Monday, August 29, 2011

The Longest Running American Musical on Broadway

The very beginning of May 1996 was the time Broadway history began to be made.  Of course, back then, no one knew what a true phenonemon Chicago: The Musical would become.  At the time, fans of the show were just thrilled at the chance to finally see a professional production of a show many only knew from its original cast recording.  A critical success, the Encores! production was immediately rumored for a transfer to Broadway.

Before that May was over, Barry and Fran Weissler had secured the rights to bring the concert version to the big time in a more finished version - that is, without scripts as in Encores!, and full staging.  Finished, finessed, but not substantially different.  The bare bones staging by Walter Bobby, sexy costumes by William Ivey Long, fresh revamped book by David Thompson, and choreography "in the style of Bob Fosse" by Fosse protege Ann Reinking woule remain essentially intact.

Fast forward to tonight, August 29, 2011.  Tonight, Chicago: The Musical will play its 6,138th performance, and that will make it the 4th longest-running show in Broadway history, behind Les Miserables, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.  It is now the longest-running American musical in Broadway history.  (For some time, it has been Broadway's longest-running revival in history.)  With no signs of stopping, Chicago: The Musical will surpass Les Miserables to become the third longest-running show in just over a year.

3 Theatres, 1 Legendary Show

Chicago: The Musical Statistics:
  • Theatre: Richard Rodgers Theatre (November 14, 1996 - February 9, 1997)
  • Previews: October 23, 1996 (25 previews)
  • Opening: November 14, 1996
  • Theatre: Shubert Theatre (February 11, 1997 - January 26, 2003)
  • Theatre: Ambassador Theatre (January 29, 2003 - present)

1997 Tony Awards
  • Best Revival of a Musical (Won)
  • Best Leading Actor in a Musical - James Naughton (Won)
  • Best Leading Actress in a Musical - Bebe Neuwirth (Won)
  • Best Featured Actress in a Musical - Marcia Lewis (Nominee)
  • Best Direction of a Musical - Walter Bobbie (Won)
  • Best Choreography - Ann Reinking (Won)
  • Best Lighting Design - Ken Billington (Won)
  • Best Costume Design - William Ivey Long (Nominee)

Opening Night Cast:
  • Roxie Hart: Ann Reinking
  • Velma Kelly: Bebe Neuwirth
  • Billy Flynn: James Naughton
  • Amos Hart: Joel Grey
  • Matron "Mama" Morton: Marcia Lewis
  • Mary Sunshine: D. Sabella
  • Fred Casely: Michael Berresse
  • Go-to-Hell Kitty: Leigh Zimmerman
  • The Merry Mureresses: Caitlin Carter, Mamie Duncan-Gibbs, Denise Faye, Mary An Lamb, Tina Paul
  • Ensemble: Jim Borstelman, Bruce Anthony Davis, Micahel Kubala, John Mineo, Rocker Verastique, Davis Warren-Gibson
  • Stand-by for Roxie and Velma: Nancy Hess
  • Swings: Mindy Cooper, Luis Perez
Roxie Hart over the years...
The Originals: Bebe as Velma and Ann as Roxie

Bebe played Roxie, too...

Charlotte d'Amboise has plyed the role A LOT

Melanie Griffith and Bianca Maroquin both rocked Chicago

Melanie Griffith and Robin Givens

Bonnie Langford and Paige Davis

Brooke Shields and Michelle Williams

Micelle Williams, Lisa Rinna
Ashlee Simpson, Christie Brinkley

Michelle Dejean

Ruthie Henshall

Christie Brinkley

Rita Wilson (with Brenda Braxton)

Bianca Maroquin

Karen Ziemba

Sandy Duncan

Brooke Shields

Marilu Henner, Rita Wilson, Michelle Dejean

Amy Spanger
(with Michael C. Hall as Billy Flynn)

Velma Kelly over the years...

Bebe Neuwirth

Frequent Velma Terra C. McLeod

Vicki Lewis

Ute Lemper
Broadway and London Velma

Ruthie Henshall played both
Roxie and Velma on both
Broadway and the West End

Caroline O'Connor

 Terra C. McLeod on tour

Brenda Braxton

Leigh Zimmerman

Amyra Faye-Wright

Charloltte d'Amboise as Roxie with 2 Velmas:
(TOP) Leigh Zimmerman
(BOTTOM) Nikka Graff Lanzarone

Current Velma Nikka Graff Lanzarone

Mya and the Boys

Billy Flynn over the years...
Joey Lawrence, Usher, Huey Lewis

Jerry Springer played both New York and the West End

John O'Hurley is a frequent and loved Billy Flynn

Matthew Settle

Brent Barrett

The Backstreet Boys' Kevin Richardson

The late Patrick Swayze

And BOTH of the Dukes of Hazzard have taken their turn
as Billy Flynn: John Schneider and Tom Wopat

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  1. Hey Jeff,

    In my June trip to New York City I saw Chicago on stage for the very first time - with Charlotte D'Amboise as Roxie and Christopher Sieber as Billy Flynn. And it was great, so incredibly sexy, terrific dancing. I saw it on a Monday night when there was nothing new playing that I wanted to see. I'm glad I did it that way and didn't have to give up a "new show" slot for it. It was fun and I got to cross the Ambassador off my list! I might even go back someday if there's a Roxie or Billy I really want to see.

  2. I have seen it probably a dozen times over the years in New York and on tour. I think it is incredible that a show this far removerd from its original production is so sharp, clean and well-executed. You were in terrific hands with Charlotte and Christopher, two of Broadway's most consistent, talented and under-rated performers. I hope to go back, too, when there'a someone in I want to see. (If you ever hear that Terra C. McLeod or Michelle Dejean are in it RUN TO THE BOX OFFICE and get tickets. They are AMAZING!)

  3. Music is the most vibrant and beautiful form of art. Besides this, it's a great way of social interaction and provides a fun workout.

    Broadway Musicals Compared at CompareThings


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