The multitalented supermodel Christie Brinkley is San Diego-bound as the Broadway tour of Chicago prepares to take the Civic Theatre stage May 8-13. Brinkley stars as Roxie Hart, a sweet chorus girl turned fearless murderess who emerges as a celebrity criminal in pursuit of big fame, set in Prohibition-era Chicago.
It’s no surprise that this cover girl steals the show, even at 58-years-old. The stunning runway diva, who has graced over 500 magazine covers, inspired her then husband Billy Joel’s hit song “Uptown Girl” and starred in the music video in 1983. In the same year, Brinkley made her major film debut in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” opposite Chevy Chase, which was followed by “Vegas Vacation” in 1997. Brinkley now reinvents her career again as one of Broadway’s most beloved vixens. The show opened in London’s West End in 2011, also featuring John O’Hurley of “Seinfeld” as Billy Flynn.
We chatted with Brinkley for the inside scoop on what she’s learned from her killer role as Roxie Hart, her quirky back stage rituals, philanthropic passions, exotic modeling memories and what she loves most about San Diego.
Q: How is the Roxie Hart character similar and different from your off-stage persona?
A: We are similar in that we are both very adaptable, flexible. We live in the moment and deal with the moment at hand. (She however needs a little anger management!)
Q: What have you learned from becoming Roxie Hart?
A: That you don't need a "world full of YES" to quote Roxie… but a "YES" at the right time can change your life as it did me when I accepted this part! I took a risk and I am so glad I did! I have gotten to experience the whole Broadway world from the inside and it’s the most delightful community of talented and generous people.
Q: Walk us through a day of Broadway-style rehearsal.
A: My day would start in a rehearsal studio around 9am, about 3 hours of dance with my dance captain David Kent, then vocals with Chicago’s conductor Leslie Steifflemen, then scene work with various people, most notably I was able to work with the esteemed director Walter Bobby and legendary Ann Reinking, on dance and scene!
At some point the rehearsals move from the mirror in the studio to the theater without the mirror and that feels like taking flight! Suddenly you are just doing it with the music and the feel! At the theater you also learn your blocking so you are standing where your spotlights are etc., and you start working with the cast… it’s exciting! Now the only thing missing is the audience!
I also work on my own time with the in demand vocal coach Joan Laeder. She teaches you how to sing around a hoarse or sore throat, when to breath, and how to shape your mouth -- it’s fascinating!
Q: What is your favorite scene?
A: It changes all the time but I kind of like the block of action where Roxie goes from learning her alibi to imagining her future as a STAR! This section of the show the merry murderess is funny, hopeful, sad, and such a narcissist, without conscience and self absorbed. That kind of shameless outrageous behavior is fun to play!
Q: What are your back stage rituals during a performance?
A: I do 15 push-ups before scenes to get the blood pumping. I drink Yogi throat aide tea with manuka honey -- (manuka honey is VERY Broadway!) -- and then I let Candor and Ebb sweep me away with their iconic score! It’s really all I need.
However, at the entrance to center stage there are lots of funny rituals going on the whole show that keep us all on our toes. Mikey (Michael Cusumano) becomes Olga the Russian Dancer, and she lectures us and has us in stitches. Amra Faye Wright inevitably has a different wig on assuming a different hilarious character every 5 minutes that has us all doubled over -- so many wonderful characters in our cast. The energy back stage propels us back out on stage to share with the audience!
Q: You’ve traveled all over the world for exotic photo shoots. What’s your favorite destination?
A: The Seychelles islands where I went with Sports Illustrated were spectacular. Each island had its own totally unique beauty. I felt like I was washed up on a deserted beach in a 1940s movie – that’s the kind of glamourous isolation I love in an island!
Q: As one of the most famous supermodels of all time, what is your definition of beauty?
A: A kind heart, full of compassion and love, throw in some wit and humor, generosity of spirit, and you have a person who sparkles and shines!
Q: You’re involved in so many great charity organizations. Please explain why Standing for Truth About Radiation (STAR) is a cause close to your heart.
A: I attended an event held by Alec Baldwin and famed pediatrician/activist Helen Caldicott and found out much to my surprise and dismay that I was living in the crosshairs of several old and leaky nuclear power plants. From Manhattan to Montaulk our health is being undermined and our security threatened by their existence! The low level radiation they omit is especially harmful to children whose cells are dividing at a far faster rate than adults. I learned enough that evening to inspire me to pay close attention and learn as much as I could about nuclear power and alternative green clean energy sources.
I joined the board of directors of "Standing for Truth About Radiation" and eventually spoke before the senate sub-committee meeting about the inherent damages of these old dangerous plants. I was especially concerned with spent fuel pools which we all know about now due to the ongoing and terribly frightening situation in Fukushima. Today with radioactive isotopes from Fukushima showing up in California's kelp bed, people have a new understanding of the wide reaching dangers and urgent need to rid ourselves of these dangerous plants. Scientists seem to have lost control of Fukushima, unable to stop the deadly flow of radiation poisoning our air and water.
Q: Mother’s Day is just around the corner. What are the most rewarding gifts of motherhood?
A: At various times I have been told about each of my kids that they are leaders in kindness, and that they are inclusive and aware of other people's feelings. That makes me burst with pride!
Q: How often do you visit San Diego? Any favorite things to do in town?
A: San Diego was always used as a special treat in our family! It was a prize that we got for good grades and great behavior! The Zoo! Seaworld! Sailing in the harbor! We always had a great time on our visits. I can't wait to come back and see it with grown up eyes and hopefully share it now with my kids. Life! It’s good, grand swell…isn't it?
Production Photos: Christie Brinkley as Roxie Hart at the Ambassador Theatre in New York -- Jeremy Daniel