Chita Rivera has gotta have Hart -- Roxie Hart in Chicago, that is.
The casting had been talked about for weeks, but Jan. 19, 1999 was the official announcement that dancer-actress Rivera, who created the role of Velma Kelly in 1975's Chicago, would indeed play the show's other star part, Roxie, in the Las Vegas premiere of the current Broadway revival, beginning March 3, 1999.
Rivera, who turns 66 Jan. 23, 1999, is expected to continue in the Vegas stand, at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, through Aug. 28. Director Walter Bobbie's minimalist staging (in black cocktail dresses and slinky slacks, shirts and tuxes) is choreographed by Ann Reinking "in the style of" original director-choreographer Bob Fosse.
Marcia Lewis, Broadway's Matron Mama Morton, will join Rivera in the desert, but no other casting information was immediately available. In recent weeks, names as big as Jerry Lewis (for the role of shyster Billy Flynn) had been rumored, and there was chatter in the wings that Ute Lemper may take her London and current Broadway Velma west to Glitter Gulch.
It was also not immediately clear if Roxie might now be handed the show's opening number, "All That Jazz," which Velma has traditionally sung, and which is something of a signature for steely, sleek Rivera. Rivera's in-process one-woman show, backed up by "boy" dancers, is called Chita and All That Jazz. It had a summer 1998 tryout in Atlantic City and is expected to resurface in fall 1999. Fred Ebb is a consultant.
The role of Roxie Hart, one of a gaggle of murderesses in the cynical musical comedy, was originated by Gwen Verdon in 1975.
The now-legendary Rivera made her splash as the original Anita in West Side Story in 1957-58 and over the next four decades appeared in Broadway musical hits and beloved flops, including Bye Bye Birdie, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Bajour, Merlin, Bring Back Birdie, The Rink, as well as in numerous club acts and tours (Can-Can, for example).
Not even a taxicab accident, which required having pins put in her famous legs, could stop Rivera from dancing across a Broadway stage.
Barry and Fran Weissler, producers of the Broadway Chicago that has been a smash since Nov. 14, 1996 at the Shubert Theatre, will produce the Vegas stand in association with Warren Trepp and Mandalay Bay.
For ticket information, call (702) 474-4000 or (877) 632-7400. The top ticket price at the 1,700-seat Mandalay Bay venue is $82.50.
The smash $3 million Broadway revival of the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical has been a hot ticket since its opening. The production began as a four-performance concert staging in May 1996 in City Center's "Encores!" series devoted to rarely-heard musical scores. A London company opened Nov. 18, 1997 at the Adelphi Theatre. Joel Grey, the Broadway revival Amos, recreated the role in London Aug. 17-Nov. 7, 1998.