Ryoko Yonekura makes Broadway debut in 'Chicago'

By Andrew Gans

The Tony-winning revival of "Chicago" welcomes Japanese superstar Ryoko Yonekura to the role of merry murderess Roxie Hart at the Ambassador Theatre.

The actress is playing a one-week engagement through July 15.

She joins a cast that includes Amra-Faye Wright as Velma Kelly, Tony Yazbeck as Billy Flynn, Raymond Bokhour as Amos Hart and Carol Woods as Matron "Mama" Morton.

Following her Broadway debut, Yonekura will join Wright and the U.S. national touring company of Chicago in Tokyo, Aug 30-Sept 16 at the Akasaka Act Theatre.

Yonekura originated the role of Roxie Hart in the Japanese-language production of "Chicago" in 2008 and again in 2010. Last year, she played Scarlett O'Hara in the Japanese stage adaptation of "Gone With The Wind" and won the Kazuo Kikuta Drama Award.

The revival of "Chicago" began life as one of the three annual Encores! presentations offered by City Center. The musical opened on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in November 1996 where it remained through February 1997. The musical transferred to the Shubert Theatre on Feb 11, 1997, and played that house through Jan 26, 2003. The revival reopened at the Ambassador Theatre, its current home, on Jan 29, 2003.

"Chicago" won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical in 1997 as well as awards for actors Bebe Neuwirth and James Naughton, director Walter Bobbie, lighting designer Ken Billington and choreographer Ann Reinking. The original production was directed and choreographed by the late Bob Fosse.

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Scarlett O'Hara.

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From the blog @ broadwayworld.com :

Posted: 7/11/12 at 01:02am I saw her opening night tonight. She was good. Her dancing was phenomenal, she definitely held her own and at times was better than Amra-Faye Wright. Her diction was better than I expected, but she still had some moments when you couldn't understand her, but mostly she had the American accent down and really had no trouble getting any word out, except when she rushed the words like once or twice. Also her singing was great. She wasn't AMAZING, but she was good, and a big brava for her first performance in English! She was so charming and nice, it was hard not to like her!

Amra-Faye Wright spoke some lines in Japenese to Ryoko during the show which made the mostly-Japenese audience laugh. Also, Ryoko said that she 'put on her kimono' as one of Roxy's lines. It was a cute and fun way to make her Broadway debut.

Amra-Faye Wright spoke for a few moments at curtain call to congratulate Ryoko and her debut, and Ryoko also spoke and thanked Amra-Faye personally, and also her mom who was in the audience. There were also many press cameras all around the theater. It was a good night at the theater IMO. Tony Yazbeck was fantastic as well. Many fans waited for Ryoko at the stage door, she came out last, and was very thankful, she bowed and seemed very happy to be there.

Read more: http://broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.php?thread=1048002#ixzz20MMy7FZO

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You've chosen an outstanding picture JT. Makes me a little interested in broadway.

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Thanks, paulinusa, for passing along the blog post from broadwayworld.com. Interesting.

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A few weeks back, she was giving a little demonstration on Sakai Masaaki's Chuubou desuyo. I have to say, she sure can move!

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I totally agree!! :-)

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I remember a comment from an entertainment magazine a few years ago that described Yonekura in a skin-tight cheongsam outfit showing lots of leg, concerning which, the writer quipped, "gave nosebleeds to middle-aged men."

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Saw her on jtv last night, everyone was all applauding her, the home town girl done good. There are how many top actors and singers on broadway at any time? One goes from Japan and the whole country takes credit. Sometimes the whole country of jpn seems like a little hamlet far away. I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way, but it can be tiresome.

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originated the role of Roxie Hart in the Japanese-language production of “Chicago” in 2008 and again in 2010.

I think you can only 'originate' a role once.

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This is one classy broad. Way to go!

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The merry murderess has such lovely assasin's eyes...........................

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Thank you Paulinusa for the info. I am very proud of Ryoko, and I am glad that Broadway gave her a big acceptance and welcomed her to the family. Also, it's classy that they used a little Japanese comedy for some of her fans out in the audience....nice bonus for them.

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