It will be a South Florida exclusive when Latino actors Jaime Camil and Bianca Marroquin star in “Chicago” during the national tour’s stop May 8-13 in Miami.
The Mexican performers will reprise the roles they played on Broadway in 2016 — Camil as the oleaginous lawyer Billy Flynn and Marroquin as the merry murderess Roxie Hart — for one week only at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. That 2016 turn in the show created by Fred Ebb (book and lyrics), John Kander (music) and Bob Fosse (book and choreography) was historic, the first time two Mexican-born actors led a Broadway musical.
Set in the Windy City during the Roaring Twenties, “Chicago” tells the story of flappers who attempt to get away with murder with the help of their attorney, who teaches them how to throw grit and grime into the wheels of justice by becoming front-page sensations. Early in the show, one character sums up the plot as a "classic tale of violence, envy, exploitation, adultery and treachery. All those things we hold near and dear to our hearts." The original 1975 Broadway production starred Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach and got mixed reviews. It also had the misfortune to bow the same year as “A Chorus Line,” which broke box-office records and swept the Tony Awards. However, the stripped-down minimalist 1996 revival was a huge hit and brought home six Tonys. The 2002 Oscar-winning film version starred Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
Camil is probably best known for playing the father Rogelio De La Vega in the CW’s “Jane the Virgin” and voicing the character Papá Enrique Rivera in the animated movie “Coco. In addition to starring in “Chicago” on Broadway, Marroquin also appeared on the Great White Way in “The Pajama Game” and “In the Heights.” Both Marroquin and Camil are big names in Spanish-language television, having gotten their starts in telenovelas, and both were regulars on the theater stage in Mexico. The two are also longtime friends.
“We met many, many, many years ago,” Camil says during a recent interview. “I don’t remember the situation or the specifics of it because it was so many years ago. She’s a very talented performer. Two years ago, we were the first Mexican-born actors leading a Broadway show, the same Broadway show, at the same time. They brought out the Mexican flag onstage at the Ambassador Theatre. That was a very emotional moment for both of us and to do the same thing in Miami … is going to be super fun.”
Marroquin recalls that they had done duets together as they both rose in Mexican entertainment ranks, but then, “A few years ago, he calls me and said he got an audition for ‘Chicago.” I called everyone connected to that show and pushed for him, and it ended up happening. We had the best time together on Broadway, and now we’re doing it again in Miami. There are some characters in your life that sort of walk your journey with you. They keep appearing. I’ve become friends with his wife and children.”
Here’s more from our interview with Camil and Marroquin.
Stage credits: “The Mambo Kings,” “Latinologues,” “West Side Story,” “Hook,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Aladdin”
You’ve done a lot of TV and movies, but keep returning to theater. What is it about the stage you like so much?
“Everything. That is where I feel the most alive, I feel the most complete. I just enjoy it. You do the same thing over and over again, but you feed from the audience. If I had to rank … theater would definitively be at the top.”
What makes “Chicago” still relevant today?
“You have a great story. When you have a good story and a good book … that’s all you need. ‘Chicago’ appeals to people who really a really brilliantly told story, regardless of what the story is about. That’s why ‘Chicago’ is timeless, the second longest running show on Broadway, the other being ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ And the music is sassy. The music is sexy. The only thing suspending the show is talent. You don’t have people flying. You don’t have explosions.”
You lived in Miami from 1997 to 2000. What are some of your favorite memories?
“Yes, I used to live here, at 1500 Ocean Drive. It was ridiculous. Memorial weekend everyone was, ‘Get out, go, go.’ It’s very Caribbean. They’re not a lot of Mexicans, so culturally it’s different. I have a family so we went to Coral Gables, Brickell or Key Biscayne because Miami Beach is crazy. It doesn’t have a lot of identity. It was like a tourist town, like a transition town. It was always new people. There was this place I loved, Cafe Nuvo. I loved that place. The chicken salad was delicious. And Prime 112 was delicious. And there [is] this little sushi place next to the Lincoln Theatre.”
Stage credits: “Rent,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Vagina Monologues,” “In the Heights” and “The Pajama Game”
You’ve been performing off and on, on Broadway and on tour in “Chicago” since 2003. How do you keep it fresh?
“I know, right? God said, ‘Here you go, little girl, I’m going to give you this role of Roxie. Go and explore.’ It’s been quite the journey. I was very green … when they first entrusted me with Roxie back in Mexico. Like everyone else, I’ve had loss, change, death, divorce. I’ve been up and down emotionally. So every time I leave Roxie or come back to Roxie, I have something new to offer her. I keep growing in every aspect of my acting and dancing. I know now what ‘less is more’ is about. I’ve been told that by Ann Reinking [who starred in and choreographed the 1996 revival]. She been very kind to me along my journey. It never gets old … It’s the Olympics of emotions in two hours and 25 minutes.”
You used to live here in Miami for a few months every year when you were a judge on “Mira Quien Baila!” [the Hispanic version of “Dancing With the Stars”] and doing other reality TV shows around 2010-2013 and then again in 2017 with “Pequenos Gigantes,” right? So what are you looking forward to doing now that you’re back in South Florida?
“I’m going to get my girlfriends and go to a spa or something like that. They’re all married with kids. Right after [the “Chicago” run ends], I’m switching hotels and I’m going to stay five more days with my two girlfriends and catch up.”
Tell us about being an ambassador for Viva Broadway?
“Viva Broadway is so important. It’s an extension of the Broadway League’s programming to reach out to the Hispanic community. It’s so important because there is a huge Hispanic population in our world. I don’t know why, but it was not a part of my culture to come to Broadway. So we want to reach out and say, ‘Hey, when you come to New York, come to ‘Chicago.’ There’s a Latina in the show.’ ”
“Chicago” runs May 8-13 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. matinee Saturday; 1 p.m. matinee Sunday. Tickets cost $29-$140. To order, call 305-949-6722 or go to ArshtCenter.org.