In a case of life imitating art, Jerry Springer, the American television presenter whose colourful talk show inspired a West End musical, is to join the cast of Chicago.
When Springer debuts on the Cambridge theatre stage on 1 June, playing Billy Flynn, it might well be the first time in West End history that a character from one musical has joined the cast of another.
The announcement that Springer would play a six week season in the long-running musical was made at a press conference held at the Cambridge theatre this morning, where Springer, flanked by a selection of Chicago’s striking dancers, was introduced to reporters.
The talk show host, who is actually a former lawyer, was mocking of his own talents, saying: “I have a voice for newspapers and a face for radio. When I sing, the audience really gets involved because they have to guess where the notes were supposed to have been.”
While happy to poke fun at himself, he made it clear that he was not taking the job, his first time on stage since college, lightly: “I know I joke about most of the things I do, but this role deserves respect. It isn’t just me going up there and telling jokes, this is a theatrical role and I’m going to try and respect the traditions of the theatre and of the show. I’m gong to work hard at it, I’m going to really rehearse and give it my best.”
Springer joins a long list of stars from stage and screen to have graced the stage as sleazy showbiz lawyer Flynn. Richard Gere played the role in the Oscar-winning big screen adaptation, while David Hasselhoff, Darius Danesh, Tony Hadley, Michael Greco, Duncan James, John Barrowman, Henry Goodman and Marti Pellow have all donned Flynn’s slick suit for the stage production.
Chicago tells the story of murderous showgirls Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly who, aided by Flynn, use their infamous notoriety as a way of promoting themselves and their nightclub acts.
The production first opened at the Adelphi theatre in 1997, going on to win the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production in 1998. After nine years of razzle dazzle on the Strand, it transferred to the Cambridge theatre in 2006, where it celebrated its 10th birthday in December 2007.