As the OVERTURE ends, we're
introduced to Velma Kelly -- a vaudevillian who shot the other half of her
sister act when she caught her husband with her sister. Velma invites us
to sample ALL THAT JAZZ while showing us the story of chorus girl Roxie
Hart's cold-blooded murder of nightclub regular Fred Casely. Roxie
convinces her husband Amos that the victim was a burglar, and he
cheerfully takes the rap.
Roxie expresses her appreciation in song (FUNNY HONEY) until the police
reveal to Amos that Roxie knew the burglar, shall we say, intimately, and
Amos decides to let her swing for herself. Roxie's first taste of the
criminal justice system is the women's block in Cook County Jail,
inhabited by Velma and other merry murderesses (CELL BLOCK TANGO). The
women's jail is presided over by Matron "Mama" Morton whose system of
mutual aid (WHEN YOU'RE GOOD TO MOMMA) perfectly suits her clientele. She
has helped Velma become the media's top murderer-of-the-week and is acting
as booking agent for Velma's big return to vaudeville (after her
Velma is not happy to see
Roxie, who is stealing not only her limelight but her lawyer, Billy Flynn.
Eagerly awaited by his all-girl clientele, Billy sings his anthem,
complete with a chorus of fan-dancers to prove that (quote) (ALL I CARE
ABOUT IS LOVE.) Billy takes Roxie's case and re-arranges her story for
consumption by sympathetic tabloid columnist Mary Sunshine, who always
tries to find A LITTLE BIT OF GOOD in everyone. Roxie's press conference
turns into a ventriloquist act with Billy dictating a new version of the
truth (WE BOTH REACHED FOR THE GUN) while Roxie mouths the words. Roxie
becomes the new toast of Chicago and Velma's headlines, trial date and
career are left in the dust. Velma tries to talk Roxie into recreating the
sister act (I CAN'T DO IT ALONE) but Roxie turns her down, only to find
her own headlines replaced by the latest sordid crime of passion.
Separately, Roxie and Velma realize there's no one they can count on but
themselves (MY OWN BEST FRIEND), and the ever-resourceful Roxie decides
that being pregnant in prison would put her back on the front page.
Back after the ENTR'ACTE,
Velma cannot believe Roxie's continual run of luck (I KNOW A GIRL) despite
Roxie's obvious falsehoods (ME AND MY BABY). A little shy on the
arithmetic, Amos proudly claims paternity, and still nobody notices him,
MR. CELLOPHANE. Velma desperately tries to show Billy all the tricks she's
got planned for her trial (WHEN VELMA TAKES THE STAND). Billy's forte may
be showmanship (RAZZLE DAZZLE), but when he passes all Velma's ideas on to
Roxie, down to the rhinestone shoe buckles, Mama and Velma lament the
demise of CLASS. As promised, Billy gets Roxie her acquittal but, just as
the verdict is given, some even more sensational crime pulls the pack of
press bloodhounds away, and Roxie's fleeting celebrity is over. Left in
the dust, she pulls herself up and extols the joys of life NOWADAYS. She
teams up with Velma in that sister act (NOWADAYS), in which they dance
their little hearts out (HOT HONEY RAG) 'til they are joined by the entire
company for the grand FINALE.
Plot summary by Bill Rosenfield (c)1997 BMG Music and have been excerpted
from the Chicago The Musical Broadway Cast Recording, BMG selection number
09 Broadway Cast Recording, BMG selection number 09026-68727-2/4
In the fall of 1995,
when the enterprising City Center ENCORES! Series announced its spring
season, there were some rumblings of resentment over the selection of the
John Kander-Fred Ebb-Bob Fosse musical vaudeville, CHICAGO, as part of the
series. After all, in its short existence ENCORES! had produced concert
versions of vintage musical from the '30s, '40s, and '50s, including
ALLEGRO, CALL ME MADAM, OUT OF THIS WORLD and LADY IN THE DARK; shows that
may either have been forgotten and might not be given full-scale revivals,
CHICAGO wasn't really a show that was waiting for a re-discovery.
But there it was, and on
May 2, 1996, CHICAGO played its first of 4 performances to a capacity
audience that can best be described as jubilant. The starry cast featured
Ann Reinking (who also choreographed in the style of Bob Fosse) Bebe
Neuwirth, James Naughton, Joel Grey, Marcia Lewis and D. Sabella under the
direction of ENCORES! Artistic Director Walter Bobbie and Musical Director
Rob Fisher. Critics and audiences alike watched and listened to a show
that was so immediate and energizing that by intermission there was talk
about moving it straight to Broadway. However, a staged concert with two
weeks rehearsal and a full-scale Broadway production are two very
different animals. What worked for 4 performances may have been the
quality of a "theatrical event" that the audience experienced.
