Canadian Olympic figure skating star Elvis Stojko will make his professional acting debut as smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn in an upcoming production of Chicago, the Musical.
Mirvish Productions is mounting the musical as part of its 50th anniversary season.
"People think of me as only a skater. What they don't know is that I love musicals," the Newmarket, Ont., native said in a statement.
"Now I finally have the chance to play a great role in one of the greatest musicals of all time. I'm very excited."
Stojko has chosen a daunting role to launch his stage career. The part has previously been tackled by veteran performers including Billy Ray Cyrus, Alan Thicke and Tom Wopat — as well as by Richard Gere in the 2002 Oscar-winning film.
The skating champion was not at Tuesday's packed announcement at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
But Chicago cast veterans Bianca Marroquin and Tony-nominated Brenda Braxton were, and said they were excited to see Stojko's turn in the show.
"I think he's going to bring new things to the show," said Marroquin, who's been performing in Chicago on-and-off since 2001, most recently as Roxie Hart in the Broadway production.
"Sometimes they'll bring just actors that can sort of hold a tune or good movers, and then sometimes they'll bring amazing dancers. Like in our time, Patrick Swayze was Billy and he brought a lot of dancing to the role. Usher brought a love of suaveness and his singing.
"So I'm sure (Stojko) is going to bring his own moves and a little bit of skating style in there. So that's great."
Braxton, who has been performing in Chicago for a decade and recently played Velma Kelly in the California Music Circus production, said her advice to Stojko is "to enjoy yourself."
"Have fun, don't take yourself too seriously, because sometimes they get caught up in, 'Oh, I've got to do this, I have to do this.' It's such a fun show, he's going to have a hoot, and anyone who comes here from our company, he's going to love."
Audiences can see Stojko's incarnation when Chicago opens at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre next March.
The three-time world figure skating champion has some show business experience — he doubled for Robin Williams in the 2002 film Death To Smoochy, for which he also did choreography, and he portrayed a hockey player in the 2000 TV movie Ice Angel. He's also released an album.
Packed 50th anniversary season
Other productions announced by Mirvish on Tuesday include Puppet Up! — Uncensored — an improvised comedy stage show featuring puppets from the Jim Henson Company which will run at the Panasonic Theatre starting Oct. 22.
The show is co-created by acclaimed director/producer/writer Brian Henson — son of the late puppeteer great Jim Henson — and features the Miskreant Puppets. Show co-creator Patrick Bristow hosts the adult-targeted production that has six puppeteers creating scenes on the fly.
Other productions include the musical spoof The Musical of Musicals, the Musical!, written by Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell. A hit at the recent Toronto Fringe Festival, it will play the Panasonic Theatre starting in December.
Owen Sheers' London drama The Two Worlds of Charlie F, about soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, will make its North American premiere at the Princess of Wales Theatre in February. Newfoundland native Cassidy Little stars in the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival hit, which is performed by medically discharged military personnel and professional actors.
Beside Chicago, several other hit musicals are also returning to the city, including Green Day's American Idiot, the Beatles tribute show Rain and the Queen musical We Will Rock You.
Mirvish has also announced casting news for several previously shows, including theatre veteran Brian Bedford's turn as the pope in the Vatican mystery thriller The Last Confession.
Meanwhile, four Canadian actors will star in the Olivier- and Tony-winning comedy God of Carnage: John Bourgeois, Linda Kash, Tony Nappo and Sarah Orenstein.