After 42 years, 'Chicago' still has all that juice

by John Moore | Nov 27, 2017
Chicago Broadway Photo by Jeremy Daniel The Broadway company of Chicago, above. The national touring production comes to Denver for a week starting Nov. 28. Photo by Jeremy Daniel. 

Chicago grew long legs from the shadow of A Chorus Line to take its own place in Broadway's razzle-dazzle history

Genevieve Miller Holt
For the DCPA NewsCenter

The 1975-76 Broadway season made history. Meryl Streep earned her first Tony Award nomination and Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures premiered on Broadway. And two of musical theatre’s most enduring musicals were created nearly simultaneously. 

In the preceding year, while visionary director and choreographer Michael Bennett was developing A Chorus Line, the equally visionary Bob Fosse enlisted composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb (Cabaret) to create a new piece too: the musical version of a 1926 play about an infamous dame who’d killed her husband.

Chicago Dylis CromanFosse was an established Broadway director and choreographer at this point (Pippin, Sweet Charity) with a corps of loyal dancers. Denver resident Candy Brown was one of them.  

In January 1974, while Brown was dancing in Pippin, she and 18 other dancers gathered to discuss the challenges of being a Broadway gypsy, which eventually became the basis of A Chorus Line. Bennett’s project was an unknown quantity with only the glimmer of becoming something bigger, so some participants defected to more secure gigs, Brown among them. She joined Fosse’s Chicago

“I felt a loyalty to Bob as Chicago would be my third project with him," she said. "Not to mention the fact that no one knew if the Bennett workshop would even be a show.”

A year later, Brown arrived for the first day of rehearsal, yet just after lunch, the cast was told that Fosse had been hospitalized. “I went numb,” said Brown. “We all were in a state of disbelief.” Work stopped as Fosse suffered two heart attacks and underwent bypass surgery.

Months later, the Chicago team reassembled and Fosse began to construct his iconic musical.   

Candy Brown Quote CHICAGO“Every costume, every gesture, every bit of lighting, every word and moment were all woven together to create the story,” said Brown, who played the role of June.

Chicago opened on Broadway on June 3, 1975, to enthusiastic audience response. Fosse considered it a compliment that some took offense at his cynical take on the American justice system and the cult of celebrity. “Bob was tickled when people walked out,” said Brown, “because he figured that in order to be offended, they must have ‘got it.’ ” 

But when the Tony Awards came around, the unconventional A Chorus Line won them all. In his review of Chicago’s 1996 revival, New York Times critic Ben Brantley reflected that the 1975 production of Chicago had been, “in a sense, the evil twin of its rival musical, as acerbic and cold-hearted as the other was sentimental and warm.” 

But Chicago would eventually get its due. The 1996 revival was a resounding success, winning six Tonys and a Grammy while Rob Marshall’s film version won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Picture. 

Still considered one of Fosse’s towering undertakings, Chicago returns to Denver for a seventh time, and, after 20 years, is the longest-running American musical on Broadway today.

It’s still got that razzle dazzle. 

Genevieve Miller Holt, formerly of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, is the General Manager for Broadway Across America in Cincinnati.

In the Spotlife: Denver's own Broadway star, Candy Brown

Chicago in Denver: Ticket information

chicagoThe longest-running American musical in Broadway history has everything that makes Broadway great: A universal tale of fame, fortune and all that jazz; show-stopping songs, astonishing dancing and a story that never seems far from today's headlines. 

  • National touring production
  • Performances Nov. 28-Dec. 3
  • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
  • Tickets start at $30
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

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John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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