“First Wives Club” delivers sassy story and Motown music during pre-Broadway bonanza

First Wives Club Photo by Andy Argyrakis
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Prior to hitting Broadway, Chicago got the first crack at the brand new “First Wives Club” musical, which doesn’t just boast a book by five-time Emmy Award winner Linda Bloodworth Thomason (“Designing Women,” “Evening Shade”) and direction by Simon Phillips (“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Never Dies”), but also coaxed the legendary Motown songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland out of retirement to pen some new tunes. After the creative team walked the red carpet (alongside fellow Motowners Duke Fakir of The Four Tops and Martha Reeves of Martha Reeves and The Vandellas), the sold out Oriental Theatre was treated to one of this year’s most promising Big Apple-bound success stories.

Besides a catchy stable of freshly minted tunes that bare resemblance to the Motown era (enhanced with the pizzazz of a flashy musical), golden oldies like “Reach Out,” “Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” and “My World Is Empty Without You” further enhance the ladies’ unification (and give the audience additional reasons to sing along).

First Wives Club

First Wives Club

For starters, the plot surrounding four lifelong friends who all lose their husbands to younger women is unfortunately becoming an all too common scenario, but rather than becoming bitter- at least in the case of the leading three- they simply plot revenge on their cheating men. Tony Award-winner Faith Prince (Brenda), “Mamma Mia’s” Christine Sherrill (Elise) and “Wicked’s” Carmen Cusack (Annie) pick right off where the movie’s stars Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton left off as they navigate the emotional roller coaster of their similar situations with loads of heartache and humor along the way.

Although their lives may all look different as women in their 40s compared to their carefree college days, the music they grew up on helps bridge any personality gaps that have since arisen, while further fueling the determination to land on their feet. Besides a catchy stable of freshly minted tunes that bare resemblance to the Motown era (enhanced with the pizzazz of a flashy musical), golden oldies like “Reach Out,” “Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” and “My World Is Empty Without You” further enhance the ladies’ unification (and give the audience additional reasons to sing along).

With all that in mind, “First Wives Club” will probably be alluring to women who’ve personally walked down this road, though the songs are universal for all ages, as is the story of friendship, survival and resilience. It might not always be easy for the ladies throughout their near two-and-a-half-hour journey, but their allegiance to one another emerges even stronger than before, and perhaps most importantly, they score the last laughs on the guys who did them wrong.


“First Wives Club” continues at the Oriental Theatre through March 29. For additional details, visit broadwayinchicago.com.

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