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'Chicago' on Broadway: After nearly 14 years, more razzle than dazzle

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Image Credit: Catherine AshmoreThe rap on John Kander and Frank Ebb’s 1975 musical Chicago has been that it was a show ahead of its time, with its cynical take on the idea of celebrity, crime, and the regular folks who would do nearly anything for a moment in the spotlight. But though the original production picked up only one Tony Award (for lighting; it lost Best Musical to A Chorus Line), it was far from a flop: The show ran for 936 performances.

Still, no one could have expected that director Walter Bobbie’s 1996 revival would be such a giant hit that it has endured for nearly 14 years through multiple cast changes, including an Emmy broadcast’s worth of visiting celebrities. And who would have guessed that Chicago would spawn an Oscar-winning film that would help re-establish the movie musical as a viable genre?

I wish that I could say that the current Broadway production lived up to either the movie or the mid-’90s version (which future EW managing editor Jess Cagle gave a rapturous A+ rave). But while the material remains as icy-slick as ever and the limber dancing ensemble is hard to top in its Bob Fosse-via-Ann Reinking choreography, the current cast of stage veterans feels like it’s been giving ’em the old razzle-dazzle — emphasis on old — a few too many times. (You can check out my review here.) Is anyone else a fan of Chicago? Who’s your favorite Roxie (or Velma)?

Tomorrow: EW’s Tanner Stransky returns to the on-stage Serengeti of The Lion King, Broadway’s third-longest running show.

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