Ballerinas on Broadway? It was a “why not” situation for Krissy Richmond, a former Houston Ballet principal (1980-1993). Richmond returns to Houston for the TUTS production of Chicago. She plays Caitlin Hunyak, the Hungarian scapegoat, and the only woman in the show who truly did not kill her husband. With choreography by Fosse, Chicago is a virtual feast for an ex-ballet dancer.
Houston may not be Richmond’s home town, but it’s where she honed her dancing chops. While dancing at Houston Ballet, Richmond danced a number of choice roles in The Sleeping Beauty, Peer Gynt, Bartok Concerto, and others. She also worked closely with Christopher Bruce and danced in Trey McIntyre’s early works. “I danced every role in Nutcracker except Clara,” remembers Richmond.
A chance meeting with Broadway legend Gwen Vernon changed Richmond’s life forever. Vernon originated the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway. Ben Stevenson brought Vernon in to teach jazz classes. Vernon encouraged Richmond to take a stab at a Broadway career. She also put her touch with the best singing teachers, because, as Richmond recalls, “you have to be able to sing.”
It was a long process and it did take a while for Richmond to gain confidence as a singer. “Now it feels just like something else that I do. I was fascinated by singing because it so different than dancing. You have to relax everything that you have been told to hold on to.”
Acting in musical theater is also significantly different than ballet acting. Richmond benefited from an acting teacher who was also a dancer. “Everything is very external. It’s all from a dance point of view. I had do let go of all of that, and learn to just ‘be.’”
Richmond landed a job straight away in the touring cast of Phantom of the Opera and she’s been working steadily every since. In 1999, she made her Broadway debut playing the Queen in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and went on to play Roxie Hart in the national tour of Chicago. She was cast in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. “I got to wear a Chanel suit and that was fantastic.”
According to Richmond, Chicago shows off Fosse at his best. Fosse’s complex jazz technique, derived from the work of Jack Cole, provides a growth opportunity for any dancer. “I loved it at first, but I didn’t think that anything would come of it; I just had a passion for Fosse’s style.” Richmond will be teaching master classes at the Houston Ballet Academy. “Fosse loved ballet dancers so much; it’s a good idea to share this wonderful technique with them. Young dancers don’t realize that they have options other than being in a ballet company.”
As a true Broadway gypsy, Richmond isn’t certain on her next step. Before her Broadway days come to a close she would like an opportunity to play Sally Bowles in Cabaret. At the moment Richmond is thrilled to be back in Houston. “I am so excited to be back; Houston will always be my home.”
TUTS presents Chicago on October 11-23, 2005 at Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. Call 713.558.8887 or visit http://www.tuts.com/.