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INTO THE NIGHT / Orange County

In Character

'Chicago' Cast Keeps the Opening-Night Energy Alive at Maggiano's

July 09, 1998|ANN CONWAY

The Scene: Cast members of the Tony Award-winning musical "Chicago" blew into Maggiano's restaurant in Costa Mesa for a Windy City-style feast Tuesday following the production's O.C. premiere at Segerstrom Hall.

Guest List: Orange County Performing Arts Center supporters schmoozed with "Chicago" stars Jasmine Guy (who played Velma Kelly); Alan Thicke (Billy Flynn); Belle Calaway (Roxie Hart); Michael Tucci (Amos Hart); Lea DeLaria (Matron "Mama" Morton); and show producers Barry and Fran Weissler(those high-energy visionaries who've produced runaway Broadway hits such as "Falsettos," "My One and Only" and "Gypsy").

Starters: No sooner had party-goers swept through the entrance and across the mosaic-tile floor than food was at their fingertips. About 250 guests--"this is the center's biggest cast party ever," noted center president Jerry E. Mandel--ate delicacies such as eggplant caponata, chicken saltimbocca, roast sirloin roulade and shrimp and zucchini crostini. To set the mood, an accordionist serenaded arriving guests with Italian-style tunes, including "Funicula" and "That's Amore."

Their kind of show: Seated in the restaurant's cushy red booths, guests raved about the musical--"Such energy, energy, energy!" gushed center supporter Gene Hancock. But before they could say "Calamari with marinara sauce," DeLaria joined a jazz trio at the mike, singing scat versions of "How High the Moon?" and "Blue Skies" that had guests applauding for more. DeLaria--whose deep voice and deadpan delivery resemble the theatrical style of Rosie O'Donnell--loves appearing in "Chicago," she said. "I have a great time playing Mama. In this role I get compared more to Ralph Kramden than Rosie O'Donnell."

Voices: "Chicago"--which played to an SRO crowd in Segerstrom Hall--is one of the country's hottest tickets because it's "performance-driven as opposed to production-driven," said Fran Weissler. "It's so in-your-face. Spare. I love it."

Said Thicke, who will eventually appear in another Broadway version of the musical: "Appearing in front of a live audience again is great for me. I started in theater in a rock 'n' roll band and over the years have done a little comedy, a little dancing, singing. This is the one opportunity to put it all together."

To meet the challenge of appearing in a nonstop song-and-dance show, Guy gets plenty of rest, she said. "But most of my energy comes from the company. I have a lot of fun with them. I'm not one of those to go off in a corner and prepare for hours," she said. "That doesn't work for me."

Mother-child reunion: Calaway arrived at the bash with her daughter, Dawn Henshall of Huntington Beach. "I'm so glad she's here," Henshall said. "I haven't seen her since November, when she did 'Chicago' in Fort Lauderdale. She's staying with me all week and we're just going to hang out."

Would she follow in her mother's famous footsteps? Calaway answered: "Dawn is a wonderful singer, but when she was 10 she put her foot down and told me, 'No, Mom. Show business is not for me.' "

* STILL DAZZLING

The pleasures of the "Chicago" touring production outweigh its sins. Page 66, Calendar Weekend

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