Life After Bebe: UK's Ute Lemper To Be Bway Chicago's New Velma, Sept. 8

News   Life After Bebe: UK's Ute Lemper To Be Bway Chicago's New Velma, Sept. 8 Ute Lemper, who won a London Olivier Award for her portrayal of Velma Kelly in Chicago, becomes the new Broadway Velma Sept. 8. She replaces Tony winner Bebe Neuwirth in the John Kander & Fred Ebb musical.

Ute Lemper, who won a London Olivier Award for her portrayal of Velma Kelly in Chicago, becomes the new Broadway Velma Sept. 8. She replaces Tony winner Bebe Neuwirth in the John Kander & Fred Ebb musical.

Lemper made her stage debut in the original Vienna production of Cats. Only a week ago (Sept. 1), the German chantuese released her latest solo CD, All That Jazz: The Best of Ute Lemper, on London/Decca Records.

A collection of Kurt Weill compositions, cabaret numbers, Marlene Dietrich torch songs, Edith Piaf standards, film songs, the CD also includes two musical theatre numbers -- "All That Jazz" from Chicago and "Don't Tell Mama" from Cabaret.

As for other cast-members of the Broadway production, Tom McGowan, best known for La Bete and The Food Chain, now plays Amos, the role begun in this production by Joel Grey. (The latter isn't finished with Amos yet. He recently came back to NY for a brief reprise of the role, and he's currently playing Amos with the London company.)

Karen Ziemba (Steel Pier) is playing Roxie Hart until Lemper's London cast-mate, Ruthie Henshall, arrives in January. Alan Thicke, who recently played Billy Flynn in the first national tour, will be in the Broadway company starting Sept. 29. Until then, ensemble member Michael Berrese has taken the role.

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

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

For tickets and information on Chicago at the Shubert Theatre call (212) 239-6200.

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As for Chicago's first national tour (the "Roxie Company"), the company includes Stephanie Pope (as Velma), Belle Callaway (as Roxie), Michael Tucci (as Amos), and Alan Thicke (as Billy, thru late September). Upcoming dates include:
Sept. 8-13: Indianapolis, IN: Murat Theatre
Sept. 15-20: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: NAC Opera House
Sept. 22-Oct. 11: Detroit, MI: Opera House
Oct. 13-18: Memphis, TN: Orpheum Theatre
Oct. 20-25: Greensboro, NC: Memorial Auditorium
Oct. 27-Dec. 6: Philadelphia, PA: Merriam Theatre
Dec. 8-13: Hershey, PA: Hershey Theatre
Dec. 15-20: Rochester, NY: Auditorium Center
Dec. 22-27: Cincinnati, OH: Aronoff Center
Dec. 29-Jan. 3, 1999: Norfolk, VA, Chrysler Hall
Jan. 5-10, 1999: West Palm Beach, FL: Kravis Center
Jan. 12-17, 1999: Raleigh, NC: Memorial Auditorium
Jan. 19-24, 1999: Greenville, SC: Peace Center
Jan. 26-Feb. 7, 1999: Wilmington, DE: Playhouse Theatre
Feb. 9-14, 1999: Charlotte, NC: Ovens Auditorium
Feb. 16-21, 1999: Knoxville, TN: Civic Auditorium
Feb. 22-Mar. 14, 1999: Japan.

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As for the Chicago second national tour, the company features Brent Barrett (Billy), Charlotte D'Amboise (Roxie), Ron Orbach (Amos) and Avery Sommers (Mama). Khandi Alexander (TV's "News Radio" and "E.R.") recently replaced Jasmine Guy as Velma. 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:
Sept. 8-13: Salt Lake City, UT
Sept 16-27: Vancouver, Canada
Sept. 28-Nov. 8: San Francisco, CA's Golden Gate Theatre.
Nov. 10-15: San Antonio, TX
Nov. 17-22: Kansas City, MO
Nov. 24-Mar. 14: Chicago, IL

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According to the Peter Thompson press office, the London Chicago cast features Henshall as Roxie and Nicola Hughes as Velma. Meg Johnson plays Mama; Clarke Peters plays Billy Flynn. In mid-August, Joel Grey replaced Nigel Planer (TV's "The Young Ones") as Amos.

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, 1997 at the Adelphi Theatre on London's West End, with an official opening Nov. 18, 1997. Walter Bobbie, who won a Tony Award for his direction of the Broadway revival, also directed the London production.

The most recent international Chicago is 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 is 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." As of Sept. 8, Miramax still had no further information on the film's cast or schedule.

Marty Richards, who co-produced Chicago's 1975 Broadway premiere, is producing the film, which intends to start rolling in January 1999, according to a source at Miramax spokesperson Andrew Stengel's office (reached July 20).

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.

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