June, 2012

by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse
directed by Norma Latchford

The musical, set in Prohibition-era Chicago, is based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about criminals and actual crimes she reported on in the Chicago Tribune.

Beulah Annan, the model for the character of Roxie Hart, was 23 when in April 1924 she was accused of the murder of Harry Kalstedt. The Tribune reported she played foxtrot record “Hula Lou” over and over for two hours before calling her husband to say she killed a man who “tried to make love to her”. She was found not guilty in June 1924. Velma is based on Belva Gaertner, a cabaret singer. The body of Walter Law was discovered slumped over the steering wheel of Gaertner’s abandoned car on March 1924. Police officers testified that they had seen a woman getting into the car and shortly thereafter heard gunshots. A bottle of gin and an automatic pistol were found on the floor of the car. Gaertner was acquitted on June 1924. Lawyers William Scott Stewart and W.W.O’Brien were models for a composite character in “Chicago”, “Billy Flynn”.

The columns documenting these trials proved so popular that Watkins decided to write a play based on them. The show received both popular and critical acclaim and made it to Broadway in 1926, running for 172 performances. In the 1960’s Bob Fosse, Richard Fryer, Gwen Verdon, John Kander and Fred Ebb began working on the musical score, making explicit the show’s comparison between ‘justice’, ‘show-business’, and contemporary society. The original Broadway production of the musical opened in June 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre and ran for 936 performances. As of January 2012, it has played for more than 6,200 performances.

To stage this production required a dedicated and talented team of musicians, choreographers, designers, carpenters and wardrobe ladies who left their lives on hold for five months and a group of singers and dancers who allowed themselves to be driven and pushed to their limits.

It took the Rep Club over three years to obtain the performing rights for “Chicago”, but I’m sure you will agree with me that it is worth coming out for on a cold winter’s night in Kalgoorlie.