Imagine coming to New York with your family. You want to see a show, but don’t really care which. Tony winners are the toughest and most expensive tickets in town, Book of Mormon isn’t quite family friendly enough, Phantom feels too old, you saw The Lion King when it came to your town a decade ago, and WHAT?! When the hell did Idina Menzel leave Wicked? But then you notice a familiar face on that enormous poster above American Eagle. Is that the Willis girl? You like her. She seems nice. You’ll take five for Chicago.

Page Six is reporting Rumer Willis, the winner of the most recent season of Dancing With the Stars, will make her Broadway debut this August in Chicago. She’ll be joining an exclusive club of singers, actresses and personalities who have accepted the role of Roxie Hart, the “wannabe vaudevillian and murderess who kills her lover after a spat and is sent to jail.

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Chicago is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history (a fact its promotional posters love screaming at you), and—as the only current musical whose film adaptation won the Oscar for Best Picture—has some of the best name recognition in New York’s theatre district. Audiences don’t have to know musicals to be familiar with Chicago, and actresses who play Roxie Hart don’t have to know musicals to star in it.

The role of Roxie often comes during transitional times in their careers and tends to act as either a comeback or a “Hey everybody! I’m still here!” You become Roxie when you’re just famous enough to be recognizable to families struggling to pick a show at the TKTS booth, but not so famous that you can’t find time in your schedule to spend a few months preparing for and and acting in a major Broadway production. You don’t even have to be a great singer! (Catherine Zeta Jones won the Oscar, not Renee Zellweger.) Becoming the new Roxie is by no means a pathetic move—this is Broadway, after all—but it always feels a little strange. When a new one is cast, the response is often, “Huh. Her.”

When do actresses become Roxie? And what happens next? Let’s take a look at Broadway Roxies of the past decade or so to find out.


Gretchen Mol, 2004

Just Before Roxie:

After almost becoming Hollywood’s next big thing, Gretchen took a hiatus from film acting and moved to the stage. She starred in The Shape of Things in both London and New York in 2001, followed by its 2003 film adaptation.

Just After Roxie:

She starred in The Notorious Bettie Page, a modestly successful indie film.


Brooke Shields, 2005

Just Before Roxie:

Brooke starred in the short-lived revival of Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town in 2003. She was given a role on That 70s Show in 2004, but was written out after 7 episodes.

Just After Roxie:

A number of appearances on popular TV shows like Nip/Tuck and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.


Rita Wilson, 2006

Just Before Roxie:

A small role in The Chumscrubber, a “commercial and critical failure.”

Just After Roxie:

She acted as Executive Producer on the 2008 film adaptation of Mamma Mia.


Lisa Rinna, 2007

Just Before Roxie:

She appeared in an episode of Entourage that aired the month of her Roxie debut.

Just After Roxie:

An episode of Hannah Montana.


Ashlee Simpson, 2009

Just Before Roxie:

Just before taking the role on Broadway, she appeared in an episode of CSI. (She also played Roxie in London’s West End in 2006.)

Just After Roxie:

She was the lead in WB’s 2009 revival of Melrose Place. It lasted one season.


Samantha Harris, 2009

Just Before Roxie:

She hosted a week of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire a few months before joining Chicago.

Just After Roxie:

She reprised her role as Roxie for a month in Greenville, SC.


Michelle Williams, 2010

Just Before Roxie:

She “parted ways” with Matthew Knowles, her former manager.

(She was also the first African-American actor to be cast in the London production of Chicago just before coming to Broadway.)

Just After Roxie:

She appeared on the 8th season of Strictly Come Dancing, the British inspiration for Dancing With the Stars.


Christie Brinkley, 2011

Just Before Roxie:

Not a whole lot outside of appearing in the documentary King of the Hamptons.

Just After Roxie:

She just kept on being Roxie! Christie traveled to London to be Roxie in the West End, then came back to NYC to be her on Broadway again!


Brandy Norwood, 2015

Just Before Roxie:

She hired a new management company, MBK Entertainment, and began planning her next album, “expected to be released in 2016.”

Just After Roxie:

She’ll be starring in a new BET sitcom Zoe Ever After.


Rumer Willis, 2015

Just Before Roxie:

She came out of nowhere to win the most recent season of Dancing With the Stars.

Just After Roxie:

TBD


Contact the author at bobby@jezebel.com.

Images via Getty/Screengrab