In Chicago on Broadway, How Many Actors, Singers, Dancers and Reality-Stars Does It Take To Keep A Smash Broadway Revival Running For More Than 25 Years?

Chicago on Broadway: By The Numbers

The revival of Chicago on Broadway opened in October 1996 and to this date (April 2024), the show has had over 500 actors play the 24 different roles on stage.

Every year, the show has a turnover of about 20 cast members, which is significantly more than any other show on Broadway. In 2023, the show had an even bigger cast turnover than Six on Broadway did - and they fired their entire cast in December 2023.

At Chicago it's a revolving door for talent on the Great White Way. At this rate, we can expect the total number of actors to be at least 600 by the year 2030, assuming the show makes it that long. That whopping number of company members includes principals, ensemble, swings and understudies.

Chicago on Broadway - Times Square Board

Chicago, The Longest Revival in Broadway History

The Broadway revival of Chicago, the satirical story of a band of merry murderesses, holds many distinctions. It’s currently the longest running musical on Broadway, has clocked over 10,000 performances placing it as the second longest running Broadway musical of all time and holds the record for longest running Broadway revival, a record no other show is ever likely to break.

Such success, of a revival no less, is a rarity. Some might credit its jazzy, infectious Kander and Ebb score, sardonic wit or iconic Bob Fosse choreography. But others might ascribe its staying power to its innovative approach to casting over the years.

Chicago on Broadway Theatre Marquee

Casting Over the Years: Give ‘Em the Old Razzle Dazzle

For more than 25 years, Velma, Roxie and crew have been wowing audiences with their sleek moves and fierce attitude. During that time over 500 actors have been involved with the show that has played across three different Broadway houses (the Richard Rodgers, the Shubert, and the Ambassador, where it’s currently playing). It's a huge number of actors, much like the hit TV show Law and Order, where hundreds of NYC actors have appeared over the years.

When it comes to casting, Chicago uses traditional methods to cast the talent, but also uses stunt-casting to drive audiences in by putting celebrities in the lead roles - this practice often translates into casting many well-known celebrities who cannot act, dance or sing that well.

Chicago on Broadway: Girls Outside Theatre

Stunt Casting in Chicago on Broadway

Producers of the hit revival have unapologetically used stunt casting for years, keeping the show fresh by keeping audiences guessing as to who may paint the town for a spell.

Other previous Broadway mainstays like Phantom of the Opera or Rent, and current blockbusters like Wicked, The Book of Mormon and The Lion King have generally relied on theatre stalwarts to staff the ship, thereby keeping the integrity of the show intact. And that makes sense for those musicals. But Chicago’s inherent cheekiness, especially its take on the press and entertainment industry, lends itself well to the media circus surrounding some of its notable, notorious replacements.

Let’s take a look at who has donned their tap shoes to be a part of Broadway history and all that jazz.

Billy Flynn: All He Cares About Is Love (And a Steady Paycheck)

While you may think the role of Roxie has turned over the most, that honor would go to a lawyer who cares about love, Billy Flynn. There have been over 40 notable Billy Flynns including big name movie/TV stars over the years.

Rogues gallery included Taye Diggs, Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Gossett Jr., Michael C. Hall, Billy Zane and Patrick Swayze. Some has-beens like George Hamilton, Alan Thicke, Robert Urich, Maxwell Caulfield, John Schneider, Harry Hamlin, Tom Wopat and Joey Lawrence have appeared in the role.

Broadway royalty like James Naughton, Norm Lewis, Adam Pascal and Ben Vereen, music luminaries like Billy Ray Cyrus, Huey Lewis, Usher Raymond and Brian McKnight have all put their stamp on Billy Flynn. There have also been total wildcards like depraved talk show host Jerry Springer and Olympic figure skater Elvis Stojko.

Roxie Hart: The Names On Everybody’s Lips

Roxie Hart has also had her fair share of over 35 notable inhabitants including dance icons like Ann Reinking, Charlotte d’Amboise, Karen Ziemba and Chita Rivera to notable singers Brandy Norwood, Jennifer Nettles, Mel B of the Spice Girls and Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, to models Pamela Anderson, Brooke Shields and Uptown Girl herself Christie Brinkley, to famous-by-association Rumor Willis and Rita Wilson.

The role has also had reality stars like Erika Jayne and Lisa Rinna, to Hollywood B-listers Marilu Henner, Melanie Griffith, Gretchen Mol, Melora Hardin and Sandy Duncan to C-lister Robin Givens. Musical keys were transposed and choreography was altered, no doubt.

Matron Mama Morton: These Mamas Were Good To You

Filling the matronly shoes of Mama Morton were Jennifer Holliday, Marcia Lewis, Valerie Simpson, Wendy Williams, Nene Leakes, Sofia Vergara and Chandra Wilson— a gang of misfits indeed.

Mr. Cellophane: You’ll Always Know He’s There

Amos Hart (aka Mr. Cellophane) has been played by the likes of Hollywood legend Joel Grey and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.

Velma Kelly: She Can’t Do It Alone

Velma Kelly, originated in the revival by Bebe Neuwirth in a turn that shocked Cheers fans who knew her previously as the buttoned up Lillith Sterin-Crane, has also been interpreted by the likes of TV personalities Jasmine Guy, Sharon Lawrence, Ute Lemper and Vicki Lewis.

Chicago Marquee

Nowadays: Oh It’s Heaven!

Chicago’s current cast includes Broadway folks almost exclusively with the exception of Vanderpump Rules’ own Ariana Madix, who is taking on the role of Roxie. The producers remain savvy about such replacements, usually highlighting one celeb at a time. That way, each stint can be promoted as more of an event.

It takes all kinds, as they say, and it has certainly taken all kinds to keep Chicago on its toe-tappin’ toes.