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Monday, June 1, 2015

Why You Need to See Brandy's Transformative Performance in Broadway's CHICAGO



If you follow me on Twitter, then you probably saw a few months ago that I was none too impressed with the news that Brandy (aka Moesha from the beloved UPN show) Norwood had been cast as Roxie, one of the two lead murderesses in the iconic CHICAGO musical on Broadway. First of all, I think I definitely referred to her as Moesha instead of Brandy in my tweet (no shade, but I tend to use that moniker when referring to her as an actress), and secondly, memories of her trying to shake her hips (or hint at some kind of rhythm) in music videos like "Top of the World" and "Baby" came flooding back into my brain and I was hella concerned about how she would approach the complex choreography in the show. I know she's a decent actress and singer, but CHICAGO on Broadway? I was not sold.



But, you know what? She's pretty good in the show. Actually, she's great. She delivers a fascinating performance that you least expect, playing into her strengths as a Broadway ingenue who might not drop down into a perfect slit and hop back up like so many others in the cast, but she glides slickly across the stage just as fetchingly as her peers and predecessors. Infusing her signature accessible approach to Roxie, mixed with her natural wide-eyed playfulness, Brandy plays right into Roxie's naivete and guile. She makes the character fit for her--not the other way around--and literally blossoms on the stage. Even better, she looks like she's having a blast.

Watching this performance got me extra hyped to finally see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. After missing the recent productions with Neil Patrick Harris and Michael C. Hall in the titular roles, I am hoping to check out Taye Diggs (who coincidentally starred in the film adaptation of Chicago), as the genderqueer East German singer come July 22. He will be the first African-American actor in the role. Many of you may already know that Diggs comes from a theatrical background, having also starred in the Broadway music Rent back in 1996.



I am just so thrilled that, while Hollywood may not be quick to cast talent of color (have you heard about this latest debacle?), Broadway is all too eager to support diversity in the arts. From Condola Rashad in Romeo and Juliet, to Alice Lee in Heathers and Norm Lewis in Phantom of the Opera, the stage has proven itself to be a viable platform for so many underrepresented thespians--many of whom are the first actors of colors playing these characters. Now we as audience members have to do our part and head to the theater.

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