Christopher Fitzgerald does ‘Chicago’ double duty
NEW YORK (AP) — Christopher Fitzgerald liked being in “Chicago” so much that he’s doing it again.
The actor, who made his debut in the show last October as Roxie Hart’s put-upon husband Amos, has just stepped into the role of slick lawyer Billy Flynn, becoming the first actor in the show’s 18-year history to be contracted to perform both starring male roles.
“Chicago” is a scathing 1975 satire of how show business and the media make celebrities out of criminals. Fitzgerald has gone from singing “Mister Cellophane” as Amos to “All I Care About” as Flynn.
Fitzgerald is a Broadway veteran whose credits include “Finian’s Rainbow” and “Young Frankenstein,” so jumping into a long-running musical was no big deal.
Some might describe such a feat as like walking a tightrope, but not Fitzgerald. That’s because he was on a real tightrope last summer while playing P.T. Barnum in “Barnum” at the Chichester Festival Theatre in England.
Of his time spent nightly walking 8 feet off the ground along a 25-foot long rope, Fitzgerald said it caused “nightmarish stress” and was “the hardest thing I’ve done.”
The two-time Tony nominee, who has two children with his wife, the actress and director Jessica Stone, took time to talk about “Chicago,” the tightrope and why his kids aren’t that impressed.
AP: What’s it like being in ‘Chicago’?
Fitzgerald: It’s a remarkable show. The fact that it has lasted is because of what it’s about. I have a line where I say, ‘You’re a phony celebrity, kid. In a couple of weeks, no one will ever know who you are.’ Back then, there weren’t as many phony celebrities. Now it’s nothing but phony celebrities. There are no real celebrities any more.
AP: You’re Billy Flynn. Ever dream of playing him one day?
Fitzgerald: Did I ever think I’d be playing Billy Flynn? No. I never thought about it 10 years ago, five years ago or a month ago. It’s like that crazy.
AP: Do you ever get Amos and Billy confused?
Fitzgerald: I do have a bit of nervous energy when I hear the music to ‘Mister Cellophane.’ I have to go, ‘No, that’s not me.’ I have to check myself in that moment. But, other than that, I’m in Billy’s world now.
AP: What’s next? Velma?
Fitzgerald: Roxie’s next. (laughs) Honestly? I want to do Mamma AND Amos. They’re never onstage at the same time. That’s my next challenge. Then I’m going to do a one-man ‘Chicago.’
AP: Switching gears, how did you possibly walk a wire eight times a week?
Fitzgerald: The way to do it is to be at utter peace, completely inside yourself and in line. Completely calm and still. You’re trying to shut off all your stress receptors. It becomes this metaphor for life: It’s one step at a time. You can’t get off. You can’t take a break.
AP: What did your kids think of dad?
Fitzgerald: I don’t know if this is because I’m an actor with kids, but I was like, ‘What did you guys think?’ They were like, ‘It was good. I like the elephant.’ I was like, ‘But I walked a tightrope!’ They were, ‘Yeah, it was good, dad.’ They were just not impressed. I think it’s because I do this crap all the time at home. I’m constantly juggling and jumping on things and standing on my head.
AP: So your kids weren’t blown away?
Fitzgerald: I think if you grow up with actors, you’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s what my parents do.’ Only later will they be sitting in therapy, going, ‘My father walked the tightrope and was basically a clown.’
Mark Kennedy is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits