The Broadway Cast of Chicago

QuaranTune #27: "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago

A show tune a day keeps the quarantine blues at bay...

Tom Millward
Tom Millward

For many of us, self-isolation can feel somewhat like being behind bars at times. Today's #QuaranTune is perhaps one of musical theater's most iconic numbers performed behind bars. Of course, we're talking about "Cell Block Tango" from Broadway's longest-running American musical Chicago!

Written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the Act I show-stopping number sees Velma Kelly and five other female inmates of the Cook County Jail in Chicago (Liz, Annie, June, Hunyak and Mona) revealing the crimes they are each accused of committing. In terms of exposition, we learn Velma had caught her husband and her sister (who was additionally the other half of her double act)... well... doing the 'spread eagle,' as it were. She passed out due to the shock and eventually regained consciousness with blood on her hands, but denies killing them. That's her story and she's sticking to it.

Chicago originally premiered on Broadway in 1975 and played over 900 performances at the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers Theatre). The musical's reenvisioned 1996 revival, however, cemented its legacy in Broadway history, won six Tony Awards in 1997 (including 'Best Revival of a Musical') as well as the 1998 Grammy Award for 'Best Musical Show Album,' and is still calling the Ambassador Theatre on the Great White Way its home.

Here is Catherine Zeta-Jones and the cast of the Oscar-winning, 2002 film adaptation...



And if you're in need of a good laugh today, here's an all-male Broadway Backwards rendition in support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS from 2015...


They had it coming. They had it coming. They had it coming all along. I didn't do it. But if I'd done it, how could you tell me that I was wrong?
(Velma Kelly, Chicago)

Chicago Tickets are available now.

(Photo by Jeremy Daniel)


Originally published on

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