It is the mid-1920s, in Chicago Illinois. Velma Kelly, who, with her sister, performed a famous and popular double-act (until Velma is arrested for the murder of her sister and husband, who she found in bed together) welcomes the audience to the show (“All That Jazz”). Meanwhile, vaudeville wannabe Roxie Hart has sex with her lover, Fred Casely, who has not kept his word about introducing Roxie to a nightclub producer. In fury, Roxie shoots Fred dead.
When Roxie’s husband, Amos, returns home, she convinces him that Fred was an intruder whom she killed in self-defense, and begs Amos to take the blame. When Sergeant Fogarty arrives and begins the interrogation, Amos gamely does so (“Funny Honey”) until Fogarty shows him that Fred was no burglar at all -- in fact, Roxie was two-timing him. Upon Amos’ reversal, Fogarty arrests Roxie and takes her to the Cook County Jail.
At the jail, Roxie is introduced to the six “merry murderesses” of the Cook County Jail -- June, Annie, Liz, Mona, and the Hunyak, led by the famous Velma Kelly (“Cell Block Tango”). Roxie also meets the matron of the ward, Matron “Mama” Morton. Mama runs her cellblock under the principle of reciprocity -- “when you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you” (“When You’re Good to Mama”). Mama has served as Velma’s booking agent while she’s been behind bars, helping keep media attention focused squarely on Velma so she can return to vaudeville after her assumed acquittal. Despite Roxie’s admiration of Velma, Velma is not pleased to see another hot young thing in prison. Mama wants to help Roxie, so she tells her to hire Billy Flynn, the an undefeated defense lawyer for female murderers, who also happens to be Velma’s lawyer.
Billy’s fee is $5,000 flat, so Roxie begs Amos to front the money, professing her love for and attraction to him. Amos acquiesces, and visits Billy at his tailor with as much money as he could find -- one thousand dollars. Billy tells Amos it’s not enough, but decides to throw the