Brandy Norwood and Lana Gordon Make Broadway History as Chicago the Musical's First Black Co-Leads
The long-running Tony-winning revival of Chicago the Musical recently made history
The Tony-winning revival of Chicago the Musical has been entertaining audiences on Broadway for nearly 21 years and it’s still making history.
On Aug. 17, the curtain rose on the Kander & Ebb musical showing audiences at the Ambassador Theatre something they haven’t seen before: two black actresses playing the leading roles of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly.
R&B singer Brandy Norwood returned to the show as Roxie, the 1920s cheating housewife who is catapulted to fame as the prime suspect in the murder of her lover. By her side as Roxie’s rival Merry Murderous Velma was Lana Gordon — a Broadway veteran of musicals like The Lion King and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Both actresses have appeared in the show before — Brandy starred in a four-month engagement in 2015 and then on a few stops for the show’s national tour, and Gordon performed for a few weeks last summer and fall before joining the production this January. But like other black actresses cast in the show in the past, it was always alongside a white actress as their counterpart.
The moment seemed to affect Brandy, who broke into tears during her curtain call as she stood beside Gordon.
“#Herstory #History,” she wrote later on Instagram, calling Gordon her “new mentor” and “such a light.”
Gordon agreed, calling it a “#nighttoremember.”
Fans have also been taking to social media to praise the show.
“Seeing you and @lanajeangordon on stage together was breathtaking!” one user commented on Brandy’s Instagram page. “Loved witnessing #blackgirlmagic herstory! Thank you!”
“You are both fantastic! History is being made and I am so happy I was in the room when it happened!” said another. “Congratulations.”
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Brandy has had a tough few months leading up to her run in Chicago.
In June, the 38-year-old singer and actress was hospitalized in Los Angeles after losing consciousness and being removed from a LAX Delta flight to New York City. The collapse was said to be from exhaustion, with Brandy’s rep telling Entertainment Tonight, “She has been traveling extensively as part of an ongoing tour and several personal appearances. In recent days, she has taken more than 10 long-haul flights including internationally… The stress of all of the traveling and working so incessantly has exhausted her.”
Brandy’s run in Chicago concludes Aug. 31.