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Chicago shimmies to a close

Published 13 July 2012

After 15 years of fishnets, red lipstick and jazz hands, Chicago is set to end its iconic razzling dazzling run in the West End when the hugely successful musical comes to a close on 1 September.

Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse’s hit is one of only six musicals to have played 15 years or more in London’s West End. Following its opening at the Adelphi theatre in 1997, Chicago won the 1998 Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production and played at the theatre until 2006 before runs at the Cambridge theatre and Garrick theatre, where it will end its West End tenure.

Telling the now infamous story of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two prison-bound vamps who are determined to hit the heady heights of fame with the help of their sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn, Chicago has arguably seen more stars and diverse performers grace the stage than any other West End show. Premiering with musical theatre veterans Ruthie Hensall and Ute Lemper as the show’s ambitious leading ladies, the steamy characters have since been portrayed by actresses including America Ferrera, Ashlee Simpson, Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley, Claire Sweeney and Kelly Osborne.

This summer is no exception to the show’s history of high profile casting with Olympic Gold medallist Robin Cousins stepping into Billy’s stylish shoes from 17 July following Smashed star Raza Jaffrey’s current run, alongside Sarah Soetaert as Roxie and Rachel McDowall as Velma.

Barry Weisser, who produced the show alongside his wife Fran, described bringing Chicago to the West End as “a pivotal moment in Fran’s and my career,” adding: “Running 15 years has been a dream come true. We may be taking our ‘parting shots’ for now, but the Razzle Dazzle will never fade!”

Composer Kander paid tribute to the show’s loyal audiences, saying: “The fact that the London audience has embraced our show for 15 years fills me with gratitude and pride. Thank you for all your warmth and enthusiasm.”

Chicago’s life in the West End is just the tip of the suspender-wearing iceberg with the show having played more than 15,000 performances worldwide to an estimated 17 million people. In the West End alone it has grossed more than £120 million since opening in 1997 and a touring production continues to play around the UK.

As yet there have been no announcements as to what will follow the musical into the Garrick theatre.

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