Joel Grey Back in Chicago in NY (July 2) and in London (Aug. 17)

News   Joel Grey Back in Chicago in NY (July 2) and in London (Aug. 17)
 
For all the rumors of comings and goings, Broadway's Chicago maintained a pretty steady cast this spring and will likely do so throughout the summer.

For all the rumors of comings and goings, Broadway's Chicago maintained a pretty steady cast this spring and will likely do so throughout the summer.

All the majors are expected to stay in place at least through Labor Day except Ernie Sabella, who flies to L.A. to start taping his new TV series with Nathan Lane. As reported by syndicated columnist Liz Smith (June 25) and confirmed by the Pete Sanders Group, the revival's first Amos, Joel Grey, returns to the role for four weeks, starting July 2. No decision has yet been made as to who will take over once Grey leaves. (And Grey isn't finished with Amos yet; Aug. 17 he'll start playing the role in the London company).

Otherwise, the Broadway cast looks like this for the summer:

* Karen Ziemba (Steel Pier) is Roxie Hart at least through Jan. 1, 1999.

* Bebe Neuwirth is still Velma and scheduled (at least) through early fall. She takes occasional days off to do benefits, at which point understudy Nancy Hess fills in. * Hinton Battle is Billy Flynn, scheduled through the early fall. Reportedly, he'll then leave Chicago to play Coalhouse Walker in the national tour of Ragtime. Alan Thicke, currently playing Billy in the first national tour, will be in the Broadway company for the month of September. Battle, who won a Tony for The Tap Dance Kid and appeared in Sophisticated Ladies and Dreamgirls, took over for James Naughton Dec. 23, 1997. Battle also won a featured actor Tony for Miss Saigon.

* Marcia Lewis is still Mama and David Sabella is still Mary Sunshine, both with no plans to leave.

Currently in the NY ensemble are Michael Berrese, Leigh Zimmerman, Caitlin Carter, Michelle Robinson, Amy Spanger, Mamie Duncan-Gibbs, Darlene Wilson, Michael Kubala, Rocker Verastique, John Mineo, Bruce Anthony Davis, Jim Borstelman and David Warren Gibson.

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As for Chicago's first national tour (the "Roxie Company"), in Seattle, WA, through July 5, TV's Alan Thicke plays Billy, On The Town's, Lea DeLaria plays Mama until September (when she goes into the remounting of On The Town), Belle Calaway plays Roxie, and Michael Tucci plays Amos. Stephanie Pope plays Velma, though for the week of July 7, Jasmine Guy will return to the role, marking her last performances with the Chicago tour. As mentioned earlier, Thicke will leave the company to play Billy in the Broadway Chicago for the month of September.

Upcoming dates for the Roxie Company include:
July 7-12: Costa Mesa's Orange County Performing Arts Center
July 14-26: Portland, OR
July 28-Aug. 2: Albuquerque, NM
Aug. 4-16: Houston, TX

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As for the Chicago second national tour, currently at L.A.'s Ahmanson Theatre, the company features Brent Barrett (Billy), Charlotte D'Amboise (Roxie), Ron Orbach (Amos) and Avery Sommers (Mama). For the week of July 7, Stephanie Pope, of the Roxie Company, will play Velma (while Jasmine Guy takes her place). Then July 14, Khandi Alexander (TV's "News Radio" and "E.R.") starts as Velma, officially replacing Guy. Barrett, by the way, was the first cast replacement for David Carroll in Broadway's Grand Hotel.

Here are upcoming dates for the Velma Company:
Through July 5: Los Angeles, CA's Ahmanson Theatre
July 7-Aug. 30 Los Angeles, CA's Shubert Theatre
Aug. 31-Sept. 6: San Diego, CA
Sept. 7-13: Salt Lake City, UT
Sept 14-27: Vancouver, Canada
Sept. 28-Nov. 8: San Francisco, CA's Golden Gate Theatre.

Call Peter Thomson press in London. According to the Peter Thompson press office, the London Chicago cast (as of June 25) features Ruthie Henshall (London's Crazy For You) as Roxie, and European cabaret favorite Ute Lemper as Velma Kelly through July 11. Nicola Hughes then comes in as Velma July 13. Meg Johnson plays Mama; Clarke Peters plays Billy Flynn. Nigel Planer (TV's "The Young Ones") is currently Amos, with Joel Grey coming in for four weeks, Aug. 17.

The London production was nominated for seven Olivier Awards, the most of any London show. Chicago, which won the 1997 Tony Award as Best Revival of a Musical, began its London engagement Oct. 28 at the Adelphi Theatre on London's West End, with an official opening Nov. 18. Walter Bobbie, who won a Tony Award for his direction of the Broadway revival, also directed the London production.

The next Chicago mounting will be in Australia with local actors (including Chelsea Gibb as Roxie) opening at her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne, July 4 for an open run. The staging will be co-produced by the Weisslers and Australian producers.

According to Chicago spokesperson Pete Sanders, Sept. 28, a local, German-language company will open in Vienna, Austria. Sweden will likely be the next target.

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On Broadway, the smash $3 million revival of the Kander and Ebb musical has been a hot ticket since opening Nov. 14, 1996. The production, directed by Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Ann Reinking ("in the style of Bob Fosse"), originated as a four-performance concert staging in May at City Center's "Encores!" series devoted to rarely-heard musical scores.

Neuwirth and Naughton won Best Actress and Actor in a Musical Tony Awards for Chicago, and Reinking (who was replaced in the Broadway cast this summer by Henner) won a Tony for Best Choreographer. Chicago, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, was originally directed and choreographed on Broadway in 1975 by Bob Fosse; Fosse and Ebb co-wrote the show's book, which was based on a notorious Chicago murder trial in the Twenties.

The first Broadway production starred Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach.

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Though rumors are bouncing off the internet, to date only two stars have been officially announced for the big-screen version of John Kander & Fred Ebb's musical, Chicago. Weeks ago, sources at Miramax films confirmed the long-speculated casting of Goldie Hawn (Roxie) and Madonna (Velma), with "further announcements forthcoming."

Feb. 6, columnist Liz Smith broke the news that Carousel's Nicholas Hytner will direct the film, and Miramax confirms that Larry Gelbart (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and City of Angels) is working on the screenplay.

Previously, columnist Liz Smith reported (Jan. 23) that Rosie O'Donnell, once rumored for the role of "Mama," wants to stay home with her children and declined the part. As of June 22, no further casting has been announced.

Marty Richards, who co-produced Chicago's 1975 Broadway premiere, is producing the film, which has yet to set a production start date, according to spokespersons at Miramax (reached June 22).

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