This month has seen Heisman Trophy winner and former star NFL running back Eddie George step onto the biggest stage since he retired from football in 2005, as he’s been playing the role of Billy Flynn in a new Broadway production of “Chicago.” Richard Sandomir of The New York Times saw George’s debut last Tuesday and caught up with him afterwards, garnering some interesting quotes both from and about George:
“Man, it felt like game time,” he said in an interview the next day. “This is what you live for — like when you leave the tunnel and run onto the field.”
He was no longer trying to elude defenders bent on dragging him down. Instead, as the charming lawyer Billy Flynn, he entered through a fluttering circle of pink ostrich feathers, wearing a tuxedo and white carnation, and singing: “I don’t care about expensive things/Cashmere coats, diamond rings/Don’t mean a thing/All I care about is love.”
…“I know people are curious,” Mr. George said, then raised his eyebrows and gave voice to the doubts: “Eddie George? You mean the football player — he’s acting?”
He let that sink in and added, “The goal is to quickly have them not see me, but to pull them into the story and character, and if I’ve done my job, they’ll see Billy Flynn.
…“He knocked us out,” [show producer Barry] Weissler said. “He’s a very truthful actor, he has tremendous charisma and an ebullient personality. And he moves like an angel.”
It’s not as if George went straight from football to Broadway, as he’s been acting for some time. This is a bigger stage, though; most of his performances until now have come in Nashville, where he played Julius Caesar and Othello in the Nashville Shakespeare Festival and a former slave in “The Whipping Man” at the Nashville Repertory Theater.
George got the role of Flynn after watching a touring production of the show in Nashville last year, speaking to the chief executive, getting in touch with Weissler (and his wife Fran, also a producer on the show) and successfully auditioning in New York. According to Sandomir’s piece, his initial Broadway performance was well-received:
At the end of his first performance, audience members chanted “Ed-die! Ed-die!,” which he first heard at college games. His co-stars Bianca Marroquin and Amra-Faye Wright handed him roses.
Afterward, his friend Jerome Bettis, the Hall of Fame running back, who had watched the musical from the seventh row, praised the effort. “I knew he had a passion for theater but I didn’t know how far he was willing to go for it,’’ Mr. Bettis said. “To commit himself to a true art form to this point — I’ve got to commend him.”
Looking slightly overwhelmed, Mr. George put it more simply: “I feel like I had sex,” he said from the stage. “I’m tired.”
It may be another physically-exhausting career, but it could be a rewarding one for George. This certainly sounds like a pretty good start for him.