Ariana Madix Is Pretty Damn Good on Broadway

I was shocked at how sparse the production was and how cheap the costumes looked…but Madix's stage presence and comedic timing were undeniably great.

Ariana Madix Is Pretty Damn Good on Broadway

I didn’t know what to expect walking up to the Ambassador Theater for my 7 p.m. showing of Chicago starring Vanderpump Rules’ Ariana Madix. I’m not a Broadway girl–I haven’t seen a show in over a decade (Book of Mormon), but I do love the Chicago movie and unabashedly adore Moulin Rouge. And, like many women who have dated a toxic narcissist, I wanted to see Madix—whose very public 2023 breakup with fellow VPR co-star Tom Sandoval shook the reality TV world so much it expanded into Hollywood and beyond—shine. 

I was surprised, in more ways than one. 

Filtering into the Ambassador Theater on a windy March day, it’s clear that the audience is mostly comprised of Bravoholics who are here solely for Madix, as well as tourists excited to see one of the most famous Broadway shows of all time. The merch line (which includes a t-shirt with Madix’s face) wraps around the theater, dwarfed only by the line for the women’s restroom. “I heard Katie Maloney and Summer House’s Lindsay were here a few nights ago,” a young woman in her twenties proclaims while waiting for a $33 cocktail. 

Madix’s casting was announced in December, at the tail-end of a year ruled by Scandoval and her meteoric rise from its ashes—though she didn’t win her stint on Dancing With The Stars, she capped off her ABC run by revealing her Chicago role. As reported by USA Today, Madix’s first week as Roxie Hart set a record for the production, earning it its highest-grossing non-holiday performance ever.

It’s no surprise then, that in February it was revealed that her run would be extended by two weeks. There’s a certain kind of brilliance in casting Madix as the deliciously despicable Roxie Hart in the wake of Scandoval—it’s fun to watch women do bad things, but it’s especially fun to watch a woman do bad things who recently had to suffer at the hands of a man.

Photo: Alyssa Mercante

As soon as the show begins, I’m immediately taken aback by how sparse the production is (“They must be printing money,” I whisper to my friend). The stage is almost bare, with just the orchestra seated center stage on a set of elevated platforms that has a shallow stairway for performers to walk up for a big reveal. Flanking the orchestra is empty space, sometimes filled with a handful of chairs for the cast to sit on, though it often remains bare.

Then, there are the costumes, which are not even remotely period-specific (Chicago is set in the Roaring Twenties) and which look like the cast went to H&M just before the show and bought out the entire “nightlife” section: black briefs, black tights, a variety of black bras and bralettes, sheer black boleros, shiny black polyester tops. They look cheap and bizarrely mismatched. Imagine if Mugler did these looks? Ugh, the possibilities. 

Early on, a chorus member doubling as the cop who takes Roxie Hart’s statement after she shoots her lover stands with an imaginary notepad in hand, wearing velvet flares and a sheer striped top. It’s at this point—staring at him impatiently tapping his foot in those pants—that I start giggling uncontrollably (important disclosure: I had a 15mg edible about 30 minutes before curtain call). While the sparsity of this production must have been revolutionary when Chicago first hit Broadway, now it just feels a little, um, cheap. 

But then, there’s Madix, wearing a long-sleeved lacy dress and an astronomically bad wig—interestingly, no one else in the show has period-specific hair or wigs, but Madix is wearing this fuck ass bob—and the crowd goes wild. Her first song, “Funny Honey,” is a little pitchy but her stage presence is strong, and the British tourists behind me who clearly don’t know who she is make sounds of approval. Crucially, throughout the production, Madix holds her own alongside Broadway royalty, including Max von Essen, a Tony- and Grammy-nominated performer who plays Billy Flynn, and Amra-Faye Wright, who’s played Velma Kelly for twenty years and in several countries.

After I suspend my disbelief at Chicago’s minimalism and push aside my annoyance at the crowd’s tendency to try (and fail) to snap or clap along with the music, I realize I’m having a blast. There are aspects of this musical that are intentionally very funny (Matron “Mama” Morton’s incredible solo, the reveal that the opera-singing Miss Sunshine is a drag queen) and aspects that are accidentally hilarious (mostly the bizarre things the background dancers do when they’re not center stage, which includes one sliding slowly along the floor on his back like a human Swiffer and another straddling the stairwell on all fours, swinging his head around like he’s in a Megan Thee Stallion video). 

And Madix? She’s got great comedic timing (my friend reminded me that Madix “takes sketch comedy very seriously”), even when she accidentally breaks into laughter during her courtroom scene after a cast member falls off a chair like one of the Three Stooges. She’s enjoyable to watch, her voice gets stronger as the show goes on, and her dancing skills are undeniable (those Dancing With The Stars lessons paid off in spades). 

Whereas Bravolebrities like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Erika Jayne and Lisa Rinna (who played Roxie before she was even on RHOBH) can certainly hold a tune and perform, watching Madix giggle and seduce her way through a murder trial as Roxie just feels right after what happened to her. And it feels even better when you imagine how much it kills Sandoval (or the perpetually jealous Scheana Shay) to see Madix’s name in lights. 

Madix will play Roxie Hart in Chicago until April 7. As my friend and I said while leaving the Ambassador Theater, it was “worth the money.”

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