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Back On Broadway: Paulo Szot Talks CHICAGO's Return to the Stage, Details About Opening Night, His Co-Stars & More!


Paulo Szot shares details about what it has felt like returning to the role of Billy Flynn, how it feels to rejoin Chicago for it's 25th anniversary, and more!

BroadwayWorld's new interview series Back on Broadway is taking readers on the exciting journey of Broadway's return to the stage! Featuring interviews with cast and creative team members of Broadway's returning shows, Back on Broadway will highlight how members of Broadway shows are preparing for live performances, what they've learned from the last year and half, what is most exciting to them about Broadway's long-awaited return, and much more!

Next up in the series is Paulo Szot, returning to the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago!


Chicago returned to the Broadway stage a few days ago, tell me what was that experience like for you? What was going through your mind, how was the energy in the room?

It was almost a surreal experience, because we'd dreamed about that moment during the last 18 months, and we were preparing for it the last three weeks with rehearsals. But, it was only when we heard the first applause from the audience that we realized, "Oh my god, this is really happening, and we are back!" So many emotions, but we had to keep our feet on the ground because we had to perform. But that was beautiful to experience how they audience lost it, they were absolutely crazy when they realized this was going to happen for them. It was almost wild, we wanted to scream too! So, it was magical in that way, to be there. And when I woke up the next day I had this feeling, "Did this really happen?" And it did. We'd been through so much, the whole world, and we couldn't go to our home, which is the theatre, for so long, and I think many of us are still pinching ourselves, to check if this is really true. It was a magic experience.

You previously starred as Billy Flynn in Chicago before the pandemic, what felt different for you stepping on stage in the role this time around?

I did four weeks in January 2020, and I was supposed to come back from March to May, but we all know what happened. They called me to continue my work with Billy Flynn and I was so pleased, and especially because I got the chance this time, something that I didn't have the chance to experience the other time, to work with Walter Bobbie. And that work made a big, big difference to me, to see him adapting and creating things for the artist that I am, and not just copying someone else, it was really rewarding to get to ask him questions and have the answers from the original director of this production. So, that was the biggest difference from the last time.

And you returned to this role with new leading ladies at your side, Ana Villafañe, Bianca Marroquín, Lillias White, how has it been working with them?

Fantastic! Those ladies are absolutely first-class actresses. We had fun from day one, I admire them so much, and they are absolutely fantastic with what they do. I think we are learning from each other, we are adapting to each other, but most importantly, we respect each other, and we have fun together.

It's a special year for Chicago, how does it feel to not only be returning to the stage after all this time, but to be returning to the show as it's celebrating its 25th anniversary?

I couldn't be more honored to be in this fantastic the production, the longest running American musical in history, especially for this year, the 25th anniversary. So honored, thrilled, you name it. I am thankful for all the Billys who came before me that helped to little by little transform and add things to the role. I am very glad to represent, in this restart, in this anniversary, all the Billys that Chicago has had throughout the years, who were incredible actors that I respect so much.

We've all waited so long to be able to see a Broadway show again, is there anything that you would love to say to audience members who have been anticipating Chicago's return to the stage?

I think they will find a fresh show, which is something very difficult to keep in a long-running show, but this production, everybody is so eager to give everything they have. We are giving everything we have to the audience. So, text and the music is always fantastic, it's one of the greatest of all time, but the audience will find a company that's very alive, is thrilling, is happy to be back to work.

The last year and a half has been such an experience for everybody, what would you say you've learned that you'll take with you going forward?

I think there's a sense of community, that was already strong for me, but the pandemic emphasized the importance of us to think as one, and not just 'the' one. We've gone through so much, we've lost so many friends, we've lost family, we've lost people who work with us, and it was not a happy time, and it's still going on. But with vaccines and tests we are able to return. I believe that what I will take from all these months is really to look outside of myself and to other people, and even if we had to make some sacrifices, it's worth it, because we are all in this together.

The cast of Chicago includes Ana Villafañe as Roxie Hart, Bianca Marroquin as Velma Kelly, Tony Award-winner Lillias White as Matron "Mama" Morton, with Raymond Bokhour as Amos Hart and Ryan Lowe as Mary Sunshine.

The cast also includes David Bushman, Jennifer Dunne, Jessica Ernest, Jeff Gorti, Arian Keddell, Mary Claire King, Barrett Martin, Sharon Moore, Drew Nellessen, Celina Nightengale, Brian O'Brien, Denny Paschall, Angel Reda, Jermaine R. Rembert, Michael Scirrotto, Christine Cornish Smith and Brian Spitulnik.

Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago's slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today's tabloids.

Photo Credit: Bruce Glikas

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