“Chicago” the musical is always a revolving door for countless celebrity castings.
The Broadway staple premiered in 1975 and was revived in 1996. Still going strong after 26 years, the musical is the longest-running Broadway revival ever.
In the musical set during Prohibition-era 1920s Chicago, a promising but untalented chorus girl named Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, a star whose light has dimmed, are facing a murder trial for a man whom Roxie shot and was having affair an affair with. Both scandalous women compete for the services of a lawyer Billy Flynn, who promises to get them off and turn them into megastars.
The musical is based on a 1926 play of the same by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins. Ultimately the story of “Chicago” is a satire on corruption in the criminal justice system and the idea of the celebrity criminal. But most importantly, the musical earned six Tony Awards — one Tony for best revival of a musical in 1997, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy because of its killer score and ensemble cast. Rob Marshall also adapted the musical for his 2002 film starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It went on to win six Oscars including a best picture win, making it the first musical win since “Oliver!”
Outside all the accolades, “Chicago” is mostly about Roxie’s life on the edge. It is a role that a plethora of celebrities are able to inhabit in short stints because it’s one that doesn’t necessarily require a performer know how to dance or sing well. This has opened the door to singers, actors and even reality stars to be the next to don the top hat and play the musical murderer.
Let’s take a look at some of the celebrities who’ve played Roxie on stage.
Of her performance, The New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley wrote, “Ms. Griffith is a sensational Roxie, possibly the most convincing I have seen.” Some said that Griffith’s singing and dancing were the weaker points of her performance.
“Pieces of Me” singer Ashlee Simpson played Roxie in 2006 for a five-week run from September to October. She was 21 when she took on the role in the West End in London. Her singing abilities made her a perfect candidate for the role but it was the first time the singer was on stage for a theatrical.
She also made her Broadway debut reprising her role as Roxie in New York City.
Sister Jessica Simpson said, “I think Ashlee made Roxie who she wanted to make Roxie [into]. It was her stage tonight. She was brighter than the lights. She was it. My girl!”
She was one of the first performers to have starred in “Chicago,” “Cabaret” and “Grease” on Broadway, three long-running revivals that are known for their stunt casting. Some critics called Shields too wholesome for the role of Roxie.
She also had a No. 1 country album with her solo debut “That Girl.” But also as the lead singer of Sugarland, she garnered worldwide sales over $22 million.
The Chicago Tribune said Nettles was “chatty, charming and energetic, Nettles was an accessible presence throughout.”
But she didn’t only play Roxie on Broadway, she went across the pond to London to play the character in the West End production of “Chicago” too. The multi-talented Williams was also in the Broadway production “Aida” and also joined the national touring company of the hit musical “The Color Purple.”
Holt is another actor-singer who grew up in the Disney pipeline, which requires performers to learn how to do both skillfully and gracefully. Her songs “Phoenix” and “History” have racked up millions of views on YouTube and streams on Spotify.
Anderson has been enjoying a renewed time in the spotlight since the release of her memoir and Netflix documentary “Love, Pamela” in January 2023. In her documentary, we witness Anderson’s excitement over being asked to play Roxie and glimpses of the star rehearsing for the musical.
R&B superstar Brandy famously played Roxie Hart in June 2015.
The singer has sold more than 40 million worldwide including her poppy R&B hits “I Wanna Be Down” and “The Boy Is Mine.” Luckily for the singer, she’s also a well-established actress starring in the long-running sitcom “Moesha” and Disney’s beloved TV adaptation “Cinderella,” which co-stars Whitney Houston and Whoopi Goldberg, in 1997.
The actress has singing chops (like her dad), but she also proved she could move as well, ending up winning the reality competition series “Dancing With the Stars” in 2015.
Unfortunately for Rinna, critics gave her performance negative reviews. The Oregonian said that she wrecked “Chicago.” The review went on to declare, “Every once in a while, it’s worth it to see a performance that completely recalibrates your sense of what’s bad.”
However, Madix hasn’t had the easiest year. After finding out her partner of nearly 10 years, Tom Sandoval had been cheating on her and having an affair with her best friend Raquel Leviss, everything fell apart. What’s worse is that Bravo’s cameras were trained on them the whole time, so Madix had to relive the humliation as it played out during the season. Her misfortune paid off big for Bravo though, earning the series an Emmy nomination.
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