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Long-running 'Chicago' nears 3rd place on all-time Broadway list

November 02, 2012|By Mike Boehm
  • Ann Reinking, left, and Bebe Neuwirth take bows in "Chicago" in 1996. The Broadway production they launched then is still going on Broadway, headed toward third place on the list of longest-running Broadway shows.
Ann Reinking, left, and Bebe Neuwirth take bows in "Chicago"… (Dan Chavkin )

Now that Sandy has ceased storming the Eastern Seaboard, “Chicago” has resumed storming the Broadway record book.

The current production, which hit the 16-year mark last week, is on track to return an American-made musical to the top 3 on Broadway’s list of the all-time longest-running shows by year’s end. For the moment, the medalists are British and French imports.

According to a list of the longest runs in Broadway history published on Playbill.com, the revival of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s jaundiced classic about celebrity, crime and lack of punishment in Prohibition-era Chicago had reached 6,616 performances as of Oct. 21. That had risen to 6,623 when Sandy swept in Sunday to cancel three straight evenings.

Most Broadway shows resumed on Halloween, but that was a regularly scheduled Wednesday night off for "Chicago." On Thursday it resumed chasing “Les Miserables,” which racked up 6,680 performances from 1987 to 2003.

With eight scheduled performances per week, “Chicago” should pass “Les Miz” before Christmas, barring further disasters or a shocking decision by the producers to pull the plug.  

If “Chicago” can razzle-dazzle ‘em until this time of year in 2014, it will bear down on second place on the all-time list of longest Broadway runs, now occupied by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats,” with 7,485 performances. But it isn’t gaining ground on No. 1, where Sir Andrew’s “The Phantom of the Opera” is still going strong on the Broadway boards, having logged nearly 10,300 performances as the 25-year mark beckons in January.

James Naughton, Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking started the ball rolling for the current production of "Chicago," first bowing as Billy Flynn, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart with previews that began Oct. 23, 1996, followed by a Nov. 14 opening; Brent Barrett, Amra-Faye Wright and Amy Spanger are now dancing in the footsteps that choreographer Reinking patterned after Bob Fosse’s original work as director and choreographer of the show's 1975-77 Broadway premiere, which starred Jerry Orbach, Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon.

“The Lion King,” now in fifth place with 6,216 performances (as of Oct. 21), can pass “Les Miz” if it keeps going into 2014, and would then set its sights on leapfrogging its fellow feline, “Cats,” in 2016 for either third or second place on the all-time list, depending on how “Chicago” has fared.

“Mamma Mia!” (4,566/10th place all-time), “Wicked” (3,726/12th place), “Jersey Boys” (2,878/18th place) and “Mary Poppins” (2,470/24th place) are the other long-running productions still going, by Playbill's Oct. 21 count.

For the record: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the number of performances "Chicago" had logged before storm-related cancellations that began Sunday night. 

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