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Claire Sweeney confirms West End debut (Annanova Oct. 15)

Claire Sweeney will make her West End debut as Velma Kelly in Chicago from December 3.
Velma is the jailbird who befriends Roxie Hart after she is imprisoned for the murder of her lover.
She was originally played by Ute Lemper. Sweeney recently signed a £250,000 contract to host the ITV show Challenge of a Lifetime. She was one of the contestants in Celebrity Big Brothers earlier this year.

Claire's ready to face the music (femail.co.uk Oct 16)

Claire Sweeney, Brookside veteran and the winner of Rear of The Year, has tried on her fishnets and slipped on her stilettos for the first time as she prepares for her West End debut in Chicago in December. 
The 30-year-old will take on the role with which Denise Van Outen recently had so much success: Roxie Hart. Anna Louise Combe, who is currently playing Roxie, will leave the company at the beginning of December to make way for Sweeney for a 15-week run until the middle of next March. Sweeney told the Evening Standard: "It's been my dream and ambition to do a West End show - and I reckon Chicago is the best show in town. I'm so passionate and the music and everything about the show, it's wonderful. I've seen it about eight times and I never get tired of it. "When I was younger I was part of a youth theatre in Southport and the older group did Chicago and I auditioned for it, I wanted to be Roxie. But I didn't get it. I lost out to one of the other girls. You know, the people who have been in the company the most, and whose mums made the sandwiches always got the best parts." Last week, Sweeney quit her day job - playing Lindsey Corkhill in Brookside - but she will continue to be seen in the soap until Christmas. She said: "At the beginning of the year I was 30 and I was single and I thought, 'in a few years I could be settled down and married with kids, what I want to do is a West End musical'. I sat down with Phil Redmond and he gave me his blessing to leave." The producers of Chicago first became aware of Sweeney as a potential cast member for the show at the Adelphi when she won last year's Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes with an eye-watering impersonation of Celine Dion. That powerful singing voice had been whipped into shape first at the Italia Conti stage school and then during a four-year stint belting out standards on P&O cruise liners. 
However, she will have her work cut out to match the booming tones of Eighties pop icon Alison Moyet who has decided to extend her own Chicago contract as Matron "Mamaî Morton for an extra four months. 
"Alison Moyet has got an amazing voice,î Sweeney said. "I've been a fan for years. Of course it will be daunting singing on the same stage. I used to watch her on Top of the Pops as a kid." It was Celebrity Big Brother that made Sweeney a household name. Her cheery disposition during her internment alongside a dour Jack Dee and Anthea Turner, raised her profile beyond even her own expectations. Afterwards she said: "I sometimes cannot believe what has happened,î but others could. Apart from clinching the part in Chicago Sweeney has since been signed up to front a £400,000 Marks & Spencer advertising campaign and is earning £250,000 as the face of ITV's Challenge of a Lifetime. An ITV executive even described her as "the new Cilla Black" - a comparison Cilla might not object to. 

Liverpool Echo
SHE started out as a stage school hopeful, but yesterday Claire Sweeney was announced as the new star of the West End hit musical, Chicago. The Brookside star, who has played Lindsey Corkhill on the Channel 4 soap for 10 years, is to take over the role of Roxie Hart from Denise Van Outen in December.
The news comes following a busy year, which saw the 30-year-old actress catapulted to A-list celebrity following her appearance on Celebrity Big Brother. A spokesman for Chicago last night said: "It's wonderful that Claire is finally joining us for Chicago. She is a major talent and we are sure that she will bring a great deal to the part. Star's odyssey - from Brookside to Chicago  "She has a very impressive voice and we believe she will help us build on the success of Chicago." Claire's agent, Jonathan Shaliet, who discovered Charlotte Church, said: "It's been a remarkable year for Claire. People say it has been an overnight success for her, but what they don't realise is that it has been 16 years of hard work. She started at 14 going to auditions around Liverpool." Brought up in Walton, Liverpool, by mother Kathleen and stepfather Ken Sweeney, Claire went to the Elliot Clarke College of Dance and Drama in Liverpool. She also took lessons with singing coach Maureen McKim. After leaving with a string of O-Levels and certificates in the performing arts, she joined the Italia Conti School in London and began a career in singing in cabaret performances on P&O cruises. Gaynor Shewood, one of the teachers at the Italia Conti Drama School, knew Claire while she studied there in the early '90s.



