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Synopsis

Chicago in the late ’20s – A time when late nights, loud music and leggy women were the passwords to the Windy City. An era of flamboyant youth and flappers, gangsters and gin, and hi-jinks and hilarity. Told through a series of vaudeville routines, the story of Chicago begins with Velma Kelly (Chita Rivera) setting the tone and atmosphere of the period with “All That Jazz.” During the song, Roxie Hart (Gwen Verdon) enters and pauses just long enough to fire three shots into her nonchalant lover. As Amos Hart (Barney Martin), her “loyal husband,” lovingly confesses to the crime, Roxie sings of her undying devotion to him in “Funny Honey.” When he discovers Roxie knew the deceased, Amos changes his tune… and so does Roxie. Roxie is arrested and brought to Cook County Jail, where the reigning queen of Murderess Row is none other than Velma Kelly. Of course, she hasn’t committed any crime. For that matter, neither have the other five “merry murderesses,” as they confess in “Cell Block Tango.” The fact that in forty-seven years no woman has ever been hanged in Cook County doesn’t comfort Roxie, and she turns to the prison Matron (Mary McCarty) for advice – a wise move since, as she enumerates in “When You’re Good to Mama,” the Matron believes one good turn deserves another. Roxie persuades Amos to raise the $5,000 necessary to hire Chicago’s most famous defense attorney, Billy Flynn (Jerry Orbach), who takes great pains in “All I Care About” to convince us he’s more than just a legal eagle. What he doesn’t know about juries and women! Wasting no time, Billy rewrites the story of Roxie’s life to gain sympathy, particularly from Mary Sunshine (M. O’Haughey), the sob-sister reporter from the Evening Star, who reveals what a pushover she is in “A Little Bit of Good.” At Roxie’s press conference, Billy, always the good mouthpiece, pulls all the strings and does all the talking in “We Both Reached for the Gun.” The headlines read: “Roxie Rocks Chicago,” and overnight she becomes the most famous jazz slayer of them all. As offers for personal appearances pour in from all over the country, Roxie begins to see the realization of her dream – to be a vaudeville star. In a huge neon sunburst, she sees her name in lights. Joined by “her boys,” she glories in the certainty that “the name on everybody’s lips is gonna be “Roxie.” Velma Kelly, bumped off the front pages by Roxie – who has confiscated her lawyer, her trial date and her vaudeville offers – makes a desperate plea to Roxie to join her in the double-act she did with her sister. To persuade her, Velma attempts to perform both halves of the act, pleading “I Can’t Do It Alone.” Roxie refuses – “I’m a star… single.” But Roxie’s bubble, and what remains of Velma’s, is quickly burst as Go-To-Hell Kitty hits the scene with an even more sensational crime than either of the two. All attention – Billy’s, Mary Sunshine’s and the reporters’ – turns to Kitty, leaving Roxie and Velma abandoned, a fate they acknowledge in “My Own Best Friend.” Roxie, inspired, faints … and, regaining the attention, announces she’s going to have a baby. All eyes are turned to the “little mother,” as the curtain falls on Act One. Roxie’s done it again! As Act Two begins, Roxie’s “pregnancy” is conspiratorially verified by a doctor and subsequently exploited by Billy Flynn. In a contented moment, Roxie entertains her impending “motherhood” with “Me and My Baby.” Amos, although he assumes he’s the father, laments in “Mr. Cellophane” that everyone still “looks right through me.” While Billy waits for Roxie, Velma, seizing the opportunity, shows him what’ll happen in court “When Velma Takes the Stand.” After Cook County’s forty-seven-year precedent is shattered with the hanging of one of the girls, Roxie panics. Preparing for the trial, Billy, in ruffled hair, rumpled shirt and suspenders à la Clarence Darrow, tells Roxie there’s “nothin’ to worry about. It’s all a circus, kid. Show business.” We’ll “give ’em the old ‘Razzle Dazzle.’” At the jail, as Velma and the Matron listen to Mary Sunshine’s radio broadcast from the courtroom, Velma realizes she’s been taken – Roxie has stolen all of her courtroom stunts… and her shoes! Now that’s really low! Together, Velma and the Matron mourn the good old days, when people had “Class.” The moment of reckoning has come and Roxie awaits the verdict. As the jury announces “Not Guilty,” three shots are heard and a reporter rushes into the courtroom with the details of Chicago’s latest crime. Once again a woman has let her emotions trigger her temper and her gun: “There’s blood all over the halls … but what a story!” Everyone rushes out and Roxie is abandoned again – yesterday’s news. “Ladies and Gentlemen … Chicago’s own killer-dillers … those two scintillating sinners … Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly.” The inevitable has happened. Two nearly-forgotten, acquitted murderesses join forces to become a sensationally memorable vaudeville act. That’s the way it is “Nowadays.” And that’s Chicago … and “All That Jazz.” – Ray Errol Fox, Cheryl Sue Dolby

Credits

Velma Kelly: Chita Rivera Roxie Hart: Gwen Verdon Fred Casely: Christopher Chadman Sergeant Fogarty: Richard Korthaze Amos Hart: Barney Martin Liz: Cheryl Clark Annie: Michon Peacock June: Candy Brown Hunyak: Graciela Daniele Mona: Pamela Sousa Martin Harrison: Michael Vita Matron: Mary McCarty Billy Flynn: Jerry Orbach Mary Sunshine: M. O’Haughey Go-To-Hell Kitty: Charlene Ryan Harry: Paul Solen Aaron: Gene Foote The Judge: Ron Schwinn Court Clerk: Gary Gendell