Cuba Gooding Jr gets ready for West End debut in Chicago

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Cuba Gooding Jr is ready to give London some razzle dazzle when he makes his West End debut playing lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago

Cuba Gooding Jr is ready to give London some razzle dazzle when he makes his West End debut playing lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago

Cuba Gooding Jr is ready to give London some razzle dazzle when he makes his West End debut playing lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago.

Gooding, who gave one of the most memorable Oscar acceptance speeches ever after winning an award for his role in 1996 movie Jerry Maguire (his character’s refrain, ‘Show me the money!’, has become part of popular culture) will lead a new production of the show, which will begin previewing at the Phoenix Theatre on March 26.

In Chicago, Flynn defends murderous women Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart.

He uses glamour and showbusiness as part of his defence, instructing one client that both she and her husband ‘reached for the gun’ (he sings it; she mimes it).

In another big number, he advises Velma and Roxie to give the judge and jury a touch of ‘razzle dazzle’, to blind them from the truth.

Gooding, who recently turned 50, joked that he has been doing karaoke to help get his voice in shape.

Over a late lunch at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, he told me that his initial reaction when he was offered the role was: ‘Are you kidding?!’

He laughed as he told me: ‘I literally lost my mind . . . and then I said “Yes!” ’

In Chicago, Flynn defends murderous women Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart. He previously starred in the legal drama People V. O.J. Simpson 

In Chicago, Flynn defends murderous women Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart. He previously starred in the legal drama People V. O.J. Simpson 

In Chicago, Flynn defends murderous women Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart. He previously starred in the legal drama People V. O.J. Simpson 

One reason for his acceptance was the realisation that it was the roles which have scared him most that have turned out best: co-starring with Tom Cruise in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire; portraying O.J. Simpson in the award-winning TV drama The People Vs O.J. Simpson — American Crime Story; and directing his first film, Louisiana Caviar (which will be released later this year). And the part of Billy Flynn scares him witless. ‘This is the West End. Shakespeare and all that,’ he said.

‘I have had this interesting love affair with London and England, though I don’t know how London feels about me. So, I’m getting ready. I have a vocal coach, Eric Vetro.

‘I’ve always had a strong voice but no control, so Eric has taught me how to breathe properly. My voice goes a bit hoarse, but he and I know the work we have to accomplish.’

He certainly knows how to entertain. His father, Cuba Gooding Sr, who died last year, was a founding member of The Main Ingredient; and his mother, Shirley Sullivan, sang with The Sweethearts.

Gooding, who gave one of the most memorable Oscar acceptance speeches ever after winning an award for his role in 1996 movie Jerry Maguire

Gooding, who gave one of the most memorable Oscar acceptance speeches ever after winning an award for his role in 1996 movie Jerry Maguire

Gooding, who gave one of the most memorable Oscar acceptance speeches ever after winning an award for his role in 1996 movie Jerry Maguire

‘We had the Motown stable in and out of the household, so I was surrounded by singers and dancers and razzle dazzle. It was the world of showbusiness, in our house.’

Gooding appeared on Broadway in Trip To Bountiful, but has not done much stage work since the early days of his career, when he did amateur theatre.

He observed that Chicago, a musical about women who have been abused by the men in their lives, speaks to the #MeToo movement, which he supports because ‘it means we’re having a conversation’.

‘There’s a certain apprehension,’ he added, ‘because you wonder whether a friend of yours will become implicated in some way.

‘And it makes you think about your own behaviour. What was celebrated yesterday is not tolerated today.’

Gooding will work with the Chicago team in New York to get himself up to scratch, before heading over to London in early March for rehearsals with the company that will perform at the Phoenix.

 

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