Originally created 12/29/00

Next stop: "Chicago"



While scandal, murder and scathing indictments of the media are not the usual fodder for musical theater, they are the fuel for the fires of Chicago.

The musical blows into Bell Auditorium on Thursday as part of the Broadway at the Bell series.

Written and directed on Broadway by theater and film legend Bob Fosse (Cabaret, Pippin and the autobiographical film All That Jazz), the musical is based on a 1926 play by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins of the Chicago Tribune. She based the play on actual events.

The story revolves around rival vaudeville performers Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, each with a well-publicized murder to her name, and their attempts to out femme fatale each other. The idea, with some assistance from the more-than-willing newspapers, is to garner the biggest headlines and the biggest ticket sales in order to give their sagging careers a boost.

Originally produced as a lavish spectacle in 1975 by Mr. Fosse, Chicago was resurrected in 1996 and given a more modern, minimalist feel. The high-energy dancing in Mr. Fosse's trademark style, replete with high kicks and the de rigueur, jaunty over-the-eye bowler, remains the musical's core.

Ironically, the revival does not feature choreography by Mr. Fosse, who died of a heart attack in 1987. Instead, Ann Reinking, once a student and friend of Mr. Fosse, took the reins and crafted dance numbers for the play in the style of Mr. Fosse's work.

Despite the contributions of Mr. Fosse and musical numbers such as All That Jazz and Mr. Cellophane, Chicago was not overwhelmingly successful in its original run.

Sometimes criticized as too cynical, the play was shut out at the 1975 Tony awards by the then- fledgling A Chorus Line.

Reborn in the slightly more jaded '90s, however, the play found success. Not only did it bring home an armful of Tony awards, the cast recording also won the Grammy for Best Musical Show Album in 1998.

With standing productions in New York and London and countless touring repertory-theater performances, Chicago continues to charm audiences with its lively score, timeless story and dance pyrotechnics.

On stage

What: Chicago

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Bell Auditorium

Admission: $27.50-$35.50; phone 724-2400

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.