After a meal like I had at Locanda Verde (see previous blog) where does one go? Well if you are me you go to see Wendy Williams. Yep that Wendy Williams, former radio host, television talk show star, bestselling author, and now a Broadway actress. She is playing Matron Mama Morton in Chicago the musical on Broadway for several weeks this summer. So if you know what’s good for you, you will get there before her last show on August 11th.
This is how Wendy told her audience the big news.
Wendy Williams and I go way back. So far back in fact that I have no idea of a time when I wasn’t aware of her. She was a disc jockey (anyone under thirty may have to look that up) on my go to radio station Hot 97. I remember it like it was yesterday although it was like fifteen years ago, which is depressing. More so is that back in my day we listened to the radio and the cool thing to do was to keep blank cassette tapes in your c.d./tape stereo anxiously waiting for the song you requested to play so that you could hit “play/record” and capture it on the tape to replay at your will. By the time an entire mixed tape was made you had something to be proud of.
As for Wendy she spent many more years on radio and then eventually in 2008 moved over to her now wildly successful talk show. She has written six books and is a New York Times bestselling author. She has competed on pop culture hit “Dancing with the Stars”. She is mostly beloved by her fans because she talks directly to them and they are one entire family- her success has been based off of it. Besides her brutal honesty about any hot celebrity topic she is talking about she has never backed away from discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly about her life. She has had hard times and wants to help as many people as she can. Her way of communication is as funny as it is truthful. You never ever know what you are going to hear and that is the best part. This is why viewers flock to her show, to sit in the audience, and to watch it on TV. I hope to be a part of her audience one of these days in the fall.
When I learned she was going to be in Chicago the musical I was instantly amused but not instantly drawn to buy a ticket but this news stayed on my mind for a while. I told everyone I knew that would be interested, tweeted about it, and debated going to see it. The main hang-up for me was that I had already seen the show and it didn’t go well. It was one of the very few musicals I didn’t like, actually it was more than dislike; I fell asleep! Even though it sounded good to me when I read the description: “What becomes a legend most? For a couple of Jazz Age entertainers, it's all about fame, fortune - and murder.” See all sounds good, doesn’t it?
Well not so much. I went when I was in college so that was about ten years ago give or take a year. I would have to go through my playbill collection to find the ticket and honestly for this show I didn’t have the mindset.
What I despise most about this play has nothing to do with the performance I had seen but rather my pride. It made me break my hard and fast rule- that plays and movies should not switch genres!! In this instance and only in this instance has a play been turned into a movie and the movie was better!! It still burns me. Normally I believe everything should stay in its own lane and if you run out of material you are not to pick an idea from another mode of entertainment and ruin it. Things are created in certain forms for a reason. But here, with “Chicago” in the movie they were able to do things that were not possible and I don’t mean with the sets. The story lines were so much clearer that I actually understood what was happening and this is what prepared me for when I went back to see it with Mrs. Williams.
My decision boiled down to this: I have to meet Wendy Williams. She has such a big personality, funny, and sweet, I bet she is awesome to meet at a stage door and I am a stage door expert (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2011/03/for-those-who-want-to-learn-to-stalk.html). She needed to be a celebrity that I have met.
I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed so I sucked up the fact that I didn’t care for the show, found my coupon (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2011/03/for-love-of-theater-and-what-it-means.html),
and got my date to see Wendy.
Now that I had a delicious brunch behind me I was eager to get to the theater and see my girl. The timing had worked out perfectly so I got there just in time to take a few photos and get to my seat. The crowd was packed with tourists, Wendy fans, and Broadway devotees alike. My seats were in the balcony (even with a coupon I wasn’t paying top dollar for a show I knew I didn’t like) so I had my escape plan all set. I knew what the last song would be so I would get up then to walk down, I would get to see Wendy would take her final bow as I stood in the back and then I would be the first person outside so I would definitely get her autograph and photo. I was not missing out. But more on that in a minute, for now let’s talk shop first.
As I knew what was going to happen I was anxious for the show to begin as soon as I got there. It had been some time since I had seen the show so some of the specific details were fuzzy. I had seen the movie last even though that had been some years ago as well. When the orchestra swelled and that grand first number began I watched carefully. I had braced myself. There were many things I still had problems with in the storyline that I with that I which the director or producer would fix. Certain things are not made clear or do not make sense unless you have seen it before or the movie, which clears such confusion. I hate when I have to stand by my previous disappointments.
However, there were two new bright spots in this performance, before I ever saw Wendy Williams. They were Amy Spanger as Roxie Hart and Alexander Gemignani as Billy Flynn. I do not know who portrayed these characters the last time I saw this show but I do know it didn’t leave a positive impression. But these two I could not take my eyes off of. This Roxie was native yet cunning, adorable yet gorgeous. Billy was manipulative, brass, charming, and adored all at once. They were perfectly cast and I hope for the play’s sake they are in it for the long hall.
As for the music in “Chicago” it is really great; very catchy, fun, and easy to sing along to. I have always loved that. It just so happens that my most favorite song is sung by Mama Morton. In the movie that part is played by Queen Latifah and it is does brilliantly. But when Wendy sang it, it was a whole other thing. It is the introduction of the character and is a significant song for it outlines her entire role in the show.
Here is the ending chorus of the song that Wendy shared with “her people” on her show after her very first performance on Broadway.
I loved this!! It was awesome and the crowd went just as wild when I was there! Having her play this part, bringing not only her energy but the energy she shares with an audience to this role was thrilling. I have to say it held my interest in the show the entire time which I hadn’t anticipated considering she has a relatively minor role. I loved that she was having fun with the role and not taking herself too seriously. We all know she isn’t a classically trained actress and there was no need for her to try to be. She pulled off these incredibly difficult songs with relative ease keeping them in her natural tone and not trying to belt them out as someone else could have.
The show went on for two and half more hours. Then it was my time to go. I waited to hear the clapping and I was the first one through the front doors. I went to the stage door. Many people appeared to be leaving. It was a Sunday afternoon, normally there are no other shows but this show had a second performance. As crowds started to gather I worried that no one may come out to sign because they would have to be back inside to prepare for the next show so soon. Then I noticed that near the front door of the theater, opposite of the stage door where I was standing, people were screaming. After making a mad dash over there and shoving anyone who was in my way, I caught Wendy just in time. She had come out of another exit and her security guard was trying to get her through the crowd into her car. She was so polite as everyone jumped in front of her, screaming her name and that they loved her, yet she remained calm and loving. She signed and posed with and for people as many as she could. By the time I got there I had just enough time to tell her what a big fan I have always been and that I loved seeing her here. She was so sweet and signed my playbill and I got these photos of me talking to her. I was elated. I felt like she was one of “my people” now.
In preparation for this blog I did some background research on Wendy Williams and learned a few interesting things about her. This is my most favorite:
So that’s how she’s doin’.
For Wendy Williams:
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