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 the real Pamela took glitz and glam to a whole new level in the role of Roxie Hart in the long-running Broadway revival of Chicago. “Playing Roxie Hart is a dream fulfilled,” Anderson told Variety. The popular star of Baywatch and Home Improvement has personified beauty since she exploded onto the Hollywood scene in the 1990s.

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, have a look back at some spectacular women who have filled the same shoes.

Mel B

Chicago: the Musical
Image Credit: Chicago The Musical.

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. This kind of stunt 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, it’s exactly what Roxie Hart would have done.

Erika Jayne

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Erika Jayne
Image Credit: Evolution Media.

The pandemic cut short her run, but the reality TV mainstay had the distinction of being advertised all over Times Square long after she left the theater. She starred on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills since season 6, but her career began as a singer, releasing her album Pretty Mess in 2009. The 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

Hollywood Houselift with Jeff Lewis Ashlee Simpson
Image Credit: Fly on the Wall Entertainment.

With MTV news declaring, “Tragedy! Ashlee Simpson doesn’t s*ck in Chicago” after her West End debut, it surprised nobody when 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 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
Image Credit: The Heart Truth Fashion Show – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Where hasn’t Lisa Rinna turned up? 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? 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
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Far from being just a pretty face, Christie Brinkley is a powerhouse performer, a further indication that no one should ever 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. 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

The Bold Type Melora hardin
Image Credit: Universal Television.

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. “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 stint on Dancing with the Stars tells us anything, Melora Hardin might return to the theater sooner rather than later.

Melanie Griffith

Chicago the Musical Melanie Griffith
Image Credit: Chicago The Musical.

One of the earliest replacements for Roxie in Chicago, the blonde Oscar nominee surprised audiences and critics with a thoughtful, subversive take on the part. New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley noted “Ms. Griffith is a sensational Roxie, possibly the most convincing I have seen” in his review of the production. Other critics noted that Griffith didn't have the usual powerhouse vocals associated with the role, but with a devilish twinkle in her eye, made it her own.

Marilu Henner

June in January Marilu Henner
Image Credit: Hallmark Channel.

Former Taxi star Henner made a sensational comeback when she took over the role of Roxie Hart, sporting a tight dancer's body and powerful vocals. The role also helped usher in a new phase in Henner's career, as she appeared on America's Ballroom Challenge and Dancing with the Stars.

Liza Minnelli

Cabaret (1972)
Image Credit: Allied Artists.

OK, so Ms. Minnelli didn't take over the role of Roxie in the revival production. She did, however, step into the part during the show's original run in one of the biggest shockers in Broadway history. Original Roxie Gwen Verdon needed to take time off early during the show's run, so director Bob Fosse rehearsed Minelli in absolute secrecy. The director then shocked the audience one night when a modest announcement over the speakers declared that Minnelli would appear in the role. The entire house rose in a standing ovation and caused a media blitz in the press. 

Angelica Ross

Angelica Ross
Image Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

The Pose actress made her Broadway debut in 2022 when she stepped into the role of Roxie. Ross also became the first-ever openly transgender actress to play the role on Broadway. 

Brooke Sheilds

The Blue Lagoon Brooke Shields
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Shields first played the role of Roxie in London before moving stateside, courtesy of her positive reviews. Her appearance made her the first actress to star in the revivals of Chicago, Cabaret, and Grease–earning her the dubious distinction of becoming one of Broadway's go-to actresses when stunt casting a role.


Brandy Norwood
Image Credit: Joe Seer/Shutterstock.

The 90s R&B singer/actress made her Broadway debut in Chicago in 2015. Good reviews and strong box office sales prompted the producers to extend her run in the show. Her success in Chicago also ignited a comeback of sorts for Brandy. Following her run in the show, she starred in the BET sitcom Zoe Ever After.

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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.