Velma, Roxie, Billy and the rest of the cellblock are performing at the Essenee Theater in New Iberia starting in March. This is an Iberia Performing Arts League production. Tickets go on sale Monday.
Chicago was first performed in 1975 on Broadway. Lothario Broadway hoofer Bob Fosse, himself the subject of All That Jazz, co-wrote the book for the musical and choreographed it. Chicago has come to embody the distinct Fosse style.
The musical centers on the seemingly cherubic Roxie Hart who shoots her lover in a fit of jealousy. Her hapless husband Amos shoulders the blame at first after Roxie convinces him the man was a burglar rather than a boyfriend. The truth comes out, however, and Roxie is hauled off to jail where she meets the infamous Velma Kelly awaiting trial for the murders of both her husband and sister. The two women compete for the litigious attention of lawyer Billy Flynn who encourage both women to be as sensationalistic as possible and use the media to their advantages. In other words, Roxie and Velma are the Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian of the Windy City’s Prohibition Era, but with talent, using the media and their wiles to get famous from acting horribly.
The musical is in turn sexy, sordid and funny with a glowering eye on how American culture reacts to its criminals, both with shock and admiration. The fact that the women in Chicago are beautiful certainly helps.
Fun enough, the characters are based on a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins who as a reporter in 1924 covered the trials of both Beulah Annan and Belva Brown Gaertner in Chicago. The character of Velma was based on Belva — get it? — who was acquitted of murdering her married lover despite being found coated in his blood in her apartment after he was shot to death in his car. Annan’s story is closest to that of her fictional counterpart Roxie — she shot her married lover when they were both reaching for the same gun after an argument, she said, in self defense. She was also acquitted. History both factual and musical has come to prove that no one believes either woman was innocent.