Enter Barry and Fran
Weissler, the successful producer of shows ranging from OTHELLO starring
Christopher Plummer and James Earl Jones to William Finn's FALSETTOS to
the hugely successful revival of GREASE!. After winning a bidding war for
the Broadway rights to CHICAGO, they found themselves with a unique
challenge - how to change the perception of the show from a fantastic
concert experience into a unique and powerful total production of the
There was no doubt that the
show itself delivered what a Broadway audience craves - gorgeous musical,
astounding choreography and truly memorable performance for a cast of
stars, but how do you tell the public that this show isn't just another
revival? The answer is marketing. On Sunday, June 23rd, a large
advertisement in the New York Times set the tone: this production of
CHICAGO wasn't simply going to be a transfer of a successful concert. The
concert was only the inspiration; this was going to be a new production of
a show that was going to startle and provoke is by its sheet thrilling
showmanship. In the next few months the ads became edgier and more
provocative than the standard Broadway audience was use to experiencing.
And that was the point. When CHICAGO began preview performances at the
Richard Rodgers Theatre on October 29th, it was a concert no more - here
was a fully realized, energized production of a great musical. Walter
Bobbie and Ann Reinking had refined CHICAGO into a black diamond of a show
- sharp, dark and dazzling. Instead of large scenic effects, the
production was built around the galvanizing energy and personality of the
performers and their songs. And the show was ready to deliver what the
The opening night on November 14 was nothing less than electrifying. Each
number was a home run for the performers, and the audience's cheers kept
the show's pace at a fever pitch. Broadway had rediscovered the greatness
that is CHICAGO and embraced it.
The reviews, highlighted by a front page picture in the New York Times
(local and national editions) were never less than glowing for every
aspect of the production - the performers: "radiant" Ann Reinking
(Stearns, USA Today); "sensational" Bebe Neuwirth (Kissell, Daily News);
"commanding and funny" James Naughton (Zoglin, Time Magazine); Joel Grey's
"pure show-biz electricity" (Brantley, New York Times); "simply fabulous"
Marcia Lewis (Daily News); D. Sabella's "stunning voice and style" (Daily
News); "the delightfully inventive" direction (New York Times); the
choreography ("a reminder of a whole lost vocabulary of Broadway dance" -
Time Magazine); the designer ("John Lee Beatty's witty evocation of a
giant witness box in a courtroom...down to the last flesh-framing inch of
William Ivey Long's sleek costumes, in shades of black and white, set off
by Ken Billington's expert film noir lighting" - New York Times) and the
orchestra under the "sublime" leadership of Rob Fisher (New York Times).
As for CHICAGO itself, the critics acknowledged that here was a show that
had truly been ahead of its time ("A musical for the ages" - New York
Times.) And as Vincent Canby said in his ecstatic Sunday Times review,
"Even the Kander and Ebb score so suddenly revealed to be on par with -
and maybe even better than - the scores for CABARET and KISS OF THE SPIDER
WOMAN. Mr. Kander's music, which makes free use of Dixieland, rag,
soft-shoe, and jazz jolts the senses one minute and a few minutes later,
soothes then with harmonies of irresistible sweetness, which act as
counterpoint to some of the most caustic lyrics Mr. Ebb has ever written."
It may have taken Mr. Canby
and his fellow critics twenty years to fully appreciate CHICAGO, but
better late than never. This production doesn't negate the original one
than was so superbly realized by Bob Fosse and company - it celebrates the
artistry that created it; the sheer guts and glory that is the American
1996, Bill Rosenfield
CHICAGO THROUGH THE YEARS
November 14, 1996
February 4, 1997
April 16, 1997
June 1, 1997
November 18, 1997
December 12, 1997
February 15, 1998
February 25, 1998
July 4, 1998
September 23, 1998
February 17, 1999
May 9, 1999
January 23, 2001
September 14, 2001
October 17, 2001
October 4, 2002
December 27, 2002
January 29, 2003
June 10, 2003
July 17, 2003
January 26, 2004
April 28, 2004
April 28, 2005
July 20, 2005
May 4, 2006
September 14, 2006
October 3, 2006
November 14, 2006
CHICAGO ROCKS THE WORLD!
New York - London - Australia - Vienna - Sweden - Germany -
Dubai - Holland - Argentina - Mexico - Russia - Italy
"Hervorragend," "espactaculo," and "astonishing"- Critics
around the world have praised CHICAGO
as the show the world has been waiting for. From Melbourne to
Mexico City, CHICAGO has razzle-dazzled
the world over with productions running in ten countries and
two more set to open in Russia and Italy. The production has
been played in 16 countries worldwide in over 250 cities.
