by Maurine Dallas Watkins
|Awards||1996 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical |
1997 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production
Chicago is a 1975 American musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. Set in Chicago in the jazz age, the musical is based on a 1926 play of the same title by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, about actual criminals and the crimes on which she reported. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the "celebrity criminal".
The original Broadway production opened in 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre and ran for 936 performances, until 1977. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the original production, and his style is strongly identified with the show. It debuted in the West End in 1979, where it ran for 600 performances. Chicago was revived on Broadway in 1996, and a year later in the West End.
The 1996 Broadway production holds the record as the longest-running musical revival and the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. It is the second longest-running show ever to run on Broadway, behind only The Phantom of the Opera. Chicago surpassed Cats on November 23, 2014, when it played its 7,486th performance. The West End revival became the longest-running American musical in West End history. Chicago has been staged in numerous productions around the world, and has toured extensively in the United States and United Kingdom. The 2002 film version of the musical won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
The musical Chicago is based on a play of the same name by reporter and playwright Maurine Dallas Watkins, who was assigned to cover the 1924 trials of accused murderers Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner for the Chicago Tribune. In the early 1920s, Chicago's press and public became riveted by the subject of homicides committed by women. Several high-profile cases arose, which generally involved women killing their lovers or husbands. These cases were tried against a backdrop of changing views of women in the jazz age, and a long string of acquittals by Cook County juries of female murderers (juries at the time were all male, and convicted murderers generally faced death by hanging). A lore arose that, in Chicago, feminine or attractive women could not be convicted. The Chicago Tribune generally favored the prosecution's case, while still presenting the details of these women's lives. Its rivals at the Hearst papers were more pro-defendant, and employed what were derisively called "sob-sisters" – women reporters who focused on the plight, attractiveness, redemption, or grace of the female defendants. Regardless of stance, the press covered several of these women as celebrities.
Annan, the model for the character of Roxie Hart, was 23 when she was accused of the April 3, 1924 murder of Harry Kalstedt, who served as the basis for the Fred Casely character. The Tribune reported that Annan played the foxtrot record Hula Lou over and over for two hours before calling her husband to say she killed a man who "tried to make love to her". Her husband Albert Annan inspired the character, Amos Hart. Albert was an auto mechanic who bankrupted himself to defend his wife, only for her to publicly dump him the day after she was acquitted. Velma Kelly is based on Gaertner, who was a cabaret singer, and society divorcée. The body of Walter Law was discovered slumped over the steering wheel of Gaertner's abandoned car on March 12, 1924. Two police officers testified that they had seen a woman getting into the car and shortly thereafter heard gunshots. A bottle of gin and an automatic pistol were found on the floor of the car. Lawyers William Scott Stewart and W. W. O'Brien were models for a composite character in Chicago, Billy Flynn. Just days apart, separate juries acquitted both women.
Watkins' sensational columns documenting these trials proved so popular that she wrote a play based on them. The show received both good box-office sales and newspaper notices and was mounted on Broadway in 1926, running 172 performances. Cecil B. DeMille produced a silent film version, Chicago (1927), starring former Mack Sennett bathing beauty Phyllis Haver as Roxie Hart. It was later remade as Roxie Hart (1942) starring Ginger Rogers, but in this version, Roxie was accused of murder without having really committed it, due to content restrictions on Hollywood films of the era.
In the 1960s, Gwen Verdon read the play and asked her husband, Bob Fosse, about the possibility of creating a musical adaptation. Fosse approached playwright Watkins numerous times to buy the rights, but she repeatedly declined; by this point she may have regretted that Annan and Gaertner had been allowed to walk free, and that her treatment of them should not be glamorized. Nonetheless, upon her death in 1969, her estate sold the rights to producer Richard Fryer, Verdon, and Fosse. John Kander and Fred Ebb began work on the musical score, modeling each number on a traditional vaudeville number or a vaudeville performer. This format made explicit the show's comparison between "justice", "show-business", and contemporary society. Ebb and Fosse penned the book of the musical, and Fosse also directed and choreographed.
Velma Kelly is a vaudevillian who welcomes the audience to tonight's show ("All That Jazz"). Interplayed with the opening number, the scene cuts to February 14, 1928, in the bedroom of chorus girl Roxie Hart, where she murders Fred Casely as he attempts to break off an affair with her.
