The crowd cheered Tuesday as Pamela Anderson took the stage at New York’s Ambassador Theater to play Roxie Hart in the hit musical ‘Chicago,’ now in its 25th year on Broadway.
Lately, Anderson has been busy supporting whistleblower Julian Assange, as well as being the subject of a biopic on the subject of his infamous sex tape, but in taking on the role of Roxie, she joins a long list of stunts for the show.
The ‘Baywatch’ star follows in the footsteps of supermodel Brooke Shields, Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams and movie actress Melanie Griffiths. Unconventional castings for the star role also come from reality shows that include ‘Real Housewives’ cast members Erika Jayne and Lisa Rinna and ‘The Only Way is Essex’ favorite Gemma Collins.
The role of Billy Flynn has also been filled by celebrities with David Hasselhoff and Jerry Springer both hitting the boards as Roxie Hart’s slippery lawyer.
But beyond the ‘Chicago’ stunt casting, the practice of attracting celebrities to sell tickets and put bums in seats is less widespread, but it does happen.
So whether you think it’s pirate money-making practice or a refreshingly unassuming move, let’s take a look at some of the best and worst (mostly bad) examples of stunt casting.
Ricky Martin, Evita
The 2010s revival of ‘Evita’ was a box office success and retold the story of Eva Perón, wife of Argentine dictator Juan Perón.
In the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber reprise of the musical, Martin played the narrator Che, a representation of the revolutionary Che Guevara, who guides the audience through the life of Eva Perón.
However, the ‘Livin da Vida Loca’ singer was criticized by critics, with the Washington Post saying that Martin’s trademark charm was ‘misapplied’ as the voice of the masses and Vulture saying that his common man was ‘too common man’.
Will Young, vortex
In the role that made Noel Coward an overnight star in the 1920s, Will Young was thought to be a favorite, or at least his casting would raise the show’s profile.
‘Vortex’, the convoluted romantic family drama that follows the fate of a mother and son in post-World War I Britain, was on stage at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, six years after Young won the award. Pop Idol in the UK. However, the ‘Evergreen’ singer’s performance was judged harshly due to his inexperience and doe-eyed personality.
Young’s turn as the drug-addicted and sexually confused Nicky was criticized for the Guardian as ‘lost boy’, with contempt for the producer for his choice.
Fran Drescher, Cinderella
The timeless, family-friendly classic fairy tale of a woman who marries a man for his money and then is wrongfully burdened with his daughter after his death (okay, maybe that’s not the moral of the story) became a musical in 1957 by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
The 1950s original starred none other than Julie Andrews, but the revival stars Carly Rae Jepson and Fran Drescher.
Sadly, Drescher, the hive-voiced star of ‘The Babysitter,’ upset critics and audiences alike with her larger-than-life portrayal of the evil stepmother, with the Los Angeles Times saying that Drescher’s “voice sounds completely hoarse and his gestures empty and exaggerated”.
Rosie O’Donnell, Fiddler on the Roof
‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is a timeless family drama set in an impoverished Jewish community in Imperial Russia.
In today’s climate, it might seem strange for Irish New Yorker O’Donnell to play Jewish matriarch Golde, but 2005 was a simpler time.
Although O’Donnell is now probably best known for her feud with former (and possible future) President Donald Trump, in the early 2000s she was a much-loved TV personality and movie star.
Though O’Donnell’s performance wasn’t beyond Pale (get it?) reviewers he didn’t take kindly to her attempt at a Yiddish accent as he noted that she seemed to be enjoying herself.
Raven-Symoné, Sister Law
The story of a ballroom singer who picks on the wrong crowd and is forced to protect witnesses at a convent may sound absolutely ridiculous, but it made for a surprisingly good movie, with the potentially inevitable follow-up musical just as popular.
‘Sister Act,’ produced by the film’s original star Whoopi Goldberg, ran for a year before Raven-Symoné was cast as lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier. Raven-Symoné, a well-known sitcom actress who would go on to co-host the daytime talk show ‘The View’ with Goldberg, made her Broadway debut in the role of Ella to rave reviews.
Fans enjoyed her stage presence and the voice of the people he said that Raven-Symoné was “fun” in the role.
Daniel Radcliffe, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Having showcased his skills (and everything else) in his breakout role in ‘Equus,’ Radcliffe became a well-known stage presence on Broadway.
However, after playing the world’s favorite villain-conquering wizard since the tender age of 12, it’s perhaps a surprising move to cast Radcliffe in such an unpleasant role as J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business. .
The Boy-Who-Lived received mixed reviews for his role as the scheming corporate shill, with his personable stage presence winning favor but acting chops leaving a few blanks. The New York Times he gave it a 6/10 for the role.
Pamela Anderson will perform in Chicago for 8 weeks through June 5 at the Ambassador Theatre.