Murder, greed, showbiz and sin: this musical has it all. Dive into the criminal underbelly of the jazz era in the Windy City and lose yourself in the quintessential Broadway hit, Chicago. Inspired by actual criminal news events as reported by the Chicago Tribune’s Maurine Dallas Watkins in the mid 1920’s, Chicago satirizes the corruption often found interlaced with the criminal justice system and explores the idea of the “celebrity criminal.” Step into the Cook County Jail and listen as Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart croon their tales of adultery, corruption and looming execution in this blockbuster Broadway musical.
With over 9,200 performances to date, Chicago has left its mark on the theater world by holding two records – it is both Broadway’s longest-running musical revival and the longest-running American musical in history. What began as a newspaper crime beat evolved into a play, multiple movies and this smash hit musical, and while its story is set in the roaring 20’s, audiences will find that the narrative could easily have been ripped from the pages of a modern-day tabloid.
The curtain rises on Velma Kelly, a 1920’s housewife and nightclub dancer who sings the tale of how she murdered her husband and sister after finding out about their secret affair. Fellow starlet Roxie Hart also has blood on her hands, after slaying her own lover Fred Casely, and the two murderesses find themselves on the same cellblock at Chicago’s Cook County Jail. A power struggle quickly develops between the two women, both greedy for the limelight, and Roxie seeks out the help of smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn. Flynn works to spin Roxie’s story into a tabloid sensation, twisting the truth and garnering her much public sympathy. As the stories multiply and the buzz around the celebrity criminals grows, Velma develops her own scheme to steal the public spotlight away from Roxie – both women are desperately trying to avoid the hangman’s noose and feel that garnering public compassion and gaining notoriety is the only thing which can set them free.
Will all the glitz and glam do the trick? Can Velma and Roxie escape conviction, thanks to their attractive looks and elaborately-spun sob stories? And most importantly, is it possible to return to the stage and make their showbiz comebacks as notorious celebrities? Anything’s possible, it’s Chicago!
Chicago the musical is striking in its decorative simplicity: an all-black set. Contrary to the majority of Broadway musicals, the set is far from elaborate, with no high-tech staging or elaborately adorned backdrops. Even the show’s costumes are black – however, their extensive variety of monochromatic clothes enlivens the stage and ensures that the focus stays on the performers and the songs they sing. From sequined flapper dresses to trench coats, bowler hats and canes, the costumes are visually striking, even if all the same color.
The musical is told through a series of vaudeville-style acts, which amps up the idea that Velma and Roxie’s crimes, trials and careers are one giant publicity stunt. This further reinforces the show’s central theme of the “criminal as celebrity,” riding the wave of hype from high-profile celebrity criminal cases like that of OJ Simpson, which had played out in court the year before Chicago’s Broadway revival.
Music & Cast
Chicago is a musical with an iconic soundtrack – with music written by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, hits like “All That Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle” stick with audiences long after they’ve left the theater.
Chicago would be nothing without its extremely talented cast, whose song and dance numbers never fail to delight. Roxie Hart is played by the talented Bianca Marroquín, while her co-star Velma Kelly is embodied by Amra-Faye Wright. And currently making his return to Broadway as smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn is Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. Over the years, many other celebrities have also taken to the stage in Chicago, including Usher, Patrick Swayze, Melanie Griffith, Christie Brinkley, Sofia Vergara and Mel B.
Chicago has earned the standing of longest-running American musical in Broadway history, so it comes as no surprise that it has garnered its fair share of honors over the years. The show has been nominated for 19 Tony Awards for which it won 6, in addition to 2 Olivier Awards and a Grammy Award. Riding the wave of fame, the 2002 film version of Chicago starring Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere took home the Academy Award for Best Picture. Simply put, Chicago is a force to be reckoned with!
Where To Watch
Chicago made its Broadway debut way back in 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre, where it played continuously for 936 shows before closing in 1977. The musical followed a similar pattern upon opening in London’s West End for its first stint in 1979, running for 600 shows. Chicago was revived again in New York in 1996 where it can currently be seen at the Ambassador Theatre, and it followed suit in London reopening in 1997 as well. Fans of Chicago are in luck as the production regularly tours all over the United States, bringing it to dozens of cities across the country each year. Don’t miss you chance to see this show-stopping, jaw-dropping musical – book your tickets for Chicago with BroadwayToday now!
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