Roxie convinces her husband Amos that the victim was a burglar, and Amos agrees to take the blame. Roxie expresses her appreciation of her husband's willingness to do anything for her ("Funny Honey"). However, when the police mention the deceased's name, Amos belatedly realizes that Roxie has lied to him. With both Roxie and Amos furious at each other for the other's betrayal, Roxie confesses and is arrested. She is sent to the women's block in the Cook County Jail, where several women accused of killing their lovers are held ("Cell Block Tango"); among the inmates is Velma Kelly, revealing herself to have been involved in the death of her husband and sister after she caught them having sex, though she denies committing the act on account of blacking out from the sight. The block is presided over by Matron "Mama" Morton, whose system of taking bribes ("When You're Good to Mama") perfectly suits her clientele. She has helped Velma become the media's top murderer-of-the-week and is acting as a booking agent for Velma's big return to vaudeville.
Velma is not happy to see Roxie, who is stealing not only her limelight but also her lawyer, Billy Flynn. Roxie convinces Amos to pay for Billy Flynn to be her lawyer ("A Tap Dance"), though Amos lacks the funds. Eagerly awaited by his all-woman clientele, Billy sings his anthem, complete with a chorus of fan dancers ("All I Care About"). Billy takes Roxie's case before realizing Amos doesn't have the money; to make up the difference, he turns the case into a media circus and rearranges her story for consumption by sympathetic tabloid columnist Mary Sunshine ("A Little Bit of Good"), hoping to sell proceeds in an auction. Roxie's press conference turns into a ventriloquist act, with Billy dictating a new version of the truth ("We Both Reached for the Gun") to the reporters while Roxie mouths the words.
Roxie becomes the most popular celebrity in Chicago, as she boastfully proclaims while planning for her future career in vaudeville ("Roxie"). As Roxie's fame grows, Velma's notoriety subsides, and in an act of desperation she tries to talk Roxie into recreating the sister act ("I Can't Do It Alone"). Roxie turns her down, only to find her own headlines replaced by the latest sordid crime of passion ("Chicago After Midnight"). Separately, Roxie and Velma realize there is no one they can count on but themselves ("My Own Best Friend"), and Roxie decides that being pregnant in prison would put her back on the front page.
Velma returns to introduce the opening act, resentful of Roxie's manipulation of the system ("I Know a Girl") and ability to seduce a doctor into saying Roxie is pregnant; as Roxie emerges, she sings gleefully of the future of her unborn (nonexistent) child ("Me and My Baby"). Amos proudly claims paternity, but still, nobody notices him, and Billy exposes holes in Roxie's story by noting that she and Amos had not had sex in four months, meaning if she were pregnant, the child was not Amos's, in hopes that Amos will divorce her and look like a villain, which Amos almost does ("Mr. Cellophane"). Velma tries to show Billy all the tricks she has planned for her trial ("When Velma Takes The Stand"), which Roxie treats skeptically. Roxie, upset with being treated like a "common criminal" and considering herself a celebrity, has a heated argument with Billy and fires him; Billy warns her that her kind of celebrity is fleeting and that she would be just as famous hanging from a noose. At that moment, Roxie witnesses one of her fellow inmates, a Hungarian woman who insisted on her innocence but could not speak English and whose public lawyer refused to defend her, become the first woman to be executed in Chicago ("Hungarian Rope Trick").
The trial date arrives, and the now freshly terrified Roxie runs back to Billy, who calms Roxie by suggesting she will be fine so long as she makes a show of the trial ("Razzle Dazzle"). Billy uses Amos as a pawn, turning around and insisting that Amos is actually the father of Roxie's child. As Roxie recounts Billy's carefully crafted false narrative of the night of Fred's murder (with Fred re-appearing on stage in flashback), she steals all of Velma's schtick, down to the rhinestone garter, to the dismay of Mama and Velma ("Class"). As promised, Billy gets Roxie acquitted, but just as the verdict is announced, some even more sensational crime pulls the press away, and Roxie's fleeting celebrity life is over. Billy leaves, done with the case, admitting that he only did it for the money. Amos tries to get Roxie to come home and forget the ordeal, but she is more concerned with the end of her brief run of fame and admits she isn't pregnant, at which point a fed up Amos leaves her.
The final scene cuts to a Chicago vaudeville theater, where Roxie and Velma (acquitted off-stage) are performing a new act in which they sing bittersweetly about modern life ("Nowadays"). The former Mary Sunshine, revealed during the trial actually to be a man in drag, takes his natural male form as a pushy vaudeville promoter, shaping Roxie and Velma's dance ("Hot Honey Rag") to make it as sexy as possible. The show ends with a brief finale as Roxie and Velma thank their audience ("Finale").
