarEmmy, and Tony awards in the same year (1973)

There has, of course, been a petition circulated far and wide to have Fosse’s Oscar, Emmy and Tony Awards taken from him.

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