About a month ago, Celebrity Attractions, the company bringing all the Broadway shows to Tulsa, announced a special last-minute addition to the current season with one of Broadway's sexiest and most successful show's in history, Chicago.
The musical was even further popularized with the 2002 film adaptation starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, John C. Reilly and Richard Gere. Although many in Tulsa are likely familiar with the film, there's a good chance few have ever had the opportunity to see the production on stage.
Celebrity Attractions brought the show to Chapman Music Hall in October of 2004 and nearly sold out all eight performances of the run. The show has been touring continuously for years, and Kristin Dotson, Director of Marketing for Celebrity Attractions, said she was contacted by the show's producers in early spring of this year and asked if the company would be interested in bringing Chicago back to Tulsa for a short engagement.
"They are coming from a run in Dallas, so the routing of the tour to Tulsa was an easy jump. We were able to secure the dates at the PAC and, because the show has had such an amazing reception in Tulsa in the past, we decided it would be a great add-on to the schedule this summer," Dotson explained.
The three-day run is this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 18-20.
If you haven't seen the film or don't know much about the show, it's a vaudeville-style musical about celebrity, sex and murder in Jazz Age Chicago, written by Bob Fosse, John Kander and Fred Ebb, based on a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins.
The play opens with murderess Velma Kelly recounting the story of chorus girl Roxie Hart's murder of her lover, Fred Casely, after he tells her he's going to leave her. Hart convinces her husband, Amos, that the man she killed was a burglar and that he should take the blame for the murder. When the police reveal that Roxie knew the victim--intimately--he decides to let her take the rap herself.
Roxie hires a smooth-talking lawyer by the name of Billy Flynn who is sure to get her off--he's been successful in acquitting an entire gang of merry murderesses. To do that, he garners plenty of attention and sympathy from the media, turning scandal into sensation and celebrity.
Kelly is upset because, with Hart in the limelight, the attention is no longer focused on her and her murder of her husband and sister, with whom he was having an affair. Soon, though, Roxie too learns that celebrity is fleeting when Flynn and the media drop her for a new, even more scandalous murder, and she and Velma team up for a two-woman act.
Art Imitating Life
Tom Wopat, an acclaimed Broadway actor who also starred in "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Cybill," plays Flynn, a character he enjoys playing because he's a "take-charge kind of guy who makes everybody dance to his tune."
But, Wopat said, he didn't even like Chicago the first time he saw it.
"It's so cynical," he said. "The bottom line is that crime pays. The girls end up with a big act after they were each acquitted for crimes they actually did."
At the time, Wopat was used to lighter, more happy-go-lucky, Rogers and Hammerstein-type musicals. Since touring off and on with Chicago since 2004, though, he has grown to love the show.
The musical has an interesting origin, dating back to 1924 when The Chicago Tribune printed a story by Maurine Dallas Watkins about Belva Gaertner, a cabaret dancer accused of killing her husband.
Watkins wrote about the incident with candor and color, using phrases like, "Gin and guns--either one is bad enough, but together they get you in a heck of a mess."
The next month, Watkins covered another murder about another woman who killed her lover, which appeared on the cover of the Tribune, and garnered a good amount of attention from the public. Bealulah Annan, the second murderess, hired a prominent lawyer and then announced she was pregnant. Two decades later, Watkins turned the story into a satirical play, which was made into a film starring Ginger Rogers and Phil Silvers in 1942.
Chicago the Musical adapted by Fosse, Kander and Ebb, opened on Broadway in 1975 but was overshadowed by the more popular A Chorus Line and closed after a two-year run. The show opened again in 1996 and has since received rave reviews and accolades, earning six Tony Awards and a bevy of others.
If you've seen the film and enjoyed it, there's a good chance you'll enjoy the live show as well. There's something about being in the theater, with actors singing and dancing live in front of your eyes, that can't be replaced with film. Plus, tickets are $20 to $60, so it's almost as affordable as going to the movies. Get them quick, though, because there's a good chance all three nights will sell out.
Wopat himself has never seen the film, but he thinks its popularity only helped increase Chicago's fame, and he urges anyone who's enjoyed the film to see the stage production.
"I kick Richard Gere's ass," he said. "I don't tap dance, but I sing and do everything else."
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