2013 Tony Awards Clip Countdown: #9 - CHICAGO Vs. A CHORUS LINE
Today we are continuing BroadwayWorld's 2013 Tony Awards Clip Countdown with a special spotlight focused on one of the biggest battles in Tony Awards history - 1976 and A CHORUS LINE versus CHICAGO.
I Hope I Get It
It is not altogether uncommon for two tremendous musicals to go head to head in the Best Musical category, nor is it out of the question for two or three plays to be worthy of Best Play in any given Tony Awards year, but the chance occurrence of two game-changing, classic musicals in the same season is very rare, indeed. Sure, GYPSY versus THE SOUND OF MUSIC and FIORELLO in 1960 was a battle royale (with the former losing to both the latter two, unbelievably), as was WEST SIDE STORY versus THE MUSIC MAN in 1958 - to say nothing of DREAMGIRLS and NINE, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES squaring off against SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, INTO THE WOODS versus THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as well as AVENUE Q up against WICKED, more recently - and almost all of those titles are still produced to this very day, vying for each of their places in the great musical theatre pantheon. Yet, 1976 was a banner year in particular - Michael Bennett's white hot hit, A CHORUS LINE, faced off against Bob Fosse's original production of Kander & Ebb's CHICAGO. Of note, that very same season also saw Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim's PACIFIC OVERTURES, but that musical seems destined to be remained somewhat esoteric, whereas CHICAGO and A CHORUS LINE are all-American, born and bred barn-stormers if there ever were any on the Great White Way and their continued popularity attests to that fact.
The 1976 Tony Awards telecast opened with one of the most engaging and impressive opening sequences in the history of the show with a truncated presentation of the stunning A CHORUS LINE opener - a filming supervised by master showman Michael Bennett himself, as a matter of fact. Later on in the show, Jerry Orbach sang a spirited "All I Care About Is Love" from CHICAGO. As the awards rolled on and were doled out, though, A CHORUS LINE positively dominated the night, winning Best Musical, as well as Best Score, Best Book, Best Director, Best Actress and many more.
Nonetheless, history has dealt both shows interesting hands. While the original production of A CHORUS LINE ran for fifteen years on Broadway, the currently-running revival of CHICAGO has played even longer now, eking out more than 700 performances on top of that belonging to A CHORUS LINE thus far, as of this writing. A 2007 revival was relatively short-lived for A CHORUS LINE, though the current London Palladium production in the West End has been enthusiastically received.
Whether you prefer Jazz Age babies or Broadway gypsies, both shows have ample entertainment value to offer an audience, then and now - and both original and revival productions prove that everything is beautiful on Broadway.
All That Jazz
So, let's take a look at some of the most memorable Tony Awards moments pertaining to A CHORUS LINE, CHICAGO and their face-off at the1976 Tony Awards.
First up, here is the spine-tingling opening sequence of A CHORUS LINE as performed on that year's Tony Awards telecast.
Jerry Orbach leads "All I Care About Is Love" from CHICAGO, introduced by Jane Fonda.
The original cast of A CHORUS LINE performs "One" as the finale of that year's Tony Awards show.
Composer Marvin Hamlisch joins the 2007 revival cast of A CHORUS LINE in that year's sensational opening number.
Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking go all out with a medley of "All That Jazz" and "Hot Honey Rag" on the 1997 Tony Awards.
As a special bonus, watch Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon recreate their original CHICAGO performances as part of a Kander & Ebb tribute on the 1984 Tony Awards.
So, which musical do you prefer, if forced to choose - A CHORUS LINE or CHICAGO? Which way would you have voted back in 1976? What songs and moments are your favorite from each classic show? As the revivals and continual community theatre productions amply evidence, both musicals have a long life ahead of them, even still, nearly forty years later - on Broadway and beyond!