The national touring cast of “Chicago” received a standing ovation at Eisenhower Auditorium Monday night affirming that the musical’s spark hasn’t dimmed since its opening night in 1996.
Set in 1920s Chicago, the drama-filled musical follows the story of rivals Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, played by Dylis Croman and Terra MacLeod respectively, “in an act of deathperation,” as described during the show by “Mama” Morton, to turn to the press for sympathy and sensational headlines in hopes of being found innocent through their rise to stardom.
The razzle dazzle of the mysterious musical, combined with the sarcastic tone in the dialogue of the egocentric characters, who are driven by fame and money, has left one thing clear — “Chicago” still has “All That Jazz.”
Based on a play by journalist Maurine Dallas Watkins, who covered the 1924 Chicago murder trials of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner for the Chicago Tribune, the musical seems to focus on the taboos of the Prohibition era — adultery and the rise of female power through rebellious outfits, set in a city where murder committed by females was prominent at the time.
The simplicity of the setting — the orchestra in the back of the stage and the occasional climbing of the characters on chairs and ladders, allowed for the audience to fully immerse themselves into the story of the murderesses, who sang their way out of prison. The high energy of the characters substituted for the lack of scenery on stage.
In an all-black costumes, “Chicago’s” spark is found in the body language of the dancers. The passion and sexual aspect of the storyline was manifested through the choreography and emphasized by the provocative costumes, which seemed to symbolize the sins portrayed during the performance — adultery, corruption, greed, lust, murder.
The characters engaged the audience with monologues, through which they maintained constant eye contact and gestured for the audience to ignite reaction, to which the audience immediately responded with clapping and laughter.
No wonder “Chicago” is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. In the words of Roz Ryan, the longest-running female lead in the show, who plays the role of prison matron “Mama” Morton, “it’s the perfect show to be your first Broadway show.”
Victoria Arabskyj is a Penn State journalism student.