SOUND OFF Special Edition: CHICAGO's Roxie Is The Name On Everybody's Lips! Who Should Be Given A Shot Next?
The replacement star. Undoubtedly, one of the trickiest and most problematic facets of any production facing an enterprising producer and director is casting a fitting replacement, particularly for a star role. Of course, John Kander and Fred Ebb's vaudeville-based performance opportunity extravaganza Chicago allows for a copious amount of star turns eight performances a week, so the likely candidates for filling the famous shoes of the roles of Roxie Hart, Velma Kelly, Billy Flynn and Matron Mama Morton are nearly overwhelming to consider. Furthermore, August 8 marked the momentous day in Broadway history when legendary Broadway and Hollywood superstar Liza Minnelli famously stepped in for an ailing Gwen Verdon in the original Bob Fosse production of Chicago on Broadway, prompting today's discussion.
Notable pop star Brandy Norwood (who departed the role of Roxie Hart on August 2nd) and reality competition show standout Rumer Willis poised to take over in early September both giving a slew of fresh buzz to one of Broadway's longest-running musicals of all time, still running nearly 20 years after opening in 1996, now is an ideal time to consider some familiar faces who have excelled in the role in the past and could continue the tradition whether playing Roxie again or stepping into another part and thereby keep the momentum going for a production that has now played nearly 8,000 performances on the Great White Way, all told. Time may have marched on, but these leading ladies certainly still have the stuff!
1. Bebe Neuwirth. One of the most electric performers in Broadway history, the multi-award-winning stage and screen star has proven time and time again that she can do it all - TV, film, theatre and beyond - while winning over an audience with her incomparable cool and chic personality all the while. Even if she were to pare down the choreography, the opportunity to see a prime Bob Fosse interpreter play one of his most masterful roles once more would be a dream come true for the Broadway babies among us - though, as we all know, she's a killer Velma Kelly and Mama Morton, too.
2. Ruthie Henshall. One of the most dynamic triple-threat talents on either side of the pond, the West End and Broadway star would do well with a return to a familiar role. Actually, Henshall is one of a handful of performers who can claim to have not only done the show on both sides of the Atlantic, but also played both Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. On second thought, maybe she'd want to play Mama Morton this go-round, Neuwirth-style, just to try something new? Whatever works!
3. Sandy Duncan. Although her Broadway run was cut criminally short by an injury incurred early on in her time in the show when she played the show before, the popular PETER PAN star and stalwart stage performer would excite the die-hard fans were she to return to the role of Roxie - or even just coming back to the show itself - considering she is viewed as one of the finest in the role and one who was seen by the least amount of people when she did it.
4. Karen Ziemba. The Tony Award-winning Broadway regular is one of the most celebrated Kander & Ebb interpreters on the planet, so a comeback to their biggest hit of all would be like old home week for not only those lucky enough to see her in the show, but those backstage and behind the scenes, as well.
5. Christie Brinkley. The ageless beauty surprised audiences and critics alike with her charismatic turn as the ambitious chorine, enough so that a return to the role years later would no doubt incite much excitement were she to return, even now at a preternaturally gorgeous 61.
6. Kara DioGuardi. The AMERICAN IDOL judge and international hitmaker made a Broadway dream come true by stepping on a Broadway stage in a major role back in 2011 and she subsequently wowed crowds while doing so, making her a fitting candidate to step back into the high heels once more - now, as a mom (and not just as an imagined one, like Roxie).
7. Gretchen Mol. Since Chicago, Mol has made a major mark on entertainment enthusiasts around the world with her commanding and unforgettable turn on the long-running HBO series BOARDWALK EMPIRE, highlighting her grace, strength and beauty. Would she be interested in doing a musical to follow up her recent stage work in DISGRACED? Time will tell, but it could be utterly fascinating.
8. Amy Spanger. Co-starring in the show with her then-husband Michael C. Hall, who played Billy Flynn, Spanger made a major mark as the murderess with the thirst for stardom, committing one of the most memorable and sexy performances the show has seen to date. Fierce as ever, a comeback to Chicago would be electric, no doubt.
9. Brooke Shields. It has been ten years since Shields essayed the famous showstopping part of Roxie on Broadway, but the ever-glowing and ever-young Shields would certainly garner considerable attention and cause a considerable box office rush were she to announce a return to the show, although on closer inspection it may be equally enchanting to see her try something new and tackle Velma, as well.
10. Ann Reinking. Although the Broadway legend has reportedly retired, to see her back on a Broadway stage in one of her most acclaimed and buzz-worthy roles of all time - even for just one night, sans choreography - would make the performance the must-have hot ticket of the moment were it to happen. Plus, being Fosse's own muse in real life adds so much shading and coloring to what is already a decadently rich and entertaining starring role that was originally tailor-made to his other life-long favorite, Gwen Verdon. We can dream!
So, what actress who has previously played Roxie Hart on Broadway or in the West End would you like to see return to Chicago most of all? Furthermore, what fresh face seems most befitting to join the show sometime soon in your estimation? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below to let us know.
Photo Credits: Andrew Eccles, etc.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro