“Chicago,” the musical that explores how celebrity can influence the judicial system, comes to the RiverCenter Tuesday and runs through May 20.
This stage production is based on the same plot seen in the film version staring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere. Want-to-be star Roxie Hart kills her boyfriend and goes to prison where she meets Velma Kelly, a vaudeville star who murdered her husband and sister after finding they had an affair.
The two women attempt to become more famous while incarcerated with the help of show-biz attorney Billy Flynn, played by Brent Barrett.
Growing up in Quinter, Kan., Barrett had no idea that people could make a living acting, singing and dancing. After all, Quinter, population 900, had just one movie theater, owned by his aunt and uncle.
“There were no shows touring through my little town,” he said. “There was no theater other than the junior/senior play. My frame of reference for any entertainment was television.”
And then he went off to college, first Fort Hays State University of western Kansas. Then he transferred to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It was the first year Carnegie Mellon offered musical theater, and he took it.
In his senior year, he was cast by the late, great Broadway choreographer and director Jerome Robbins in the revival of “West Side Story.” That was in 1980 and Barrett has been working ever since.
“I am a very lucky guy,” Barrett said. “Sometimes I don’t realize how lucky I am. It’s a very competitive business.”
He’s played attorney Billy Flynn in “Chicago” on Broadway and on tour several times.
After spending six months on Broadway, he joined the road company two months ago.
“It’s been 13 years that ‘Chicago’ has been on the road,” he said. “There’s a constant revolving door. You’ll get a different Roxie, Bonnie Langford. We’ve done it on tour. She’s fantastic.
“There’s one thing about ‘Chicago,’ it’s such a great show. Depending on who you’re doing it with, the personality of the show changes. I’m glad we are able to do it again.”
He thinks musicals do well, especially now, because “in these horrible economic times, people want to be entertained.”
Besides working on Broadway, he’s worked in London’s Broadway, the West End, where he opened the revival of “Kiss Me Kate” in 1999. He also did “Grand Hotel” both on Broadway and in London.
“As long as I’ve been working, I’m still waiting for that juicy role to open on Broadway,” he said. He’s still waiting for that role that he’d originate.
While he’s waiting for someone to write a musical for him, he’d like a redo on one show.
“The one show that I did at the Paper Mill Playhouse (in New Jersey) is Arthur in ‘Camelot,’” he said. “I’d like to do that again. Arthur starts out as a boy and ages. I’d better do it soon.”