The Many Faces of ‘Chicago’s Roxie Hart, From Pamela Anderson to Christie Brinkley

Lily James may have given the razzle-dazzle to viewers in Hulu’s popular miniseries Pam and Tommy, but it’s the real Pamela who will take glitz and glam to a whole new level as she assumes the role of Roxie Hart in the long-running Broadway revival of Chicago. “Playing Roxie Hart is a dream fulfilled,” Anderson tells Variety. With a Netflix documentary in the works to directly respond to the Hulu series, Anderson is as busy as ever. The popular star of Baywatch and Home Improvement has been a symbol of sex and beauty since she was Playmate of the Month in 1990. With a controversial personal life, Anderson is an exciting choice to play Roxie.

The Kander and Ebb musical, which opened in 1996, has become well known for its stunt casting. And while Pamela Anderson may seem like an unlikely pick to head a Broadway musical, let’s look back at six spectacular women who have filled the same shoes, a few of them might even surprise you.

Mel B

Mel B
Courtesy of Hollyscoop

December 28, 2016 – February 19, 2017

Scary Spice electrified fans and scandalized the Broadway community when she injected a little spice into the show, speak-singing some of the lyrics from “Wannabe” during her final performance. It is the type of stunt which makes fans go crazy, ushers shake their heads, and Broadway purists fume with rage, but it certainly left a memorable impression. The outrage from Broadway didn’t bother the singer. In fact, she posted the clip on Instagram, and while some people might call it a tacky artistic choice, something tells me it’s exactly what Roxie Hart would have done.

Erika Jayne

erika jayne
Courtesy of Joseph Marzullo/WENN

January 6, 2020 – March 12, 2020

Her run in the show was cut short due to the pandemic, but the reality TV mainstay had the distinction of being advertised all over Times Square long after she left the theater. She’s starred on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills since season 6, but her career began as a singer. Her debut album Pretty Mess was released in 2009. Its title alone seems to predict her future as a fixture of reality TV and public scandals, and with other Housewives taking their turn in Chicago, it was only a matter of time before Erika Jayne got her chance. Jayne took to Instagram to say, “I leave NYC feeling like my mission is incomplete but I will treasure this time always.” Maybe we’ll get a return engagement in the future.

Ashlee Simpson

ashlee simpson
Courtesy of The Hollywood Bowl

November 30, 2009 – February 8, 2010

With MTV news declaring, “Tragedy! Ashlee Simpson doesn’t suck in Chicago” after her West End debut, it was no surprise that Simpson traveled across the pond to bring Roxie Hart to life on Broadway. Since making her acting debut on 7th Heaven, Simpson has released three studio albums and done her best to move past that fateful SNL performance in 2004. Roxie Hart is a woman who started from the bottom in her quest for fame and glory and having Ashlee Simpson take on the role only adds an extra layer of truth to everything we think we know about fame, celebrity, and scandal.

Lisa Rinna

lisa rinna
Courtesy of Chicago: The Musical

June 19, 2007 – July 29, 2007

Where hasn’t Lisa Rinna been? A formidable actress who can boast both Days of Our Lives and Melrose Place among her credits, Lisa Rinna knew her brand potential long before Real Housewives, a highly derivative show that might never have existed without Melrose Place. Is Rinna a meta-actress hybrid? I think so. Her talent goes well beyond her notoriety, with her stint as Roxie predating her ascension to the Cult of Housewives by seven years.

Christie Brinkley

christie brinkley
Courtesy of Paybill

April 4, 2011 – June 20, 2011

April 6, 2012 – April 27, 2012

April 18, 2019 – May 12, 2019

Far from being just a pretty face, Christie Brinkley is a powerhouse performer, a further indication that you should never judge a model by their cover issue. Brinkley has danced her way through three Broadway engagements as the popular murderess in addition to a few appearances on the National Tour. I doubt we’ve seen the last of her in this iconic role. Brinkley’s star turn in Chicago proves that her cover model days for Sports Illustrated were just a stepping stone for her immense talent.

Melora Hardin

melora hardin
Courtesy of Playbill

December 29, 2008 – February 12, 2009

On a hiatus from her iconic and insane role as Jan Levinson on The Office, Melora Hardin stepped into the role of Roxie Hart for a seven-week engagement. Most recently, Hardin placed sixth on Dancing with the Stars and performed as Fantine in a Hollywood Bowl production of Les Miserables in Concert. “For me to get up eight times a week and do those three things I love so much – singing, acting, dancing – I was just completely in heaven. I really was. I was sad to be done,” Hardin told Playbill. And those of us who missed the performance are sad too, but if her recent stint on Dancing with the Stars tells us anything, Melora Hardin might make a return to the theater sooner than we think.

Broadway’s “sure thing” has held court at the Ambassador Theatre since 1996. The show has run for over 9,000 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical in 1997. Since its debut, Chicago has grossed close to $700 million. The show, which confronts fame and celebrity head-on, is the perfect destination for stars whose personal lives have distorted their public image. Pamela Anderson’s casting tells us that strong women who have been dragged mercilessly by the media will get their time on stage, which makes me hope that one day soon Britney Spears takes over the role as well.

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Justin McDevitt is a playwright and essayist from New York City. His latest play HAUNT ME had its first public reading at Theater for the New City in September. He is a contributor for RUE MORGUE where he lends a queer eye to horror cinema in his column STAB ME GENTLY.