So just how juicy is the role of murderess Roxie Hart in the Tony-winning Broadway musical Chicago? “It’s very juicy,” says actor Paige Davis, who will be playing the homicidal vamp when the touring production stops for two shows Sept. 10 and 11 at Eugene’s Hult Center. “It’s been exceptionally juicy,” Davis adds.
Based on the 1926 play that satirized our criminal justice system and the yellow journalism that sensationalized sexed-up woman murderers, Chicago is raucous musical that anticipates the dark attraction of America’s celebrity culture. Over the course of the show, the audience watches with morbid delight as Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly (Amra-Faye Wright) deviously one-up each other in attempt to be the next big thing.
“It’s just uncanny with twists and turns,” Davis says of Chicago, which includes a book by Fred Ebb and the legendary Bob Fosse. “It’s so layered, it’s so funny, it’s so sexy,” adds Davis, who is perhaps best known as the former host of TLC’s reality show Trading Spaces.
Davis says she’s blown away when she thinks how prophetic Chicago has proven to be when it comes to our mass fascination with bad behavior, a la the Menendez brothers, O.J. Simpson and, more recently, Casey Anthony. “There’s this borderline between somebody being known and somebody being a celebrity,” Davis says. “It’s pretty spectacular when you think that the show originally debuted in 1975.” (Even more spectacular — the play of the same name debuted in 1926.)
As for the juicy role of Roxie Hart, Davis says it’s an actor’s dream to vicariously channel the femme fatale’s darkly romantic motivations. “I definitely can tap into her need for validation, her ego, her drive and her ambition,” Davis explains. “I can also really tap into thinking your whole life is over and then getting another chance. Never letting life get you down — I can definitely relate to that.”
Davis says that what is most remarkable about Chicago is how very great the show is, and how exciting it’s been to get it up and running with a new principal cast. “The movement is so incredibly sophisticated,” she says. “It’s amazing because the material is so layered. You always discover something new.”
Chicago runs 7:30 pm Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 10-11, at the Hult Center’s Silva Concert Hall; $35-$60.