Fresh off winning the Grammy for best cast recording, Broadway's Chicago will also get a fresh face this Tuesday, Mar. 24. That's when Karen Ziemba steps in to replace Marilu Henner as Roxie Hart. Henner's last performance is Mar. 22. According to production spokesperson Pete Sanders, other cast members, including Bebe Neuwirth (Velma), Hinton Battle and Ernie Sabella are scheduled to stay with the show indefinitely. (Sabella will take a two week break to shoot a TV pilot with Nathan Lane.)
As for the show's first national tour (the "Roxie Company"), Jasmine Guy left in late Feb. (she'll join the second company for its gig at L.A.'s Ahmanson) and Lisa Leguillou, seen on Broadway in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, took over as Velma. (Understudy Donna Marie Asbury has taken the role while Leguillou recovers from a hamstring injury.) Leguillou (pronounced leh-gwee'-loh) also appeared in the silent role of Lise in the Roundabout Theatre's Cyrano de Bergerac.
The "Roxie Company" tour is currently in Toronto and co-stars Belle Calaway (replacing Charlotte D'Amboise) and Obba Babatunde. The latter leaves at the end of March to be replaced by Canadian talk show host and actor Alan Thicke ("Thicke of the Night," "Growing Pains").
Carol Woods has been playing Mama Morton in the Roxie company, but Apr. 10 she'll be replaced by Lea DeLaria, who became the talk of New York last summer for her performance in the NYSF's On The Town in Central Park. While she's waiting for the Town to make its twice-delayed transfer to Broadway this fall, she also plays Marryin' Sam in the "Encores!" revival of Li'l Abner Mar. 26-29.
Roxie Company Schedule: Toronto - Princess of Wales - Feb 17-Apr. 25
Providence - Providence Performing Arts Center - Apr. 28-May 3
Cleveland - Palace - May 5-17
Denver - Buell - May 26-June 14
Seattle - Paramount - June 16-July 5
As for the Chicago second national tour, Brent Barrett (Billy), Nancy Hess (Roxie) and Stephanie Pope (Velma) are in the the "Velma Company." Barrett was the first cast replacement for David Carroll in Broadway's Grand Hotel.
Velma Company Schedule:
Minneapolis - TBA - Mar. 10-29
New Orleans - Saenger - Mar. 31-Apr. 5
Dallas - TBA - Apr. 7-12
Tempe - Gammage - Apr. 14-19
Sacramento - TBA - Apr. 21-26
Los Angeles - Ahmanson - Apr. 28-July 5
Costa Mesa - Orange County Performing Arts Center - July 7-12
As for the Broadway mounting at the Shubert Theatre, Joel Grey left his featured role as Amos Jan. 11, replaced Jan. 13 by Sabella., who played Marcus Lycus in the recent A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum revival and lent his voice to the animated "Lion King."
Hinton Battle, who won a Tony for The Tap Dance Kid and appeared in Sophisticated Ladies and Dreamgirls, took over for James Naughton. Battle, who won a featured actor Tony for Miss Saigon, joined the NY cast Dec. 23.
The smash $3 million Broadway 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.
Neuwith 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.
The London Chicago cast (as of Mar. 20) still features Ruthie Henshall (London's Crazy For You) as Roxie, European cabaret favorite Ute Lemper as Velma Kelly, and Nigel Planer (TV's "The Young Ones") as Amos. Henry Goodman (who has been quite busy of late -- earlier this year he was Nathan Detroit in the National's Guys & Dolls, and in October he left the cast of the acclaimed West End production of Art), is Billy Flynn. That production recently 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, opening July 4. Not yet cast, the staging will be co-produced by the Weisslers and Australian producers.
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.
Things are moving just a little faster in the push to bring John Kander & Fred Ebb's musical, Chicago, to the big screen. Sources at Miramax films confirm the long-speculated casting of Goldie Hawn and Madonna, with "further announcements forthcoming."
Feb. 6, columnist Liz Smith broke the news that Carousel's Nicholas Hytner will direct the film. Informed sources also told Playbill On-Line (Feb. 11) that Larry Gelbart (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Mastergate) is working on the screenplay.
Previously, columnist Smith reported (Jan. 23) that Rosie O'Donnell, once rumored for the role of "Mama," wants to stay home with her children and has declined the part. Weeks earlier, producer Sam Crothers told the Daily News, "We're holding off on making a decision about Rosie until we have a start date." That won't happen until the script is finished and a director is chosen. (Crothers works with partner Marty Richards as part of Producers Circle. Richards co-produced Chicago's 1975 Broadway premiere.)