If only Christie Brinkley were as talented as she is beautiful
By Carol Davis
SAN DIEGO — Before I went off to see the latest incarnation of the Kander and Ebb musical Chicago now playing for a limited run at the Civic Theatre downtown, I reached for my trusty CD of the movie soundtrack. Big mistake. In my mind’s eye I saw every scene and smiled a mischievous smile remembering how much I loved this show.
It also brought back memories of the past Chicago performances seen here at the same venue some years back. All thoughts centered on the high-energy, high-quality singing and dancing and of course the nasty goings on, on murder row and in the criminal justice system, Chicago style, at the turn of the century.
Chicago with book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb (Scottsboro Boys) won six Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival in 1997 and for a good reason; it’s a terrific theatrical experience not limited to but including catchy tunes, jazzy music, snappy choreography and great story! The beginning number “All That Jazz” doesn’t leave the memory bank for days after seeing a performance.
The fourth-longest-running production in Broadway history, Chicago has all the usual suspects lined up to tell us their sad stories of murder, mayhem and madness. The leader and matron of their particular cell block is lovingly called ‘Mama’ (Carol Woods) who lets everyone know from the get go “When You’re Good To Mama” …Mama’s Good to You!”
Trouble is, the new gal in the ‘block’, Roxie Hart (Christie Brinkley…Yes that Christie Brinkley) has to learn the hard way how to get around Mama. With friends like her devoted husband Amos (Ron Orbach) who outs her for murdering the ‘intruder’ that she claimed broke into her apartment after he agreed to plead guilty to save her life, to shyster lawyer Billy Flynn (John O’Hurley) who needed five thousand dollars to represent her, she had a problem.
Add to that her nearest rival Velma Kelly (Amra-Faye Wright) had Billy Flynn in the bag (or so she thought) and all wrapped up in her case so that Roxie’s case was put on the back burner. With Mama expecting a payoff for little favors, our little Roxie had a long climb up to see the light of day short of execution.
Well, this is just the frosting on the cake. The musical stands on its own two feet for the reasons spelled out above. It is just damn good theatre and everyone will have at least one song that they can hum heading out the door. All things being equal a good book, catchy lyrics and songs, feisty dancing and a little cynicism that goes a long way and that lingers in our grey matter, makes good theatre.
But it also takes lots of talent to make a fast-paced, high-energy razzmatazz musical fly! Example: Amra-Faye Wright’s Velma is a knockout. She can sing, dance and act. Her opening number of “All That Jazz” leaves the audience spellbound. No one, at least around me, moved a muscle until she and her troupe of very talented male dancers were done with their number. Her “I Can Do It Alone” is no weeping willow either.
John O’Hurley’ Billy (of Dancing With the Stars and Seinfeld) is smooth, slick and handsome enough to pull off the needed shyster lawyer numbers “Tap Dance” and “We Both Reached for the Gun” with panache. Ron Orbach’s Amos Heart puts on a perfect “Mr. Cellophane” number that breaks your heart ‘cause he just wants someone to notice him. The women of the “Cell Block Tango” gang perform with ease, as do the male dancers. Several of them take on multiple roles as well.
And what of Ms. Brinkley? Not very much, I am sad to report. Christine Brinkley, coveted, super model with over 500 magazine covers to her resume is one beautiful woman. She launched an all-natural beauty care line, starred in National Lampoon’s Vacation films and has been mega generous to charities throughout the globe. Unfortunately, a Broadway hoofer and singer this does not make, and therein lays the problem with this current rendering of the Kander and Ebb musical.
One thing one wants to feel in any type of a show is credibility. Not so here. With all her other attributes, Ms. Brinkley could not fake the voice and barely managed the dance. Unfortunately her performance, tentative as it was, left yours truly holding her breath hoping the ‘star’ would make it through the evening without embarrassing herself. Fortunately, with the strong abilities of Amra-Faye Wright and a strong ensemble, Brinkley’s you know what was covered most of the evening.
I report this with a heavy heart because I really think a disservice was done. I understand star billing to attract an audience and if folks came out just to glimpse at her, so be it. Brinkley appeared to be having a good time and I hope she did, but next time around, let’s give Chicago the razzle-dazzle, sure footed Roxie Hart it deserves.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through May 13th
Organization: Broadway/San Diego
Phone: 619-570-1100 or 1-800-982-2787
Production Type: Musical
Where: 3rd and ‘B’ Street Downtown
Ticket Prices: contact ticketmaster.com
Venue: Civic Theatre
Davis is a San Diego-based theatre critic. She may be contacted at email@example.com
Short URL: http://www.sdjewishworld.com/?p=27966