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Actresses Faith Prince (left to right), Carmen Cusack and Christine Sherrill Star in "First Wives Club: The Musical"

Actresses Faith Prince (left to right), Carmen Cusack and Christine Sherrill star in "First Wives Club: The Musical" playing a world premiere pre-Broadway run in Chicago this month.

Writing my review for the world premiere, on-its-way to Broadway, new musical "First Wives Club: The Musical" is very easy, and written as I'm still smiling from ear-to-ear: Three cheers for this hilarious, fun new stage hit!

You need not have seen the 1996 film of the same name (minus the word "musical," of course) to enjoy every minute of this two-and-a half-hour song and finely-written comedy-filled sensation.

It's playing at Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. in Chicago now until March 29 before it heads to the Great White Way, a well deserved destination for further audiences to benefit from a story of important lessons of strength, passion, love, hope, humor and the importance of friends.

Riding this wave of stage success are the talented three starring actresses stepping into the character heels made so famous in the film by Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler.

Our own Chicago actress Christine Sherrill shines like never before as Elise, the role played by Hawn. She is a fast-witted, wide-eyed wonder in her every scene and also has the pipes to prove Broadway is where she belongs. And at her side, shining just as bright in the spotlight are Faith Prince, bawdy, brilliant and able to belt out every song as the Midler alter ego Brenda. Playing the role of "the shrinking violet who turns out to be a rose with thorns" is the terrific talent that is Carmen Cusack, as the Keaton character Annie. She is a delicate powerhouse who captures her every moment, from great clipped lines and raised eyebrows to every bit of body language used to transform her character's persona.

Broadway In Chicago and producers Paul Lambert, Jonas Neilson and Elizabeth Williams are presenting the new Broadway-bound musical with actors Sean Cullen, Mike McGowan, and Gregg Edelman in fine form as the husband equals to Sherrill and her female counterparts. Patrick Richwood is great as the gals' silly gay best friend and actress Morgan Weed is a funny wonder as a goofy, gold-digger.

My loudest ovation is for five-time Emmy Award nominee Linda Bloodworth Thomason, the creator of television's "Designing Women," who wrote the book for the new stage story. Her ability to tell a story that matters, and with heart and humor, is unmatched.

Legendary music arranger and producer H.B. Barnum, best known for his work with Aretha Franklin, is the arranger and orchestrator, while Kenny Seymour serves as musical director. The musical is wonderfully directed by Simon Phillips, and features new original songs and classic hits by Motown legends Holland-Dozier-Holland, including "Reach Out…I'll Be There," "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)." Besides what is heard, the outrageously creative scenic design and costume design by Gabriela Tylesova is a visual feast.

In "First Wives Club," three former college friends reunite to find that they have more in common than just their school years together. Ditched by their respective husbands for younger women, they band together to settle scores with the men who did them wrong.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays with additional 2 p.m. performances March 18 and March 25 and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays with no 7:30 p.m. performances March 22 and 29. Tickets are $30 to $85. FYI: (800) 775-2000 or BroadwayInChicago.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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