‘Chicago’ Polishes Its Razzle-Dazzle Right Until Showtime

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Theater|‘Chicago’ keeps polishing its razzle-dazzle right until showtime.


“Chicago” created a new sign for its return.  
Credit...Mark Sommerfeld for The New York Times

Adam Nagourney

Sept. 14, 2021, 7:21 p.m. ET

It was six hours before showtime for “Chicago,” which was reopening after an 18-month hiatus, and the cast was gathered onstage at the Ambassador Theater to hear a choreographer and director’s notes from the final dress rehearsal. After this many months offstage, a few details still needed polishing, even after weeks of rehearsals.

“Act Two: Bianca, you are early with your ‘Hello, suckers,’” Greg Butler, the associate choreographer, said to Bianca Marroquín, who was playing Velma Kelly. He asked her to walk offstage and try the entrance again.

“Hello, suckers!” Marroquín said a moment later.

“Fierce, that’s how we do it,” Butler responded.

And with that, the cast of “Chicago,” the long-running musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, got back to business.

“Eighteen months is a lot,” Marroquín, who had played Roxie Hart before playing Velma, said in interview, coming off the stage to sit in the empty auditorium. “Everyone went through a lot of trauma and anxiety, and it wasn’t easy for us. Life goes boom-boom and takes the stage away. That was tough.”

She spoke of the emotions of being back. “This is what we do,” she said. “Without this, our life sort of dimmed.”

Now “Chicago,” which is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Broadway this year, is waiting to see what its next chapter will look like. Tourists, who make up two-thirds of the overall Broadway audience, are especially important to “Chicago.” One of the big lingering questions is when (or if) they will start flocking back.

“We are certainly a tourist-driven show,” said Walter Bobbie, the show’s director. “We are going to find out. When you get to be past 10 years old, the New Yorkers who want to see the show have seen it.”

One of the people on hand for Tuesday’s opening performance was a lifelong New Yorker, Peter Massaro, who paid $250 for a premium package from Mastercard that included dinner and a meeting with members of the cast. (“I’m still shaking,” he said afterward.)

Massaro first saw “Chicago” 20 years ago. “I haven’t seen it since,” he said. “I’m a huge Bob Fosse fan. It’s a great show from start to finish. The dancing alone.”

Massaro, who wore a rhinestone bow tie for Broadway’s return, said he had no concern about seeing a show in the midst of a pandemic. “They check for vaccines and masks,” he said. “People are respectful of that, especially in the Broadway community.”

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