Pam in Chicago

The most basic acting job on TV is soap operas – and, heaven knows, there are precious few of those left.  Time was, actors could get their start, their training, and, in some cases, a lifetime job on a soap.  The stage equivalent of that is Chicago.  The musical is celebrating 25 years on Broadway in a still-effective, stripped-down version.  But the age shows.  There is something to be said for occasionally firing everyone and starting from scratch because the performance I saw last week was a shadow of even 10 years ago.  The wild card was Pamela Anderson – who, it must be noted, in her fifth week did not fill the theatre.  To say that Pam was making her Broadway debut should be a given.  What will surprise is that she is completely and (forgive me for the pun) utterly adequate. 

I love Pam and was rooting for her.  And, truly, there is nothing wrong with Anderson’s performance – except that it’s not really a performance.  Patti LuPone once explained the difference between a choreographer and a director.  A choreographer will tell a performer to walk across the stage; a director will help the actor discover why and how to walk across the stage.  Pam has been choreographed.  She strikes striking poses, and walks with panache.  But not a single movement or gesture comes out of any authentic place.  It would appear that every word and inflection has been dutifully drilled into her head.  The result is that her Roxie lacks heart.  On the positive side, she looks splendid and dances cleanly – if self-consciously.  She starts speaking while the audience is laughing or applauding – which ultimately doesn’t matter because she cannot be heard.  Her singing is in tune and has some musicality, but she doesn’t project.  If someone told her to use her diaphragm, she’d likely go back to her dressing room to get it!  The only genuine moment of emotion crossed her face when she finished the last number – as if to say, “Phew!”

 

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