Chicago the Musical: A Look at the History


Photo by: Kaytlyn Gordon

Students, with the help of the Zinzendorf Literary Society and Moravian Activities Council, enjoyed a trip out to New York’s Broadway Ambassador Theatre to see a production of the musical Chicago. After the show, they were also given the opportunity to see the surrounding city areas.

Chicago was based on the 1924 trials of accused murderers Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner.  The Chicago Tribune reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins wrote about their cases and was inspired to write a play about the events. Thus, in 1926, the play Chicago premiered. A year later it became a silent film, and in 1942, it was remade as Roxie Hart starring Ginger Rogers.

In 1975, Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb, and John Kander turned the play into a musical. The musical originally was not a huge success, and while it did not win any Tony Awards, it was nominated for several. A revival was produced in 1996, and it has ran ever since, becoming one of Broadway’s longest-running shows. In 2002, the musical was adapted into a film that went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, among many others.

The production starred Charlotte d’Amboise as Roxie, Lana Gordon as Velma, and Bethlehem native Tony Yazbeck as Billy Flynn. Like many Broadway musicals, Chicago is not very complex story wise, conforming to many Broadway tropes including the 1920’s setting, with the bandleader introducing every song and occasionally interacting with the characters.

Broadway’s Ambassador Theatre has been Chicago’s main venue for quite some time. It was built by the Shuberts, brothers who opened and operated many other theatres. There is a seating area across from the stage and there are mezzanines up high as to be able to view the stage from above.