- 1975 Original Broadway Production
"Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville"
- 1996 Revival Production
"Chicago: The Musical"
† In the 1975 Original Broadway Production and its Playbill, there are a few contradicting song lists. Songs such as "R.S.V.P" and "Keep It Hot" which were instrumental pieces in the "Finale" were removed from the licensable music, but were included in original production and script. Other songs such as "Ten Percent" sung by a deleted character who was Velma's agent, and "No" sung by Roxie and Boys were cut soon into the production and only appear on demo recordings and in the original Playbill, but are not in the original script. Other cut songs from the show were "Rose Colored Glasses" a different version of "We Both Reached for the Gun", "Pansy Eyes", and "Loopin' the Loop".
Cast and characters
Source for West End: overthefootlights.co.uk
Principal characters (defined as having at least one featured musical number) and performers of notable productions:
|Character||Description||Original Broadway performer||Original West End performer||Original Australian performer||Original Broadway revival performer||Original West End revival performer||Film|
|Roxie Hart||An aspiring vaudevillian and murderess who kills her paramour after a spat and is sent to jail.||Gwen Verdon||Antonia Ellis||Nancye Hayes||Ann Reinking||Ruthie Henshall||Renée Zellweger|
|Velma Kelly||A vaudevillian and murderess who is on trial for killing her cheating husband and sister. She is represented by Billy Flynn and competes with Roxie Hart for him.||Chita Rivera||Jenny Logan||Geraldine Turner||Bebe Neuwirth||Ute Lemper||Catherine Zeta-Jones|
|Billy Flynn||Velma and Roxie's lawyer who has a perfect track record and makes celebrities of his clients to win sympathy and sway public opinion.||Jerry Orbach||Ben Cross||Terence Donovan||James Naughton||Henry Goodman||Richard Gere|
|Amos Hart||Roxie's faithful and good-natured but simple husband whom nobody pays attention to. He spends most of the show trying to make Roxie take interest in him or even just acknowledge his existence.||Barney Martin||Don Fellows||George Spartels||Joel Grey||Nigel Planer||John C. Reilly|
|Matron "Mama" Morton||The matron of the Cook County Jail. Grants the inmates favors in exchange for bribes.||Mary McCarty||Hope Jackman||Judi Connelli||Marcia Lewis||Meg Johnson||Queen Latifah|
|Mary Sunshine||The sob sister journalist who follows the trials of both Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. In most productions, Sunshine is revealed to be male at the end of the show.||Michael O'Haughey||Gary Lyons||J.P. Webster||David Sabella-Mills||Charles Shirvell||Christine Baranski|
- Fred Casely: Roxie's paramour, a furniture salesman. Shot dead at the beginning of the play, he appears in flashback during the trial.
- Katalin Hunyak: One of Roxie and Velma's fellow inmates, who speaks almost no English and is most likely innocent of the crime she is accused of committing. (Her surname Hunyak is an ethnic slur for Hungarian people.) Her hanging sets up the climax.
- Sergeant Fogarty: Police officer who arrests Roxie and investigates Fred's murder.
- Liz, Annie, Mona and June: Four inmates who appear only during "Cell Block Tango".
- Aaron: Katalin's indifferent public defender, who prefers to cut plea deals instead of actually defending his clients.
- Martin Harrison: assistant district attorney who prosecutes Roxie. Harrison only appears during the trial but is mentioned earlier.
- Kitty Baxter: An heiress who murders her boyfriend and his two mistresses after finding all three in bed together. Her sensational arrest briefly eclipses Roxie's fame similar to how Roxie stole Velma's limelight, inspiring her to create the pregnancy act to regain her status in the media.
- Harry: Kitty's boyfriend.
The ensemble also calls for a judge, jury foreman, gynecologist, court clerk, newspaper reporters, male sycophants for Roxie and Velma, and other miscellaneous roles, which are usually held as dual roles by other ensemble members.
