As reported by syndicated columnist Liz Smith (Nov. 5), when James Naughton leaves his role as Billy Flynn in Broadway's Chicago in December, stepping in with his own razzle dazzle will be Hinton Battle, who won a Tony for The Tap Dance Kid and appeared in Sophisticated Ladies and Dreamgirls. He also won a featured actor Tony for Miss Saigon and will join the NY cast Dec. 23.
In other big Chicago news, according to production spokesperson Pete Sanders (Nov. 6), the "Velma Company" second national tour has just announced its lead cast-members: Karen Ziemba (Steel Pier) as Roxie and Stephanie Pope (Gymnasia in the Broadway Forum revival) as Velma. Film actress Sandahl Bergman is in the ensemble and serves as the show's dance captain. Appropriately, she appeared in the Bob Fosse film, All That Jazz. Other cast-member announcements are expected shortly.
The 1st national tour (the "Roxie" Company) of Chicago kicked off at Cincinnati's Aronoff Center Mar. 25 and stars Charlotte D'Amboise, Jasmine Guy and Obba Babatunde. .
Here are tour schedules for the "Roxie" and "Velma" companies. Dates are tentative and subject to change.
Roxie Company Miami - Jackie Gleason - Nov. 4-9
Ft. Lauderdale - Broward Center - Nov. 11-23
Louisville - Kentucky Center - Nov. 25-30
Boston - Dec. 3-Feb. 15, 1998
Toronto - Princess of Wales - Feb 17-Apr. 25, 1998
Providence - Providence Performing Arts Center - Apr. 28-May 3, 1998
Cleveland - Palace - May 5-17, 1998
Denver - Buell - May 26-June 14, 1998
Seattle - Paramount - June 16-July 5, 1998
Ft. Myers - Barbara B. Mann - Dec. 12-14
Tampa - Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center - Dec. 16-28
Richmond - Carpenter Center - Dec. 31-Jan. 4, 1998
Pittsburgh - TBA - Jan. 6-18
Grand Rapids - Devos Hall - Jan 20-25
Nashville - Tennessee Performing Arts Center - Jan. 27-Feb. 1
Baltimore - Mechanic - Feb. 3-15
New Haven - Shubert - Feb. 17-Mar. 1
St. Louis - Fox - Mar. 3-8
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
Touring spokesperson Anita Dloniak told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 5) one reason casting has taken so long for the Velma tour may be that the producers, Fran & Barry Weissler, were in London for the premiere of Chicago there -- their first overseas venture.
The London cast features Ruthie Henshall (London's Crazy For You) as Roxie, European cabaret sensation 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.
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 slated for Nov. 18. Walter Bobbie, who won a Tony Award for his direction of the Broadway revival, also directed the London production.
Chicago continues to do sold-out business at the Shubert on Broadway, where Naughton stars with Marilu Henner, Bebe Neuwirth and Marcia Lewis. The smash $3 million Broadway revival of the Kander and Ebb musical has been a hot ticket since opening Nov. 14, 1996. This production of Chicago, directed by Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Anne Reinking ("in the style of Bob Fosse"), originated as a four- performance concert staging in May at City Center's Encores! Series devoted to classic 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 earlier 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.
According to the Daily News (Nov. 6), progress has been slow bringing Chicago to the big screen. Goldie Hawn and Madonna are expected in the cast, though Rosie O'Donnell, mentioned for the role of "Mama," may not come aboard. 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.)
A spokesperson for the Miramax film told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 6) that Hawn and Madonna are connected to the project, though still not officially signed. "It's in development, and we're moving steadily towards production."
For tickets for the London production of Chicago at the Adelphi Theatre, call 011-44-1-71-344-0055. For tickets to the Broadway Chicago call (212) 239-6200.