By Walter Rutledge
Songwriter, recording artist, entrepreneur, and restauranteur Valerie Simpson can now add Broadway thespian to her impressive list of accomplishments. On March 12, 2018 Simpson made her Broadway debut as Matron “Mama” Morton in Broadway’s longest running musical Chicago. For her six-week run (through April 22) Simpson is flanked by a talented cast of Broadway veterans including: Amra- Faye Wright as the Vaudeville villainess Velma Kelly, Bianca Marroquin– the murderous ingénue Roxie Hart and Chaz Lamar Shepard as brash barrister Billy Flynn.
The role of Morton is loosely modeled on popular Jazz/Vaudeville era entertainer Sophie Tucker. Nicknamed the Last Of The Red Hot Mamas Tucker was renowned for performing comical and risqué songs. Set in the 1920’s at the women’s block of Cook County Jail, Mama Morton has the heart, soul and instincts of a big city theatrical agent. And in her opening number, “When You’re Good To Mama” the diminutive Simpson delivers a colossal performance quickly establishing she is taking no prisoners.
With its basic black costumes, stripped down set (primarily for the onstage Chicago Orchestra) and exacting choreography and staging, the musical is a testament to minimalism. All of these elements help to keep the focus on the performers and their performance. This was clearly evident in Simpson (Morton) and Wright’s (Velma Kelly) musical conversation “Class”. The song of better days gone by, is developed into a poignant reminiscent moment between two powerful women.
A Conversation With Valerie Simpson- Chicago
Welcome Valerie Simpson to the cast of one of Broadway’s most successful and clever musicals. With spring break just around the corner, this is a great time to see R&B legend Valerie Simpson in Chicago the musical. Remember when you deal with Matron “Mama” Morton, “When you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you”.