- Roxie Hart: Liza Minnelli, Lenora Nemetz, Ann Reinking
- Velma Kelly: Lenora Nemetz
- Amos Hart: Rex Everhart
- Matron “Mama” Morton: Alaina Reed Hall
- Roxie Hart: Pamela Anderson, Mel B, Christie Brinkley, Charlotte d'Amboise, Paige Davis, Kara DioGuardi, Sandy Duncan, Veronica Dunne, Charlotte Kate Fox, Robin Givens, Melanie Griffith, Melora Hardin, Samantha Harris, Marilu Henner, Ruthie Henshall, Robyn Hurder, Erika Jayne, Bonnie Langford, Shiri Maimon, Bianca Marroquín, Gretchen Mol, Jennifer Nettles, Bebe Neuwirth, Petra Nielsen, Brandy Norwood, Desi Oakley, Lisa Rinna, Chita Rivera, Angelica Ross, Brooke Shields, Ashlee Simpson, Amy Spanger, Denise van Outen, Ana Villafañe, Nana Visitor, Michelle Williams, Rumer Willis, Rita Wilson, Ryoko Yonekura, Karen Ziemba
- Velma Kelly: Pia Douwes, Deidre Goodwin, Lana Gordon, Jasmine Guy, Mýa Harrison, Ruthie Henshall, Carly Hughes, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Sharon Lawrence, Ute Lemper, Vicki Lewis, Bianca Marroquín, Luba Mason, Anna Montanaro, Caroline O'Connor, Reva Rice, Amra-Faye Wright, Leigh Zimmerman
- Billy Flynn: Pasquale Aleardi, Obba Babatundé, Brent Barrett, Hinton Battle, Erich Bergen, Wayne Brady, Jaime Camil, Philip Casnoff, Maxwell Caulfield, Chuck Cooper, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jason Danieley, Taye Diggs, Colman Domingo, John Dossett, Christopher Fitzgerald, Alexander Gemignani, Eddie George, Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Gossett Jr., Michael C. Hall, Todrick Hall, George Hamilton, Harry Hamlin, Gregory Harrison, Tom Hewitt, James Monroe Iglehart, Gregory Jbara, Joey Lawrence, Huey Lewis, Norm Lewis, Hal Linden, Peter Lockyer, Jeff McCarthy, Christopher McDonald, Brian McKnight, Paul Alexander Nolan, John O'Hurley, Adam Pascal, Marti Pellow, Clarke Peters, Ron Raines, Kevin Richardson, John Schneider, Matthew Settle, Chaz Lamar Shepherd, Christopher Sieber, Jerry Springer, Elvis Stojko, Patrick Swayze, Paulo Szot, Alan Thicke, Robert Urich, Usher, Ben Vereen, Tom Wopat, Tony Yazbeck, Billy Zane, Adrian Zmed, Marco Zunino
- Amos Hart: Rob Bartlett, Kevin Carolan, Kevin Chamberlin, Cory English, Christopher Fitzgerald, Tom McGowan, Vincent Pastore, Ernie Sabella, Chris Sullivan, Paul C. Vogt
- Matron “Mama” Morton: Kandi Burruss, B.J. Crosby, Lea DeLaria, Larisa Dolina, Debbie Gravitte, Jennifer Holliday, Cady Huffman, Patti LaBelle, NeNe Leakes, Adriane Lenox, Debra Monk, Anne L. Nathan, Bebe Neuwirth, Michele Pawk, Christine Pedi, Roz Ryan, Camille Saviola, Valerie Simpson, Angie Stone, Mary Testa, Aida Turturro, Sofía Vergara, Lillias White, Terri White, Wendy Williams, Chandra Wilson, Carol Woods
- Mary Sunshine: Daniel Levine, Max von Essen
West End revival (1997–2012)
- Roxie Hart: Tina Arena, Emma Barton, Christie Brinkley, Jennifer Ellison, America Ferrera, Maria Friedman, Josefina Gabrielle, Jill Halfpenny, Linzi Hateley, Bonnie Langford, Aoife Mulholland, Petra Nielsen, Chita Rivera, Frances Ruffelle, Suzanne Shaw, Brooke Shields, Ashlee Simpson, Claire Sweeney, Sally Ann Triplett, Denise van Outen, Michelle Williams
- Velma Kelly: Anna-Jane Casey, Pia Douwes, Ruthie Henshall, Nicola Hughes, Debbie Kurup, Rachel McDowall, Anna Montanaro, Valerie Pettiford, Leigh Zimmerman
- Billy Flynn: Luca Barbareschi, John Barrowman, David Bedella, Darius Campbell, Maxwell Caulfield, Robin Cousins, Juan Pablo Di Pace, John Diedrich, Sacha Distel, Michael French, Matthew Goodgame, Michael Greco, Tony Hadley, David Hasselhoff, Raza Jaffrey, Duncan James, Ian Kelsey, Craig McLachlan, Jimmy Osmond, Marti Pellow, Clarke Peters, Kevin Richardson, Rolf Saxon, Michael Siberry, Jerry Springer, Jonathan Wilkes, Gary Wilmot
- Amos Hart: Justin Lee Collins, Peter Davison, Les Dennis, James Doherty, Joel Grey, Gareth Hale, Kevin Kennedy, George Layton, Victor McGuire, Dale Meeks, Norman Pace, Clive Rowe
- Matron “Mama” Morton: Lynda Carter, Sharon D. Clarke, Anita Dobson, Brenda Edwards, Diane Langton, Alison Moyet, Kelly Osbourne, Gaby Roslin
- Mary Sunshine: Cory English, Nathan Kiley
Musical and staging style
According to Fred Ebb, he wrote the book in a vaudeville style because "the characters were performers. Every musical moment in the show was loosely modeled on someone else: Roxie was Helen Morgan, Velma was Texas Guinan, Billy Flynn was Ted Lewis, Mama Morton was Sophie Tucker." Composer John Kander elaborates that the reason the show was called a vaudeville "is because many of the songs we wrote are related to specific performers like those you mentioned, and Eddie Cantor and Bert Williams as well."
