Spandau Ballet bassist and actor Martin Kemp made his West End debut early last month, taking over from Cuba Gooding Jr as the nefarious lawyer Billy Flynn in the London revival of CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre. No stranger to the stage, Martin was last seen in the capital as the legendary record producer Sam Phillips in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at the Royal Festival Hall in 2017.
While discussing his CHICAGO gig in an interview Martin said the playing the West End was always on his list of things to do. “It’s nice to be in the centre of town”, and it’s the first time he’s sung in character on stage. Did Cuba give him any advice? ” Yes , he said,”watch it as many times as you can.”
Although Martin’s ‘Billy’ is a little different than Cuba’s. “That’s the beauty playing Billy Flynn, we all interpret it differently and agrees it’s such a great part. “Billy commands the stage and everything’s in my key. He’s the devil that gets the girls to sell their souls.”
I met him arriving at the stage door on Saturday, where he signed this sketch. “Thanks man,” he said. Martin is scheduled until early September.
At the age of 9, Sarah Soetaert left her West Flanders hometown of Kortrijk and moved to Antwerp, chasing a dream of becoming a ballet dancer. Six years later, she gained a place at the English National Ballet in London. A chance audition for the musical CATS and a West End debut lead her down a ‘naturally unfolding path’ into musical theatre that has blossomed into a career of acting, singing, and dancing on both stage and screen.
Sarah is currently reprising the lead role, Roxie Hart in the 21st Anniversary production of the Kander and Ebb musical CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre, alongside Cuba Gooding Jr, Ruthie Henshall and Josefina Gabrielle. Roxie is a chorus girl who has murdered her lover, but manages to get (spoiler alert) acquitted with the help of a smooth sleazy layer.
It’s a part she knows well. She is the longest running ‘Roxie’ in the West End, beginning in 2007 at the Cambridge Theatre, returning to the role numerous times over the course of six years. The original Time Out review said, “It’s Sarah Soetaert as the crafty fake-ingenue Roxie, who steals the show.”
Sarah signed my Roxie sketch for me after last Saturday’s matinee. Cast changes have been announced, but Sarah told me her contract has been extended.
Josefina Gabrielle is very familiar with CHICAGO, the musical not the city, although I could be misrepresenting her knowledge of American metropolises. The British musical theatre star has returned to the show, this time as Velma Kelly, after playing Roxie Hart in the two previous London productions at the Cambridge and Adelphi Theatres. With three Olivier Award nominations for OKLAHOMA, SWEET CHARITY and MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, Josephina’s musical pedigree is assured.
I drew this montage of her in CHICAGO, as the Evil Witch Evilena in the Hackney Empire’s 2013 panto PUSS AND BOOTS, her dual roles as NIckie and Ursula in the stage adaption of John Masefield’s 1935 children’s book, THE BOX OF DELIGHTS at Wilton’s Music Hall in the East End and her Oliver-nominated performance as Gussie Carnegie in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s 2014 production of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.
She signed it for me at the Phoenix Theatre stage door when she arrived for the CHICAGO matinee.
Cuba Gooding Jr’s portrayal of the arrogant, yet charismatic football player Rod Tidwell in Cameron Crowe’s blockbuster sports comedy JERRY MAGUIRE won him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1996. This breakthrough role originated the famous phrase,”Show me the money!” that still resonates today. This month he made his West End stage debut as the hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn in the 21st Anniversary revival of the musical CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre.
After being told by security that Cuba was resting between the matinee and evening performances last Saturday, he suddenly appeared at the stage door in his dressing gown to meet the surprised fans. When I asked him to to sign my sketch ‘To Mark’ he said “Oh Mark that’s my middle name, did you know that? I didn’t but I do know so I was confident he could spell it on the dedication.
Denise van Outen’s most memorable musical role was the vaudevillian murderess Roxie Hart in the hit musical Chicago at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End in 2001. The twenty week run completely sold out. She reprised the role on Broadway in the spring of 2002, before returning to the London production.
Denise signed this sketch I did of her in the role at the Arts Theatre in London after he performance in the one woman musical play Some Girl I Used To Know which she also wrote with Terry Ronald.