With only one day to go before the big day - the 2012 Tony Awards, tomorrow on CBS at 8 PM - today we are shining a spotlight on a currently-running Broadway show that has recently become the longest-running American musical in Broadway history - beating even the champ (originally from the same year, incidentally), A CHORUS LINE - John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse's landmark 1920s vaudeville satire, CHICAGO.
While CABARET and KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN are both Tony Award-winning landmarks - and ZORBA, THE RINK, FLORA THE RED MENANCE and many others are well-regarded for good reason - CHICAGO is the crown jewel of the Kander & Ebb catalog. Boasting one of the most instantly appealing and immediately ingratiating scores since the Golden Age, Kander's vamps never stop topping themselves and Ebb's acerbic and biting lyrics never cease in snaking themselves around each other, creating wholly unique and oh-so ear-grabbing configurations. Then, there is the staging - Ann Reinking and Walter Bobbie worked diligently on creating new choreography "in the style of Bob Fosse" for the revival production, while still using his actual steps here and there, but the original 1975 Fosse direction and choreography remains iconic. While the 1975 Broadway production was largely overshadowed as far as awards and audience are concerned by the other big new American musical by a master director/choreographer that same season - Michael Bennett's A CHORUS LINE - CHICAGO has gone on to reach an even larger international audience than even that exceptional musical ever did, due not only to the fifteen-year-and-counting run of the Broadway revival and similarly successful West End version, but, also, coming as a result of the smash hit 2002 film adaptation directed by Rob Marshall - which won Best Picture, among many other Oscars. The future looks bright, as well, for the property, as CHICAGO barrels on on Broadway and racks up more and more performances every day, every week, every season. What exactly is it about the sexy and sassy show that appeals to audiences even more now than it did back when it first premiered on Broadway almost forty years ago? Is it the all-too-apropos subject of criminal celebrity and how that applies to our society now? Is it the jazzy and jaunty tunes? Is it the striking look of the spare and stylish current revival production? Whatever it is, CHICAGO looks certain to run for many more seasons to come on Broadway and in the West End and may it always remain a central focus in the discussion of the great American musicals - hell, of the best musicals period - if only because it's so, well… good; isn't it? Grand; isn't it? Nowadays - and always - it will be great.
So, let's kick off the CHICAGO-centric clip collection with this fabulous look at the original leading ladies of the show - the inimitable Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon - in this spectacular medley from the 1984 Tony Awards, featuring "All That Jazz", "Nowadays" and the "Hot Honey Rag".
Now, compare that to original CHICAGO revival leads Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking in this medley from the 1997 Tony Awards.
See original Billy Flynn, Jerry Orbach, giving his all to "All I Care About" on the 1976 Tony Awards telecast, introduced by Jane Fonda.
Now, here is the trailer for the 2002 film version of CHICAGO starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine-Zeta Jones and Richard Gere.
As a special bonus, check out Oscar and Tony Award-winning divas Liza Minnelli and Goldie Hawn doing their own spin on "All That Jazz" from a classic 1980 TV special, GOLDIE & LIZA.
So, what is it about the razzle dazzle of CHICAGO that has kept audiences entranced for more than thirty years? Is it the classic Kander & Ebb tunes? The fierce Fosse choreography? The satiric central showbiz message at its core? Whatever keeps 'em coming back, CHICAGO is here to stay - and all that jazz.