Van Outen Makes West End Debut as Chicago RoxieDate: 14 March 2001
Former Big Breakfast television presenter Denise Van Outen is to become the latest celeb to make a surprise West End debut in a hit musical. Following the casting in star roles of Josie Lawrence in The King and I, Danni Minogue in Notre Dame de Paris and Martine McCutcheon in My Fair Lady, producers of Chicago have announced that Van Outen will from next month take over the lead of murderess Roxie Hart in the long-running production of the Kander and Ebb musical at the Adelphi Theatre.
Van Outen opens in the role on 17 April 2001 and stars for a limited 16 weeks. She’s joined by new principals Leigh Zimmerman (as Velma Kelly), James Gaddas (Billy Flynn) and Barry James (Amos Hart). They replace Josefina Gabrielle, Annette McLaughlin, Sacha Distel and Clive Rowe, currently playing these roles, who leave at the end of their contracts. Susannah Fellows and Mattie Clay-White will continue to feature as Mama Morton and Mary Sunshine.
Van Outen is best known for her brash manner, blonde hair and on-screen flirtation with former Big Breakfast co-presenter Johnny Vaughan. Following her departure from the morning show, she hosted a saucy, Friday late-night show called Something for the Weekend and appeared in the comedy series Babes in the Wood.
She's not new to the stage or even the West End (though this is her first starring role), having appeared as a teenager in, amongst other things, A Slice of Saturday Night as well as the RSC’s Les Miserables and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her last stage appearance was ten years ago in Stop the World at the West End's Lyric Theatre. On film, she has appeared in the Brit gangster flick Love, Honour and Obey, while her recordings have included the Children in Need single “Especially for You” (which she sang with Vaughan) and a rendition of “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” for an Abba Mania album.
Leigh Zimmerman was in the original Broadway cast of this revival of Chicago and was last seen on the London stage in The Seven Year Itch. James Gaddas’ many TV credits include Coronation Street, Jonathan Creek and Medics, while on stage he’s been seen in A Chorus of Disapproval and Art. Barry James’ West End credits include Jesus Christ Superstar, Little Shop of Horrors, Les Miserables and Beauty and the Beast; he was nominated for an Olivier for his performance in Sweeney Todd at the National.
Chicago, based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. Scenic design is by John Lee Beatty, costumes by William Ivey Long, lighting by Ken Billington and sound by Rick Clarke. Musical supervision is by Rob Fisher and musical direction by Gareth Valentine. The production is choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse and directed by Walter Bobbie.
The musical opened at the Adelphi in November 1997 and went on to win the 1998 Olivier for Outstanding Musical Production and the 1998 Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. It is currently booking to 29 September 2001.
- by Terri Paddock