“Chicago” Kicks off the Season in Kansas City

“Chicago”
January 20, 2015
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Kansas City, Missouri

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

The term “Straight from Broadway” is often used when a popular show hits the road. But in the case of the touring production of “Chicago,” which opened at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts this week, it’s more than just an expression.

“Chicago” tells the story of two women, Roxie Hart (Bianca Marroquin) and Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod), who are currently facing a day in court for murder. The married Roxie killed her lover, as did Velma. To make it interesting, Velma also killed the woman involved with her lover…her sister. Both have employed the smooth talking attorney Billy Flynn (John O’Hurley) to represent them. Let the fun begin!

Originally directed and choreographed by the late, great Bob Fosse, “Chicago” enjoyed a nice two-year run when it opened on Broadway in 1975. The show was nominated for 11 Tony Awards but won none, having opened the same year as the Pulitzer Prize-winning juggernaut called “A Chorus Line.” The show was revived on Broadway in 1996 and is STILL playing now, making it the 2nd longest running musical in Broadway history, behind “The Phantom of the Opera.” Featuring a brilliant musical score by Kansas City native John Kander and his lyric writing partner, Fred Ebb, the performance put on tonight was easily one of the best ever to play Kansas City.

The three leads are spot perfect in their performances. Both ladies have played their roles for quite a while and their familiarity with the characters makes their work seem effortless. The same with O’Hurley. Here’s where the “Straight from Broadway” comes in. Less than 48 hours before taking the stage tonight, Mr. O’Hurley was taking his final bows on the stage of the Ambassador Theater in New York City, where he just concluded a six-week run in “Chicago” on Broadway. His Billy Flynn is oily when he needs to be but also shows an unexpected bit of heart as well. The three are surrounded by a supporting cast that hits all the notes and nails all of the steps. I’m sure Bob Fosse was looking down and smiling tonight.

If your only knowledge of “Chicago” is the Oscar-winning film, I urge you to see it live on stage. You won’t be disappointed.

“Chicago” runs at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday, January 25.

UPCOMING DATES
January 27 – February 1, 2015 San Antonio, Texas
February 3-4, 2015 Gainesville, Florida
February 6-7, 2015 Clearwater, Florida
February 10-15, 2015 Washington D.C.

John O’Hurley talks about his role of Billy Flynn in the touring production of “Chicago”

Television fans know John O’Hurley as the popular J. Peterman, Elaine’s boss, on the long running show “Seinfeld.” But it is performance on another show that helps bring him to Kansas City. As a contestant during the first season of ABC’s popular “Dancing with the Stars,” O’Hurley finished in second place, losing to Kelly Monaco, an actress whose show just HAPPENED to be on ABC. Fans of the show cried foul and demanded the two have a “dance-off,” with only the fans voting for the winner. In the rematch, O’Hurley and his partner, Charlotte Jorgensen, were declared the winners, raising over $125,000 for the charity Golfers against Cancer.

Since then, O’Hurley has split his time between the stage and screen. He played King Arthur in “Spamalot” during the show’s production in Las Vegas and has played shrewd lawyer Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” both on Broadway and on the road. Well known for his voice you can hear him in such cartoons as “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command,” “Duck Dodgers,” “Phineas and Ferb” and “Spongebob Squarepants.”

This week Mr. O’Hurley reprises his role of Billy Flynn in the touring production of “Chicago.” Before opening night he took time out to talk to me about the show and his career.

Mike Smith: Welcome to Kansas City.
John O’Hurley: I feel welcome. Thank you.

MS: If the Internet Broadway Database is to be believed you literally just walked off the stage of the Ambassador Theater in New York City, where you played Billy Flynn for the last six weeks, to travel here to take the part on the road.
JO: I closed on Broadway Sunday night. I had a great time there, especially during the holidays.
MS: Wow, when they say the road shows are “direct from Broadway” they’re not kidding.
JO: (laughs) Not at all. I think I still have the same socks on.

MS: You’ve played Billy Flynn over 1500 times on stage. Do you get comfortable in a part or do you try to bring something new to your performance when you can?
JO: Every night! Every night something different will happen. I say one prayer every night before I go on stage and that is “God, let me be surprised.” And every night something different happens. If I’ve done the role 1500 times I assure you that the role is 1500 times richer since I started playing it in 2005.

MS: You are, of course, best known for your work on “Seinfeld.” Was it your appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” that led to your work in musical theater?
JO: I’ve done King Arthur in “Spamalot” over 1000 times and, of course, Billy Flynn over 1500. I think a lot of my success came about because of that show. It gave me my name back. Prior to that I was known as J. Peterman. But after 2005 I was known as John O’Hurley.

MS: You do a lot of voice work. Do you have to prepare differently as an actor for a cartoon voice as opposed to a full live performance?
JO: Right now I’m involved in about fifteen cartoons…”Spongebob,” “Fineas and Ferb” and others…but it’s a lot of fun because I have an eight-year old son and it’s nice to be able to develop a body of work that is somewhat successful to him. As far as preparing, not really. The roles are already larger than life. It’s a medium that’s very BIG. The characters are larger. Subtlety is not a part of animation.

