x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Chicago bringing all that jazz to Dubai for two weeks

As the popular Broadway musical Chicago comes to Dubai, we look at Bob Fosse's choreographic legacy and chat with the actress who plays Roxy Hart.

Terra C MacLeod, front, who plays Velma Kelly in Chicago. Courtesy Paul Kolnik / Chicago
Terra C MacLeod, front, who plays Velma Kelly in Chicago. Courtesy Paul Kolnik / Chicago

The musical Chicago – one of the legendary choreographer Bob Fosse’s finest Broadway creations, and about to begin a two-week run in Dubai – is not just fun to watch and packed full of great tunes.

It’s also a textbook lesson for drama students, says Aysan Celik, an assistant professor of theatre at New York University Abu Dhabi. She uses the Tony and Grammy-winning show to teach theatre ­novices how to connect with the audience.

“The core of what the performers are doing in the musical is something I work on with my students as well,” says Celik. “Fosse dancers have incredible presence, as if their whole being is electric. You’ll see that if you watch them.”

From Broadway to Dubai

Fosse’s original Broadway production was first staged in 1975 and was then revived under the dance direction of Ann Reinking in 1996, who had played the role of Roxie Hart in 1975. The success of the musical, which was based on a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, led to it being made into an Oscar-winning movie in 2002.

The show has toured to more than 33 countries and made more than US$3 billion (Dh11bn) in box office sales. It will be presented in Dubai by its touring cast under the direction of Walter Bobbie, from tomorrow to January 3.

Marcela Trevisan, of the organiser Yak Events, says 40 cast and crew members from the US have come to perform: “It is the same Tony Award-winning production with the music and choreography that audiences worldwide are familiar with.”

The story

Set in the Roaring Twenties, Chicago follows the glamorous trials of the vaudeville performers Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. They are on death row: Kelly for killing her husband and sister after finding them in bed together, Hart for murdering a nightclub regular. The two ladies go on to grab headlines, fame and fortune with the help of their lawyer, Billy Flynn.

Trademark Fosse

“Bob Fosse was a trailblazer in the world of theatre and dance,” says Celik. “The kind of deceptively simple moments that you see serve as a minimalist beautiful isolation of body parts.”

Fosse incorporated provocative moves and dark humour in his productions. His first fully choreographed show was The Pajama Game in 1954, which catapulted him into the spotlight and won him a Tony for Best Choreography.

His burlesque illustration of ­social problems – violence, exploitation, corruption, greed – has been at the core of his work, as seen in Chicago.

Dazzling numbers

Fosse’s signature dramatics – finger snaps, jazz hands and the broken-doll walk (a pigeon-toed walk with elbows to the torso) – are all present in Chicago, paired to music by John Kander and the lyrics of Fred Ebb in popular numbers including Funny Honey, All That Jazz, Cell Block Tango and Razzle Dazzle.

“The dancing is so virtuosic and breathtaking in the Fosse productions,” says Celik. “One of the fundamental skills that Fosse dancers have, and that we teach students, is about being present with your whole body.”

• Chicago is at the Sheikh Rashid Hall at Dubai World Trade Centre from Thursday to January 3. ­Tickets, from Dh245, are available from www.platinumlist.ae

aahmed@thenational.ae