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You saw the original cast??!!” September 27, 2007

Posted by Jeff in 1990s to present, Movies, Musicals, Theater.

“The Cell Block Tango” from the 2002 movie version of Chicago, featuring Renée Zellweger, Taye Diggs and the Six Merry Murderesses Of The Cook County Jail: Susan Misner (“pop”), Denise Faye (“six”), Deirdre Goodwin (“squish”), Ekaterina Chtchelkanova (“uh-uh”), Catherine Zeta Jones (“Cicero”) and Mýa Harrison (“Lipschitz”).

I can stop conversation at any conclave of Broadway musical fans with the following three facts:

  1. I saw Mary Martin on Broadway in the original cast of The Sound Of Music;

  2. I saw Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet in the original cast of Camelot; and

  3. I saw Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon in the original cast of Chicago.

Chicago is based on a 1926 Broadway play of the same name by Maurine Dallas Watkins, who reported for the Chicago Tribune on two real-life trials that closely resembled the stories of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. This was made into a 1947 movie called Roxie Hart, with the Hays-code-required twist that Roxie (Ginger Rogers) was innocent but confessed to get the publicity.

Watkins, who “found religion” late in life, subequently denied all requests to revive the play. Her death in 1967 cleared the way for the 1975 Bob Fosse musical, which I still think is his best work. I’m a big fan of the movie, but no one will ever top Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon. Not to mention the late Jerry Orbach, the musical’s original Billy Flynn, for whom I wrote the role of Preston Charles in my musical screenplay Babes In Armor.

One of my goals in life is to write a screenplay with a character named Cicero Lipschitz.

What am I doing here? They say my lover held down my husband and I chopped his head off. But it’s not true. I am innocent. I don’t know why Uncle Sam says I did it. I tried to explain at the police station but they didn’t understand.

— Hunyak (Ekaterina Chtchelkanova), speaking (more or less) in Hungarian

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