The 'Vanderpump Rules' star will tread the boards from Jan. 29 through March 24 — and PEOPLE has a first look at her highly anticipated debut
PEOPLE can exclusively debut footage of the Vanderpump Rules star, 38, in action as she rehearses one of the beloved musical's trickiest numbers, "The Hot Honey Rag," ahead of her limited run as Roxie Hart from Jan. 29 to March 24.
It's a song that comes at the end of the show, when Roxie and rival Velma Kelly come together for a delicious dance duet to celebrate their murderous merry. It's a number that has made its way into the Broadway history books as one of the most recognizable dances of all time.
Choreographed by late legend Bob Fosse (and called "Keep It Hot") for the original 1975 production of Chicago starring Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera, the number combines many of the steps Fosse learned during his days in vaudeville and burlesque, such as the Shim Sham, the Jo Frisco and the Black Bottom. His former flame Ann Reinking restored those moves for the 1996 revival, and performed them alongside Bebe Neuwirth to great acclaim.
Since then, countless stars have had their turn at the dance, meant to mimic the competitive and electric friendship between Roxie and Velma. Each move is performed in tandem, yet just different enough so that audiences can't keep looking away to see if they can stay in sync.
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Madix — who proved to have a penchant for picking up choreography during her run on Dancing with the Stars, where she was a finalist — appears to have already mastered the moves in her short time rehearsing. In the footage, she dances alongside actress Kristen Faith Oei with ease, looking like a well-seasoned Broadway professional.
If the Something About Her owner has that finesse, it's probably because she has been preparing for this her entire life. Prior to finding fame on reality TV, Madix studied musical theatre at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, moving to New York City after graduation with hopes to land a spot on the Great White Way.
To pay the bills during the gruesome grind of auditions, Madix learned to bartend, and kept the gig up when she decided to move to Los Angeles to try her hand at Hollywood. There, she got a job at a bar called SUR ["Sexy Unique Restaurant"], which would become the setting of Lisa Vanderpump's Real Housewives of Beverly Hills spinoff, Vanderpump Rules.
A decade of drama on Bravo and one "Scandaoval" later, Madix now finds herself right back where she started — though this time, with the Broadway contract she once coveted.
"To say this is a fulfillment of a lifelong dream would be an understatement," she tells PEOPLE, during a Chicago press call earlier this month at 48 Lounge in New York City. "This is quite literally everything to me. It's all I've ever wanted. And to be here now, having this full-circle moment ... I feel so beyond grateful."
That doesn't mean she's resting on her laurels. Madix knows the discipline it takes to do this job, and is putting in the work to make sure audience members see every ounce of talent she has to offer.
"I'm keenly aware what brought me here, but I don't want that to be what people think about when they leave the theater," Madix says, hinting that this isn't just a stunt casting like it might have been for others in the past. "As cool as it is, it's very Hamilton for me: I cannot throw away my shot. When I go out there, I really want people to say, 'She belongs here.' I don't want people to say, 'Oh, she got cast because of whatever and nothing else.' "
"I'm here to prove to people that I deserve my opportunity," she adds.
Roxie couldn't be a more a fitting role for Madix, with both rising to new levels of fame after the end of a headline-making relationship (in Roxie's case, killing her lover when he tries to walk out on her; in Madix's case, when she made the life-rocking discovery that Tom Sandoval — her boyfriend of nine years — had been carrying on a months-long affair with her friend and castmate Rachel "Raquel" Leviss).
But that's not the part of her character's story that Madix herself relates to.
"Honestly, I connect most with Roxie's hope that her performing dreams might be able to come true," she says. "There's a monologue before [the song] 'Roxie' where she says, essentially, 'I thought all that had passed me by, but I still might get to be in vaudeville. I still might have my own act now. I got me a world full of yes. Because before, it was no, no, no, no, no.' And I understand that deeply."
Madix also understands a message Roxie has not yet learned: that fame can't be the motivator. "As nice as it can be, that's not the goal," she tells PEOPLE. "Ultimately, I want to be able to work. When I agreed to do Vanderpump, all I hoped was that it would help get me more work, not fame."
"Fame is fleeting. I've been on reality TV a really long time, and I've seen fame come and go for some people. So when it came to me, I had a really grounded view about it," Madix continues. "It's not the most fulfilling thing. But if I can use this opportunity to get steady work, take care of my mom and build some kind of potential generational wealth for my family, then I'll be okay."
Chicago is Broadway’s longest-running American musical in history, and was the basis for a 2002 film starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones that won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture ad Best Supporting Actress for Zeta-Jones, 54, who played Velma.
With a legendary book by Fosse and Fred Ebb, plus music by John Kander and lyrics by Ebb, the revival of Chicago won six Tony Awards in 1997. It includes some of the most beloved songs in musical theater history, including “All That Jazz,” “The Cell-Block Tango,” “When You’re Good to Momma" and "Razzle Dazzle.”
Madix will follow in the footsteps of an impressive line of Bravo stars who have taken their turns in the show. Others include RHOBH stars Erika Girardi and Lisa Rinna, as well as Real Housewives of Atlanta stars Kandi Burrus and NeNe Leakes.
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