CHICAGO continues to be one of the most
successful international musical hits of all time.
CHICAGO's international appeal stems
from its enticing tail of murder, greed, corruption, violence,
exploitation, adultery and treachery-characteristics the
entire world is drawn to.
Think of it the trademark opening number "All That Jazz" has
been sung and spoken over 250,000 times in five different
languages. The number has been performed with symphony
orchestras, dance programs, Olympic ice skating routines and
even for the President of the United States at the
Inauguration of Bill Clinton in January of 1997.
CHICAGO even started a cross
cultural star exchange with the Broadway debuts of Ute Lemper
(from London), Ruthie Henshall (from London), Petra Nielsen
(from Sweden), Anna Montanaro (from Germany and Austria),
Bianca Marroquin (from Mexico), Marti Pellow (England and
Wales), Caroline O'Connor (Australia) and Denise Van Outen
(from London). These talented stars in their own countries
were brought to star in the Broadway production by producers,
Barry & Fran Weissler. Their Broadway debuts created a
sensation of press opportunities and brought an International
flavor and spirit to the American stage.
MURDER・ AN ARREST・ AND A SURPRISE ENDING.
you'd been there, if you'd seen it. I betchya you would have done the
same!" So declares the chorus to "Cell Block Tango" that the merry
affirm to an engaged audience. But the lyrics that the women sing are
not far from the truth behind the real story of
Both the characters of Roxie and Velma are based on two actual
murderers: Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner.
The real scenes took place in 1924 in Chicago when Beulah Annan
(Roxie) was accused of killing the "intruder" Harry Kalstedt while
Belva Gaertner (Velma) was charged with murdering her husband. Both
murders become front-page stories in the Chicago Tribune when reporter
Maurine Watkins realized the sensational appeal the two personalities
could draw through her tongue-in-cheek reports. The supposed pregnancy
used to speed up the trial, the sleek lawyer who helped define the
media frenzy and the acquittal of both ladies sounded like a page out
of Hollywood, when in fact they were actually real life. Tribune
reporter Maurine decided to turn her experience with Chicago's famed
murder-row darlings into a comedy titled
that reached Broadway in 1926. A film version was created two years
later and a second film version, "Roxie Hart," starred Ginger Rogers
These original productions of
eventually inspired the musical that continues to wow audiences today.
Nearly 70 years after Beulah Annan rocked Chicago, media manipulation
in the justice system continues to seem all too familiar, which
explains why audiences are still captivated by the blunt tale of
The storied tale of CHICAGO's
rise from real life court drama to certifiable Broadway smash hit is
one only showbiz can claim.
WHO SAYS MURDER'S NOT AN ART?
Josefina Gabrielle (Roxie Hart)
Josefina trained at the Arts Educational school in London.
Her theatre work includes Nicholas Hytner's production of Carousel
(the National and Shaftesbury Theatres): Dream Laurey in a national
tour of Oklahoma!: Iris Kelly in the original London cast of Fame
(Cambridge Theatre): Maggie in A Chorus Line (Derby Playhouse): Jenna
in The Goodbye Girl (Albery Theatre): Cassie in a national tour of A
Chorus Line and Laurey in Trevor Nunn's production of Oklahoma! (the
National and Lyceum Theatres). The choreography was by Susan Stroman,
and Josefina made history by being the first actress to dance her own
Dream Ballet. For her performance she was nominated for an Olivier
Award. She then went on to reprise the role on Broadway where she was
nominated for Outer Critics' Circle and an Astaire Awards. She also
plays Laurey in the film of the same production.
Other theatre work includes Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park With
George (Leicester Haymarket Theatre): Helena in A Midsummer Night's
Dream (Cannizaro Park): two other pleasurable visits to the Adlelphi
Theatre as Roxie Hart in Chicago: Alexandra Spoford in The Witches of
Eastwick (Prince of Wales Theatre): Cassie in A Chorus Line (Sheffield
Crucible) and most recently, Kathy Seldon in Singing in the Rain
(Saddlers Wells and Leicester Haymarket Theatres).
Her television work includes guest appearances in Sunburn, Heartbeat,
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and the coming series of Born and Bred.
Cast recordings include Carousel, Fame, The Goodbye Girl and the
Oklahoma! CD, video and DVD.
Josefina has also made numerous concert appearances, most recently
guesting with the late, very dear Sacha Distel at the Cafe de Paris
and with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in a production of Chess
in Concert, singing the role of Svetlana.
