In 1975, the songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb launched Chicago on Broadway. Featuring iconic choreography by Bob Fosse, it ran for two years, then languished in semi-obscurity, playing mostly in community theatres, colleges, and universities (including both of my alma maters). Despite the great music and satirical storytelling, it seemed that no one was very interested in a play about criminals.
Then in July 1994, OJ Simpson drove his white Ford Bronco up the 405 after he murdered his wife and her lover. His trial, dubbed the “Trial of the Century”, was fodder to the tabloids and simply riveting to the millions of people who watched every second of it on their TVs. It became clear that the American public had a real appetite for stories about murderers. Theatrical producers took note, and Chicago was revived on Broadway in 1996, where it still runs today. The filmed version, which won six Academy Awards in 2002—including Best Picture—introduced a host of new fans to the show.
I have always had a real fondness for this musical. I love that it is funny, dark, and more than a little racy. Its subtitle is “A Musical Vaudeville,” and most of the music is an homage to a specific vaudeville performer. Kander and Ebb wrote songs that recollect Helen Morgan, Ted Lewis, Bert Williams, Julian Eltinge, and the last of the red-hot mamas herself, Sophie Tucker. This production of Chicago highlights these vaudeville aspect of the show, as we are presenting it as though the cast is made of up members of a vaudeville troupe who is putting on a show. The performance you will see is an authentic, 1920s take on this now well-known musical. I am incredibly grateful to the entire team that has come together to present this show. Everyone has worked tirelessly, and we hope you enjoy it.
--Katie Rodda, Director