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Chicago is Now the Longest-Running Show on Broadway

Photo of a woman's silhouette in front of a red screen. Theater & Shows

Following the closure of The Phantom of the Opera in April, Chicago is now the longest-running show on Broadway and the longest-running American show in Broadway history. This captivating show is set in the jazz age debuted on Broadway in 1975 and has since brought some of the biggest stars in Hollywood from coast-to-coast to take the stage. Learn more about Chicago and its lasting influence on Broadway below. 

Origins of Chicago

Chicago is based on a play of the same name by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a reporter and playwright. She was on assignment in 1924 for the Chicago Tribune covering the trials of accused murderers Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner when inspiration struck. The press and public were captivated by the idea of murders committed by women against their husbands or lovers. Her columns eventually became so popular that she wrote a play about them. It debuted on Broadway in 1926 and ran for 172 performances. 

The current iteration, which hit Broadway in 1996, features music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the show, and wrote a book on the musical with Ebb. It is produced by Barry and Fran Weissler. The show debuted at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, then moved to the Shubert Theatre in 1997 before starting a touring company and winning six Tony Awards later that year. The London show also opened in 1997 at the Adelphi Theatre where it won two Laurence Olivier Awards. 

Chicago shows year-round at the Ambassador Theatre in New York and is one of Broadway’s most popular musicals for both newcomers and seasoned guests. 

What is Chicago the Musical About?

The plot of Chicago follows leading lady Roxie Hart, a housewife and chorus girl who kills her secret lover when he threatens to leave her. She hires the slickest criminal attorney in the city, Billy Flynn, to hopefully avoid conviction and the two turn her crime into a collection of sensational headlines that entrance both the public and the media. In prison, she faces competition from Velma Kelly, a vaudevillian and fellow Flynn client who is accused of murdering her husband and sister after catching them in an affair. 

Renée Zellweger

Film Adaptations of Chicago

In 2002, Chicago ended up back in the spotlight when Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere starred in the award-winning film adaptation. Zellweger played Hart, Zeta-Jones played Kelly and Gere was the enigmatic attorney, Flynn. Bill Condon wrote the screenplay and it grossed more than $306 million worldwide. The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won six including Best Picture, Best Sound and Best Supporting Actress (Zeta-Jones). It also won three Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards, among others. The star-studded cast also included Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Christine Baranski and Mýa.

It was the third film adaptation including the 1927 silent film produced by Cecil B. DeMille and the 1942 comedy Roxie Hart, which starred Ginger Rogers. 

Celebrities in Chicago on Broadway

The casting sheet for Chicago is a whos-who of popular musicians, actors and entertainers from around the world. Often appearing in short engagements, these performers are woven into the classically trained cast belting out fan favorites like “Cell Block Tango” and “All That Jazz.”  

In 2003, Melanie Griffith and Patrick Swayze each enjoyed runs as Roxie Hart and Billy Flynn, respectively. Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams, country star Jennifer Nettles, actress Brooke Shields, and Spice Girl Mel B have all since portrayed Hart, as well as Olivia Holt who made her Broadway debut in the role in April 2023. A few of the leading men have included Billy Ray Cyrus, Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, actor Cuba Gooding Jr., and singer Huey Lewis. Matron “Mama” Morton is another popular role for celebrities like Wonder Woman Lynda Carter and drag superstar Jinkx Monsoon

Chicago Musical Performance Schedule

You can catch a showing of Chicago six days a week at the Ambassador Theatre in New York. The Monday, Tuesday and Thursday shows have a 7 p.m. curtain call. On Fridays, that is pushed to 8 p.m. It shows twice on the weekend with a matinee at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday, as well as an 8 p.m. showing on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the running time of Chicago?

The show lasts two hours and 30 minutes. There is one 15-minute intermission between acts. 

Is Chicago appropriate for children?

Since there are some adult themes portrayed in the show, it is recommended for guests 13 years of age or older.

When should I arrive at the theatre?

Doors to the Ambassador Theatre open 45 minutes before the start of each show. Guests should plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the show to find their seats.

Where is the Ambassador Theatre located?

The Ambassador Theatre is located at 219 West 49th Street, New York City, N.Y. It is between Bradway and 8th Avenue.

Chicago Broadway Tickets

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