Waveguide (Oct. 15)

Former Brookside actress Claire Sweeney is to take the lead role in the West End show Chicago.
Currently presenting ITV's Challenge Of A Lifetime, Sweeney will appear in the show as Roxie Hill, previously played by Denise Van Outen.

ITV Online (Oct 15)

Sweeney lands top West End role

Claire Sweeney has landed a dream role in the hit West End show Chicago. The 30-year-old television star will step into the high-heeled shoes vacated by Denise Van Outen. She will star as the predatory Roxie Hart, who shoots her lover and joins a handful of other women in jail facing the death penalty. Sweeney had been tipped to appear as another character, Velma Kelly, but she impressed show bosses so much they gave her the bigger role. Sweeney has had a hugely successful year after taking part in Celebrity Big Brother which has opened numerous doors for her. The appearance led to her becoming a TV daredevil, after she landed the role of presenter for ITV1's Challenge Of A Lifetime. She is also now an underwear model for Marks and Spencer. She had previously been best known for her performance as Lindsey Corkhill in Channel 4's Brookside. But when she appeared in Big Brother she voiced her desire to perform in a show-stopper and revealed her singing talents. "I have always wanted to be on the stage in a big West End production," Sweeney has said. The stage school-educated actress also aired her vocal skills when she appeared as Celine Dion in Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes. Sweeney will take over in Chicago on December 3, joining a cast which includes former chart star Alison Moyet, who has signed up for a further four months as Mama Morton. US star Leigh Zimmerman - who has appeared in the Broadway production - will continue as Velma.

 

This Is London (Oct 15)

Claire Sweeney, Brookside veteran and the winner of Rear of The Year, has tried on her fishnets and slipped on her stilettos for the first time as she prepares for her West End debut in Chicago in December. The 30-year-old will take on the role with which Denise Van Outen recently had so much success: Roxie Hart.  Anna Louise Combe, who is currently playing Roxie, will leave the company at the beginning of December to make way for Sweeney for a 15-week run until the middle of next March.  Sweeney told the Evening Standard: "It's been my dream and ambition to do a West End show - and I reckon Chicago is the best show in town. I'm so passionate and the music and everything about the show, it's wonderful. I've seen it about eight times and I never get tired of it.  "When I was younger I was part of a youth theatre in Southport and the older group did Chicago and I auditioned for it, I wanted to be Roxie. But I didn't get it. I lost out to one of the other girls. You know, the people who have been in the company the most, and whose mums made the sandwiches always got the best parts."  Last week, Sweeney quit her day job - playing Lindsey Corkhill in Brookside - but she will continue to be seen in the soap until Christmas. 
She said: "At the beginning of the year I was 30 and I was single and I thought, 'in a few years I could be settled down and married with kids, what I want to do is a West End musical'. I sat down with Phil Redmond and he gave me his blessing to leave."  The producers of Chicago first became aware of Sweeney as a potential cast member for the show at the Adelphi when she won last year's Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes with an eye-watering impersonation of Celine Dion.  That powerful singing voice had been whipped into shape first at the Italia Conti stage school and then during a four-year stint belting out standards on P&O cruise liners.  However, she will have her work cut out to match the booming tones of Eighties pop icon Alison Moyet who has decided to extend her own Chicago contract as Matron "Mama" Morton for an extra four months.  "Alison Moyet has got an amazing voice," Sweeney said. "I've been a fan for years. Of course it will be daunting singing on the same stage. I used to watch her on Top of the Pops as a kid."  It was Celebrity Big Brother that made Sweeney a household name. Her cheery disposition during her internment alongside a dour Jack Dee and Anthea Turner, raised her profile beyond even her own expectations.  Afterwards she said: "I sometimes cannot believe what has happened," but others could. 
Apart from clinching the part in Chicago Sweeney has since been signed up to front a £400,000 Marks & Spencer advertising campaign and is earning £250,000 as the face of ITV's Challenge of a Lifetime. 
An ITV executive even described her as "the new Cilla Black" - a comparison Cilla might not object to.


Claire to face Roxie music

Claire Sweeney, Brookside veteran and the winner of Rear of The Year, has tried on her fishnets and slipped on her stilettos for the first time as she prepares for her West End debut in Chicago in December. The 30-year-old will take on the role with which Denise Van Outen recently had so much success: Roxie Hart.