LONDON (Reuters) - For a musical that cynically mocks society’s obsession with celebrity, “Chicago” found the perfect formula in London — keep rotating pop singers and Hollywood stars in the lead roles.
The revival celebrated its 10th anniversary on Tuesday with the stars of the past decade reuniting for a charity performance of the musical about two murderous chorus girls and a razzle-dazzle show business lawyer.
Kelly Osbourne, congregating for a photocall before the massed ranks of paparazzi outside the theater, had no doubt: “It’s the best thing I have ever done in my life. The story line is so before its time.”
Ruthie Henshall, who took to the stage in 1997 as Roxie Hart said: “They were very smart in doing the celebrity revolving door. It works for this show.”
“Ten years ago it came right on the heels of the O.J. Simpson trial, so it was very relevant. We are all totally obsessed with celebrity.”
The London revival of the musical, first staged in New York back in 1975, has survived with a constantly changing cast ranging from Hollywood stars Brooke Shields and Joel Grey to French pop singer Sacha Distel.
Duncan James from the pop group Blue said: “The marketing behind it is quite extraordinary. You get celebrities in and it changes the dynamic of the show. It is one of those shows people come back to time after time.”
In a decade of high-kicking decadence, the cast of “Chicago” has worn through nearly 15,000 pairs of tights while the show has grossed over $244.6 million at the box office.
So why has it lasted?
Ute Lemper, who played opposite Henshall in the 1997 production, said: “It hits the modern nerve.”
“Also the movie version (in which Catherine Zeta-Jones won an Oscar) gave it a big kick in the butt and said ‘You stay up there’. Everyone in the world saw the movie and said ‘Now I want to see the live show.”‘
Nigel Planer, who played alongside Henshall and Lemper in the revival, said “Even my dad likes ‘Chicago,’ and he hates musical theatre. It is a very classy piece of writing and composing.”