Girl power: Faith Prince, Christine Sherrill, Carmen Cusack
Sizzle. Check. Scandal. Check. Beauty, brains and brawn? Yes, ma'am.
The Chicago premiere of the new Broadway-bound production of First Wives Club: The Musical opened last week at Broadway in Chicago’s Oriental Theatre. Stars Carmen Cusack, Faith Prince and Christine Sherrill dazzle with dramatic, comedic, over-the-top portrayals of three former Sarah Lawrence best friends who reconnect years later for the first time since their weddings.
The show features music by Motown legends and musical trio Holland-Dozier-Holland, choreography by David Connolly, direction by Simon Phillips and a rewritten script by five-time Emmy Award nominee Linda Bloodworth-Thomason.
The zealous comic revenge feast based on the 1996 Paramount film and Olivia Goldsmith’s best-selling novel follows three former college friends—Annie (Cusack), Brenda (Prince) and Elise (Chicago-bred Sherrill)—who reunite at their college roommate Cynthia’s (Michelle Duffy) funeral. The women cry about Cynthia’s suicide, which happened after her husband jilted her for a younger woman.
Soon after, the friends learn their husbands have traded them in for shinier models. They dream up a dramatic payback plot, centered around reclaiming funds at a rigged Sotheby's auction—replete with catfights, tears, laughter and hugs. Each woman also wants retaliation for the success of the businesses they’ve run with their ex-husbands. Elise is a famous actress and singer; Annie helped launch an advertising agency; Brenda turned her husband’s electronics store into a gold mine.
After a particularly poignant scene, in which Annie unsuccessfully dons a cheerleading outfit to try and lure back her husband, the three friends end up at Brenda’s house, drowning their tears in Rocky Road ice cream. This double entendre feels real and right as it references life’s ups and downs, its sweetness and sadness.
Cue the diva
Patrick Richwood steals the show with his hilarious, campy portrayal of flamboyant gay hairdresser Duane. As Brenda’s close confidant, he pretends to be a celebrated interior decorator, mimicking Karl Lagerfeld, to gain access into the pink fake-fur laden home of Brenda’s former husband and his bimbo fiancée (Shelley, played by the excellent Morgan Weed). The audience roars when Duane ushers in the women with “Come in, Angels. This is Charlie. Elvis and Priscilla have left the building.” With Morty (Sean Murphy Cullen) and Shelley out of the apartment, the three women sneak inside and gather incriminating financial records that eventually bring down Morty. Comic relief continues when the women leap from the upstairs office to avoid being discovered and descend in terror down a rapidly falling construction lift platform. (Aside: They survive.)
I Am Woman: Hear Me Roar
You’ll enjoy new original songs and old-time favorites including “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”. Expect slapstick, vulnerability, kitsch and rousing entertainment. Brava! to First Wives Club’s fearless females!
The musical runs through March 29; tickets range from $33-$100. Order at 800.775.2000 or Broadway in Chicago.