Christie Brinkley — supermodel, ex wife of Billy Joel, TV aerobics pitchwoman. Broadway musical star. Huh? Gorgeous Christie is 57, looks 20 years younger, and has never sung or danced in public. But a few weeks ago she joined the cast of the musical, “Chicago,” now in its 400th year on Broadway. She’s playing Roxy Hart, the streetwise married dame who shoots and kills her lover because he wanted to leave her. Ann Reinking originated the role, but over the eons of “Chicago” many celebrities have come and gone as producers Fran and Barry Weissler have made stunt casting an art.
But Christie Brinkley? She’s been great for business. “Chicago,” still sturdy with its Kander and Ebb score, and Bob Fosse/ Ann Reinking choreography, has been playing to very full houses since Brinkley arrived. She’s been so good for business that in July, Brinkley and co-star Amra-Faye Wright will take over as leads in the West End production.
Last night the cast — six weeks into her run, not on Brinkley’s opening night–celebrated her arrival. Her kids–Alexa Ray Joel, son Jack and daughter Sailor–were all present, as was bff Jill Rappaport of the Today show, Patti Hansen Richards, and lots of media friends. She got roses on stage at the end of the performance–number 8 for a week that ended last night and begins again on Thursday. Amra-Faye Wright, who looks like a South African Annie Lennox and has a magnificent voice–spoke to the audience. She praised Brinkley for her talent, tenacity, and work ethic.
And it’s true: Brinkley is a big surprise as Roxy. She’s not a great singer, but it turns out she has very good, if not perfect, pitch. She told me that Billy Joel used to tell her that all the time. When she launches into a Kander and Ebb song, she’s fearless and fine. She knows melody. “They told me from the beginning, trust Kander and Ebb’s melodies,” Christie told me after the show at a reception at the Hudson Terrace. She’d changed into a hot Marchesa mini skirt and danced and sang along with fellow castmates to Bon Jovi songs. She was hoarse. “And I know melody. Billy always said that.”
And what of Billy Joel? He’s coming to see Christie in the next few days, when he returns from Europe. “Billy always used to say I could do a Broadway musical,” said Christie. “And now I have.” She doesn’t want to go home, either. It’s like she’s run away and joined the circus. “I love it, I love the people, the community.” And she means it. You can tell by her million dollar beaming smile on stage. Brinkley is having the time of her life.