The former Big Breakfast television presenter, who silenced critics where she the role of Chicago's murderess Roxie Hart for 20 weeks last year, will be back at London's Adelphi Theatre from 29 April to 1 June 2002. Before that, she'll play five weeks only, from 18 March to 21 April, in the New York production of Chicago at Broadway's Shubert Theatre.
In London, the role of Roxie is currently being played by Claire Sweeney - famous from her long-running role in TV's Brookside and for her turn on Celebrity Big Brother last year - who finishes her contract on 16 March 2002. During the interim before Van Outen's return, another former West End Roxie, Anita Louise Combe, will recreate the role.
When it was initially announced last April than Van Outen would return to the stage in Chicago, the news was greeted with considerable cynicism. But Van Outen disproved her critics by winning laudable reviews. Previously, Van Outen was 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.
Van Outen's earlier stage credits include A Slice of Saturday Night, Les Miserables, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Stop the World. 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.
In addition to Sweeney, the current of Chicago cast features Leigh Zimmerman (as Velma Kelly), Neil McCaul (Billy Flynn), Clive Rowe (Amos Hart) and former Yazoo lead singer Alison Moyet (Mama Morton). Further cast change announcements are expected shortly.
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.
- by Terri Paddock