All That Jazz!

Broadway mainstay Chicago offers Austin audiences sex, scandal — and 'Razzle Dazzle'

Broadway mainstay Chicago offers Austin audiences sex and scandal

Chicago the Musical in Austin
"Billy's girls" ensemble in Chicago Photo by Jeremy Shaffer
Carol Woods Chicago in Austin
Carol Woods stars as Mama Morton in Chicago. Photo by Jeremy Shaffer
John O'Hurley in Chicgao
John O'Hurley stars as Billy. Photo by Jeremy Shaffer
Chicago the Musical in Austin
David Kent, Anne Horak and Ryan Worsing in Chicago. Photo by Jeremy Shaffer
Chicago the Musical in Austin
Anne Horak stars as Roxie Hart in Chicago. Photo by Jeremy Shaffer
Chicago the Musical in Austin
Carol Woods Chicago in Austin
John O'Hurley in Chicgao
Chicago the Musical in Austin
Chicago the Musical in Austin

Few musicals deliver the intrigue and entertainment value of Chicago. Now the longest running musical revival in Broadway history, the story of a fame-hungry housewife who enlists a hot-shot lawyer after she murders her lover returns to Austin November 19-24 at Bass Concert Hall.

With such classic songs as “All that Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle" and some of the sharpest choreography ever to grace a Broadway stage, Chicago explores sin, sex and scandal. “It’s so beautifully written, and how it’s constructed is really effective in bringing audiences that vaudevillian feel,” tour choreographer David Bushman explains.  

 With classic songs and some of the sharpest choreography to ever grace a Broadway stage, Chicago explores sin, sex and scandal. 

Chicago is a stripped-down show (both in terms of the outfits worn by female cast members and the minimalist set) compared to many of today’s more elaborate productions, many of which rely heavily on lavish costumes and special effects for their flair.

At its heart, Chicago is about the music and the moves. It tells the story of Roxie Hart and her desire for notoriety as she battles fellow murderer Velma Kelly for the limelight. 

Bushman doesn’t get any curtain time on the current tour, but as the show's choreographer, he plays an integral role. “The role choreography plays in this show is very different than in other productions," he says. "The role of choreography, really driving the story, is unique."

Bushman has a long history with the production that dates back to 2003, when he was in the first foreign-language production of the musical in Montreal. He went on to become the dance captain on the national tour for several years. For the current tour, David’s role was to train new cast members and tweak the dance numbers to fit a touring show.

With dance sequences in the style of legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, Bushman says, Chicago requires a lot of stamina from its cast members: “It is a pretty demanding show, because unlike in other musicals, the dancers in the ensemble are rarely off-stage. They have to be in terrific shape.”

John O’Hurley (best known as J. Peterman from Seinfeld) plays suave lawyer Billy Flynn. Bushman, who has known O’Hurley for years (they were Chicago castmates in 2006 and 2007, when Bushman was dance captain and O’Hurley first played Flynn), helped get the actor ready for his return to the role. Bushman says O’Hurley is a joy to work with, and his charisma commands the stage.

“His work and professionalism makes the whole process easier and he’s funny as all get-out," says Bushman. "He never drops the ball, so there is this wonderful sense that he is pulling the strings through the show. It’s wonderful to have someone like that in command.”

Just as O’Hurley and Bushman have returned to the show over the years, so, too, have audiences, helping make this production a classic that has held sway since its Broadway revival in 1996.

“People love the show. It’s got great writing, great numbers, and, stylistically, people can’t get enough of Fosse,” Bushman says. “Anyone would be missing out if they didn’t see Chicago, and I think that’s why people keep coming back.”

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You can tap your foot to “All That Jazz” November 19-24 at Bass Concert Hall.