Wednesday, July 5, 2017
On April 3, 1924 Beulah May Annan shot her lover. On May 24 a jury declared her “not guilty.” The Chicago Tribune sent a rookie reporter, Maureen Dallas Watkins, to cover the trial. The jury was told that Annan and her lover had “both grabbed for the gun” after he’d threatened to kill her. Watkins reminded her readers of the many contradictions in Annan’s story.
Watkins left the Tribune soon after and recounted the trial in her first play. Chicago premiered on Broadway in December of 1926. Beulah May Annan was reborn as Roxie Hart. Watkins declined all requests for the musical rights till her death in 1969. Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon then secured the rights from her estate.
Roxie’s trial is seen through the lens of a vaudeville stage. The libretto makes nods to the likes of Sophie Tucker, Marilyn Miller and Texas Guinan. The Cook County jail is no Palace Theater but Roxie quickly learns that in America anything can become entertainment for the masses.
1976 Tony Awards - Jerry Orbach performs "All I Care About is Love"
1970's Mike Douglas Show - Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera perform "Nowadays" and the "Hot Honey Rag"
1997 Tony Awards - Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking perform "All That Jazz" and the "Hot Honey Rag"
1998 Kennedy Center Honors - Chita Rivera and Bebe Neuwirth perform "All That Jazz"