Friday, July 14, 2006
Chicago to Usher in New Billy Flynn
As Broadway's Chicago nears its 10th anniversary -- the revival opened November 19, 1996 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre but has since moved twice, now occupying the Ambassador Theatre -- the tuner is among the most proficient shows for stunt casting.
With such luminaries as Melanie Griffith, Huey Lewis and George Hamilton doing tours of duty in the long-running musical, it's no surprise that the streak will continue with the announcement that R&B heartthrob Usher will assume the role of Billy Flynn beginning August 22 through October 1.
Now I don't mind an inspired choice of replacement actors every now and then -- take Reba McEntire in the titular role of Annie Get Your Gun -- but with visions of seasoned veterans Jerry Orbach or James Naughton or even Richard Gere having provided gravitas to Shyster Number One, it's hard to imagine a young 28 year old crooner having the chops to effectively handle such a manipulative role. (By the way, Erica from the Mid Hudson Valley Theater Blog has a fascinating, in-depth look at how the entire Chicago story evolved through the years, including the real story of the merry murderesses.)
Maybe I'll be proven wrong in this instance, but stunt casting usually just detracts from the shows by turning them into a pop star vehicle. I loved Chicago the first time I saw it, but I'd much rather see this classic close in a dignified manner rather than keeping it on an ill-suited life support system. All the producers seem to care about is profit.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
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