Smokey Joe's Cafe's Brenda Braxton Is Chicago Bound

News   Smokey Joe's Cafe's Brenda Braxton Is Chicago Bound Brenda Braxton, who was just seen in the City Center Encores! presentation of House of Flowers, will join the Broadway company of Chicago in March.

Braxton will be the latest actress to portray merry murderess Velma Kelly, when she replaces Caroline O'Connor March 3. O'Connor's last performance will be March 2, according to a production spokesperson. P.J. Benjamin returns to the Chicago company March 3 as well, replacing Rob Bartlett as the beleaguered Amos Hart. Others in the company currently include Chicago veteran Belle Calaway as Roxie Hart and Kevin Richardson — of Backstreet Boys fame — as slick lawyer Billy Flynn with Roz Ryan as Matron "Mama" Morton and M. Agnes as Mary Sunshine.

Brenda Braxton received a 1995 Tony Award nomination, an NAACP Theater Award and Chicago's Jefferson Award for her work in the revue Smokey Joe's Cafe. Her other Broadway credits include Jelly's Last Jam, Cats, Legs Diamond and Dreamgirls. Braxton was also recently seen in the Off-Broadway musical Little Ham as Sugar Lou Bird.

Chicago won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical in 1997 as well as awards for actors Bebe Neuwirth and James Naughton, director Walter Bobbie, lighting designer Ken Billington and choreographer Ann Reinking. The original production was directed and choreographed by the late Bob Fosse.

Chicago plays Monday, Thursday and Fridays at 8 PM, Tuesdays at 7 PM, Saturdays at 2 and 8 PM and Sundays at 2 and 7 PM. Beginning March 31, the musical will play Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 and 8 PM and Sundays at 2 and 7 PM. There are additional performances Feb. 19 at 2 and 8 PM and no performances on Feb. 19 at 7 PM or Feb. 23 at 7 PM.

The Ambassador Theatre is located at 215 West 49th Street. For ticket information, call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com.