Cell Block Tango

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"Cell Block Tango"
Song by Gwen Verdon
from the album Chicago
Released 1975 (1975)
Genre Tango
Songwriter(s) Fred Ebb
Composer(s) John Kander

"Cell Block Tango" is a song from the 1975 musical Chicago, with music composed by John Kander and lyrics written by Fred Ebb. It features the female criminals singing about how they ended up in jail. The song was originally performed by Chita Rivera, with Candy Brown, Cheryl Clark, Graciela Daniele, Michon Peacock and Pamela Sousa. "He had it coming" is a refrain throughout the number,[1] in which one prisoner describes how her man's gum-popping habit[2] led her to end the nuisance: "I took a gun and fired two warning shots—into his head."[3][4]

In the 2002 film, this musical number is performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones (as Velma Kelly), Susan Misner (as Liz), Denise Faye (as Annie), Deidre Goodwin (as June), Ekaterina Chtchelkanova (as Katalin Helinszki nicknamed the Hunyak) and Mýa (as Mona).

Possibility of the Hunyak's innocence[edit]

Of all the 6 Married Murderesses, the Hunyak is the only one who is innocent as her words translated from Hungarian into English:

"What am I doing here? They say my famous lover held down my husband while I chopped off his head. But it's not true. I am innocent. I don't know why Uncle Sam says I did it. I tried to explain at the police station but they didn't understand me."

In the movie, after she says "Not guilty" in English, she takes out a white scarf that represents innocence.

Covers and external usage[edit]

The song has been covered, or otherwise used, in several shows or videos. In the Glee episode "Choke", the song was covered by main characters Santana, Brittany, Mercedes, Sugar and Tina. Girls Generation's Hyoyeon popularized the song in South Korea after performing in the dance reality show "Hit the stage". Child actors in the Broadway production of The Secret Garden performed the number as part of a 1992 AIDS benefit in New York City.[5]

Todrick Hall has parodied the song to make "Spell Block Tango" using Disney villains Captain Hook (as the master of ceremonies), Cruella De Vil, The Evil Queen, Ursula, Queen of Hearts, Scar (which he portrayed), and Maleficent. Hall also parodied the song as "Cell Black Django" using celebrities NeNe Leakes (as the master of ceremonies), Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Solange Knowles, Beyoncé, internet meme "Sharkeisha", and Mariah Carey.


  1. ^ Christopher Evans. "Shift from hedonism easily seen" (series on cultural changes in the post-AIDS era), Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 16, 1983, page 1C.
  2. ^ Diane Werts. "Splashy! Flashy! Kicky! 'Chicago' proves a treat" (review of the Theatre Three production), The Dallas Morning News, October 18, 1979, page 14C.
  3. ^ Todd Webb. "'Chicago' a farce, a jewel" (review of a Jewel Box production), The Oklahoman, September 1, 1985, Entertainment and Arts section.
  4. ^ Thomas O'Connor. "Bebe Neuwirth brings cheer to `Chicago' " (review of 1992 production by Long Beach Civic Light Opera), The Orange County Register May 10, 1992, page H18.
  5. ^ Bill Morrison. "Secret Gardener: Fridays' child helps nurture Victorian musical on Broadway," The News & Observer, February 2, 1992, page H1.