It was through the initial production, and not the writing, that many of the "traditional" Chicago staging conventions were developed:
The double snap in "Razzle Dazzle" was added as an afterthought at the suggestion of Ebb to Kander. Kander explains: "I remember when we wrote "Razzle Dazzle", before we took it in and played it for Bob, you [Ebb] said with absolute confidence 'Try adding a couple of finger snaps to it. Bobby will love that.' We added them...and as soon as he heard the finger snaps, he loved the song." During rehearsals, "Razzle Dazzle" was originally staged as an orgy on the steps of the courthouse. Fosse was talked out of allowing this staging, when Orbach "convinced him that he was missing the Brechtian subtlety intrinsic in the number."
The original finale was "Loopin' the Loop", a doubles act with Verdon and Rivera; however, "the scene seemed too much like an amateur act so Fosse asked for something more 'glamorous in pretty gowns'". The piece was cut and replaced with "Nowadays". Instrumental sections of "Loopin' the Loop" can still be heard in the Overture. Two other sections termed "Keep It Hot" and "RSVP" were cut from the finale as well.
Another principal character, a theatrical agent named Harry Glassman, was played by David Rounds, whose role was to exploit the notoriety of the prisoners for his own gain. He also served as the evening's M.C. This character's role and the song "Ten Percent" was cut, with the character folded into that of Matron Mama Morton, and various members of the chorus shared his M.C. duties.
In a reversal of roles, Fosse decided the lyrics for "Class" were too offensive and censored Kander and Ebb's original version. One of the original lyrics "Every guy is a snot/Every girl is a twat" was restored for the 2002 film, although the entire number was cut from the final product.
Original Broadway production
Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville opened on June 3, 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre, and ran for a total of 936 performances, closing on August 27, 1977. The opening night cast starred Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly, Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart, Jerry Orbach as Billy Flynn and Barney Martin as Amos Hart. Velma Kelly had been a comparatively minor character in all versions of Chicago prior to the musical rendering. The role was fleshed out to balance Chita Rivera's role opposite Gwen Verdon's Roxie Hart.
The musical received mixed reviews. The Brechtian style of the show, which frequently dropped the fourth wall, made audiences uncomfortable. According to James Leve, "Chicago is cynical and subversive, exploiting American cultural mythologies in order to attack American celebrity culture."
The show opened the same year as Michael Bennett's highly successful A Chorus Line, which beat out Chicago in both ticket sales and at the Tony Awards. The show was on the verge of closing when it ran into another setback: Gwen Verdon had to have surgery on nodes in her throat after inhaling a feather during the show's finale. The producers contemplated closing the show, but Liza Minnelli stepped in and offered to play the role of Roxie Hart in place of Verdon. Her run lasted slightly over a month (August 8, 1975, through September 13, 1975), boosting the show's popularity, until Gwen Verdon recuperated and returned to the show. Ann Reinking, who would go on to star in the highly successful 1996 revival and choreograph that production in the style of Bob Fosse, was also a cast replacement for Roxie Hart during the show's original run.
