Life is imitating art for leading man Raza Jaffrey, as Chicago producer, Barry Weissler spotted him in the new Steven Spielberg TV series Smash, and immediately offered him the role of Billy Flynn in the West End production of the musical. He will star in Chicago at the Garrick Theatre from 16 May to 14 July, playing the role between present Billy, David Bedella, who leaves the cast on 12 May, and Olympian Robin Cousins, who joins on 17 July.
London Theatre Direct had a chance to ask Raza a few questions:
How does it feel to be back in London after filming Smash in New York?
London is so full of the buzz of a celebratory summer at the moment. What with the Jubilee and The Olympics and the Union Jacks strung all around I'm feeling rather proud and patriotic. I love New York too though and getting to experience the worlds great cities is one of the greatest perks of being an actor.
What made you decide to do Chicago after months of making a show about putting on a musical on Broadway?
I've been excited by the prospect of being back on stage for some time now. It's been 7 years since I've worked in the theatre. I've also being longing to sing on stage again. And now I get to do that every night and with THAT band.
How would you describe the character of Billy Flynn?
He's Iconic. A Ringmaster, A Pupeteer and A Snake Charmer. And as smooth as A Stucco Bathtub.
A lot of famous actors and celebrities have appeared in Chicago, have you seen the show before and if so do you have any favourite performer?
I saw the show in 1996 in it's early days in NYC. Then again in London some years later. What I've loved is how the show is great at making use of the various personalities of the performers who are in it, whilst staying true to heart of the story. It constantly reinvents itself and is a different show to the one I first saw in 1996.
You have performed many times in the West End in shows such as Mamma Mia and Bombay Dreams, and are now starring on tv with Smash set in and around Broadway - do you prefer the stage to the screen or vice versa now that you successfully cross between film/tv and the stage?
I love being able to do both. But there's nothing like a live performance. It really is a different show every night and I think that keeps you alive as a performer.
What would be your dream role in the West End or on Broadway?
Musicals wise I'd love to play Bobby in Sondheim's Company. But even more than the role, the calibre of the creatives is what draws me to a production. On Smash we had Spielberg and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman; on Chicago we have Fosse and Kander and Ebb. Not bad company.
Chicago has been running for many years now, what do you think still makes it so popular and do you think the themes are relevant to today's audience?
Above all else Chicago has stood the test of time because it is a good show. Sure it has plenty of relevant themes - the 'cult of celebrity' being just one. But it's become the most successful Broadway transfer ever because it continues to be so well performed by some of the best musicians and dancers in the industry.
Do you have a favourite musical number from Chicago?
There are so many recognisable numbers and I love feelling what they do to the audience as the band strikes up. Razzle Dazzle is a personal favourite partly because any song with a version of your own name in the title's worth singing. And I love the girls performing All That Jazz.
Finally, why should everybody come see Chicago?
The show's had a lot of love lavished on it for it's recent move to The Garrick and it looks better than ever. Plus THAT band, THOSE girls, and ME!
Raza can be seen playing the role of Dev Sundaram in Smash, which began on Sky Atlantic last Saturday 21 April. Smash is the fictional drama behind the making of a Broadway musical. Raza’s other TV roles include Zaf Younis in Spooks and Hari Dhillon in Mistresses. Recent films include Sex and the City 2, Harry Brown and Eastern Promises. Raza’s other leading roles on the West End stage include Sky in Mamma Mia!, Akaash in the original production of Bombay Dreams and Orsino in Twelfth Night.
Now the most successful Broadway export ever and the world’s longest running American musical, as well as the West End’s longest running revival, the multi award-winning musical Chicago opened at the Garrick Theatre on 7 November 2011.
Chicago originally opened at the Adelphi Theatre on 18 November 1997 to rave reviews and immediately became a sell-out hit. Chicago won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for 'Outstanding Musical Production' as well as the 1998 Critics Circle Drama Award for 'Best Musical'. Chicago transferred from the Adelphi Theatre to the Cambridge Theatre in April 2006, where it ran for five years until 27 August 2011.
Chicago, which is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. Chicago is choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse and directed by Walter Bobbie. The West End production of CHICAGO is staged by the entire original Broadway creative team. Chicago is produced in London by the Broadway producers Barry and Fran Weissler.
London Theatre Direct would like to thank Raza Jaffrey and wishes him success in Chicago.
Book Chicago tickets online now.
[posted by Louise, 24/05/2012]