Taste of Chicago
There is an interesting dichotomy at the heart of Chicago the Musical, which was evinced most recently during the April 17th rendition of this musical at New York City’s Ambassador Theater. The work is at once dark and flashy, disturbing yet riveting, amoral and moral. Perhaps it is best characterized as a guilty pleasure, one in which the costumes, dancing, and singing help to justify liking a tale about a pair of jailbirds’ desire for fame. This dichotomy is present in nearly every number, dance, and costume selection in the Ambassador Theater’s version of this opus.
Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of Chicago that was easily discerned on April 17th was the big band (or big orchestra), 1920’s style sounds, scenes, and steps that characterize this work. There is nothing postmodern about any of these elements, which still ring of the 20th century when it was arguably at its finest. Of particular note was the dancing and singing demonstrated in “All That Jazz,” one of the most famous numbers in this musical. This song and dance typifies the production in so many ways, as it is about the attempt to drum up publicity for the jail birds who are alluringly sexy in leggy costumes harmonizing to the 20th century’s most noteworthy type of music.
In fact, Bianca Marroquin and Amra-Faye Wright’s vocals power through many of the tunes in this production. As attractive as these women are in their revealing outfits, they simply reinforce the notion that evil intentions can occasionally seem, sound, and even look good — a notion which is quintessentially Chicago. Marroquin’s presence helps to emphasize this fact in multiple ways. She originally started her Broadway career in the role of Roxy (YOUR PLAYBILL) and continues to do it justice as this most recent viewing indicates. She demonstrates a degree of comfort and familiarity in both the singing and dancing that is at the heart of this musical.
The set of Chicago was typically sparse, which is certainly indicative of this work as a whole. The dark background which many of the most pivotal scenes took place against merely reinforced the power of the musical numbers, and of the other acting performances as well. The type of dancing that characterized most of the songs was also conventionally ‘big Broadway’ based. There were numerous sweeping arm gestures and rapid turns — most of which were done in unison — which helped to emphasize the size and magnitude of the work. Even this facet of the music was quintessentially Chicago, as it denotes the importance of the windy city and its role in American history.
In this regard,…