Sunday, March 12, 2006

Chicago and All That Jazz

A few days after seeing Chicago on Broadway, a thought occurred to me. Robin Givens is currently playing Roxie Hart (the Renee Zellweger role), which entails her being married to the very white Mr. Cellophane in the 1920’s Chicago. Wisely though, there has been nearly no rewriting to reflect racial differences (although in this production, Fred Casely, the lover Hart murders is also African-American). Thankfully there hasn’t been any PC tut-tutting that the Ambassador Theater production does not accurately reflect historical racial attitudes. Nor have there been any complaints based in prejudice, at least none that have received publicity. One can’t help notice the dog isn’t barking, and it shouldn’t. After all, Roxie Hart is plum role, and Robin Givens is probably happy to have the opportunity (she acquits herself quite well in it, actually).

Chicago, as staged on Broadway, is not about verisimilitude. Essentially, it’s a series of musical productions, inspired by the original Bob Fosse choreography, strung together by a spare Damon Runyonesque narrative. There are very few sets to give a sense of time and place either, while the bandstand placed front and center on-stage certainly appeals to my jazz aesthetic. Historical accuracy isn’t important. It’s all about the mythical Chicago, a town intoxicated by scandal. While we know the historical Chicago was far from color-blind, we should be able to cast Chicago: the Musical without regard to such considerations.

As a result, I’ve also been listening to Lee Konitz’s jazz version of Chicago recently. Surprisingly, there is no rendition of “All That Jazz.” Perhaps, Konitz thought a jazz version of “All That Jazz” would have been too easy, too clich├ęd. That would fit Konitz’s non-comformist nature. It’s a strong album though, as is the original score, well worth seeing with the current Broadway cast.