Chicago is a musical, first performed in 1975, based on the play Chicago by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Its book was by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.
The play Chicago was Watkins' retelling of two very public trials for murder that occurred in Chicago in 1924, those of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. Watkins had been a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and later wrote a play based on her coverage.
Gwen Verdon read the play and asked her ex-husband Bob Fosse about the possibility of creating a musical based on it. Fosse approached Watkins for permission to adapt her play but was consistently refused. He obtained the rights from her estate following her death in 1969 leading to the development of Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville, which made the play's comparison between "justice" and "show-business" explicit by conceptualizing the plot as a series of vaudeville acts.
The play was produced in 1975, starring Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly, Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart, and Jerry Orbach as Billy Flynn. Liza Minnelli served as a replacement for Gwen Verdon for a month in 1975, and her Broadway "comeback" generated publicity which helped lengthen the run of the show. When Verdon left the show, Fosse's girlfriend Ann Reinking stepped into the role.
As part of the City Center "Encores!" Series, the show was revived in 1996, directed by Walter Bobbie and choreographed "in the style of Bob Fosse" by Ann Reinking. It starred Joel Grey, James Naughton, Bebe Neuwirth, and Ann Reinking. This version, which transferred to Broadway, opened on November 14, 1996 and is still running as of August 2006. Usher will join the cast as Billy Flynn on August 22, 2006.
The musical also continues to play in the West End at the Adelphi Theatre until 22 April, and at the Cambridge Theatre from 28 April 2006.
The show was translated into French in 2003 for performance in Quebec, and was subsequently adapted again for France by the French humorist Laurent Ruquier in 2004.
The musical was adapted for the movie Chicago in 2002, starring Renée Zellweger as Roxie and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma. The story was told by staging the vaudeville acts as fantasies of Roxie Hart, by eliminating some songs, lightening the character of Roxie, and by changing the role of Mary Sunshine from male to female.
The 2002 film won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Zeta-Jones won Best Supporting Actress
The Numbers and the Vaudeville acts they were modelled on