1979 West End
The first West End, London production opened at the Cambridge Theatre in April 1979 and ran for around 600 performances (having debuted at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, on 23 November 1978). It commenced in the West End with most of the Sheffield cast, and was directed by Peter James and choreographed by Gillian Gregory. The producers were Ray Cooney and Larry Parnes. Jenny Logan starred as Velma Kelly, with Ben Cross as Billy, Antonia Ellis as Roxie Hart and Don Fellows as Amos Hart. Ellis (Actress of the Year in a Musical) and Ben Cross (Actor of the Year in a Musical) were nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for their performances, and the musical was nominated as Musical of the Year. Elizabeth Seal later replaced Ellis as Roxie Hart.
The original Australian production opened at the Sydney Opera House's Drama Theatre in June 1981. Featuring Nancye Hayes (Roxie), Geraldine Turner (Velma), Terence Donovan (Billy), Judi Connelli (Mama) and George Spartels (Amos), it was a new production directed by Richard Wherrett for the Sydney Theatre Company, rather than a replica of the Broadway production. It transferred to the Theatre Royal in Sydney, before touring to Melbourne's Comedy Theatre, Adelaide's Festival Theatre and a return season at the Theatre Royal, playing until March 1982. Sydney Theatre Company's production also toured to the Hong Kong Arts Festival in February 1983.
1992 Los Angeles production
The Long Beach Civic Light Opera presented Chicago in 1992, directed by Rob Marshall with choreography by Ann Reinking. Juliet Prowse played Roxy opposite Bebe Neuwirth as Velma. Gary Sandy played Billy Flynn with Kaye Ballard as Mama Morton.
1996 Broadway revival
This section needs additional citations for verification. (March 2013)
City Center Encores! series presented Chicago in concert in May 1996. The Encores! series, according to their statement, "celebrates the rarely heard works of America's most important composers and lyricists...Encores! gives three glorious scores the chance to be heard as their creators originally intended."
The production was directed by Walter Bobbie with choreography "in the style of Bob Fosse" by Ann Reinking, who also reprised her previous role as Roxie Hart. Also in the cast were Bebe Neuwirth as Velma Kelly, Joel Grey as Amos Hart and James Naughton as Billy Flynn. The show was well-received, with Howard Kissel, reviewing for the New York Daily News writing that "This Chicago impressed me far more than the original.". Ben Brantley, in his review for The New York Times, wrote " 'Make love to the audience' was another Fosse dictum. That's exactly what Ms. Reinking and her ensemble do. Chicago can still seem glibly cynical and artificially cold, especially in its weaker second act. But these performers know just how to take off the chill." By May 10, 1996, there was talk of a Broadway production: "Down the block, there is a move afoot to move the Encores production of Chicago to Broadway. Rocco Landesman said that he and Fran and Barry Weissler wanted to bring the production to the Martin Beck Theater this summer."
Barry and Fran Weissler brought the Encores! production to Broadway, after some revision and expansion, but retaining the spare and minimalist style in costumes and set. The set design includes the presence of the band center stage in an evocation of a jury box, around and upon which the actors play some scenes. There are also chairs along the sides of this central piece, in which the actors at times sit or lounge, when not directly involved in the action. The show opened on November 14, 1996, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (the same theater where the original production had played) with a script adapted by David Thompson, eventually setting a record for recovering its initial costs faster than any other musical in history, likely due in part to the stripped-down design elements.
Unlike the original production, the revival was met with praise from critics. The CurtainUp reviewer noted, "The show garnered ecstatic reviews, enviable box office sales and enough awards to warrant a special Chicago trophy room." Society had changed in light of events such as the O. J. Simpson murder case, and audiences were more receptive to the criminal-as-celebrity theme of the show.
The revival of Chicago won six Tony Awards, more than any other revival in Broadway history until South Pacific won seven Tonys in 2008. Chicago won for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Leading Actress in a Musical for Bebe Neuwirth, Best Leading Actor in a Musical for James Naughton, Best Lighting Design of a Musical for Ken Billington, Best Director of a Musical for Walter Bobbie and Best Choreography for Ann Reinking. Chicago: The Musical has run for more than 9,000 performances and holds the record for longest-running musical revival on Broadway. Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, James Naughton, and Joel Grey returned for cameo appearances.
