All That Jazz: The Life and Times of the Musical Chicago

Ethan Mordden (When Broadway Went to Hollywood), a prolific authority on the American musical, turns his attention to Bob Fosse's 1975 musical Chicago. The sardonic and dark Broadway production starring Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera had the misfortune of opening the same year as A Chorus Line, so it didn't win any Tony Awards and ran only two years. In 1996, the show was revived on Broadway to great acclaim as a stripped-down, minimalist production. More than two decades later, it's still running--making Chicago the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. Mordden traces the show's many theater and movie incarnations: beginning with the Maurine Watkins original 1926 Broadway comedic melodrama through the Oscar-winning 2002 film adaptation starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Watkins's successful play was turned into a 1927 silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille (who removed his name from the credits because his biblical epic The King of Kings was also playing in theaters at the time, and he felt audiences wouldn't want him depicting a crime drama so soon after seeing his life of Christ). In 1942, the play was remade again as Roxie Hart, starring Ginger Rogers. It wasn't until Fosse revived the story for his musical that the supporting character Velma Kelly became a co-lead.

Mordden is a chatty, enthusiastic and supremely knowledgeable guide. His song-by-song examination of John Kander and Fred Ebb's musical score is a master class on musical theater. All That Jazz is a treat for theater buffs. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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