It seems like only yesterday that Sandy Duncan flew into my heart as Peter Pan, and she has remained there ever since. I have such a tremendous admiration for Sandy Duncan so I'll try and write this column as unbiased as I can.
Sandy has been hit with another foot injury and will be out of Chicago for an undetermined amount of time. She was originally scheduled to start in the show in May but suffered a foot injury. As a result she healed and began the Broadway run in August after being on the road a few weeks. The official Press Opening was scheduled for early September but it looks like that won't be happening or at least it will be delayed.
On Friday evening Sandy performed the role of Roxie in the red-hot musical Chicago and the other foot went. She could not go on in Act Two and Nancy Hess was called in to complete the show. After the show, Sandy had her leg X-rayed and it didn't show any signs of breakage. However, this was the same result as the first injury. So we really don't know how bad the damage is until Monday when she has a cat-scan done. It doesn't look good though for Chicago fans as she'll probably be out a few weeks, at least.
Let's talk about Sandy Duncan as Roxie!
Her Roxie is simply sensational and she brings new dimensions to the role. I've seen them all do it from 1976 onward, Gwen Verdon, Ann Reinking, Chita Rivera and quite a few others, but Sandy approaches the role totally different. Oh, it's right there in the script and this is where Duncan excels.
She read that script and knew where the comedy was, and that is how she plays it. Others who are singers and dancers are at a disadvantage if they don't have that comedic ability. And Sandy is known for her humor, dancing and singing.
Okay, let's attack the dancing first. She's not a Fosse perfectionist as Ann Reinking is, but still, Sandy Duncan is a great dancer. So, for what she lacked in the Fosse style she made up for in the Fosse humor! The problem I find with most modern day Roxie's is that they're not looking at the script. Let's take Roxie's first number, "Funny Honey." They're all throwing it away. Not Sandy. She delivers every line and it's hysterical. But, you see, this comes from being a musical actress comedian. Sandy simply knows how to get the most out of every line. It's a talent that one cannot acquire, you can't study it, and you can't steal it, you either have it or you don't...and Duncan's got it in spades!
The number "Roxie" was totally restaged for her and it's great. However, the shining moment, and I mean this was totally brilliant, was "Nowadays" at the very end. It seems most Roxies sing it as a lament of sorts before the big duet finish. Sandy sells it like I have never seen. She stands, looks out at the audience, her eyes filled with tears, saddened by her fate. And that's it! She adds the pathos to Roxie Hart, the girl who beat the system, but is ironically sad about her own life and she reflects on it in "Nowadays."
"It's good. Isn't it grand? Isn't it great? Isn't it swell? Isn't it fun? Isn't it?...Nowadays."
She's dead center...it's in your face and her heart is in your palm. Her "Nowadays" is ethereal....plain and simple.
Bravo Sandy Duncan!
Sandy seems to have been born to play this role; I've never seen a more complete Roxie. She sings, dances and acts up a storm and, to boot, you'll laugh your ass off!
Ruthie Henshall is simply amazing as Velma Kelly. Nails it to perfection. I know she's played the role of Roxie in London but she just seems so at home as Velma.
Marcia Lewis continues to do her perfect Matron Mama Morton. I don't know how she keeps it fresh, but she does. Simply great...still getting the laughs in "Class" and her solo "When You're Good To Mama" in act one is still triumphant.
Brent Barrett, as Billy Flynn, is the best I have seen in years. He's very clever, sometimes he has the look of an angel, and a sexy one at that, and then at the blink of an eye he's a sleazeball. He's perfect for the role, albeit a bit young, and what a singing voice! My God, he can hold a note longer than Chase Manhattan! (Now, where have I heard that before?)
P.J. Benjamin makes a fine Amos. He's low-key but brings "Mr. Cellophane" home with a bang. R. Bean as Mary Sunshine also does a nice turn in her Broadway debut.
A number of years ago I got a note from Sandy Duncan while she was in Peter Pan.
So let me answer that note right now. I should have answered it long ago.
Neverland was so much fun!
Much appreciation for your starring turns on Broadway.
And come to the Great White Way anytime! Get well soon...Roxie!
You do believe, don't you?
Past Rialto Columns
Search What's New on the Rialto