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Cast: Chesney Hawkes Can’t Smile, Price Is Roxie

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Pop singer Chesney Hawkes (pictured), best known for his 1991 chart-topping single “The One and Only”, will make his musical theatre debut in Barry Manilow’s Can\'t Smile Without You. He co-stars with How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? finalist Siobhan Dillon in the new compilation musical, which premieres on 28 August 2008 at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre where it continues until 6 September ahead of a three-month regional tour and planned West End transfer next year (See News, 4 Jun 2008).

Can\'t Smile Without You revolves around an aspiring young band who, on a visit to New York, come across an opportunity not to be missed - auditions for the latest reality TV show to find the next pop sensation. When the TV company offers lead singer Tony (Hawkes) a chance to appear on the show, the other band members give him their blessing. But before Tony can realise his dream, he’s caught up in a tragic sequence of events which leaves him fighting for his life. Left with no memory, his dreams are all but shattered. His only hope lies in the power of the music he loves and his feelings for a girl he once knew called Mandy (Dillon).

Chesney Hawkes made his stage debut last year in the Dick Whittington pantomime at The Lowry in Salford. Following her own reality TV success on BBC One’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, on which she was a second runner-up, Siobhan Dillon made her West End debut last summer playing Patty Simcox in Grease (See News, 24 May 2007).

Can\'t Smile Without You has a book by Tim Prager based on an original idea by Bill Kenwright, who also produces the show and co-directs it with Keith Strachan. The production is designed by Andy Walmsley with lighting by Ben Cracknel, choreography by Carole Todd and musical direction by John Maher.

American singer-songwriter Barry Manilow has sold more than 75 million records worldwide. At the height of his success in the late 1970s, he had five albums on the best-seller charts in the US. His many easy-listening singles include “I Write the Songs”, “Mandy”, “Looks Like We Made It”, “Weekend in New England”, “Ready to Take a Chance Again”, “I Made It Through the Rain”, “Can’t Smile Without You” and “Copacabana”.

The last song was so popular that its story – about showgirl Lola and her jealous lover Tony – was made into a movie musical, which was aired in the US in 1985, starring Manilow himself as Tony. Following a shorter stage rendition in Las Vegas, Copacabana premiered as a full-length stage musical in 1994, running for more than a year at the West End\'s Prince of Wales Theatre. It was revived for a UK regional tour five years ago (See News, 24 Jul 2003).

The new musical features more than 30 Manilow songs and is endorsed by Manilow and his music executive Garry Kief. Following Bromley, Can\'t Smile Without You tours to Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Hull, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Northampton, Stoke and Newcastle, with further dates to be announced. A London venue and dates have not yet been confirmed.

In other musical casting news, Kelly Price will take over as murderess Roxie Hart in Chicago at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre, performing for eight weeks from 1 September to 25 October 2008. Price’s previous West End musical credits include Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls (in which she co-starred Patrick Swayze and Adam Cooper), Sophie in Mamma Mia! and Roberta in last year’s short-lived Desperately Seeking Susan.

Roxie is currently being played by Suzanne Shaw, who finishes her extended season on 9 August. For the three weeks’ interim before Price opens, Sarah Soetaert will return to play Roxie. Other current principals, who are all continuing in their roles, include Anna Jane Casey (as Velma Kelly), Terence Maynard (Billy Flynn), Victor McGuire (Amos Hart) and Gina Murray (Mama Morton).

This West End revival of Chicago opened at the Cambridge Theatre (where the musical’s original London production ran for 603 performances from April 1979) on 28 April 2006, after eight-and-a-half years at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. Amongst its accolades are the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production and the Critics\' Circle Award for Best Musical.

Kander and Ebb’s 1975 musical 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, which transferred from Broadway, is directed by Walter Bobbie and designed by John Lee Beatty, with choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse.

- by Terri Paddock


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