Chicago The Musical with Lucy Lawless


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Lucy Lawless
Chicago The Musical

Hollywood Bowl Production
Los Angeles, California, USA

Role: Mama Morton

Performance Dates:
26-28 July 2013





Lucy Lawless Peppers Our Ragu in "Chicago"

by Teresa Ortega,

When I first read that Lucy Lawless would be appearing in the musical "Chicago" in New Zealand, my first impulse was to price out the cost of air travel, hotel and tickets. My second impulse was to sit quietly in a darkened room, pondering my career and financial choices and the harsh realities of the world we live in.

After I crept out of my despondency, I happened to notice a few weeks later that a production of "Chicago" would be coming to the Hollywood Bowl over the summer. Noticing that the production was yet to be cast, I held out hope that I might get to see Lucy Lawless perform in "Chicago" closer to home.

When the cast was announced, Lucy Lawless was named to play Matron "Mama" Morton, the same role filled by Queen Latifah in the movie version of "Chicago." With Lucy set to play Velma Kelly in the New Zealand "Chicago production later this year, those fans who can afford it will have the opportunity to see Lucy in two different roles in one musical.

The Hollywood Bowl is a legendary venue, but not without its share of challenges--acoustic and otherwise--for performance purposes. The morning I was scheduled to attend "Chicago," the L.A. Times printed a piece critiquing the new, large LED screens that offer close-up detail of the stage to the Bowl's sizeable outdoor audience.

The LED screens turned out to be essential for "Chicago," as they provided the majority of the audience with the means to see the dancing onstage. The size of the Bowl would seem to work against most musicals, but the artistic choices in this production made the best of the Bowl's unique features.

The staging was compact yet imaginative, keeping the audience's attention focused within the monumental setting. Elegant lighting design underscored each musical number, punctuating its most emotional moments. A jazzy rhythm seemed to infect even the dialogue, propelling the musical forward. This "Chicago" moved in tight counterpoint to the Bowl's grandness, offsetting it with distinction.

Lucy's Matron "Mama" Morton was introduced in the first act with the song "When You're Good to Mama." Her costume combined elements of the outfits worn by the show's male and female dancers: form-fitting black pants, see-through black shirt and suspenders, and a black bustier. The effect was Midwestern Bordello meets Mid-Century Prison Matron.

Lucy's voice was as strong as I've ever heard it on stage--maybe even it's strongest ever, taking into consideration the size of the venue. Lucy's voice had an impressive depth and fullness that conveyed the outsize personality of Mama. I spoke with a friend in the audience after the show--not a Xena or Lucy Lawless fan--who remarked on the powerful impression she made.

When you're a fan that recognizes a star for "her eyes, her hair, her teeth" and so on, as the song goes, it can be difficult to take a step back and look at a performance as part of a whole. It was good to get a reality check in seeing and hearing the audience respond positively to Lucy's introduction on stage.

Lucy had a continuing speaking role throughout the rest of the musical, helping to set the pace. It was strange to hear other characters refer to Mama onstage as "Butch" or "Diesel." As a lesbian, I think my butch-o-meter must be set so far to one end of the scale that I have a hard time making sense of mainstream uses of those terms. I would have liked to see a more butch-looking Mama, but I think the glamorous version on display was more in keeping with the tone of the show.

Lucy's comedic timing served her well in the duet "Class," which busted up the audience. Watching Lucy perform the song with Samantha Barks, who played Velma Kelly, it was impossible not to cast my mind forward and imagine Lucy playing the role of Velma come November. Incidentally, the other star cast members (Ashlee Simpson, Stephen Moyer, Drew Carey) all did a great job, and had their own dedicated fans cheering them on from various sections of the audience.

"Chicago" is an unsentimental American musical that contains sharp observations about the extent and force of women's ambitions and the various limitations women have placed on them. It gives its smartest lines to a trio of female characters: Velma Kelly, Roxie Hart and Matron "Mama" Morton. As such, it's a great vehicle for an outsized performer like Lucy Lawless, whichever role she takes on.


Photos by Marilyn Edwards










Lucy Lawless Chicago The Musical
Hollywood Bowl Production / Los Angeles, California, USA
26-28 July 2013

 "When You’re Good to Mama" - Chicago (LA) 27 July 2013
Posted on: 28th July 2013

When You’re Good to Mama � Chicago 27 July 2013

Lucy Lawless as Matron “Mama” Morton and Samantha Barks as Velma Kelly. Directed by Brooke Shields. “When You’re Good to Mama” written by Kander and Ebb.

“Class” Duet by Lucy Lawless and Samantha Barks - Chicago (LA) 26 July 2013
Posted on: 27th July 2013

“Class” Duet by Lucy Lawless and Samantha Barks � Chicago The Musical (LA) 26 July 2013

Samantha Barks & Lucy Lawless perform “Class” on opening night of the Hollywood Bowl’s 3-night engagement of CHICAGO. Performance Date: 26 July 2013