Death Becomes Her Cast 2024Long ago, I giggled at "Death Becomes Her." Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, and Isabella Rossellini starred in Robert Zemeckis's 1992 dark comic film, which told of a potion that granted eternal youth and two women who drank it and got what they deserved. To refresh my memory, I watched the movie again this week.

Decades after the movie's release, a musical adaptation debuted at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre.

As in the film version, frumpy Helen Sharp (Jennifer Simar) introduces her fiancé, Dr. Ernest Menville (Christopher Sieber), to fading movie and theater star Madeline Ashton (Megan Hilty). Madeline steals away Ernest and marries him herself. Ten years later, Madeline's beauty and career have faded, the marriage is on the rocks, Ernest has abandoned his humanitarian career to perform nose jobs for celebrities, and Helen is institutionalized thanks to the stress of losing her love to her best friend.

Enter Viola Van Horn, played by Michelle Williams, formerly of Destiny's Child. Viola has a magic potion that grants youth and eternal life to all who drink it.

Great acting, singing, music, and dancing would have been enough. But this musical brought much more. Marco Pennette's script deviated slightly from the film but kept the black humor. The music and lyrics of Julia Mattison and Noel Carey combined catchy melodies with clever lyrics. Hilty and Simard are brilliant as friends/rivals/frenemies seeking beauty and immortality. Sieber was the perfect awkward everyman caught in the middle. Williams gives a chilling performance as the pusher of the magical potion.

The direction and choreography of Christopher Gattelli took this show to another level. I do not recall seeing so many changes in a show before. Sometimes, the costumes seemed to transform magically. Even the special effects were a step above most productions. Madeline's fall down the stairs is dramatic because it is done in slow motion. And a shotgun to the belly leaves a large hole complete with smoke on the edges.

"Death Becomes Her" is a Faustian morality play that inevitably ends in tragedy. It is also a fun ride!