Unlike the sizzling doings on that transpire nightly on the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the launch party of for the Chicago CD, the most highly anticipated cast recording since Rent, was a quiet, well-mannered affair. The new Broadway cast recording will be released January 28 on RCA Victor.
Amid the understated yet showbizzy ambience of Sullivan's, the restaurant nestled beside David Letterman's digs, record, press, and theater folk nibbled on sandwiches, hors d'oeuvres, and pastries while eyeing a decadent setting of huge strawberries.
Marcia Lewis, who plays the Keeper of the Keys, Matron Mama Morton, told Playbill On-Line that being part of this show was "the best feeling. To be part of such a talented cast is just incredible".
As the CD played in the background , the actress who plays the tough-as-nails prison matron began to cry because it was her first time hearing it since it was recorded. She says she was "moved" by the result of it.
Lewis recently appeared on the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) telethon singing her hit from the show When You're Good to Mama and will be appearing on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" this Jan. 28, the same day as the release of the CD. ----
Bill Rosenfield, A&R director at RCA, has the enviable task of sniffing out shows to record (he was flush from a scouting trip to London), catches all the productions at Encores!, the series of concert stagings of overlooked scores that served as a launching pad for the current production of Chicago.
Even before seeing the production, the buzz after an invited dress rehearsal for the show and the first public performance was nothing short of "amazing," he told Playbill On-Line, and when he attended on his usual Friday evening, his reaction was "Wow, this is great!".
By that time, however, discussions were already underway to move the production to Broadway, so RCA was forced to wait before a deal could be signed. Producers Fran and Barry Weissler emerged triumphant from the bidding war with the rights for the Broadway transfer, and RCA's excellent relationship with the producing couple on Grease! enabled the company to nab the rights for the recording.
About RCA's next album release, Once Upon a Mattress, Rosenfield described Sarah Jessica Parker as "a joy to work with", and that the current ads touting "everybody loves Sarah Jessica" couldn't be truer.
Three chorus members, Rocker Versatique, Mindy Cooper, and Leigh Zimmerman had retreated to a table in a quieter part of the room.
For Versatique, a four-year veteran of "Fame", the TV show, as well as ABT and music videos (including being Janet Jackson's partner in the "Nasty" video - "I Was the Nasty Boy!"), the Chicago recording marks his third cast album, following Carousel and Victor/Victoria. The actor, who portrays "Harry" in the show, characterized the recording session as "tough", a sentiment echoed by other production personnel, including musical director Rob Fisher and producer Jay David Saks.
The chorus members have signed 6-month contracts, but Versatique said he'll likely stay with the show, that is unless "Meryl Streep comes calling!"
About the production's imminent move from the Rodgers to the Shubert Theatre, Rocker is looking forward to his new home, which will boast a bigger stage and bigger backstage area. Best of all, though, is that the men's dressing rooms, currently on a cardiovascular-intensive 5th floor of the Rodgers, will be more conveniently located on the 2nd floor of the Shubert. Helping facilitate the speedy move between theaters will be the fact that a new set (more specifically, the bandstand that dominates the stage) is being built for the Shubert, with the old set to be used for one of the two upcoming tours.
About the Encores! series, for which he has served as musical director and conductor, Rob Fisher described the selection criterion for the three shows produced yearly as one easy, one hard, and one in-between. The "easy" shows have included Chicago and Promises, Promises, as they are regularly performed. In contrast, "hard" scores like Out of this World and Dubarry Was a Lady took considerable time and effort to restore. One show Encores! has had its eye on is Harold Arlen's St. Louis Woman, which they hope eventually to stage.
Regarding the upcoming two tours of Chicago (for which he will serve as musical supervisor), Fisher said that casting "has been going slowly" but stressed that they want to be careful "to get the right people". Rehearsals are scheduled to begin the second week in February, which is shaping up to be a hugely demanding time for him, with the move to the Shubert and the start of rehearsals for Encores! Sweet Adelaide all happening at the same time.
Encores gets no ancillary money from transfers, so they are grateful for the money the Weissler's are donating to the series. Encores will wait a few years for the funds to accumulate before spending it on the restoration of scores.
Walter Bobbie has immediately on his plate the transfer of Chicago to the Shubert, as well as directing both touring productions. Despite the production's minimalist staging, Bobbie describes it as a lot more complex than people think. Beyond that, he will be directing the stage production of the movie Footloose, for Dodger Productions in 1998. The theatrical incarnation of the hit Kevin Bacon movie (directed by Herbert Ross) will retain about half a dozen of the movie's major songs, but will add book songs written by Dean Pitchford and Tom Snow.
Leigh Zimmerman, who plays Go-To-Hell Kitty , spoke to Playbill On-Line and says she is "thrilled that Broadway is doing so well this season. Its great that shows are fighting for theatres and its a prime time to be on Broadway because there are so many terrific shows".
Zimmerman said that even though their contracts are only for six months and run up at the end of April she plans to stay in the show for a while and thinks the majority of the cast will opt to stay as well: "I think they'll definitely stay till at least the Tonys."
When asked what it was like to be invited to appear at the Presidential Inauguration Gala this year she said, "It was such a great event. There were so many wonderful people there and it was so nice to be a part of it."
The cast flew to Washington the Friday before the Inauguration for a rehearsal then flew back to New York for a double performance on Saturday, then hopped on a plane and went back to Washington on Sunday for the Gala.
Ann Reinking appeared for only a brief time to pose for a few pictures and an interview or two, but she had attended another interview the day before, for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, and Playbill On-Line was there, too. Reinking spoke mostly of her career and how she began as a dancer. She told of some of her idols when she was growing up such as Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev and how she "always wanted to be Nureyev". When asked if she was to be involved with the movie production of Chicago she was interrupted by her personal manager Lee Gross who said, "We're not sure yet," and left it at that.
Asked what she thought of the rumor that Madonna had been approached about doing the movie if Chicago, she responded "Oh I think Madonna would make a great Velma, not a Roxie, but definitley a Velma".
It was also reported that Madonna attended a performance of Chicago when she was in New York last week.