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Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre

Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre

Everything you need to know about Chicago

Carly-Ann Clements

By Carly-Ann Clements First Published 9 October 2018, Last Updated 9 October 2018

For murder, glitz, glamour, rocking songs and all that jazz, Chicago is a must-see show. It’s the world’s longest-running American musical, and the current London production has been running throughout the world for a whopping 21 years.

Whether you’ve seen it or not, there’s a lot of things you probably didn’t know about the hit musical. And some things you definitely should know before you see it…

The cast of Chicago at West End LIVE 2018 (Photo: Pamela Raith)The cast of Chicago at West End LIVE 2018 (Photo: Pamela Raith)

The backstory

Based on a true story, Chicago is a musical adaptation of the play of the same name written by reported and playwright Maurine Dallas Watkins. Due to the rising interest in women committing homicide, Maurine was sent to cover the trials of accused murderers Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner in 1924. Beulah and Belva would become the inspiration for the characters of Roxie and Velma. The articles based on these cases were so popular, Maurine decided to turn them into a play.

The play proved to be as popular as her column receiving both critical and audience praise. In 1926, it went to Broadway where it had 172 performances.

Two films were made, one silent film and one starring Ginger Rogers. But it wasn’t until the 60s that a musical adaptation was considered.

After his wife read the play, Bob Fosse approached Maurine for the rights to Chicago. She refused on multiple occasions despite Bob’s persistence. It wasn’t until Maurine passed away that Bob, along with Richard Fryer and Bob’s wife Gwen Verdon. John Kander and Fred Ebb were brought on to work on the score and by 1975, Chicago The Musical was on the stage.

In 1979, the spangly musical came to the West End where it receive multiple Olivier Award nominations.

In 1997, it received a West End revival and ran for 15 years. That production then went on a UK tour for six years before returning to London to celebrate its 21st birthday, which is the very production we currently have on at the Phoenix Theatre.

What’s the show about?

Much like the true tale, Chicago tells the story of two jailed woman accused of murder. The cellmates, and rival cabaret performers, await their fate but in the meantime, Roxie – the younger chorus girl – steals Velma’s lawyer. But will it matter? Will the beautiful women be condemned to a life behind bars? Or will the corrupt system let them walk free, despite their evident guilt?

What age is it appropriate for?

As you’d imagine, this show features mature themes, strong language, sexual innuendo and violent references. It’s recommended that children should be 13 years old or over and no one under 16 can enter without an adult.

Duncan James as Billy Flynn in Chicago (Photo: Simon Turtle)Duncan James as Billy Flynn in Chicago (Photo: Simon Turtle)

Who’s in Chicago?

Who isn’t in Chicago? This current production has had more stars in it than a country sky in the height of summer. We’ve seen Cuba Gooding Jr, Martin Kemp, Alexandra Burke and more.

Billy Flynn – Duncan James. Duncan is best known for his stint in boy band Blue. Since, he’s worked across TV and theatre. He’s appeared in Chicago in 2007 and took the lead in Legally Blonde.

Roxie Hart – Alexandra Burke (until 13 October). Alexandra shot to fame when she won The X Factor in 2008. In addition to her successful singing career, Alexandra ventured onto the stage. Her debut role was in The Bodyguard which she appeared in both at the Adelphi Theatre and on UK tour.

Velma Kelly – Laura Tyrer. Laura is a seasoned West End performer. Her credits include Matilda, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, From Here To Eternity, Cabaret, Spamalot, and most recently Ruthless!

Mama Morton – Mazz Murray. Mazz found fame as the longest-running cast member of We Will Rock You. She played the Killer Queen from 2004 until it closed in 2014. She’s also appeared in Mamma Mia!, Rent and Fame.

Amos Hart – Paul Rider. Paul has reprised the role of Amos for the current London run. He previously played the role during Chicago’s run at the Adelphi and Cambridge Theatres. He’s recently appeared in theatre shows A Woman Of No Importance, and Hairspray.

Mazz Murray in ChicagoMazz Murray in Chicago

How long is it?

Chicago is 2 hours and 25 minutes including one interval. It usually plays Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Where is it playing?

It’s playing at the Phoenix Theatre. The nearest stations are Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road.

Will I like it?

It’s loud, it’s glitzy, it’s thrilling and it’s a little bit naughty. For a night of pure entertainment from start to finish – with a million sequins in between – this show is for you!

Where can I buy tickets?

Right here with us! Just visit the Official London Theatre Chicago page for great tickets and great prices.


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alexandra burke chicago duncan james laura tyrer mazz murray paul rider phoenix theatre

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