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Samantha Harris Is the Name on Everyone's Lips

The star of television's Dancing with the Stars and The Insider returns to the stage as Roxie in Broadway's Chicago. logo
Samantha Harris in Chicago
(© Joan Marcus)
The role of Roxie in the long-running revival of Chicago has been played by an enormous variety of performers in the last 13 years, from Ann Reinking to Brooke Shields, Melanie Griffith, Rita Wilson, and Lisa Rinna. The latest lady to step into the little black lace dress is Samantha Harris, a stage veteran and lifelong performer who has become best known for talking on television as part of the team of The Insider and co-host of the hugely successful ABC series Dancing with the Stars, which returns to the air on September 21. TheaterMania recently spoke with Harris about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

THEATERMANIA: How was your opening night on July 7?
SAMANTHA HARRIS: It was fantastic, though it was a little nerve-racking, since I had 10 family members from Minnesota and my husband in the audience. I wasn't sure what I expected, but what has surprised me is how gracious this cast has been. I think they would be exhausted by all the rotating cast members who come in and out, but they say it makes it more exciting for them.

TM: What was your first experience with Chicago in any way?
SH: When I was in ninth grade, I did this community theater variety show, and I opened the show with "All That Jazz". Of course, now I don't get to sing it -- it's Velma's song -- but it definitely gave me a connection to the show for the rest of my life.

TM: So you always wanted to be part of the theater?
SH: I always knew I'd be in front of an audience someday, and where that has succeeded for me lately is being live in front of a camera, especially on Dancing With the Stars where we have 750 screaming people in the audience every night. I think that's actually given me fantastic preparation for this show, since it's been about nine years since I was in a stage show.

TM: What's your favorite moment in the show?
SH: Of course, singing and dancing "Roxie" is one of my favorites, but slowly if surely, I'm loving "We Both Reached for the Gun," And the courtroom trial scene is fun, especially because it's so unexpected for an audience it if all they know is the music from the show. I am so lucky to be doing those scenes with Brent Barrett as my Billy Flynn; he is such a delight, and when I join the tour in Greenville in August, I am so glad Brent will be with me. But I really have to thank our incredible dance captain, Gregory Butler, for working with me on how to do "We Both Reached for the Gun." In rehearsal, we tried so many various facial expressions for it, and on the day of the put-in rehearsal, we came up with something completely different and that's what we're using.

Amra Faye-Wright, Samantha Harris, and Brent Barrett
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
TM: Ultimately, Roxie is a killer. Do you find her sympathetic?
SH: I have to find a connection to her to play her. I think she's the type of girl who was not given the right opportunities and made some wrong choices in trying to find a better place for her. But I have to admit, I love that she gets her happy ending. I'm the same way with television. I like watching shows like The Shield and Dexter, where the lead guys are really bad but you still want them to get away with murder.

TM: What has it been like meeting fans after the show?
SH: I think one of the greatest things for audiences is the opportunity to meet stars at the stage door, so I try to talk to everyone. But I am really looking forward to doing another Talkback Tuesday on August 11, because it's a longer session. I guess the most interesting thing for me has been hearing how surprised people are that I can do this. I think a lot of my fans know I can dance -- although I don't think I can compete with the celebrities we've had lately on Dancing with the Stars -- but some people seem to find it incredible that I can sing.

TM: Are you looking forward to having your castmates from Dancing with the Stars, Maks and Karina, just around the corner soon in Burn the Floor?
SH: We've been texting each other a lot. When their poster went up, I took a picture on my cell phone and I immediately sent it to them. Of course, we want to hang out once they get here, but it's going to be hard to do with eight shows a week, and I have to be up in the morning to film The Insider. I'm usually in bed by midnight. But hopefully, we can have at least one post-show appetizer.


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