One of the planet’s biggest celebrities will play a woman desperately craving fame when Pamela Anderson makes her Broadway debut next month in the musical Chicago, The Associated Press has learned.
Anderson will play Roxie Hart from Apr 12 to Jun 5 at the Ambassador Theatre, a remarkable union of one of the most recognisable sex icons of the last few decades with a show that skewers fame.
“From Baywatch to Broadway. I am inspired by the unexpected,” Anderson told the AP in a Monday statement. “This is it, and I will not hold back anymore. I am letting go. I am ready to see what I’m capable of. For Chicago, I’ll be putting all my cards on the table. I am doubling down – on me.”
Set in the 1920s, the musical is a scathing satire of how show business and the media make celebrities out of criminals. It has Bob Fosse-inspired choreography, skimpy outfits and killer songs such as All That Jazz and Cell Block Tango.
Chicago tells the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to leave her. To avoid conviction, Roxie hires Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to help her dupe the public, media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by creating shocking headlines.
“Pam is a very moral person, extremely moral. She cares about animals. She cares about the planet. She cares about people,” said producer Barry Weissler. “The difference between her as Pam and Roxie is Roxie doesn’t care about anyone but herself, and she doesn’t give a damn about the outside world as long as she can be famous. So Pam comes with totally opposite attributes in life, but she fits because of her celebrity, what she’s gone through in life.”
Anderson had a breakout role on Home Improvement as a “Tool Time girl” before getting global attention for playing CJ Parker on Baywatch. Her credits include Barb Wire and Superhero Movie.
There’s been renewed interest in Anderson’s life story thanks to the Hulu series Pam & Tommy, which stars Lily James as Anderson and Sebastian Stan as Tommy Lee and fictionalises their whirlwind romance. The series is now showing on Disney+. Anderson also this month announced a new authorised documentary about her life upcoming from Netflix.
Weissler said he had approached Anderson about the Roxie part over a decade ago, but their schedules didn’t work.
“Now that we’re doing it, it’s even more opportune. It’s more timely. She’s really standing for something now – as a professional, as an activist, as a very talented lady. She can surprise a lot of people. The woman has acting chops. She certainly can dance, and her singing voice is quite good. So here we go.”
The celebrity-craving heroine at the heart of Chicago has been played by dozens of women since the show opened in 1996, including Melanie Griffith, Christie Brinkley, Marilu Henner, Brooke Shields, Lisa Rinna, Gretchen Mol, Ashlee Simpson, Brandy Norwood, Jennifer Nettles and Robin Givens.
The revival has managed to last a quarter of a century thanks to the savvy decision to cast celebrity replacements in all the lead spots – basically asking famous performers to join a musical about the venality of celebrities – and mould the show around their strengths.
Just some of the other stars who have done stints in the show include Sofia Vergara, Paige Davis, Rita Wilson, Usher, Huey Lewis, Michael C Hall, Jerry Springer and Billy Zane. A 2002 film version starred Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah and Richard Gere.