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Aug 5, 2022

Broadway Live Insider: Chicago Opening Night Review

Michael J. Miller

“She’s a 10 but she may have killed her husband.” CHICAGO celebrated its 10,000th performance on Broadway this past summer and continues to dazzle 25 years after the heralded revival debuted 25 years ago. Its New York mainstay and subsequent international tours have, to date, earned over a billion dollars. One BILLION dollars.

Why? Look no further than The Lexington Theatre Company’s propelling production of the billion dollar baby this weekend at the Opera House. It kills.

There’s mystical mayhem at work here. The creative team has been plotting and planning behind the scenes since this production was delayed in 2020 due to you-know-what. I would say it was “put on hold”, but that is clearly not the case. You don’t sit back and wait idly in isolation and then suddenly mount a show of this quality and perfection with just two weeks of rehearsals. What did they do? Sequester the entire company in an unused dance studio for the past two years? Were seances and spells used nefariously to bring Bobby Fosse and Gwen Verdon into the dome of protection? Does Ann Reinking know about this? I have questions!

Whatever they did, it’s phenomenal. If you miss CHICAGO this weekend at the Opera House, you’re missing a reminder of what musical theatre can do in the right jazz hands: mesmerize. Patrick O’Neill’s direction and choreography turn what could have been a simple nostalgic museum piece into a dynamically relevant modern cautionary tale.

The cast, from the Broadway stars in the lead roles to the wickedly talented ensemble are stunning and even more brilliant under the masterful lighting design by Tanya Harper.

Haley Fish and Kristin Yancy as Velma and Roxie brought to mind Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth doing Elphaba and Glinda, especially during the “Nowadays” number near the end of Act II. If WICKED had been rated R. Scandalous!

Jenifer Holliday is currently completing her summer semester in New York as prison matron Mama Morton. If she gets tired, Altamiece Carolyn Cooper, who holds court here this weekend in the role, is ready. How do you stop a show that defies stopping? Like this.

I always thought all you had to really be is hot as hell to play Billy Flynn. Until now. J. Daughtry is hot, mind you. But My. Goodness. Gracious.

The role of Amos has got to be one of the most thankless in all of musical theatre. But leave it to Brance Cornelius to take him up a notch. Brance joins the teaching staff of The Lex this fall, and he obviously has much to give.

And then there’s Gilda Wabbit. UK alum and current drag performer in Louisville who recently headlined in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, she puts the Mary in Sunshine. Yes, please. She must be cast as Mother Superior in next summer’s production of Sound of Music. I’m starting a petition.

From its inception a few years ago, I’ve been waiting for The Lexington Theatre Company to become an official force in regional professional theatre in America.

It happened tonight.

It’s little known history that the city of Lexington had professional theatre 30 years before the city of Chicago. History is being made again this weekend on the stage of the Lexington Opera House.

CHICAGO is on fire.