November 14: Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville

ChicagoChicago: Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, book by Ebb and Bob Fosse; a ribald jazz-age tale of about murder, celebrity, and that nebulous concept we call “justice.” It’s a darkly humorous piece with a wonderfully cynical streak and a tendency to rip apart the theater’s “fourth wall” by directly addressing the audience. The musical ran for two years, but it was never really a hit with audiences or critics. The show was simply too cynical for the 1970s audience. However, when the show’s revival hit Broadway on November 14, 1996, it was a smash hit!

So, what happened? Why was a ’90s audience much more willing to embrace Chicago? Well, by this point Americans were a bit more familiar with the unique way that celebrity and murder could intersect. After all, it had only been a year since the infamous O. J. Simpson murder case had come to an end. Plus, Court TV was regularly blasting stories about Simpson, the Menendez brothers and other lurid True! Crime! Stories! So, in this atmosphere Chicago‘s dark wit was embraced, and the show and its jazzy score was rightly viewed as one of the great American musicals. The revival of Chicago won six Tony Awards, and this production’s stripped back style later served as the chief inspiration for the 2002 Oscar winning film adaptation of the show. Since opening 17 years ago, Chicago has run for over 6000 performances and is the longest running revival of a musical in Broadway history.

So, come on, babe, why don’t we paint the town with a nice Chicago Cocktail? It’s a sultry Champagne cocktail that was featured in the legendary Savoy Cocktail Book. The use of bitters adds a dark and biting touch to this drink, while the Champagne gives it the ol’ razzle-dazzle.

Chicago Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Brandy
  • 1 dash Cointreau
  • 1 dash Bitters
  • Champagne

Rub a lemon slice around the rim of a champagne flute and then dip the rim into superfine sugar. Stir the brandy, Cointreau and bitters in a mixing glass with ice and strain into the flute. Top with Champagne.

Tomorrow: A neo-classical monument for one of the Enlightenment’s best known Renaissance men.

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