First Wives Club Musical at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre

First Wives Club Musical at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre
Faith Prince as ‘Brenda,’ Christine Sherrill as ‘Elise’ and Carmen Cusack as ‘Annie’

Husbands Come and Go…but girlfriends are forever

Wednesday night marked the opening night for the pre-Broadway run of the “First Wives Club” musical at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre (24 West Randolph St.).

It was an unusually beautiful evening for early March in Chicago. The stars were shinning above and on the red carpet below.

The highly-hyped “Broadway bound” production promising “laughter, heart, and music” showcased its high profile entourage including five-time Emmy Award nominee Linda Bloodworth Thomason (book), director Simon Phillips; Motown legends Brian Holland, Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier (music and lyrics); Duke Fakir, original member of The Four Tops and Martha Reeves of Martha Reeves and The Vandellas to a highly enthusiastic crowd and the media.

For those who don’t know the story, the First Wives Club, which first appeared as a book in 1992, then a movie in 1996, follows three former college friends who were ditched by their respective husbands for younger models. The friends join together establishing a “First Wives Club” bent on revenge.

The pre-Broadway production has all the bells and whistles from the actors including: Tony Award-winner Faith Prince as ‘Brenda,’ Wicked star Carmen Cusack as ‘Annie,’ and Mamma Mia’s Christine Sherrill as ‘Elise’—to the behind the scenes staff featuring legendary music arranger and producer H.B. Barnum, known for his work with Aretha Franklin and arranger and orchestrator; Kenny Seymour (Memphis; The Wiz) as Musical Director.

The production definitely has a Broadway vibe with beautiful costumes, choreography and music that includes new original songs as well as classic hits by Motown legends Holland-Dozier-Holland, including “Reach Out…I’ll Be There,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).”

The tried and true stereotypes were also evident in the form of a gay hair stylist Duane, wonderfully executed by Patrick Richwood and the attractive trio of perspective “second wives” all portrayed as bimbos.

The opening night audience appeared to enjoy themselves laughing and applauding the budget-busting theatrical spectacle. Personally, I had some difficultly wrapping my head around the story. A lot has changed in the world in the last 25 years since the book was first published—including the role of women.

Fans of the 1996 movie will most likely love the stage version—as will some (but not all) women of a certain age. Currently being billed as a fun “girls night out” the show is loaded with talent and could be much more with some well-targeted retooling.

Tickets and information

When: through March 29, 2015
Where: Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph
Tickets: $33 – $100, (800) 775-2000; online,  and all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices
Running: time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission

Rating:   Production: ★★★  Story: ★

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