Among the many other performers and celebrities who have appeared in the show are Adam Pascal, Alan Thicke, Amra-Faye Wright, Amy Spanger, Ana Villafañe, Ashlee Simpson, Billy Ray Cyrus, Billy Zane, Brandy Norwood, Brooke Shields, Carol Woods, Chandra Wilson, Charlotte d'Amboise, Christie Brinkley, Christine Pedi, Christopher Fitzgerald, Christopher Sieber, Cuba Gooding Jr., Debra Monk, Eddie George, Elvis Stojko, Erika Jayne, Gretchen Mol, Jaime Camil, James Monroe Iglehart, Jeff McCarthy, Jennifer Holliday, Jennifer Nettles, Jerry Springer, Joey Lawrence, John O'Hurley, Kara DioGuardi, Kevin Richardson, Kevin Chamberlin, Leigh Zimmerman, Lillias White, Lisa Rinna, Marco Zunino, Marilu Henner, Marti Pellow, Mel B, Melanie Griffith, Melora Hardin, Michael C. Hall, Michelle Williams, Mýa, Nana Visitor, NeNe Leakes, Norm Lewis, Pamela Anderson, Patrick Swayze, Paulo Szot, Philip Casnoff, Rita Wilson, Rob Bartlett, Roz Ryan, Rumer Willis, Ruthie Henshall, Samantha Harris, Shiri Maimon, Sofía Vergara, Taye Diggs, Todrick Hall, Tony Yazbeck, Usher, Veronica Dunne, and Wendy Williams.
On January 29, 2003, more than six years into its run, the Broadway production moved a second time, to the Ambassador Theatre, where it has played ever since. On November 23, 2014, Chicago became the second longest-running Broadway show, surpassing Cats.
On November 18, 1997, the revival production opened in London's West End. Like the New York revival, it was directed by Walter Bobbie and designed by John Lee Beatty, with choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse. The show ran at the Adelphi Theatre for nine years until transferring to the Cambridge Theatre in April 2006. The original cast of the production included German jazz singer Ute Lemper as Velma, British actress Ruthie Henshall as Roxie Hart, Nigel Planer as Amos Hart, and Henry Goodman as Billy Flynn. The production won the 1998 Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical, and Lemper was awarded Best Actress in a Musical. Both Lemper and Henshall have played the role of Velma on Broadway.
Like its Broadway counterpart, the London production featured many celebrities, includig Alison Moyet, America Ferrera, Anita Dobson, Aoife Mulholland, Ashlee Simpson, Bonnie Langford, Brooke Shields, Chita Rivera, Christie Brinkley, Claire Sweeney, Clive Rowe, Darius Campbell, David Hasselhoff, Denise van Outen, Frances Ruffelle, Gaby Roslin, Ian Kelsey, James Doherty, Jennifer Ellison, Jerry Springer, Jill Halfpenny, Joel Grey, John Barrowman, Josefina Gabrielle, Justin Lee Collins, Kelly Osbourne, Kevin Richardson, Leigh Zimmerman, Les Dennis, Linzi Hateley, Lynda Carter, Maria Friedman, Marti Pellow, Michael French, Michael Greco, Michelle Williams, Peter Davison, Raza Jaffrey, Sacha Distel, Sally Ann Triplett, Tina Arena, and Tony Hadley.
The production moved out of the Cambridge Theatre on August 27, 2011 and transferred to the Garrick Theatre on November 7, 2011, starring America Ferrera as Roxie. Robin Cousins joined the cast as Billy Flynn on July 17, 2012. The show closed on September 1, 2012 after a total run of nearly 15 years in London. The UK tour of the production continued after the closing.
To celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the West End revival production, Chicago returned, this time at the Phoenix Theatre opening April 11, 2018, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as Billy Flynn, Sarah Soetaert as Roxie Hart, Josefina Gabrielle as Velma Kelly, and Ruthie Henshall as Mama Morton. A cast change saw Martin Kemp take over the role of Billy Flynn, with Alexandra Burke as Roxie Hart and Mazz Murray as Mama Morton. Denise Van Outen was announced to take over the role of Velma from 24 September 2018, but due to sustaining a stress fracture in her heel, her integration was delayed until 7 October. The production featured on ITV's reality show, The Big Audition, to cast the replacement Velma. Following multiple rounds of singing, dancing and acting auditions, Laura Tyrer was selected to fill in for the role.
North American tours
There have been ten North American national tours of Chicago. The first tour started in April 1997 in Cincinnati, Ohio, six months after the revival opened on Broadway. The cast featured Charlotte d'Amboise (Roxie Hart), Jasmine Guy (Velma Kelly), Obba Babatundé (Billy Flynn) and Carol Woods (Matron "Mama" Morton). A second company started in December 1997 in Tampa, Florida. The tour went on hiatus in Fall 1999 and started again in October 1999 in Denver, Colorado, featuring Robert Urich as Billy Flynn, Vicki Lewis (Velma) and Nana Visitor (Roxie). The next tour started in October 2000 in Stamford, Connecticut, with Robert Urich. Chita Rivera joined the tour for several weeks.
