You’ve likely never heard a Roxie Hart riff like this before. R&B star Brandy Norwood is the latest in a steady line of actresses to step into the silky stockings of starry-eyed Roxie in the long-running Broadway revival of Chicago. But even though she’s following a slew of fellow musicians in the role (including Michelle Williams, Ashlee Simpson, and most recently, Jennifer Nettles), Norwood’s Broadway debut as the merry murderess comes with a wholly original array of Brandy-grade vocal twists.
The Grammy winner is the first to admit that her engagement in Chicago (where she’s appearing through June 21) marks both a personal and professional resurgence. She’ll head back into the studio this year to record her seventh studio album, and she’ll soon star in an upcoming BET series following the conclusion of The Game. EW caught up with Norwood to chat about her new digs on Broadway—and, of course, the 1997 remake of Cinderella that we’ve never quite erased from the DVR.
Entertainment Weekly: What steps do you go through when you approach a classic score like Chicago’s? How do you both honor and reinvent it?
BRANDY NORWOOD: I wanted to bring my own flavor to it, and the team at Chicago really allowed me to discover that. They were my foundation and my first audience—they laughed at things I did, or they said, “Oh, maybe try that.” They allowed me the freedom to discover who Roxie was from my perspective. I loved preparing for it. I feel like everything that I’ve done in my life has prepared me for this moment in my life—from acting, singing, dancing, Dancing with the Stars. All of the things that I’ve done have prepared me to [play] Roxie.
When did this musical come into your life?
I did see the movie, and Renee Zellweger is actually my favorite Roxie ever. I saw the musical when Usher played Billy Flynn, and I was blown away. I was like, girl, you need to do Broadway. But I was always afraid of what that experience would be like, so I never really looked into it.
What was the fear?
The fear was that it was the unknown. It’s live. You can’t go back. I was so used to action, cut, let me do it again. That’s not what live theater is. You have to get yourself into a position where you trust the moment and all of the grind that you prepared before it. You can’t get ahead of yourself. I can’t think about “Roxie” at the beginning of the show—I’ll get too nervous. It’s about living in the moment and trusting it. It’s one of the most beautiful experiences. I want to do theater for the rest of my life, along with everything else that I want to do.