As previously tipped (See The Goss, 18 Jul & 8 Aug 2003), Backstreet Boy pop star Kevin Richardson will make his West End stage debut this month in Chicago. The new cast - officially confirmed today - will also feature Anita Dobson as Mama Morton, Frances Ruffelle as Roxie Hart and Paul Baker as Amos Hart.

Richardson (pictured), who previously played superslick lawyer Billy Flynn on Broadway, will recreate the role, taking over from Rolf Saxon, for six weeks only from 22 September 2003. Ahead of his arrival, the other newcomers start performances on 8 September, when the box office will open a new booking period will open, adding another five months to booking up 26 June 2004. Meanwhile, Ruthie Henshall, the original West End Roxie, has extended her contract playing fellow murderess Velma Kelly until 1 November 2003 (See News, 28 Mar 2003).*

Frances Ruffelle created the role of Eponine in Les Miserables, for which she won a Tony Award when it originally transferred to Broadway. Her other West End musicals include the original productions of Starlight Express and Children of Eden. Though best known to television fans as Angie Watts from EastEnders, Anita Dobson's musical theatre credits include Budgie and The Pajama Game while, earlier this year, she was nominated for a Best Actress Olivier for Bryony Lavery's hard-hitting play Frozen at the National.

And Paul Baker won this year's Olivier for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for creating the role of Philip Sallon in Boy George's Taboo. His other musical credits include Napoleon, Les Miserables and The Lion King. Also joining the show from 8 September will be Morgan Crowley as Mary Sunshine.

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 Marcus Savage. 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.

(*NOTE: Ruthie Henshall will not appear at either performance on Saturday 13 September 2003. Anita Dobson will not appear on Monday 3 November 2003.)

- by Terri Paddock