wed 21/03/2018

Razzle Dazzle Fizzle: Chicago to Close | reviews, news & interviews

Razzle Dazzle Fizzle: Chicago to Close

Razzle Dazzle Fizzle: Chicago to Close

The West End is losing its longest-running American musical after 15 years

Closing time: titillating Chicago posters to disappear from the London Underground

Producers did warn it was going to be a bad summer for West End theatre, but the announcement of the closure of Chicago is still a curveball. For 15 years the musical - those credits one more time: music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, a book adapted by Ebb and Bob Fosse from the play by journalist Maurine Dallas Watkins and choreography by Ann Reinking “in the style of Fosse” - has been keeping audiences entertained at the Adelphi, then the Cambridge and, as of last November, the Garrick. In that time it has grossed over £120 million. But as of 1 September one of the pillars of the West End’s economy will be no more.

Fifteen years is quite a run for a revival of a show which was overshadowed by A Chorus Line when it opened on Broadway in 1975. Exhumed in New York in 1996 and brought to London the following year, Chicago’s casting policy over the years has been constantly inventive. The original cast of the West End production, which opened on 18 November 1997 and won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production, starred Ruthie Henshall as Roxie Hart, Ute Lemper as Velma Kelly, Henry Goodman as Billy Flynn and Nigel Planer as Amos Hart.

It will complete its run with one of its most perverse bits of opportunistic casting.

While the posters on the London Underground have always had the leggy chorus girls got up in S&M lingerie (as opposed to M&S) to fall back on, they’ve also been able to flout all sorts of oddments and oddballs from soaps and talent shows, breakfast sofas and reality TV, from quondam boy bands and washed-up pop groups. They’ve had a Doctor Who and Billy Joel’s ex. From US they’ve summoned a phantasmal gallery of the glamorous, the pneumatic and the garrulous in the form of Brooke Shields, Kelly Osbourne, Jennifer Ellison, David Hasselhoff and Jerry Springer, who has of course been the subject of his own West End show. Now and then they even pulled the odd showbiz legend out of the hat: Kander and Ebb royalty Chita Rivera, the original Broadway Velma, and Joel Grey, the MC in Cabaret the movie, both passed through.

Hey, the longest running revival in West End history is not leaving these shores altogether. A touring production is off around the UK, stopping off in Cardiff, Truro, Torquay, Nottingham, Dublin, Aberdeen, Milton Keynes, Sheffield, Woking, Preston, Belfast, Derry, Crawley, Oxford, Canterbury, Glasgow, Plymouth, Cambridge and Dunfermline. And in the mean time, the London production of the New York revival (where the show will continue) will complete its run with one of its most perverse bits of opportunistic casting.

From next week, the role of Billy Flynn will be taken will be taken by an Olympian. Indeed, as the publicity claims with perhaps telltale desperation, the ice skater Robin Cousins “is the first Olympian ever to appear in a theatre production in the home town of the Olympics during the Olympics”. Maybe it really is time to shuffle off its mortal coil.

They’ve been able to flout all sorts of oddments and oddballs from soaps and talent shows

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