Chicago 25th Anniversary Tour Lands in Denver | Westword
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Chicago 25th Anniversary Tour Lands in Denver

The tour includes an ensemble cast member from Brighton.
The plot revolves around Roxy Hart.
The plot revolves around Roxy Hart. Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel
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"Audiences are absolutely ravenous for Chicago," says Adolfo Ortiz-Feder, an ensemble member on the musical's national tour. "That's stayed pretty consistent; even in smaller cities where I wouldn't expect a big theater fan base, they love Chicago. And there always seems to be that extra little love for 'Cell Block Tango.' As soon as my good friend Ed [Gotthelf] introduces the number, there's a roar of applause, and all the girls come out with their chairs in the spotlight. It's such a forceful moment, and I think that's one of those moments that really shows how legendary and iconic the show is."

And the jazz age will roar to life at the Buell Theatre when Chicago sets the stage ablaze with its sizzling blend of sin, song and all-out spectacle. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Tony-winning revival will be in Denver from Tuesday, January 30, through February 4. 

The plot revolves around Roxy Hart, an ambitious and manipulative chorus girl with dreams of vaudeville fame. After she murders her lover, she manages to turn her trial into a media circus and seeks to leverage her newfound notoriety into stardom. Despite a respectable 936 performances, the original 1975 Broadway production, which featured a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander, and lyrics by Ebb, received largely mixed reviews and won no Tony Awards.

For a while, it appeared that the musical would be forgotten. But in 1996, Chicago underwent a metamorphosis.

A highly successful revival debuted in November that year at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where the original production was staged and continues to run to this day. This revival, with its minimalist staging and powerful performances, brought a new edge to the tale of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. Since then, the musical has become a cultural icon, mounting more than 10,000 performances, winning six Tony Awards and inspiring an Oscar-winning film.
click to enlarge dancers on stage as part of Chicago musical
Chicago has become a Broadway mainstay.
Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel
"I believe the longevity of this is due to how strong stylistically everything is, from writing to choreography to music," says Ortiz-Feder. "One of the main reasons it is still so relevant and poignant today is because of its central theme about the power of the press and how easily things can be manipulated and perceived in various ways, whether through intent, simple miscommunication or misunderstanding. Everyone craves power, especially those who want to be in the press and make headlines, such as Roxy and Velma. The reporters are the most important aspect because of how much power the press wields, and I believe that is one of the most striking aspects of the show, particularly for me. That is one thing that keeps me grounded in the show: It's true. We, as reporters, have the power to push the narrative forward."

Ortiz-Feder's journey to the national tour is as captivating as the show itself. Born in Brighton, his Colorado roots run deep. "Brighton has always been such a special place to me, and just Colorado in general," he says. "Growing up, I remember going to see a show at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. All of my family has always been such big fans and very supportive of me, even from the very beginning, when I wanted to become a performer. I was just in Denver last year with [the national tour of] Fiddler on the Roof, and I had so many people come out to see the show — family, friends and even old teachers. I have a big support network in Colorado that I've always loved."

As someone who got his start in the world of performance through dance, Chicago has been on Ortiz-Feder's radar for a while. He explains that he has always been drawn to stylized dance that is outside the mainstream, which naturally led him to Bob Fosse's distinct style.

"Fosse is so iconic and is such a staple in musical theater," he says. "I did a regional production of [Chicago] in Massachusetts while I was in college, and that showed me Chicago is a very, very fun show to do. I had submitted for the tour three or four times, and the most recent time, they finally indulged me and brought me into the room. The process was so collaborative and creative, which was very refreshing. It was different from all of the other auditions that I had done that year. To come off of my first national tour with Fiddler on the Roof and then go into the possibility of doing this, it lit a spark inside of me and lit a fire under my butt. I remember saying to them on the very last day, ‘Thank you for having me.’ It felt like one big master class, and I sometimes forgot that I was auditioning because we were just working together."
click to enlarge headshot of man with black hair wearing a black sweater
Adolfo Ortiz-Feder, who is in the ensemble of the national tour of Chicago, was born in Brighton.
Courtesy of DCPA

The rehearsals were intense but rewarding. Ortiz-Feder highlights the challenge of embodying the show's nuanced, subtle choreography. "If I had a dollar for every time [choreographer] Gregory Butler told us less is more, I would be a rich man," he jokes. "But I think that's the beauty of it. Finding the expression and the ability to tell the story in such a small and nuanced, purposeful way was very challenging as a dancer, but very rewarding as well."

His favorite number? The tap dance after "Funny Honey," which introduces the dynamic between Amos and Roxy. "It might not be as recognizable as 'Roxy' or 'We Both Reached for the Gun,' but it's sort of a homage to the essence of Bob Fosse," Ortiz-Feder says. "It's very small and controlled and my favorite, because it's so Fosse."

Off stage, he plans to spend as much time outdoors as possible and hopes to visit Garden of the Gods. "It's my favorite national park," he says. "I went there as a kid so many times, and I think it's absolutely beautiful. It's one of the things that reminds me of home."
click to enlarge
"I believe the longevity of this is due to how strong stylistically everything is, from writing to choreography to music," says Adolfo Ortiz-Feder.
Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel
As the Buell Theatre prepares to host this landmark tour, Chicago provides Coloradans an exciting opportunity to cheer on Ortiz-Feder, a local talent who brings a unique authenticity and fervor to the show, embodying the spirit that has kept Chicago a Broadway favorite for decades.

"The biggest highlight for me, especially growing up loving theater, is seeing the people who come to the stage door," Ortiz-Feder says. "I've also had a few people send me lovely messages after shows, and I think the interaction with the people who adore the show and who come out to see the theater is so special. The opportunity to share my love of Chicago with people who also love the musical is sort of the highlight of the show."

Chicago runs Tuesday, January 30, through Sunday, February 4, at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Get tickets at denvercenter.org.
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