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Chicago's New Star Erika Jayne Explains What Roxie Hart Doesn't Know About Fame

Erika Jayne is shedding her Real Housewives persona for her Broadway debut.

Art will be imitating life (or at least its reality TV version) for 12 weeks at the Ambassador Theatre as Erika Jayne makes her Broadway debut as Chicago's newest Roxie Hart. She knows a little something about wealth and celebrity, having cultivated her persona as the unapologetic bleach-blond bombshell of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, traveling via private plane and touring the world with her chart-topping dance-club songs.

What her fans may not know, however, is that the Atlanta-born Erika Girardi spent her teen years at a performing arts high school, singing and dancing in musicals like A Chorus Line and Pippin, and hustled for a career in New York City before finally landing in Los Angeles and becoming a "somebody everyone knows" (to quote the fame-hungry Roxie).

There may be pieces of Roxie Hart in Erika Jayne, and vice versa, but the celebrity Erika plays on TV will have to be tucked away while she plays a woman for whom fame, quite literally, is a matter of life or death. Hear what Erika had to say about kicking off the new year with this new professional challenge before she takes her first dance through the cell block on January 6.

Erika Jayne will play Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway from January 6-March 29 at the Ambassador Theatre.
(© Rene Cervantes)

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Congratulations on your Broadway debut! Has Broadway always been on your bucket list?
Absolutely! Growing up in musical theater, going to a performing arts high school — this is definitely something that is always on everyone's goal list. It's great to do Erika Jayne shows, but it's different to step into a production like this and really sink your teeth into a great role and with all of these beautiful people around you. I get to really play within this incredibly complex female character. It's like getting to go back and really explore yourself again.

Do most of your fans know about your background in musical theater?
I think some do, some don't, and some don't care.

So far, what have you enjoyed most about developing your own Roxie Hart?
I think what's cool is that every day I get to discover another layer of the musical, the character, the music, the dance — everything put together. It all means something. When you get to talk to the musical director and you get to talk to the dance captain and you learn why things are done, it's very detailed. And I'm excited to do some Fosse. It's nice to get back to that sort of elegant pulled-up but still sensual style.

I feel like it would be Roxie's dream come true to be Erika Jayne. Do you find it helpful to find similarities between yourself and the character?
I think that it's super important to see yourself in the work. You're right, there are some Roxie Hart and Erika Jayne similarities, and I think that's wonderful. Chicago has got such great women characters. It runs off two women, so what could be better than that?

Are you finding ways to empathize with Roxie?
Absolutely. I think that Roxie is a survivor at the end of the day. She's killed someone in the heat of passion, she's in jail about to be hanged, and she has got to find her way out. She made it work.

Roxie's showstopping number is about her desire to be a celebrity, "somebody everyone knows." What do you think Roxie doesn't understand yet about celebrity?
I think she doesn't understand that chasing fame is hard and fleeting. It's not what you think it is, and ultimately, at the end of the day, it will not make you happy. Craft and art and discipline in what you do will make you happy.

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