Broadway

Chicago

Chicago musical at the Ambassador Theatre in Broadway

Chicago is an American musical with lyrics by Fred Ebb and music by John Kander. The original Broadway musical adaptation went head-to-head with A Chorus Line when it originally opened on Broadway in 1975, running for only two years. In 1996, the musical was revived, and it went on to become the second longest-running show in Broadway history and the longest-running American musical. The production became a place for big stars to make their Broadway debuts.

Based on the book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, Chicago is set in Chicago during the Jazz Age and is based on the 1926 play of the same name. The story is based on a pair of women accused of homicides and the media spectacle that followed it. It’s a satire on corruption, criminal justice, and the concept of the “celebrity criminals.”

Production History

Original Broadway Production

Chicago opened in June 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre and closed on August 27, 1977. The musical ran for a total of 936 performances. The opening night cast includes:

  • Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart
  • Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly
  • Jerry Orbach as Billy Flynn
  • Barney Martin as Amos Hart
  • Mary MacCarty as Matron “Mama” Morton
  • Michael O’Haughey as Mary Sunshine

The musical received mixed reviews, and the Brechtian style of the show made some audiences uncomfortable. And it opened in the same year as Michael Bennet’s A Chorus Line, which beat out Chicago both in ticket sales and the Tony Awards. The show was already on the verge of closing when Gwen Verdon needed to have surgery on the nodes of her throat. However, Liza Minnelli stepped in and offered to play the role of Roxie in place of Verdon as she was recovering. She stayed on the show for a month from August to September 1975 and boosted the show’s popularity, until Verdon recovered and returned to the show.

Broadway Revival

The 1996 production, directed by Walter Bobbie with choreography from Anne Reinking, was well-received and was far more impressive than the original production. It won six Tony Awards, more than any other revival in Broadway history until it was bested by South Pacific who won seven Tonys in 2008. In 2014, Chicago became the second longest-running Broadway show, surpassing Cats. It starred:

  • Ann Reinking as Roxie Hart
  • BebeNeuwirth as Velma Kelly
  • James Naughton as Billy Flynn
  • Joel Grey as Amos Hart
  • Marcia Lewis as Matron “Mama” Morton
  • David Sabella-Mills as Mary Sunshine

Plot Overview

Broadway’s longest-running American musical Chicago offers a satirical look at fame, justice, and the media. It has everything that makes Broadway great: a tale of fame, fortune, and jazz in a one show-stopping song after another. Chicago is based on a play of the same name by a Chicago Tribune reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, who was assigned to cover the 1924 trials of accused murderers Beulah Annan and BelvaGaertner. Watkins’ sensational columns that documented these trials became so popular that she wrote a play based on these.

Set in the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart, a young housewife and wannabe vaudevillian star who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. She gets arrested, despite her attempts to convince her husband Amos to lie for her.

While in jail, Roxie meets the famed double-murderess and nightclub performer, Velma Kelly. When they both hire the same criminal lawyer Billy Flynn, tensions arise between the two as they vie of the spotlight – though instead of the stage, they’re mugging for the attention of newspaper reporters. She transforms her crime into a barrage of sensational headlines. Chicago is a musical that is as addictive as gossip, and as unforgettable as any trial of the century.

Songs

Act 1

  • “Overture” – Orchestra
  • “All That Jazz” – Velma Kelly and Company
  • “Funny Honey” – Roxie Hart, Amos Hart, Sergeant Fogarty
  • “Cell Block Tango” – Velma and the Girls
  • “When You’re Good to Mama” – Matron “Mama” Morton
  • “Tap Dance” – Roxie, Amos, and Boys
  • “All I Care About” – Billy Flynn and the Girls
  • “A Little Bit of Good” – Mary Sunshine
  • “We Both Reached for the Gun” – Billy, Roxie, Mary Sunshine
  • “Roxie” – Roxie and Boys
  • “I Can’t Do It Alone” – Velma
  • “Chicago After Midnight” – Orchestra
  • “My Own Best Friend” – Roxie and Velma

Act 2

  • “I Know a Girl” – Velma
  • “Me and My Baby” – Roxie and Company
  • “Mr. Cellophane” – Amos Hart
  • “When Velma Takes the Stand” – Velma and Boys
  • “Razzle Dazzle” – Billy and Company
  • “Class” – Velma and Morton
  • “Nowadays” – Roxie
  • Finale: “Nowadays”/”R.S.V.P”/”Keep It Hot” – Roxie and Velma

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