Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Ryan Worsing, Charlotte d'Amboise,
and Michael Cusumano
Jeremy Daniel)

With its 6138th performance on August 22, Chicago became the fourth longest running show in Broadway history.  I saw it the previous week at performance number 6132 (estimated). And you know what? It's in great shape.

I have seen Chicago a dozen times or so, thanks mostly to the rush tickets that were available when it was still at the Shubert. I have seen Bebe Neuwirth, Ute Lemper, Deidre Goodwin, Caroline O'Connor, Jasmine Guy, Ruthie Henshall, and Nancy Hess as Velma. I have seen Charlotte d'Amboise, Belle Callaway, Sandy Duncan, Nana Visitor, and Marilu Henner as Roxie. I have seen a slew of Billy Flynns and Mama Mortons and Little Mary Sunshines. (If you want to see the IBDB list of replacements, click here.) And with all of these viewings and all of these performers, the show was never less than entertaining. Frequently, it was superb.

In some ways, there are two versions of Chicago: the star-powered version and the Broadway-stalwart version. Each has its charms, and when you get both (e.g., when Bebe Neuwirth was in it), it's damn close to theatrical nirvana.

The current Chicago is a Broadway-stalwart incarnation. The names Charlotte d'Amboise (Roxie) and Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Velma) may not sell tickets, but the people attached to them are first class performers, able to dance, sing, act, and nail their laugh lines. Lanzarone, not yet 30, is a stalwart-in-training. As Velma, she battles the ghosts of Neuwirth and Lemper et al, and she lacks their individuality and focus. But she's solid, and her unique looks and accomplished dancing do well by the part.

d'Amboise is flat-out wonderful. This was probably the fourth time I've seen her, and she's better than ever. Although it was a one-third-empty matinee, she brought her full performance. You would think it was the first time that Roxie had ever realized that she might be hanged, even though d'Amboise has played the part thousands (!) of times. d'Amboise's acting has actually improved over the years, and she has tightened her version of the "Roxie" number beautifully. Her dancing remains astonishing. In "Me and My Baby" she seems barely to skim the stage, and in "We Both Reached for the Gun" she is so puppet-like that you could easily believe that she has no joints. (That she does this all eight times a week at the age of 47 is truly impressive.)

Carol Woods is a kick-ass Mama Morton (of course!), and Christopher Sieber makes a charming Billy. (His long note on "We Both Reached for the Gun" was so astonishing that my friend suggested that it was supplemented with a recording. I suppose that is possible, perhaps even likely, but it would be disappointing.) The supporting performers--all those staggeringly attractive dancers with their staggeringly perfect bodies--remain energetic and engaged. The (somewhat-diminished) orchestra is also still giving the show their all, and as the audience leaves they become quite playful.

The biggest compliment I can pay Chicago is this: every time I have seen it, my heart has sunk when Roxie sings, "It's good--isn't it?" because I know the show is coming to its end. And every time it ends, I'd gladly sit there and see the whole thing again.

(free tickets; 4th row mezz first act; 1st row extreme side orchestra second act)

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