MS: How long to you plan to stay on tour with “Chicago?”
JO: I started the tour late last year, in October and I’ll continue through the end of it, which is the end of March.

MS: Do you have anything else coming up?
JO: Yes, I have a new television series with Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad” that we’re working on now. We’ll be shooting later in the spring. I have a movie to do in Greece. And I’m hosting a dancing tour this summer, which will be sporadically through my vacation time. And I’m sure there will be another tour of “Chicago” next year.

Blu-ray Review “Chicago: Diamond Edition”

Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Lucy Liu
Director: Rob Marshall
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Lions Gate
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Run Time: 113 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Rob Marshall’s award winner musical “Chicago” is a great musical and probably is responsible for bringing the musical back in so many words. The film has an all-star cast including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly. I do not really understand why this film is getting a new “Diamond Edition” Blu-ray right now but is definitely worth checking out. I have seen this show on Broadway and yet the film actually supersedes the play. A must own for any fan of the film.

Official Premise: At a time when crimes of passion result in celebrity headlines, nightclub sensation Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) and spotlight seeking Roxie Hart (Zellweger) both find themselves sharing space on Chicago’s famed Murderess Row. They also share Billy Flynn (Gere), the town’s slickest lawyer with a talent for turning notorious defendants into local legends. But in Chicago, there’s only room for one legend!

Lions Gate delivered this Diamond Edition with a brand new, fully restored transfer. They are releasing this film as a combo pack with Blu-ray + DVD + HD Digital UltraViolet copy. I was blown away with this film when I first saw it and it looks stunning on Blu-ray. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio surround track sounds stunning. The songs have never sounded better and really benefit also from this new track. This new transfer and upgraded audio is a perfect reason to pick up this Blu-ray.

In terms of special features, there is some great content. “Chicago in the Spotlight” is a brand new retrospective documentary with cast and crew. I would have been happy with the new transfer and audio track but they even went one step further with this extra content. There is an interesting and informative audio commentary with director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon. There is a deleted musical number “Class” performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah. Lastly there is featurette focusing on “From Stage to Screen: The History of Chicago”.

Complimentary Passes to the Orlando, FL Screening for NBC’s “Chicago Fire” [ENDED]

To celebrate the premiere of NBC’s new fall show “Chicago Fire,” MEDIAMIKES.COM is giving you the exclusive opportunity to win a pass for two to attend an advance screening of the PILOT EPISODE at a local theatre. See it with a friend before anyone else!

The show stars Jesse Spencer, “House” and Taylor Kinney, “The Vampire Diaries” and it is from renowned, Emmy Award-winning executive producer Dick Wolf (“Law & Order” brand) and creators Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, the writing team behind “3:10 to Yuma”.

 For your chance to receive event passes, log on to www.GOFOBO.com/RSVP

Enter RSVP code: MEDIAMXPQT Thursday, October 4, 7:30pm AMC Altamonte Mall Passes are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

http://www.nbc.com/chicago-fire/

From renowned, Emmy Award-winning executive producer Dick Wolf (“Law & Order” brand) and creators Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, the writing team behind “3:10 to Yuma,” comes the high-octane drama “Chicago Fire,” – an edge-of-your-seat view into the lives of everyday heroes committed to one of America’s noblest professions. For the firefighters, rescue squad and paramedics of Chicago Firehouse 51, no occupation is more stressful or dangerous, yet so rewarding and exhilarating. These courageous men and women are among the elite who forge headfirst into danger when everyone else is running the other way and whose actions make the difference between life and death. The pressure to perform on such a high level has a way of taking a personal toll, sometimes putting team members from the Truck and the specially trained Rescue Squad at odds with each other. Despite any differences, this is an extended family, and when it’s “go time,” everyone inside Firehouse 51 knows no other way than to lay it all on the line for each other. When a tragedy claims one of their own, there’s plenty of guilt and blame to go around. Lt. Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer, “House”), in charge of the Truck, tries to carry on, but butts heads with the brash Lt. Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney, “The Vampire Diaries”) of the Rescue Squad – and each blames the other for their fallen team member. Adding to the turmoil, Casey, unbeknownst to his colleagues, is in the midst of a separation from Hallie (Teri Reeves, “Three Rivers”). The firehouse also includes Battalion Chief Wallace Boden (Eamonn Walker, “Oz”), a fireman’s fireman who is confronted by important personal decisions, paramedics Gabriela Dawson (Monica Raymund, “The Good Wife”) and Leslie Shay (Lauren German, “Hawaii Five-O”), who share a close bond and team together to face some of the most harrowing situations imaginable, Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett, “Law & Order: SVU”), an academy graduate who is the latest generation in a family of firefighters, and Christopher Herrmann (David Eigenberg, “Sex and the City”), a seasoned veteran who loses his home to foreclosure and now must uproot his family to move in with his in-laws.