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A Conversation With Chicago's Roxie Hart
by Anthony Chase
The current revival of the Kander and Ebb musical, Chicago opened on Broadway in 1996 and enjoys the distinction of being the longest running American musical in Broadway history. In fact, its historic run is second only to Phantom of the Opera as longest running musical of all time. Some shows get tired after a few years, but the producers of Chicago have managed to keep this tale of murder, deceit, and show business ambition fresh through tight direction and clever casting.
Take, for instance, the national touring company of Chicago that’s coming to Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Tuesday. This show has played Shea’s before, but this time, even after all these years, we’re still getting a first rate cast, including John O’Hurley, known for his television role on Seinfeld and as one-time host of the Family Feud game show, who will play crooked lawyer, Billy Flynn; Roz Ryan, who holds the company record for most performances in one of the show’s leading roles, who will play Matron “Mama” Morton here; Terra C. MacLeod, returns to Shea’s to play Velma, having originated the role in the Montreal and Paris productions before joining the Broadway company in 2004; and Bianca Marroquin, who has been Broadway’s Roxie Hart, on and off for 13 years, also makes a return to Shea’s.
Marroquin holds the distinction of becoming the first Mexican woman to star in a Broadway musical when she stepped into the role of Roxie opposite George Hamilton as Billy Flynn – she learned the English lyrics and dialogue in just three weeks, and was the youngest actress ever to play the role on Broadway. She is Mexico City’s original Roxie in Chicago, as well as Mexico City’s Mary Poppins. In addition, she played Maria in a popular Mexican revival of The Sound of Music. Spanish television viewers will know her from her appearances as a judge on the Spanish version of Dancing with the Stars, Univision’s Mira Quien Baila. She has also appeared as a judge in Pequeños Gigantes which features young performers, and on Bailando por un Sueño, [Dancing for a Dream] another reality competition show on Univision. In addition, she appeared in the telenovela, Esperanza del Corazón, and sang the title song. She was recently named the first-ever National Ambassador for Viva Broadway, an organization created by the Broadway League of producers to help bridge the world of Broadway with Latin audiences around the country.
After all this time, how does Marroquin keep Chicago fresh performance after performance?
“It is new every night, for me,” she says, speaking by telephone. “To begin with, the material is genius, Kander and Ebb’s music, the Fosse staging. I was especially proud to be playing Roxie on Broadway the night we passed ‘Cats’ for number of performances on Broadway; that was a great night with past stars of the show there. We will have great fun in Buffalo; Terra [C. MacLeod] and I did the show there before, and the show is always wonderful with Roz Ryan in the cast – she is the perfect Mamma; and you will love John O’Hurley. It is a privilege every time I do it, and of course, the audience is brand new every night!”
How has she been able to work so often in television while starring in a Broadway show?
The producers are very cooperative, and shows like [Univision’s] Mira Quien Baila [Look Who’s Dancing] like to be able to promote me as a Broadway star. The show is taped in Miami, and after I finish my weekend performance, they fly me to Florida, do the show, and fly back. I’ve done numbers from Chicago on the show and my background as a dancer is an asset. I’m known as the ‘nice’ judge. They have asked me if I could be meaner and I tell them, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t. I don’t have it in me.’ What I bring to the dance shows is my knowledge of dance. I am the only judge with an actual dance background who knows the vocabulary of dance and can give the contestants suggestions on how to improve. I tell the producers to let the others drive the ratings with mean remarks; you need one judge who can actually evaluate the dancing!”
How does Bianca Marroquin account for her status as a star in both the Spanish-speaking world and on Broadway?
“I never expected this to happen. I was raised on the border between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. My father sent me to school in Brownsville, and I studied dance from the time I was a little girl. When they were casting the Mexico City production of Chicago, I had done several shows [Beauty and the Beast, Rent] but I did not know the Fosse style of dancing. I came out of classical ballet and it is entirely different; ballet is turned out and Fosse turns your body inward. Actually there are no Fosse dancers in Mexico, so the producers sent a teacher down to do a weeklong class on Fosse for all the dancers who wanted to audition. For some reason, I took to it. The Fosse moves just entered my body. I was hoping to get a chorus role, but I got Roxie. Eventually that role would take me to Broadway!”
Chicago will play at Shea’s from Tuesday, through Sunday. For tickets ($33-$78), call 1-800-745-3000, go to ticketmaster.com or to Shea’s Box Office.
For further information see www.sheas.org
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v14n6 (Mardis Gras, Week of Thursday, February 12) > Theatrically Speaking > A Conversation With Chicago's Roxie Hart
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