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Review: Cuba Gooding’s on the money in Chicago

Sexiest musical ever: Gooding (right) struts his stuff with his fellow troupers as the classic show returns PICTURE: TRISTRAM KENTON

REVIEW

Chicago

Phoenix Theatre, London

★★★★☆

CUBA GOODING Jr won an Oscar after drawing cries of ‘show me the money’ from Tom Cruise’s character in Jerry Maguire more than 20 years ago.

Now he has become the latest star to play smooth-as-silk lawyer Billy Flynn — whose first impulse when deciding whether to take a case is, well, show me the money.

Flynn specialises in getting murderesses off scot-free and his latest client is Roxie Hart, who is as guilty, and as sexy, as sin.

Arriving in the West End to star in Kander and Ebb’s steamy 1920s-set musical, Gooding hasn’t changed much.

The body is slimmer than the face. The default expression more mischievous than malign. He’s good, although he is a much better mover than he is a singer.

His Flynn has stacks of charm but the 50-year-old — who played the title role in TV’s acclaimed The People v OJ Simpson — gets fewer opportunities than he might like to try his hand at following Bob Fosse’s incomparable choreography. This is probably the sexiest musical ever and remains the great, smouldering show that first arrived in London from New York in 1997.

Josefina Gabrielle (a former Roxie in the production) returns as femme fatale Velma Kelly, while Roxie is terrifically played by Sarah Soetaert as a kind of raunchy Dolly Parton. First she started to ‘fool around’, Roxie tells us, then she started ‘screwing around, which is fooling around without dinner’.

With Ruthie Henshall as Mama Morton, ultimately it is not Gooding but the women in this show who will keep the longest running American musical, now back in the West End after a five-year absence, running even longer.