‘Chicago’ actor John O’Hurley dotes on Des Moines

Actor John O’Hurley had good things to say about Greater Des Moines during his appearance in the Court Avenue Entertainment District, following this week’s opening of “Chicago” at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines.

Best known for his role as J. Peterman (Elaine’s boss) in the hit television show “Seinfeld,” O’Hurley plays Billy Flynn in the award-winning Broadway musical.

Hanging with his fellow performers and local patrons on the recently opened patio of Mickey’s Irish Pub at the corner of Third Street and Court Avenue downtown, O’Hurley told me that Des Moines is far ahead of similarly sized metropolitan areas in terms of commercial development and cultural significance.

Doting on our skywalks and other amenities, he said cities such as Grand Rapids, Mich., lag our evolving community by three or four years. Referring to the appeal of Mickey’s patio, O’Hurley suggested the establishment project silent movies – perhaps old black-and-white Charlie Chaplin flicks – on the brick façade of the neighboring Saddlery Building, which houses Court Avenue Brewing Co. next door.

Providing patrons with a visual stimulus as they mingle in the outdoor space would give them something to latch on to while soaking in Iowa summer nights, he said.

The cast and company of “Chicago” captured my attention. In the four years I’ve been attending and reviewing theatrical performances at the Civic Center, I’ve never met such an energetic and engaging troupe of visiting performance artists and musicians.

The show’s drummer told me he felt extremely safe on the streets of Des Moines and a number of other “Chicago” cast members shared his view that the city is certainly on its way to the big time.

Leading ladies Terra C. McLeod (Velma), Roz Ryan (Matron “Mama” Morton) and Tracy Shayne (Roxie) bedazzled the audience during Thursday’s performance, yet the show didn’t stop when the curtain closed. With a wondrous mix of murder, mayhem and comedy, “Chicago” (on Twitter) was electric.

During the cast party at Dos Rios Cantina and Tequila Lounge, and a late-night tour of Court Avenue, I realized that this all-star crew of New Yorkers was as cool and collected off-stage as they were under the spotlight.

And knowing that they think Des Moines is an up-and-coming cultural hub, I was filled with a sense of civic pride surly won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Continuing on a three-week tour, the musical plays through June 5 at the Civic Center. So what’s the next stop for this traveling band of premier personalities?

Chicago.

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