Chicago The Musical: Ten Things You Don’t Know About The Show
Thanks to the 2002 film and the proliferation of handheld video devices, you can literally watch Chicago The Musical anywhere, and at any time, you want. Of course, the best way to see Chicago isn’t on a screen but in a theatre. Currently, the production is running on Broadway collecting Chicago the Musical tickets at the famed Ambassador Theater.
If you don’t live near the Big Apple, or you can’t swing a trip to the Great White Way any time soon, you can always catch the touring production. Chicago the Musical will be in Jackson, Mississippi on Nov. 5 and Nov. 6. Lexington, Kentucky welcomes Chicago the Musical to the Lexington Opera House from Nov. 8 through Nov. 10. Houston hosts a longer run of Chicago the Musical. The production has been booked at H-town’s Hobby Center from Nov. 12 through Nov. 17. Before the company takes a break for the holidays, Chicago the Musical can be enjoyed in Austin, Texas from Nov. 19 through Nov. 24.
Obviously, Chicago is a very popular show. They don’t make movies out of musicals no one sees. That being said, there’s still a lot about this musical people don’t know. That’s why BSTLV has put together a list of ten things you don’t know about Chicago the Musical. Even if you’ve seen the musical, or the movie, you’ll still want to read our list. You can’t learn any of the following facts by merely listening to Roxie Hart or Velma Kelly.
Author Of Source Material Said No To Musical
The original Roxie Hart, Gwen Verdon, read Maurine Dallas Watkins’ play Chicago and then suggested to her husband, Bob Fosse, that he should adapt it into a musical. Fosse asked Watkins for permission but she declined. Watkins was a born-again Christian and thought her play, and any subsequent musical, would glorify unrighteous behavior. Fosse finally got the rights to the play after Watkins died in 1969. Chicago debuted on Broadway in 1975.
Liza Minnelli Saved Chicago
Chicago debuted on Broadway around the same time as A Chorus Line. A Chorus Line bested Chicago at both the box office and the Tony Awards. It hard to believe now but Chicago almost didn’t make it. The show received poor reviews and audiences were put off by both its subject matter and its frequent breaking of the fourth wall. The situation was made even bleaker when Gwen Verdon was forced to leave the show for a month to undergo throat surgery. Just when it appeared that Chicago was going to close its doors for good, Liza Minnelli came aboard and took over the role of Roxie Hart (for the month Verdon was out). Liza’s popularity was enough to elevate the show’s profile. The rest as they say is history.
The Original Chicago Ran For Less Than 1,000 Shows
Chicago opened at the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers Theatre) on June 3, 1975. It ended its run on August 27, 1977 after 936 performances. To put that in perspective, the current incarnation of Chicago—the revival running on Broadway—has (as of Oct. 27, 2013) notched 7,037 performances. We’ve already mentioned that Gwen Verdon was the original Roxie (remember she was married to director and choreographer Bob Fosse), but we haven’t told you that the incomparable Chita Rivera played Velma Kelly.
“Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville” Became “Chicago: The Musical”
When Chicago debuted on the Great White Way it was officially titled “Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville.” Each number was patterned after either a Vaudeville performer or a type of Vaudeville act. When the show was revived producers dropped the Vaudeville stuff as well as the sets and elaborate costumes. With a new book by David Thompson and new choreography by Ann Reinking (who also starred as Roxie), “Chicago: The Musical” was much more accessible to audiences.
There Are Other Venues Hosting Chicago The Musical
Chicago the Musical has enjoyed runs at three Broadway theatres: the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the Shubert Theatre, and the Ambassador Theatre. In 2014, you can catch Chicago the Musical at Hamilton Place in Hamilton, Ontario on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11. Chrysler Hall in Norfolk will serve up a run of Chicago the Musical from Valentine’s Day to Feb. 16. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida will be the site for two Chicago the Musical performances. One on March 4 and the other on March 5.
Chicago The Musical Is A Record Setting Show
The revival of Chicago set a record for shortest amount of time a Broadway show needed to recuperate its costs. Furthermore, Chicago the Musical is the longest running revival, and longest running American show, in the history of the Great White Way. Overall, it’s Broadway’s third-longest running production behind The Phantom of the Opera and Cats. The revival of Chicago won six Tony Awards which was a record until it was surpassed by a revival of South Pacific.
Chicago The Musical Is Just One Degree Removed From Seinfeld
At first glance, it would appear that Chicago the Musical and the sitcom Seinfeld have nothing in common. If you dig a little deeper however you’ll realize that they are separated by just one degree. In the original production, Barney Martin played Amos Hart. Martin then went on to play Morty Seinfeld (Jerry’s dad). Remember the Seinfeld character of J. Peterman? He was Elaine’s boss. Well, that character was played by John O’Hurley who is now portraying Billy Flynn in the national touring company.
Ann Reinking Starred In Both The Original And The Revival of Chicago
During the original production, Broadway legend Ann Reinking replaced Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart. In 1996, she choreographed the revival of Chicago the Musical. When producers couldn’t find an actress to play Roxie Hart, Reinking stepped in and took over the role. Not only has Reinking played Roxie in both the original and the revival, but she also took over the lead role in A Chorus Line, Chicago’s nemesis.
Joel Gray Played Amos Hart In The Revival Of Chicago
Chicago was not the great Joel Gray’s first Kander and Ebb musical. Gray was the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. That role earned him a Tony Award for Best Performance by A Featured Actor in a Musical. During the late 1960s through the 1970s, Gray padded his resume with three Tony nominations for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in Musical. In 1996, he played Amos Hart in the revival of Chicago. He didn’t get any love from the Tony Awards but he did get a Drama Desk nomination. Then in 2003, Gray originated the role of the Wizard of Oz in a little, old musical called Wicked. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
Chicago: The Musical National Tour Continues In 2014
The National Touring Company of Chicago the Musical is taking the holidays off but that doesn’t mean they’re not coming back. Chicago returns Jan. 7 for a five-day stay in Cleveland, Ohio. From Jan. 14 through Jan. 19, Chicago the Musical delights fans in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The tour remains in Oklahoma. From Jan. 21 to Jan. 26 Chicago the Musical sets up its tent in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the town’s PAC. Finally, Chicago the Musical will call Denver home from March 18 through March 23.
By David B.