Musical: Chicago with Ashlee Simpson (Cambridge Theatre, West End)

Ashlee Simpson as Roxie Hart

First published in News by

HOLLYWOOD stars never get an easy ride on the West End - just ask Oscar winner Kevin Spacey or Scream siren Neve Campbell - but a big name from beyond the pond this week won over London's theatre-goers and critics.

US pop starlet Ashlee Simpson - who is better known for her big sister, rumors of a nose job, a MTV reality series and lip-syncing disasters- put in a dazzling and near flawless performance in the musical Chicago.

The 21-year-old Texan showed no nerves on her debut and her original take on the role of femme fatale Roxie Hart was funny, physical and breathed new life into long-running hit show.

Simpson would know better than most the glory and pain of fame and she readily admitted that she could relate to wannabe star Roxie, who will go to any length to get her name in the newspapers.

Chicago follows Roxie, who murders her lover and then seeks the help of sleazy lawyer, Billy Flyn, to get acquitted and launch her career.

"The play is absolutely all about celebrity and wanting to be famous and having your name in the papers and your picture in the papers," Simpson reportedly said before her debut.

"And, in that sense, it's been kind of cool because I've really got to connect to that, because I've seen that world and been in that world.

"As far as tabloids and whatnot go, I really try to keep my head out of them and try not to read the stories or anything like that, because they are never really true."

True or not, there were plenty of sniggers in the audience when she sang a line mentioning her nose.

Simpson was unmoved, but you have to wonder if she'll get sick of it after six weeks.

Simpson is perhaps most well known for a potentially career ending disaster when she was caught lip-syncing on a supposedly live performance on Saturday Night Live.

While her voice couldn't reach the window-smashing heights of Amra-Faye Wright as rival performer Velma Kelly or X-Factor star Brenda Edwards as prison warden, Simpson was never out of tune and her enthusiasm and cheekiness always drew the most attention when she took the stage.

By the end the audience, including A-listers Sharon Osborne, Peaches Geldof and Coleen McLoughlin, gave Simpson and the cast a standing ovation, while big sister and the rest of the Simpson family were in tears.

Simpson will play the part of Roxie through to October 28 at the Cambridge Theatre.

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