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CLEVELAND 'Chicago' is one show always in tune with times



Published: Thu, August 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The success of the movie has helped fill seats for the live production.

By JOHN BENSON

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

When looking for a reason why the jazz-era musical "Chicago" remains one of the most popular theater productions, one need only read today's newspapers to find an answer -- murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, treachery.

The award-winning 1975 play, which was revived on Broadway in 1996 and became an award-winning 2002 feature film, details two murderesses and a manipulative lawyer who turns their stories into front-page fodder.

& quot;It's never going to go out of style because every day some idiotic case is in our court system that makes our show so current all of the time, & quot; said "Chicago" actress Michelle DeJean, calling from her home in Manhattan. "There is the Michael Jackson trial. When the revival first opened, it was the O.J. Simpson trial and all of the subsequent trials that have been between that. It's a political farce kind of making fun of our court system. And when are we ever going stop that?"

Jackson's antics

Think back to Michael Jackson's trial when the King of Pop jumped on top of a car and showed off a few of his legendary moves to bask in his celebrity among his zealous flock. DeJean did.

"It's very much like the gun number when we both reach for the gun in our show," DeJean said. "It's hype. It's what we all as a public crave, unfortunately. It's one of the sick parts of our chemical make-up, I guess."

A six-year "Chicago" Broadway veteran, DeJean is finally getting a shot at the leading role of Roxie Hart on the upcoming touring production, which pulls into Cleveland for a limited three-show engagement Aug. 5 and 6 at the State Theatre.

"It's demanding mentally," DeJean said. "She's the only character who goes through a complete emotional arc in the play. So, emotionally at the end of the show, you're pretty spent."

Long way to Pittsburgh

Oddly enough, the tour leaves northeast Ohio for a five-week run in Japan before returning stateside with dates in Pittsburgh. Invariably taking the longest route between the Rock Hall City and the Steel City, DeJean said she's looking forward to returning to the Land of the Rising Sun for its very polite audiences, who can't get enough of American musicals.

While already a success on Broadway before the feature film, which starred Oscar-winner Renee Zellweger along with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere and Queen Latifah, the silver-screen success continues to affect the play.

"The show was doing just fine, it always has, but once the movie came out, people were very curious," DeJean said. "The movie was such a hit and done so well that they wanted to compare and see it live. It really did help us; it gave us more life and brought people back to the theater. People saw it before and wanted to come back or maybe were just curious and wanted to see the live production."

She added: "It's very, very similar and just as exciting. Nobody will be disappointed."




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