note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
Anticipation and excitement buzzed through Boston’s Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre last week, as theatergoers craned their necks, waiting for former supermodel-perennially-gorgeous Christie Brinkley’s entrance onstage in the national touring company production of “Chicago”. John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse’s revived award-winning show made its Boston premiere Nov. 1-4, and headed to Los Angeles and San Diego from here.
Brinkley, whose renown reaches beyond fashion magazine covers, to acting on stage, TV and movies, but also as a writer, artist, photographer, philanthropist, entrepreneur, environmentalist, activist, and more, successfully made her debut on Broadway in “Chicago” in 2010, then crossed the pond, to London. She’s reprising her role as murderer-headline seeker Roxie Hart, appearing with megastar, John O’Hurley.
After a slick, sleek overture, with Music Director Eric Barnes leading the great-sounding orchestra, seated on a multilevel structure onstage, and the ensemble’s sexy opening number, Brinkley emerges as twentysomething Roxie, steamily enacting a love affair gone bad. When she shoots her lover Fred dead and tries to get her nebbish husband, Amos, (Ron Orbach) to take the fall for her, “Chicago” shifts into frenetic high gear.
Brinkley’s portrayal is a stretch. But she slithers, strides, gyrates, climbs a ladder, kicks and shimmies, surrounded by a phalanx of scantily-clad, stunning female dancers, and muscular, bare-chested male dancers.
It’s when Brinkley acts or sings that theatergoers turn tepid, delivering polite applause.
It’s tough to camouflage shortcomings in this Broadway favorite, because it’s set up vaudevillian style. Each character introduces him/herself through their signature number. There’s no set, per se, no scenes, but one act after another, spritzled with the loosely-threaded satiric plot about torrid, tempestuous, headline-grabbing women of the decadent 1920s who commit murder and make a killing on their notorious infamy. By hiring flashy, money-grabbing lawyer Billy Flynn, (the sensational O’Hurley), the ladies are set free and potentially land show business contracts. However, headlines and fame are fast-fleeting, so Flynn and the gals must concoct new twists to their cases to remain in the public eye.
Luckily, besides O’Hurley, Brinkley shares the stage with spectacular co-stars and a talented ensemble. Leggy Amra-Faye Wright as Roxy’s headline-grabbing, fame-seeking murderess competitor Velma Kelly is a show-stopper in every number, and bolsters Brinkley in duets, especially “My Own Best Friend,” “Nowadays” and “Hot Honey Rag”.
D. Macciche warbles in drag, his soprano soaring, as reporter Mary Sunshine. Orbach achieves his shining moment as Amos in his solo, “Mr. Cellophane,” and Kecia Lewis-Evans as Cook County jail matron Mama Morton, who’s on the take, belts out her biggie, “When You’re Good to Mama”.
Multi-talented, handsome O’Hurley dazzles, dominating the stage with his introductory, splashy number surrounded by showgirls, “All I Care About,” and his circusy trial triumph, giving ‘em the ol‘ “Razzle Dazzle”. He delightfully maneuvers Brinkley like a full-size marionette in “We Both Reached for the Gun”.
William Ivey Long’s skimpy black lingerie costumes and Gary Chryst’s choreography harken back to Fosse’s fantastic original production that has kept “Chicago” among the longest-running musicals on Broadway, nationally, and internationally.