Amra-Faye Wright (Velma Kelly)
Amra-Faye hails from the farmlands of the Eastern Cape in South
Africa. She trained in classical ballet, and obtained a diploma in
Contemporary Music at Allenby in Johannesburg.
Amra-Faye returns to the London stage having recently performed in the
10th Anniversary of Chicago on Broadway along with Anne Reinking,
Chita Rivera, and Bebe Neuwirth, and after a run at the Ambassador
Theatre on Broadway, opposite Huey Lewis. She is, to date, the longest
running Velma Kelly having performed the role at the Ambassador
Theatre twice on Broadway (2005/2006), and at the Adelphi Theatre in
the West End (2005) and at the Cambridge (2006), also at the Civic
Theatre (Johannesburg) (Naledi Award for Best Actress) and Artscape
Theatre (Cape Town) (Fleur du Cap Award for Best Actress), in addition
to UK and European tours.
Other theatre credits include Sheila in a Chorus Line (Civic Theatre
Jnb), Sandy in Grease (Jnb. Stadium Spectacular), Vi Moore in
Footloose (UK tour),
Mother Superior in Nunsense (Sneddon Theatre, Durban), Jack in Jack
and the Beanstalk (Guild Theatre, East London), Lead Lady in Elvis Las
Vegas (South African Tour) (Vita Award for Best Actress), Lead Lady in
Viva Sun City (Sun City Theatre)
Amra-Faye has written and performed many one-woman shows including;
Rouge Pulp; Drinks on Me; and; It's not where I Start. (Vita Awards
for all three)
Highlights of her career also include: Soloist for Spar International
at Sun City Super bowl; and for the South African VIP Gala at the
Sydney Olympics; Europride 2006 (Royal Albert Hall). She has also
starred as guest artist in many world-wide Musical Spectaculars. She
has recently recorded an album of her original material.
JOHN KANDER AND FRED EBB
(Music / Book / Lyrics)
For the Theatre: FLORA, THE RED MENACE; CABARET; THE HAPPY TIME; ZORBA;
70, GIRLS, 70; CHICAGO; THE ACT; WOMAN OF THE YEAR; THE RINK; THE
WORLD GOES 'ROUND - THE KANDER AND EBB MUSICAL; KISS OF THE SPIDER
For Films: CABARET; NORMAN ROCKWELL: A SHORT SUBJECT; LUCKY LADY; NEW
YORK, NEW YORK; FUNNY LADY; KRAMER VS. KRAMER; A MATTER OF TIME;
PLACES IN THE HEART; FRENCH POSTCARDS; STEPPING OUT.
For Television: LIZA WITH A Z (Liza Minnelli); GOLDIE AND LIZA
TOGETHER (with Goldie Hawn); OL' BLUE EYES IS BACK; BARYSHNIKOV ON
BROADWAY; AN EARLY FROST; LIZA IN LONDON. Upcoming: THE SKIN OF OUR
TEETH and STEEL PIER, with Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman, and David
John Kander and Fred Ebb have been writing together since 1965. Both
had written with other partners, but their music publisher, Tommy
Valando, thought they would work well together.
OPENING NIGHTS OF KANDER AND EBB MUSICALS ON BROADWAY
-May 11, 1965 - FLORA, THE RED MENACE at the Alvin Theater
-November 20, 1966 - CABARET at the Broadhurst Theater
-January 18, 1968- THE HAPPY TIME at the Broadway Theater
-November 17, 1968- ZORBA at the Imperial Theater
-April 15, 1971 - 70, GIRLS, 70 at the Broadhurst Theater
-June 3, 1975 - CHICAGO at the 46th Street Theater
-October 29, 1977 - THE ACT at the Majestic Theater
-March 29, 1981 - WOMAN OF THE YEAR at the Palace Theater
-February 9, 1984 - THE RINK at the Martin Beck Theater
-October 20, 1992 - KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN opened prior to Broadway
at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London
-November 14, 1996 - CHICAGO at the Richard Rodgers Theatre
-February 12th, 1997 - CHICAGO Moved to the Shubert Theatre
(Co-Author, Original Director, and Choreographer)
A director, choreographer, dancer, and actor for films and stage,
Fosse was especially famous for his innovative and spectacular
staging, with the emphasis on exhilarating dance sequences.
Bob Fosse began his career in Chicago where he studied ballet, tap,
and acrobatic dance from an early age. While still a teenager, he
performed with a partner as the Riff Brothers in vaudeville and
burlesque theatres. After graduating from high school in 1945, he
spent two years in the U.S. Navy before moving to New York and
studying acting at the American Theatre Wing. He then toured in the
chorus of various productions before making his Broadway debut in the
musical revue DANCE ME A SONG.
a dancer, he performed in two long-running musicals, CALL ME MISTER
and MAKE MINE MANHATTAN, followed by such Hollywood films as GIVE A
GIRL A BREAK and KISS ME KATE.
