Kander’s first successes came while he was a student at Oberlin College, where he attended with James Goldman, a lyricist he had known since childhood and together produced songs. In 1956 Kander started his Broadway career by filling in for another pianist who was on vacation, from that point on he became a pianist on many musicals and his career continued. In 1962 he met Frank Ebb, who was also a lyricist, together a great songwriting partnership started that lasted over forty years, together having several successes and becoming the longest Broadway partnership for music and lyrics.
The most successful musicals include Chicago, Cabaret, Zorba and New York, New York. Kander had a career in the film industry as well as having written multiple scores for a wide variety of films over many years. Kander and Ebb worked for forty years producing music for Broadway. (allmusic. com; songwritershalloffame. org; galegroup. com) When Kander went to New York, he attended a club in Philadelphia after seeing West Side Story; he met a pianist who asked Kander to play for him while the pianist took time off. Being as good as Kander was, the stage manager asked Kander to play auditions for the next show called Gypsy.
During the auditions for that show he met the choreographer, Jerry Robbins, who asked Kander to write music for the show. (galegroup. com; “John Kander”) Later in his life he wrote films which include: A Matter of Time (1976), Places in the Heart (1984), and I Want to Go Home (1989). Kander and Ebb also worked together for television shows as well and won an Emmy in 1993. Kander and Ebb have obtained awards from the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and they were awarded the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in musical theater by the York Theater Company of New York City.
Both of them have left a huge impression on the Broadway scene. Kander stated in 1997 that “If you’re going to write on a canvas of some size, the Broadway Theater is still the only place that offers you that opportunity. ” (galegroup. com; “John Kander”) The musical Chicago is about a young woman named Roxie trying to make a big break in the entertainment business. At the beginning of the play, Roxie cheats on her husband Amos, with another man named Fred who claims that he can get Roxie into the entertainment business. Fred says to Roxie, “Wake up, kiddo, you aren’t never gonna have an act. (Kander) and only used Roxie for sex so Roxie shoots Fred. After killing Fred, Roxie tells her husband Amos that Fred was an intruder, so Amos takes the blame for the murder. When the police tell Amos the name of the man, he figures out that Roxie had cheated on him and she was just lying. During the same night, superstar Velma Kelly murdered her sister and her husband when she found them in bed together. (“Full Script Lyrics”) When Roxie arrives to jail, she goes to the women’s block that holds Velma and other women who have been put away for murder.
Roxie also meets Mama Morton, who runs the women’s block. Mama has her own system of aid which helps the women. Mama was helping Velma get out of jail with the help of a very good lawyer, Billy Flynn. When Roxie comes into prison, she is trying to find a way out and Mama decides to help Roxie. Velma doesn’t like this because Roxie is stealing Velma’s limelight away. Billy takes Roxie’s case, leaving Velma in the dark. Velma then tries to ask Roxie if she would want to redo the sister act, since the act was a huge success. The show was Velma’s and her sister’s act before Velma killed her sister.
Roxie turns Velma down only then to find out that someone else had committed a crime. Roxie’s only chance at fame again was to pretend to faint and to pretend that she is pregnant, thus concluding Act 1. (“Full Script Lyrics”) The symbolism in the first act shows how corrupt Chicago law enforcement can be and how easily the media can be persuaded by giving lies to the public. The play is trying to tell the reader that in this time of day, the media and the common people are so easily brainwashed by current events that the media will praise criminals, this even happens in the media today.
Act 2 starts with Amos finding out about Roxie’s pregnancy, but while he is calling out for attention to let everyone know that he is the dad, no one notices him like he is invisible. After Roxie returns back to prison with all of the attention on her, she has a huge argument with Billy because Roxie thinks that she is calling all the shots now because she came up with the idea of being pregnant to get her back on the publicity train. Roxie then fires Billy thinking she can do everything on her own, later to realize that a woman was executed without a lawyer.
Roxie then freaks out and calls Billy to have him be her lawyer again. When the trial date comes, Billy tells Roxie that if she puts on a show she will be fine. During court Roxie acts innocent while Billy does all the talking. The judge proclaims her as innocent and she is released, Amos proclaims his happiness for the baby and Roxie says that there is no baby, only to leave Amos forever. After these events, Velma asks one last time if Roxie wants to join her for a sister act. Roxie accepts and they team up together to perform an act that becomes very successful. “Full Script Lyrics”) The symbolism in act two shows that the justice side of Chicago is very corrupted and not fully justified to the laws extent. With the media portraying Roxie as a celebrity instead of a murderer, the jury is going to have a hard time figuring out what is the truth or not. Roxie knows that she is a criminal, but after meeting Billy and realizing that the justice system in Chicago is very corrupt and easy to get by, she then knew that she had a way out, a way to start on a clean slate.
Chicago the musical is about criminal justice and how it is corrupt due to do the lack of administration in the prisons and the sensationalism in the media portraying criminals as celebrities. Show business being one of Chicago’s biggest attractions at the time of the musical setting, one can see how the media’s influence can easily sway a situation. The musical shows how the lack of justice can lead to a criminal’s freedom and that how the media can sensationalize a situation that ultimately portrays a criminal as a celebrity. The musical’s effectiveness shows the purpose of both corruption of the justice system and the media.