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Like ‘Pippin,’ Broadway Palm’s production of ‘Chicago’ breaks theater’s fourth wall


Broadway Palm Chicago Story Promo Shot 2Few shows come to the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre (or any other venue, for that matter) with more anticipation or fanfare than Chicago. With still-timely songs and libretto, groundbreaking choreography that pays homage to the great Bob Fosse, and a couple of powerful female leads who can both sing and dance, the musical has it all. It’s no wonder that the six-time Emmy winner is the longest running American musical in Broadway history. Broadway Palm Promo 02In fact, only Phantom of the Opera has had a longer run.

The musical is based on true, headline-grabbing murders and their corresponding trials that took place in Chicago in the 1920s. One murderous thread follows an aspiring vaudevillian by the name of Roxie Hart who is arrested for murdering her extramarital lover. The other focuses on Velma Kelly, a night club entertainer and double-murderess that Roxie meets in jail. Unaccustomed to sharing the spotlight with anyone, Velma does not take well to being upstaged by the spoiled, self-absorbed newcomer. Simmering emotion boils over when the feisty vixens fight for the spotlight after hiring the same cold-blooded criminal defense attorney, Billy Flynn.

With themes involving narcissism, loyalty, betrayal, a broken criminal justice system and manipulating the press, Chicago may actually be even more on point today than it was when it was written in 1975. Songs like “All that Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango” and “Razzle Dazzle” reflect the current political gestalt with startling accuracy, while the rest of the show’s standards resonate across the board with Millennials to Boomers. But it is the dancing that ties everything together with the panache of a flamboyant red velvet Christmas bow. It doesn’t just amplify the story’s sexy, sordid appeal. It adds an exclamation point to the public’s love affair with sensationalized characters who thumb their nose at social expectation, mores and the rule of law.

Chicago is a logical choice to follow Broadway Palm’s season opener, Pippin. Both productions gained notoriety following their premieres for breaking the previously-sacrosanct theatrical fourth wall (in which actors pretend for the sake of the story that they cannot see or hear the audience). As in Pippin, the characters in Chicago take turns talking directly, and even blowing kisses, to the audience. Rather than spoiling the continuity of the storyline, this device actually provides the audience with a ready portal into the action by making them confederates of the characters, complicit with such illicits as Roxie, Velma and the disturbingly seductive Billy Flynn.

And when it comes to Chicago, seduction is the operative term. The characters, in their skimpy costumes, could not be more alluring. Their stories could not be more prurient. The dancing is as steamy as a salsa on a sweltering Southwest Florida night. So prepare to be seduced! But act now to secure your seats. There are a lot of folks who, like Roxie, want to get in on action and grab a share of the spotlight – even if only vicariously from the comfort of their seats in Broadway Palm’s multi-tiered proscenium.

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