In the summer of 2003, my sister and I had tickets to Chicago, playing in San Francisco. I had just graduated high school and was getting ready to go to college. My dad had been given two tickets to the show, but had no interest in going himself, so he gave them to us.
At this point in my life, I’d been a huge Backstreet Boys fan for a few years, but the previous 1-2 years, I’d stopped following them as closely as I had before. I was tracking all things group-related, but not so much individual endeavors, which were basically all they had going on at the time.
Imagine my surprise when we arrived and sat down with our Playbills and a familiar name caught my eye. Kevin Richardson, of Backstreet Boys fame, would be playing Billy Flynn. And I freaked out. I had no idea that Kevin was even doing musical theatre, let alone the very show I was about to see. My fangirl heartbeat sped up and I was beyond excited to see him in that role.
And he did not disappoint. I managed to keep my fangirl shrieks to internal squeals and actually sit back and enjoy the show. The whole cast was fantastic.
Chicago was a show I had become familiar with the previous years, so I had some ideas of what to expect. Kevin, who is very straight forward, kind, peaceful, and genuine in real life, would be playing the sleezy, slimy, crooked lawyer.
We know Kevin can sing. What I didn’t know about Kevin is that he’s also an incredibly gifted actor. His character was charming and confident. In the show, Flynn is easily able to sway people into believing what he needs them to believe, and Kevin pulled this off well. His timing and delivery were great. Kevin played the role convincingly and with a great touch of humor, entertaining the audience and keeping us drawn to the show.
Kevin also sang a few songs in the role, and of course he performed them all beautifully, in the vain of his character. If you’re familiar with the show, imagine Kevin as Billy Flynn singing “They Both Reached for the Gun” with Roxie Hart. In this song, Flynn is essentially putting words in Roxie’s mouth to sell her story.
It’s a fun back and forth exchange with one of the lead characters that showed off Kevin’s diversity as a performer. He wasn’t belting out a heartfelt ballad or singing harmony for the guys. He was using his voice to sell the content of the show, and he was fantastic.
After the show, my fangirl brain thought about waiting around the back of the theatre to catch him, maybe get an autograph.
At that point, I’d never met any of the guys. I’d only come close after seeing them getting off their bus at a hotel after a millennium concert. I thought about trying to find that performers exit, but was too freaked out to actually do it. Had this had been in current times, I would’ve been the first to line up at the door. But back then, I wasn’t really comfortable trying. So we left, my heart still racing from the great performances, but also the surprise of seeing Kevin on that stage.
To this day, that show is one of the best I’ve seen in musical theater. Seeing Kevin’s diversity as a performer and watching him shine on a different stage was a wonderful experience! I’m hope that one day we will be gifted with more of Kevin’s work outside of the boys. He has the talent to perform is just about any capacity.