More than anything, Taylor says, that feeling led to the new one-woman show arriving in Chicago this weekend for a pre-Broadway tryout (the show does not yet have an announced Broadway theater for the spring, but that remains the current plan). "Ann" has already been seen in a couple of venues in Texas; it was first seen in Galveston last December. Taylor got this show going in Galveston and, subsequently, at the Paramount Theatre in Austin using much of her own money.
But now New York producer Bob Boyett has agreed to take over the project and shepherd it to Broadway. The Chicago run will be the first formally under Boyett's producing aegis, and Wednesday's official opening at the
Certainly, Chicago will be a significant test of the show's popular appeal. It's one thing to sell tickets to a show about Ann Richards in Texas, where she enjoys near-mythic status in certain circles, but entirely another to do so in one of the 49 other states.
Taylor, a star of the
Richards' numerous fans would surely agree. And it's toward those fellow admirers of an iconic liberal political force in the generally conservative Lone Star State that "Ann" is clearly aimed. Taylor/Richards does not aim to be a "
When Broadway in Chicago first announced "Ann," it did so under the show's original title, "Ann: An Affectionate Portrait of Ann Richards." The subsequent change in title was a smart move; to call a show "an affectionate portrait" is to telegraph both an agenda and an apparent lack of drama. When an audience comes to see "Ann," the piece will at least have been set up as an honest picture. "I try to represent her accurately," Taylor said. "I think I have a feel for her voice."
That voice has been extensively researched. Taylor says she spoke, over more than two years, to more than 80 people from Richards' life, including family members, friends, and political allies and adversaries, and also sifted through "a mountain" of written material. Many of those who knew Richards personally saw the piece when it played in Austin and, Taylor says, a number of them came backstage to say how accurately she'd captured her gal.
"People said that doing the show in Austin was like shooting fish in a barrel," Taylor said. "Are you kidding? You don't want to get it wrong for the people who knew her best."
And there are certainly both conflict and broader issues contained in Richards' remarkable life and career, which ended with her death at age 73 in 2006.
Few women of her generation emerged as such powerhouse political forces. "In a lot of people's minds," Taylor said, "she was always supposed to be stuffing envelopes and getting coffee."
Sunday through Dec. 4 at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.; $20-$85 at 800-775-2000 and broadwayinchicago.com