Magic to Do: Ben Vereen Expected in Toronto Chicago Beginning Feb. 18

News   Magic to Do: Ben Vereen Expected in Toronto Chicago Beginning Feb. 18
 
According to a source in the Toronto cast of Chicago, longtime Bob Fosse favorite Ben Vereen steps into the patent leather shoes of Billy Flynn in Chicago Feb. 18 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, reintroducing the singer-dancer to Fosse's world of razzle-dazzle.
Veteran singer-actor-dancer Ben Vereen will play Billy Flynn in Chicago in both Toronto and Las Vegas.
Veteran singer-actor-dancer Ben Vereen will play Billy Flynn in Chicago in both Toronto and Las Vegas.

According to a source in the Toronto cast of Chicago, longtime Bob Fosse favorite Ben Vereen steps into the patent leather shoes of Billy Flynn in Chicago Feb. 18 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, reintroducing the singer-dancer to Fosse's world of razzle-dazzle.

Vereen's resume includes a number of Fosse projects prior to this Chicago revival, choreographed by Ann Reinking "in the style of Fosse." Vereen was seen in the film version of Fosse's "Sweet Charity" as the "Rich Man's Frug" soloist, as the Leading Player in Broadway's Pippin and as the eerie song-and-dance alter-ego of Fosse in the autobiographical film, "All That Jazz."

Vereen replaces Michael Berresse (pronounced "buh-ress") in the role of the shyster lawyer representing murderesses Chita Rivera (as Roxie Hart) and Stephanie Pope (as Velma Kelly) in 1920s Chicago.

A spokesman for the Princess of Wales told Playbill On-Line that the theatre's management has been kept in the dark about Vereen stepping into the role, perhaps to allow the actor some time to get used to the show without the media's glare, and could not confirm his Feb. 18 appearance. A daytime rehearsal and photo call are also scheduled Feb. 18.

The entire company (except for Pope, who may be replaced by Ute Lemper late in the Toronto run, perhaps Feb. 23) will travel to Las Vegas after the Feb. 26 final night at the Princess of Wales. The six-month desert run begins March 3 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas. Marcia Lewis (as Mama Morton) and Lemper are expected to return to the Broadway production in the spring, after Chicago gets off to a splashy start in Glitter Gulch.

* Meanwhile, back on Broadway, Lemper left the company Feb. 14, and Bebe Neuwirth steps into the role of Velma Feb. 20 for five weeks. She originated the role in the revival of John Kander and Fred Ebb's cynical 1975 show (with a book by Bob Fosse and Ebb). Walter Bobbie is the revival's director.

Neuwirth's colleagues in the Broadway company of Chicago at the Shubert Theatre remain Karen Ziemba as Roxie, Brent Barrett as Billy, P.J. Benjamin as Amos and Roz Ryan as Mama Morton.

Berresse was expected to begin rehearsals and star in a new Off Broadway musical, Dancing in the Dark, but on Feb. 16 it was announced that show would not begin planned previews March 23 at the Lamb's Theatre. Berresse was to play a director-choreographer who bonds with the ghost of Fred Astaire (to the music of Astaire-related songs).

The official Chicago website is www.chicagothemusical.com.

-- By Kenneth Jones

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