The 2003 tour started in June 2003 at the National Theatre, Washington, DC, with Brenda Braxton playing Velma, Bianca Marroquin as Roxie, and Gregory Harrison as Billy Flynn. During 2004 the tour cast included Alan Thicke and Tom Wopat as Billy Flynn and Carol Woods as Matron "Mama" Morton. The most recent tour started in November 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina and starred Tom Wopat as Billy Flynn, Bianca Marroquin as Roxie Hart, Terra C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly and Roz Ryan (later replaced by Carol Woods) as Matron "Mama" Morton. On January 16, 2012 Peruvian actor Marco Zunino joined the cast as Billy Flynn.
On 14 June 2018, the Gordon Frost Organisation announced a revival tour of Chicago commencing early 2019 at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney. The show starred Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Roxie Hart and Casey Donovan as Matron "Mama" Morton. The Melbourne leg of the tour starred Jason Donovan as Billy Flynn. Jason's father Terence had played the same role in the original 1981 Australian production.
2021 UK Tour
The first Japanese-language production of the Tony-winning revival of Kander and Ebb's Chicago debuted in October 2008 at the Akasaka ACT Theatre in Tokyo, Japan, followed by an engagement at Osaka's Umeda Art Theatre. Presented by Barry and Fran Weissler in association with Tokyo Broadcasting System, Inc. and Kyodo Tokyo Inc., the b production starred Ryoko Yonekura as Roxie Hart, Yōka Wao as Velma Kelly and Ryuichi Kawamura as Billy Flynn.
In Perú, the musical opened on June 16, 2012 starring Tati Alcántara, Denisse Dibós, and Marco Zunino at Teatro Municipal de Lima in Lima. The show was also staged using a Spanish translation in Costa Rica in 2017 starring Silvia Baltodano and Isabel Guzman.
A French-language production of Chicago, based on the Broadway 1996 revival, opened on September 18, 2018 at Théâtre Mogador in Paris with Sofia Essaïdi as Velma Kelly, Carien Keizer as Roxie Hart and Jean-Luc Guizone as Billy Flynn. Directed by Dominique Trottein with a book translated by Nicolas Engel, this production is choreographed by Ann Reinking and the music was supervised by Rob Bowman. This production will close on June 30, 2019.
The Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, will present an entirely new production of Chicago as part of their 2020 season, the organization was granted new production rights outside of New York or London for the first time in 30 years. It will be directed by Donna Feore.
There have been several cast recordings of Chicago:
- 1975 Original Broadway Cast
- 1981 Original Australian Cast
- 1996 Broadway Revival
- 1998 London Cast
- 1997 Austrian (German language) Cast – Live Cast Album (with Anna Montanaro)
- 1999 Dutch Cast – Live Cast Album, 2 discs (with Pia Douwes)
- 2002 Film Soundtrack
- 2014 German Cast - Live Cast Album, Stuttgart, 1 disc with Nigel Casey, Lana Gordon, Carien Keizer
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
|1976||Tony Award||Best Musical||Nominated|
|Best Book of a Musical||Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||John Kander and Fred Ebb||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Jerry Orbach||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Chita Rivera||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Bob Fosse||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design||Tony Walton||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Patricia Zipprodt||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||Jules Fisher||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Jerry Orbach||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Jules Fisher||Won|
|Grammy Award||Grammy Award for Best Cast Show Album||Nominated|
Original London production
|1979||Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Musical||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Ben Cross||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Antonia Ellis||Nominated|
1996 Broadway revival
|1997||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||James Naughton||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Bebe Neuwirth||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Joel Grey||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Marcia Lewis||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreography||Ann Reinking||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Walter Bobbie||Won|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Ken Billington||Won|
|Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||James Naughton||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Bebe Neuwirth||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Marcia Lewis||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Walter Bobbie||Won|
|Best Choreography||Ann Reinking||Won|
|Best Costume Design||William Ivey Long||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||Ken Billington||Won|
|1998||Grammy Award||Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album||Won|
1997 London revival
|1997||Laurence Olivier Award||Outstanding Musical Production||Won|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Henry Goodman||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Ute Lemper||Won|
|Best Director||Walter Bobbie||Nominated|
|Best Theatre Choreographer||Ann Reinking||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||William Ivey Long||Nominated|
|1999||Grammy Award||Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album||Nominated|
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