Theater Review: CHICAGO (National Tour)

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by Tony Frankel on May 19, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


Had the inexhaustible 57-year-old Christie Brinkley performed “Roxie” on America’s Got Talent, I would have demanded that she make it to the next round. The leggy supermodel is in such great shape that it would inspire America to get its collective butt out of its seat and into a gym. But that’s not necessary. The bus-and-truck version of Chicago, which came limping into the Hollywood Pantages this week, should inspire patrons to bolt from their seat and into a gym, for that would be far easier than the grueling workout it took to get through this embarrassingly bad revival.

Tony Frankel’s Los Angeles Review of Chicago at the Pantages

Sure, even as a weak vocalist and forgettable performer, Brinkley can sort of handle the role of Roxie Hart, one of two Prohibition-era murderesses at the heart of this 1975 Kander & Ebb & Fosse musical-comedy burlesque, but in the 2300+ seat Pantages Theatre, she doesn’t have enough stage presence to power her performance past the first row. Fine. Producers need her star power to sell tickets. Hence, you would think that every other soul on that stage would have the star quality necessary to fuel the musical. Not even close. Out of 22 performers, 2 and ½ actors knocked it out of the park.

The clear winner of the night was Ron Orbach as Roxie Hart’s hapless husband, Amos. He began performing the role in the first National Tour of this 1996 revival (Chicago is the longest running revival on Broadway and currently its fourth longest-running show), but Orbach has always been an actor who is incapable of phoning in a performance, and his “Mr. Cellophane” received the biggest applause of the night.

The suave, wry, and debonair John O’Hurley can do none other than command the stage, and it was refreshing to see O’Hurley play John O’Hurley, I mean, shyster lawyer Billy Flynn. “We Both Reached for the Gun” was a coups de théâtre.

The “½” performer I refer to is R. Lowe as reporter Mary Sunshine; the soprano was worthy of appearing in a lead at the Met, but mumbled lines as if she were Eliza Doolittle with a mouthful of marbles (admittedly, the atrocious acoustics at the Pantages didn’t help, but I could hear the other actors’ lines).

And what the hell was Carol Woods doing up there as Keeper of the Clink, Matron “Mama” Morton? I don’t mean why was this seasoned, big/black/sassy-type there, I mean, what was she doing? She seemed winded, her makeup looked like it was designed by a mortician, and her characterization was kind of like a cross between Moms Mabley, Mabel King and Buckwheat from The Little Rascals. But not funny.

Tony Frankel’s Los Angeles Review of Chicago at the Pantages

With horrifying sound, acting as an afterthought and dull dancing, this is the kind of stale touring company that belongs in Fumbuck, Alaska, not Hollywood. Patrons here may be curious to see Chicago because of Brinkley, but once they’re in their seats, they don’t look in their programs to see that most of the cast has done the show in a different incarnation. They want freshness and magic. And it’s pretty tough for actors – from chorus boy to lead – to pull a rabbit out of their hat when they’ve been doing the same dance tricks for years. Watching the audience become Pod People from Invasion of the Body Snatchers was infinitely more entertaining than the lame eleven o’clock dance number, “Hot Honey Rag.” If you look in a theatre reference book under the term, “Going Through The Motions,” you would see a picture of this company. Los Angeles deserves better.

photos by Michael James Trimble

Pantages Theatre in Hollywood
ends on May 27, 2012
for tickets, call 800-982-2787 or visit The Pantages

continues on tour through August 16, 2012
new tours continue into 2015
for dates and tickets, visit Chicago The Musical

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I didn’t like Roxie’s voice. After a while, it began to annoy me. Although she tried her best, Christy Brinkley should stick to modeling because she does not overfloweth with singing, acting and dancing skills.


Molly May 26, 2012 at 8:14 am

Wish we’d read this review BEFORE we saw the show! I completely agree with you on all points!


Teresa Hernandez May 28, 2012 at 12:00 am

This musical was awful, and it was a waste of $400.00. I saw Chicago in New York years ago and it was fantastic. I took my kids so they could see a classic, and we left at intermission. Don’t waste your money.


Rachel May 28, 2012 at 12:11 am

I left during intermission during opening night. I was really hoping Christie could pull it off, but I left disappointed. Mr. Frankel is exactly right, “Los Angeles deserves better.”


Arthur June 2, 2012 at 12:46 am

I had high expectations of Chicago the Musical. I have to say that Christie Brinkley is just an awful singer. If I were the producer, I might have picked Christie Brinkley…if all the singers in Los Angeles weren’t available, but Brinkley performing as a singer is a big mistake. Who picked her as Roxie Hart? She would best serve as a background dancer.


Cathy December 16, 2020 at 6:51 pm

I have always loved Christie Brinkley. And I love the musical Chicago — I just don’t know how on earth they ever thought this would be a good match. My niece is very much into theater and music and I took her to see Christie. Ugh. Seriously I mean what were you guys thinking? You took a great lady and a great show and destroyed both.


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