Bassist of the 1980’s new wave band Spandau Ballet, Martin Kemp has stepped into the shoes of Hollywood Actor Cuba Gooding Jr as Billy Flynn in the West End production of Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre. It comes at the perfect time as Spandau Ballet have recently reformed with a new lead singer after Tony Hadley announced he was leaving the band in 2017 and this is a great way to promote their upcoming tour.
Also joining the cast on 2 July 2018 was We Will Rock You and Mamma Mia legend Mazz Murray, replacing Ruthie Henshall as the incomprehensible prison warden Mama Morton. Ruthie is the only person to have played all three major female roles in the musical Chicago (Roxie, Velma and Mama) and opened the 21st anniversary production in London earlier this year.
I went along to check out the new show, having not had a chance to see it since it returned to London back in March 2018. Now, full disclosure, Chicago is one of my favourite musicals and I have seen the show in various countries and productions over the years (I am hugely excited about the upcoming French production – I mean, Velma Kelly was born to be a sassy French lady) so I have seen many different people act the various roles.
I had no doubt that Mazz Murray would steal the show as Mama. It’s one of those shows she was clearly born to play and her comedic timing and incredible vocal range gave a depth to the character that is rarely seen done in this role. Martin Kemp’s vocals were sadly largely underpar and he failed to project his voice meaning many of the lyrics went unheard and he was often drowned out by the ensemble members. His acting was better and his cheeky smile and silver hair made him putty in much of the audiences hands regardless.
I’m not someone that usually points things like this out but one interesting note I made watching the show, was that out of the entire cast and on stage band (around fifty people) there was not a single person of colour. With a cast that larger I just found it surprising.
Chicago will always be one of my favourite musicals and with news this week X Factor winner Alexandra Burke will be joining the show next month it’s another reason to go ands check out the 21st anniversary production whilst it’s back in London.
Buy tickets to West End theatre shows (some great discounted offers)
Subscribe to my mailing list for all the latest theatre news, special offers and competitions
FOLLOW WEST END WILMA TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | YOUTUBE