As a choreographer, his first show-stopping number was Steam Heat from
THE PAJAMA GAME. This he followed with such hits as DAMN YANKEES with
Gwen Verdon, BELLS ARE RINGING with Judy Holiday, NEW GIRL IN TOWN
again with Gwen Verdon, and HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY
TRYING with Robert Morse.
He began his career as a director and choreographer with REDHEAD with
Gwen Verdon, LITTLE ME with Sid Caesar, and two more Gwen Verdon
musicals, SWEET CHARITY and CHICAGO. He also staged the innovative
musical smash PIPPIN, the highly successful dance revue DANCIN', and
the 1986 musical BIG DEAL.
For the screen, Fosse directed the films SWEET CHARITY with Shirley
MacLaine, ALL THAT JAZZ with Roy Scheider, LENNY with Dustin Hoffman,
STAR 80 with Eric Roberts, and, most spectacularly, CABARET with Liza
Minnelli and Joel Grey.
n 1973, Bob Fosse had the distinction of winning the three highest
awards in three different media. He won a Tony Award for the musical
PIPPIN, an Oscar for the film CABARET, and an Emmy Award for the
television special LIZA WITH A Z.
In 1960, he married his third wife, Gwen Verdon. From that union came
his only child, a daughter Nicole. During the Washington D.C. run of
one of his most successful shows, SWEET CHARITY, he died of a heart
attack. This occurred shortly before the curtain went up on the night
of September 23, 1987.
MAURINE DALLAS WATKINS
(Author of the Original Play)
In 1926, Maurine Dallas Watkins moved out of the amateur playwriting
ranks and into the Broadway limelight with her satiric comedy,
After the great success of CHICAGO, Ms. Watkins was offered many
commissions. She accepted only one. This was to adapt for the theatre
Samuel Hopkins Adams' story REVELRY.
After REVELRY's modest 48 performance run on Broadway, Ms. Watkins
never had another play on Broadway.
Maurine Dallas Watkins was born in Louisville, Kentucky. She attended
Hamilton College, Indiana and Butler College, Radcliffe and finally to
Yale for a session with Eugene O'Neill's and George Abbott's
playwriting teacher, the legendary George Pierce Baker of the drama
After her formal education, Ms. Watkins decided that she needed more
experience and closer contact with real-life. So she moved to Chicago
and was hired as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.
Several of her stories took her to the criminal courts. There she
gathered her material for the play CHICAGO. Convinced she needed more
knowledge of the playwriting technique, she left the Tribune,
returning to Yale and reentered Professor Baker's class. It was as
part of her class work that she wrote the first draft of CHICAGO.
CHICAGO, produced by Sam H. Harris and directed by George Abbott,
opened December 30, 1926 at the Music Box Theatre in New York.Maurine
Watkins described her one hit play as "an honest attempt to say
something I believed terrifically".
Walter Bobbie received the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle
Award as Best Director for CHICAGO. He was the artistic director of
City Center's acclaimed Encores! series and directed its premiere of
FIORELLO!. Other Credits include FOR WHOM THE SOUTHERN BELLE TOLLS at
Ensemble Studio Theater; DURANG, DURANG at Manhattan Theater Club;
Andrea Martin's NUDE NUDE TOTALLY NUDE for the New York Shakespeare
Festival; and A GRAND NIGHT OF SINGING at Rainbow and Stars and the
Roundabout Theater, where it received two Tony nominations including
Mr. Bobbie is also an actor whose appearances on Broadway and
off-Broadway include GUYS AND DOLLS (Drama Desk nomination for
"Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical"). ASSASSINS, GETTING
MARRIED, ANYTHING GOES, CAFE CROWN, DRIVING MISS DAISY, UP FROM
PARADISE, I LOVE MY WIFE, A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN FILM, the original
GREASE, DAMES AT SEA, and the GMHC's benefit ANYONE CAN WHISTLE at
Recent films include THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, Stephen King's THINNER and
HBO's EDIE AND PEN, as well as television appearances on "Hill St.
Blues", "LA Law", "The Equalizer", "Law and Order", "NYPD Blue", "New
York News" and daytime's "Loving", where he portrayed both brothers
Denny and Wally Anderson. He is also a frequent radio guest on
Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion".
Mr. Bobbie is a graduate of the University of Scranton with a Master's
degree in Theater from The Catholic University of America.
Last season he co-authored and directed the new Broadway musical