Maurine Dallas Watkins (1) was a reporter who had been assigned to cover the trials of the two murderesses, Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner for the Chicago Tribune in 1924. Her columns on the case were so popular, that she decided to write a play based on them. The production was extremely popular and made it to Broadway in 1926, and had 172 performances.
Gwen Verdon (2), one of broadways biggest stars in its golden era, had read the play and asked her husband, Bob Fosse, if he could create a musical version. Fosse approached Watkins numerous times to buy the rights but she always said turned them down. When Watkins had passed, her estate sold the rights to the producer Richard Fryer, Verdon and Fosse. American composer John Kander (3) and musical theatre lyricist Fred Ebb (3) from the team Kander and Ebb, worked on the music for the production, introducing one of the most famous songs for the musical “Cell Block Tango”, a sexy number sung by all the murderesses about how and why they killed their partners. Fosse directed the choreography.
Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville opened on June 3, 1975, starring Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly (4), Gwen Verdon as Roxy Hart (5) and Jerry Orbach as Billy Flynn (6). The production ran for a total of 936 performances. What made this production so popular was how new and exciting it was. It was the sexy and pravocative black costumes and choreography. Chicago highlighted the relationship between justice and showbusiness. It was innovative in the sense that the set consisted only of an oversized golden frame, framing the orchestra, the two pedastals and the two large ladders on either side of the stage which the dancers used for their routines. (7)
The story is about two women, Roxie Hart (based on Beulah Annan) a wannabe vaudevillian, and Velma Kelly (based on Belva Gaertner) a vaudevillian, who were sent to Cook county jail for murder inhabited by other murderesses and the infamous Matron “Mama” Morton, who believes all...
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