As previously tipped (See The Goss, 30 Aug 2006), American pop star Ashlee Simpson (pictured) will make her London stage debut as murderess Roxie Hart in Chicago at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre for a limited five-week season from Monday 25 September to Saturday 28 October 2006.

The 21-year-old Texas-born recording artist followed in her sister Jessica Simpson’s footsteps by becoming a singer. Her debut album “Autobiography” went triple platinum and her single “Pieces of Me” was an international smash hit. She made her own MTV series The Ashlee Simpson Show and made frequent guest appearances in the television series Malcolm in the Middle and 7th Heaven. Her new album “I Am Me” has just been released.

Meanwhile, Linzi Hateley, who created the stage role of Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins, will continue in the role of Roxie to 23 September 2006 (See News, 1 Aug 2006). Ian Kelsey will continue to star as Billy Flynn during Simpson’s run, alongside Amra-Faye Wright as Velma Kelly, Julian Sims as Amos Hart, and Brenda Edwards as Mama Morton.

Chicago won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production as well as the 1998 Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. The 1975 musical, about a wannabe jazz star turned murderess, is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.

The current stage revival is directed by Walter Bobbie and designed by John Lee Beatty, with choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse. It opened at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre (where the original London production of the Kander and Ebb musical opened in April 1979 and ran for 603 performances) on 28 April 2006, after a record-breaking nine years at the Adelphi Theatre, where it opened in November 1997.

In other musical casting news, Bonnie Langford – who also played Roxie Hart earlier this year - will follow Claire Sweeney on the tour of Michael Grandage’s multi award-winning production of Guys and Dolls, starring as Miss Adelaide alongside previously announced Nigel Harman as Sky Masterson at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham this Christmas (See News, 19 May 2006).

After her West End run in the role, Sweeney stars for the first three months of the tour, which kicks off in Glasgow next week. The former Brookside actress will then tour to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff (10 – 28 October), Regent Theatre Stoke (31 October – 11 November) and the New Victoria Theatre in Woking (14 – 25 November). Langford takes over from Sweeney in Birmingham from 12 December 2006 to 6 January 2007. The tour continues to Plymouth, Sunderland, Milton Keynes, Manchester, Sheffield, Oxford, Liverpool and Edinburgh, where it’s scheduled to conclude on 23 June 2007.

Grandage’s production opened at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre on 1 June 2005 (previews from 19 May). The current London cast includes Lynsey Britton as Adelaide, Patrick Swayze as Nathan Detroit, Adam Cooper as Sky Masterson and Kelly Price as Sarah Brown.

Based on Damon Runyon’s short stories about New York gamblers and their girls in the 1940s, the musical was made into a 1953 Hollywood film starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. Grandage’s revival, the first new production of Guys and Dolls in London for 23 years, is designed by Christopher Oram, with choreography by Rob Ashford, musical supervision by Jae Alexander, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Terry Jardine and Chris Full.

- by Caroline Ansdell