The original leading ladies of ‘Chicago the Musical’ were Puerto Rican and Italian

“Chicago the Musical” is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. Celebrating its 20th year on Broadway, Chicago continues an open-ended run at the Ambassador Theatre.

While “Chicago the Musical” is not an overtly Latin story, Latin Broadway legend Chita Rivera originated the role of the dark character Velma Kelly in the original Broadway production from 1975. Chita Rivera played the original Anita in the 1957 Broadway production of “West Side Story.”

Italian-American stage and screen legend Liza Minelli filled in for an ailing Velma Kelly in the same original production.

Since then, “Chicago” has a tradition of celebrities joining the cast. Latin stars regularly join the cast of “Chicago the Musical.” In August 2016, Mexican Broadway star Bianca Marroquín is playing Roxie Hart.

Peruvian movie star Marco Zunino as Billy Flynn in Chicago the Musical on Broadway

Peruvian movie star Marco Zunino as Billy Flynn in 2015
https://youtu.be/HPzr3lIh5uU

Chicago the Musical 20th Anniversary Reel

About Chicago the Musical

“Chicago the Musical” is a sexy Jazz Age tale of love, fame, and woe. The show has many iconic Broadway roles:

  • Roxy Hart is Broadway’s best bad/good girl
  • Velma Kelly is Broadway’s best good/bad girl
  • Billy Flynn is the Broadway man, men want to be
  • Amos Hart is the man, men don’t want to be
  • Matron “Mama” Morton endearingly gives what she gets (a real New Yorker)
  • Mary Sunshine is well, who knows?

Chicago is set in 1920s Jazz Age Chicago. It’s the story of a vaudeville wannabe Roxy Hart who kills her lover, and the characters she meets and manipulates from death row to avoid getting hung for murder.

Chicago is a humorous, sexy and entertaining tale that contrasts strong and weak character traits in both women and men while questioning the sense of our American celebrity culture. The show’s styling is sexy and that itself is a form of celebrity in our culture.

At times, each of us is strong and at other times weak, but in the end it all works out, for most of us. Andy Warhol famously said that, “Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” Chicago humorously questions the meaning of that fifteen minutes.

Bob Fosse’s choreography reaches beyond vaudeville to the minstrel show roots of American popular culture. Though they are now recognized as a sorry form of racial stereotyping, Minstrel shows were the first form of entertainment to become widely popular across the United States. Minstrelsy evolved into vaudeville which evolved into MTV and now YouTube. Amos Hart’s character and especially his dance in white gloves is a direct reference. The Chicago producers turned that whole thing upside down by casting Brandy Norwood as Roxie Hart in 2015.

Chicago the Musical stars Brandy Norwood as Roxy Hart through August 2, 2015

African-American Grammy-winner Brandy Norwood played Roxie Hart in 2015
The Brechtian lack of the fourth wall between stage and audience pulls you right up onto the stage. It feels like you are part of the action, standing on the street, waiting in jail, or sitting in a vaudeville audience.

Chicago is very much an actor’s showcase and has a long history of celebrities playing lead roles. The Who’s Who list of celebrity performers includes Melanie Griffith, Patrick Swayze, Christie Brinkley, Usher, and Sofia Vergara.

Original Broadway Production of Chicago

The original Broadway production of “Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville” ran from 1975 to 1977. Broadway dance legend Bob Fosse did the choreography. Puerto Rican-American stage legend Chita Rivera (Anita of West Side Story) opened the show as Velma Kelly. Italian-American screen and stage legend Liza Minelli did a turn as Roxy Hart.

Wouldn’t you have loved to see that, Chita Rivera sparing with Liza Minelli? The original show was nominated for ten Tony Awards in 1976, and won a Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Lighting Design.”

Chicago the Musical Broadway Revival

“Chicago the Musical” is a 1996 musical revival that has Broadway’s longest-running musical revival, and the second longest running Broadway show after Phantom of the Opera. Chicago is essential Broadway.

Many critics have said the revival is even better than the original. The producers deserve a lot of credit for making an iconic Broadway show entertaining and relevant for people from all over the world.

If you want to see a Broadway show, “Chicago the Musical” should be at the top of your list.

Chicago the Musical Synopsis

Roxy Hart dreams of being a vaudeville star. In a fit of passionate rage, she murders her lover in the apartment she shares with her weak-willed husband Amos Hart.

On death row, Roxy meets and competes with Velma Kelly, another prisoner who dominates the others. Matron “Mama” Morton is the lovable jailer who gives and receives favors, but only for something in return.

Roxy manipulates her doormat of a husband Amos to hire superstar lawyer Billy Flynn. Flynn skillfully manipulates the media to make celebrities of his clients. He maintains a perfect record of acquittals. Flynn’s best press contact is reporter Mary Sunshine.

“Chicago the Musical” is a timeless and universal story. You almost can’t imagine Broadway or New York City without it. The story, singing, dancing, and acting are so good that you will enjoy Chicago no matter what language you speak. It’s all that Jazz.


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