Seeing the musical Chicago has made it big on the big screen, I thought it appropriate to repost my review of August 2002 of the broadway production:
Lots of Muck, Few Pearls in Broadway’s Chicago
A story of murder, lust, greed, corruption, violence, adultery and treachery, Chicago was mostly lame. Telling us little about the human condition, the play gave a viewer scant return to make the dredging about in human muck worthwhile.
I didn’t know much about the play before I went—a friend arranged the tickets and I just said “Chicago, Jazz Age, court trial, Broadway, yeah let’s go”—and maybe that was part of my initial disappointment. I was expecting, well, something else. Rather than being on the way to the point, the debauchery was most of the point.
There were two brilliant exceptions to this, exceptions that made the show worth my half-price ticket.
We are given a good look into the character of Amos, the faithful, dopey, straight, longsuffering and highly boring husband of the adulterous star, Roxie. Amos is a kind man, considered a buffoon by the wild children of Jazz, caring and loving and common. He is completely ignored and pushed over by the world around him and, in the show’s best number, he thinks he is so unnoticed he should have been named Mr. Cellophane.
With great acting and a great number we actually get to see something of the humanity of this man, a man overlooked by his fast and rebellious age, a man terribly old fashioned and ridiculous. Taunted, ridiculed or ignored, Amos could and probably should have been the hero of the show, depicting a man at odds with the shifting world around him
The second bit of work that made the play worthwhile was at the climax of the show when one actor played the entire jury, shifting from seat to seat playing out the foibles of the American public. The actor was a nun praying, a middle-aged woman sympathizing, an old man sleeping and a workingman who doesn’t really care. It was a glorious bit of work hidden in a little sideshow of the three-ring circus of the trial.
But besides those two bits of brilliant work the show was too much “razzle-dazzle”, too much leg, an eminently forgettable score and not much insight into the human soul.