Get Cultured — September 13, 2016 at 4:38 pm

Chicago Celebrates its 20th Broadway Anniversary on Central Park’s Summer Stage

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When I walked into Central Park’s Summer Stage area on the night of August 31st, the energy was almost palpable. There was a certain excitement in the air that was both impossible to ignore and difficult to resist. This electrifying and intoxicating atmosphere was brought on by the performance that was about to happen: the celebration of Chicago the Musical’s 20th year on Broadway.

Chicago is just one of those plays that almost everyone, whether deeply immersed in the theatrical world or not, seems to have seen…or at least know about. Even before Rob Marshall brought the magic to the big screen, Chicago was a Broadway musical sensation. The name alone could conjure up images of jazz hands, flapper dresses, cigarette smoke, and the familiar Bob Fosse style whispers and dance moves. And that night, in Central Park waiting for the show to begin, every single audience member knew that. There were even some guests who dressed for the occasion’s theme, donning 1920’s-style dresses and hats.

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I, admittedly, was unsure of exactly what this particular anniversary show would entail. I wasn’t positive if there was going to be a specific cast there to sing the songs, or if there would just be certain scenes acted out, or if it was going to be more of an homage to the production by other entertainers. As soon as I was able to sit down with the program, though, my excitement grew–I was in for a real treat: all of the show’s musical numbers were going to be performed. Having been a fan of Chicago for quite some time, though I haven’t seen it in years, I still know most of the lyrics by heart, and simply couldn’t wait to hear them live again.

And, oh, did I hear them again! The show opened with “All That Jazz,” arguably the musical’s most famous number. If I had forgotten just how much I loved this production and why, I was reminded immediately within the first few minutes of that initial song. After that, I was at the edge of my seat for the remainder of the show.

All of the songs were performed by various members of the different casts the show has had throughout the years, with a few surprise appearances here and there. One of my favorite moments had to be the performance of the musical number, “All I Care About,” which is the introductory song for the character of Billy Flynn. At the beginning of the song, the chorus of women usually sings out the words, “We want Billy…” then continues on to spell out “B-i-l-l-y.” In this rendition, however, the ladies sang out “We want Jimmy” instead, spelling out “J-i-m-m-y,” in honor of James Naughton, the actor who portrayed Billy Flynn on Broadway in 1997. He won a Tony award for his portrayal, which the chorus also incorporated into their version of the song. The crowd went crazy as Naughton appeared on stage, ready to bring his character to life once again.

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Some other notable moments included when members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus joined in for the performance of the song “Class,” when Camp Broadway joined in for the court scene on stage, and the special guest appearances of people like NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton, David Navarro of WABC, and members of the Praise and Worship Team of the First Corinthian Baptist Church of Harlem.

When the show finally came to an end, I was left filled with the rush of adrenaline and energy that only a truly brilliant theatrical performance can cause. I wanted to sing, dance, and wave my jazz hands around all night. The 20th anniversary of Chicago proved that theater is still alive, amazing, captivating, and simply filled to the brim with “razzle dazzle.”

Twisted Talk: Have you seen Chicago on Broadway? What was your favorite SummerStage show this summer? Discuss below!

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