NEW YORK (November 15, 2006) — There was more razzle-dazzle than usual Tuesday in the razzle-dazzle musical known as “Chicago.” Brooke. Melanie. Chita. Bebe. Ashlee. And more.
The longest-running revival in Broadway history celebrated its 10th anniversary with a special gala performance that brought out a parade of stars who had appeared in the show during the last decade. They were there to play bits and pieces of all the major roles in the show.
Applause were prolonged right from the beginning of the black-tie evening at the Ambassador Theatre. Composer John Kander, who wrote the show with Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, came on stage to speak the show’s opening lines. He was followed by Chita Rivera, who not only starred in the revival (in Las Vegas) but in the original 1975 production. More than 30 years after she first belted out the show’s signature song, “All That Jazz,” Rivera did it again — to wild cheers.
“Chicago” tells the story of Roxie Hart, a conniving and murderous chorine and her quest for celebrity. And there were a lot of former Roxies on stage — from Ann Reinking who opened the revival in 1996 to Brooke Shields, Ashlee Simpson, Paige Davis, Marilu Henner, Rita Wilson and Charlotte d’Amboise.
Reinking, who also choreographed the revival, received some of the loudest applause when she appeared with Bebe Neuwirth (who played Roxie’s cohort in crime, Velma Kelly) for the show’s finale.
Yet the evening’s most endearing moment occurred as Melanie Griffith started to sing and dance the song “Roxie.” A lighting malfunction caused a persistent loud flapping sound as director Walter Bobbie raced to the foot of the stage. He asked Griffith to begin the number again after the problem was fixed. “I guess this is take two,” a game Griffith giggled as theatergoers roared their approval.
There were multiple Billy Flynns on stage, too. The opportunistic lawyer was portrayed not only by the original, James Naughton, but by Gregory Harrison, Huey Lewis, John O’Hurley, Kevin Richardson and Christopher McDonald, among others.
“This is a cast made in theatrical heaven,” said producer Barry Weissler after the scores of performers took their tumultuous curtain calls. He was joined on stage by Fran Weissler, his wife and co-producer, who summed up the evening by saying, “Except for giving birth, this is the most exciting night of my life.”