Give them the old razzle dazzle
Chicago or Houston? Actor/singer John O'Hurley loves them both
Good girl wants fame. Good girl commits murder because she doesn't get it. Enter opportunistic sexy lawyer who manipulates jury, media and his client and good girl gets off with little jail time.
But does everyone live happily ever after? Sort of, but not in Disney style. A few people have to die.
That's the gist of Chicago, a cabaret musical set in the prohibition spirit of the 1920s. The story is based on a novel by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins inspired by crimes she covered. The 1996 production is now the longest running revival on Broadway and the fifth longest running show. The 2002 film starring Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones won the Best Picture Oscar that year and made Chicago a household name.
Chicago is coming to Houston via the Society for the Performing Arts and it's fitting that one of the sexiest men alive is charged with portraying the media-savvy attorney.
He is light on his feet, loves golf, sings, dances, and was on a show about nothing where he sold catalogues for a living.
Survey says? Yes, he was the host of Family Feud.
I can't imagine anyone better than John O'Hurley to illuminate the character of the flashy lawyer most people associate with Richard Gere. The voice, the hair, the moves, the suave — it all works. But it's not all fun and games for the 56-year-old actor (he played J. Peterman in several classic Seinfeld episodes), composer, dancer, singer, philanthropist, businessman and, as of four years ago, father of William Dylan with his lovely wife Lisa Mesloh. He takes his training and approach to the character seriously, even after hundreds of performances.
En route to Houston, CultureMap caught up with the renaissance man by phone and learned a thing or two about his upcoming Houston show.
CultureMap: The character of Billy Flynn is somewhat controlling and manipulative, yet realistic. He seems very complex. Is he a good guy? Do you like the character and what about Billy can you personally relate to?
John O'Hurley: I think of him as a Jekyll & Hyde type character. He's seductive and sweet, but don't cross him. It's nice to be able to play those two extremes and find the connecting points during the show. There are moments of great sensitivity and great humor. He will tear into you as well.
CM: How many times have you played him? Do you get tired of doing so? Has the character changed for you?
JH: I have played him since 2006. I can't even count how many times. Somewhere in the hundreds I suppose. For a while, I played him while doing Spamalot as well. That was confusing.
Billy Flynn is much more interesting to me now. In this particular tour, I think about the character a lot. I say a brief prayer before the show and promise that I will surprise myself by doing something differently. And every night, something about how I play him changes. I find new evidence and think differently. I found the role became deeper and richer.
CM: Will we be seeing some of those flashy moves you learned while on Dancing With the Stars?
CM: You have written books, been in musicals, television, reality shows, Broadway and recorded a CD of your own compositions. It appears you have covered the gamut in arts and entertainment. What are you interested in exploring post Chicago? What haven't you done that you've always wanted to do?
JH: Within entertainment, I love doing concerts. I love stand-up comedy and singing. I have done great concerts with Michael Bolton, Kenny G and I'd like to pursue that a bit more, also working on my own compositions. That means more singing and more piano playing. That's the core of what I enjoy doing.
CM: You are very involved in philanthropy through the Epilepsy Foundation and American Red Cross. The proceeds from the Dancing With the Stars viewers choice dance-off benefited Golfers Against Cancer. What are you passionate about today? What causes are you supporting?
JH: I have stayed close to Golfers Against Cancer. It's an organization founded in Houston with Bobby Jones. We started it in Kingwood back in 1999. It's an amazing group of people and the events they put on are great.
I have been an ambassador for ChildHelp which operates several programs to help children who have suffered emotional and physical abuse, and advocates for prevention.
CM: In a talk, you said 300 days out of the year you live on an airplane, jokingly saying your dogs treat you as an intruder. Your son is now 4-1/2 years old. Do you plan on slowing down as he grows up?
JH: I am going to try to slow down. I had to do the first tour without him when he started pre-school. I was in Chicago. But I am definitely planning to make a conscious effort to stop traveling as much.
CM: What do you think of Houston?
JH: I was here two years ago for a Golfers Against Cancer event. I love Houston. I love the people. It's a large city with several smaller and different communities. It's easy to embrace it. Downtown is gorgeous and the Galleria area is very exciting. My wife also lived in Sugar Land for a while.
Listen to John O'Hurley in Chicago: