On Thursday January 19th, the Mandalay Bay Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas held a press event to announce the opening and stars of Chicago, the Drop Dead Musical. 300 members of the press attended the event which was held in the unfinished theater. With a full orchestra members of the ensemble performed 7 numbers from the Tony Award winning revival to the cheers of the press corp. Prior to the performance Barry Weissler, the show's producer spoke:
"This is an absolute gas. I cannot believe we are performing for you in an unfinished theatre. You do realize the theatre is not finished? Next time you are here everything will be turned around and the audience will be behind us and we'll be facing them. But, what a treat for us to be here today in the wonderful, wonderful Mandalay Bay. Once this theater is finished it will be a state-of-the-art Broadway venue, unlike anything else in Las Vegas, the kind of theatre you'd expect if you wanted to enjoy a show in New York, or in Los Angeles, or in London. We're looking forward to that. We hope we're here an awfully long time."
"And the Mandalay Bay, itself, is going to be a very, very special place. The cast will enjoy it's tropical setting and all the panoply that goes with it in this wonderful new hotel."
"Chicago is at the top of the list in New York City. It's number one in the West End of London. It won the Ovations Award in Los Angeles for the Best Musical of the year. It's number one in Vienna; number one in Melbourne and Sidney. It's about to open in Stockholm in the Swedish language. Then Holland in Dutch. But none of that, none of that stands for anything because now we have to face the Las Vegas audience." (huge laughter from the press)
"If you can make it here, as the saying goes, you could make it anywhere. Las Vegas is a tough town. Your audiences have seen it all. But, we're going to try and do this a little different. We're going to try and surprise this audience because rather than doing a "tab" shortened version of this production. We're going to do the full Broadway production as audiences see it if it went to New York City. 2 and ½ hours, with an intermission...with an ensemble the likes of which you are going to see in a few minutes. They're sexy, they're dangerous, they're ultra-talented. And that's accompanied by a star-studded cast beginning with Chita Rivera, one of the most marvelous performers Broadway has ever seen. Ute Lemper, an international cabaret star who is now the star of Chicago in New York City. Ernie Sabella, also directly from New York City. And our own wonderful Marcia Lewis, the Tony nominee for her role as Mama Morton. All of those will be with the show and more to come. And we'll name them as our stars are signed.""But a production like this isn't created without brilliant talent. And this one has a full portfolio of marvelous creators. At the very top of the list is our choreographer, Ann Reinking. Ann can't be with us today. She's back in New York, but on the same level as Ann Reinking is our most talented director, Walter Bobbie. Without any further ado, here is my friend and marvelous director, Mr. Walter Bobbie."
Bobbie entered to thunderous applause.
"Oh! Good afternoon. It's great to be in Las Vegas. And it's great to bring you a sneak peak of our Broadway musical, Chicago. Chicago is the work of the great writing team of Kander and Ebb. And when Ann Reinking and I decided to revive this piece with Fran and Barry Weissler, we also wanted it to be a tribute to one of the great artists of any generation and that is to Bob Fosse, who is originally co-author of the book, choreographer and director of the show. And we didn't want to remount his production but we wanted to pay tribute to his great dancing and his great career and directed and choreographed in that style. When Bob and Fred wrote this show in 1975 it was considered a bleak satire of the American judicial system....and now it looks like a documentary."
"When we first started to work on the project, the Menendez brothers had just had their issues to deal with, and O.J. had...and now the justice, the government seems to keep this show alive for us. (laughter) So the interesting thing, the wonderful thing about Chicago is the vision of these men who wrote this. Twenty-five years later, the show seems ripped off the front page of the paper. It seems newly minted. It is described as a musical comedy with teeth. It's about song, dance, it's exuberant, it's theatrical, it's sexy, it's energy, but it's also about the manipulation of the judicial system. It's about the difference between truth and justice, right and wrong. And it's about a lot of good times. It's a very exciting evening. We're proud of it and we're also proud that the Mandalay Bay has invited us not to do a "tab" version but to do a full Broadway production. And without any further ado, we want to give you a sneak peak of it. Have a wonderful afternoon ladies and gentlemen."
A promotional video was then shown about the show which lasted five minutes.
The ensemble then performed seven numbers from the show, "All That Jazz", "Cell Block Tango", "When You're Good To Mama", "All I Care About", "Roxie", "Class", and "Hot Honey Rag." Marcia Lewis performed her two numbers, "Mama" and "Class." At the finale of "Hot Honey Rag" Chita Rivera was introduced and joined in the final reprise of "All That Jazz."
Rivera, who originated the role of Velma in 1975, will be playing the role of Roxie, a role she did in 1985 in Atlantic City. Unlike that production where her signature tune "All That Jazz" was handed over to Roxie, Rivera will not have that luxury at the Mandalay Bay. The song will stay with Velma.
Ben Vereen was announced by Weissler at a press conference with Channel 8 news and he will play sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn.
The show opens at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on March 2, 1999.
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