With trepidation, I entered the Richard Rogers Theatre to see the new production of Kander and Ebb's Chicago. Back in '74, Chicago was postponed from opening due to Bob Fosse's heart problems. But, it finally opened on June 3, 1975 just late enough to put it into competition with A Chorus Line for the next year's Tony Awards. Had it not been for this delay, Chicago probably would have swept the awards in June of '75. Of course, in June of 1976, A Chorus Line triumphed, leaving Chicago behind with no awards at all. Its stars, Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon, both nominated for best actress in a musical, were passed by in favor of those gypsys at the Shubert Theatre.

Still, Chicago was fabulous entertainment. Chita's opening number, All That Jazz, will go down in theatrical history under the category of "dynamite." The show ran for almost two years (898 performances), and after Gwen Verdon left the show, the then 26 year old Ann Reinking took over as Roxie Hart. The musical took a look at the American judicial system in what was thought as irreverent in 1975. Who would ever think that with enough money, fancy attorneys, a big razzle dazzle that one could get away with murder? Fosse, Kander and Ebb were all way ahead of their time and presented one of my all time favorite shows, for in 1975, Chicago was great!

Now, we get to 1996. Gone are the fancy sets. We don't have Chita Rivera or Gwen Verdon. But fasten your seatbelts because we do have Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking as the two merry murderesses of murderers row.

From the moment Bebe enters, electricity fills the air. If you remember her from Cheers as Frazier's wife, well as they say in Brooklyn, "fuggedaboutit!" This Bebe is simply a terrific singer and dancer. And, she can dance Fosse!

Ann Reinking's voice bears a haunting resemblance to Gwen Verdon. Ann not only stars as Roxie Hart, but also choreographed the show in classic "FOSSE STYLE." The choreography is so good in this production that I am tempted to say that the student surpassed the teacher! Her rendition of "We Both Went For The Gun" with James Naughton deserved the scene call that it got. The finale, "Nowadays," had me longing for Rivera and Verdon, but you won't feel that way because Bebe and Ann are another two killer dillers making Broadway history. Joel Gray's rendition of "Mr. Cellophane" is priceless, and D. Sabella nearly steals the show as Mary Sunshine.

The entire cast is simply superb and Broadway doesn't get much better than this. So, get off those computers, no matter if you live in L.A. or London, get on a plane, train or bus because Chicago is on fire again and this production sizzles. You won't want to miss it.

Come June '97, Chicago will finally get it's just reward. For it has "Tony Awards" written all over it... unless something else comes whistling down the wind.

Final Score:

Chicago '75, GREAT!

Chicago '96 AWESOME!


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