What made the 1996 revival production more successful than the original 1975 version? I know that as with most things, timing was everything. For nearly two years prior to the opening, America and the world had become enthralled with the OJ Simpson murder trial. Millions and millions of people around the world sat glued to their television screens as the entire story unfolded broadcast live and in color for their viewing pleasure. In Chicago, Matron Mama Morton tells Roxie, “In this town, murder is a form of entertainment.” That concept resonated with every member of the audience who came to see the show. They were living it.
Chicago satirizes this twisted world of entertainment. The show continues to be a success in New York and around the world because, eleven years later, our culture has become more voyeuristic and celebrity obsessed. Reality television dominates the ratings, gossip magazines and websites flourish, and we have a whole generation of stars who are famous for being infamous. In the end, that’s all they need to fit Roxie Hart’s definition of celebrity: “Somebody everyone knows.” It is a case of art imitating life. Just substitute Velma and Roxie with Paris and Nicole and trade in Chicago’s Cook County jail for Promises rehab facility…actually in this case, the LA jail would work too.
And low and behold, who’s back in the news today. With a controversial book and another arrest, the world, ready or not, is being served another glass of OJ. It makes Chicago’s message even more relevant. OJ and other celebrities feel as if they are above the law. But this time he got what he deserved the first time around. Whether breaking into hotel rooms or driving drunk and without a license, these celebrities don’t seem to feel that they can and should be held accountable for their actions. No matter how deplorable or offensive those actions, at least they’ll get their name in the papers. You get a sense that each one of them craves the attention and publicity. Maybe it’s because none of them “got enough love in their childhood.” Oh well, “that’s showbiz kid!”
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