Cincinnati and Washington D.C. are the first cities to see why the sizzling Broadway revival of Chicago has been the talk of the Big Apple, and they are doing so with three unusual stars: Charlotte D'Amboise, Jasmine Guy and Obba Babatunde. The tour started rehearsals Feb. 17.
The first national tour of the musical kicked off at Cincinnati's Aronoff Center March 25, where it runs through April 6. The revival will then head to Washington's National Theater, where it will settle in for a hefty 13-week run from April 8 to July 6. Then it's on to the Palace Theatre in Columbus, OH, July 8-20, where it replaces the previously announced, closed on-the-road Funny Girl.
D'Amboise plays Roxie Hart, the role performed in the Broadway revival by Ann Reinking. Daughter of American Dance Theatre founder, Jacques D'Amboise, Charlotte was also in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, Company, Song And Dance and Cats.
Jasmine Guy (Velma Kelly -- that is, the Bebe Neuwirth role) most recently appeared on tour and in NYC in Grease!. Her previous Broadway credits include The Wiz, Leader Of The Pack and Bubbling Brown Sugar. A former member of the Alvin Ailey company, she's best known for her work on TV's A Different World.
Obba Babatunde was nominated for a Tony for playing C.C. White in Dreamgirls, and he appeared on Broadway in Grind, Jelly's Last Jam and Timbuktu. He also appeared in the recent HBO adaptation of the play, Miss Evers' Boys. Babatunde plays the role of Billy Flynn, the slick lawyer portrayed by James Naughton on Broadway.
Also appearing in the Chicago tour is Ron Orbach -- who starred in Laughter On The 23rd Floor -- as Amos (aka "Mr. Cellophane"). Mark Spencer plays the drag role of Mary Sunshine, sob-sister journalist. If you've seen the touring company, please write a review to be posted on Playbill On-Line. Send reviews to Robert Viagas.
A second Chicago tour will launch in May, with early indications that it will visit West Coast cities.
The production's minimalist set design makes the tours relatively fast to assemble, allowing producers Fran and Barry Weissler to reap maximum benefit from the afterglow of the show's New York reception and the nominations and awards the show is widely anticipated to collect in the coming weeks.
The $3 million Broadway revival has been a hot ticket since opening in the autumn, and has been selling out steadily since late November, 1996. The production opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, then moved to the Shubert Theatre to make way for the new Kander and Ebb show, Steel Pier, now in previews for an April 24 opening.
This production of Chicago, directed by Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Reinking ("in the style of Bob Fosse") originated as a four-performance concert staging in May at City Center's Encores! series devoted to classic musical scores.