Last week, during her last performance as Roxie Hart in Broadway's Chicago, Melanie Brown(better known as "Mel.b"), decided to give her fans an extra treat by breaking character mid-performance and inserting some lyrics from her days as a Spice Girl. The cringe worthy moment can be seen here.
While the reaction in the room seems to be positive, the reaction outside the theatre hasn't been. Many in the Broadway community have called the act "unprofessional", "atrocious" and "horrifying".
I agree. I think breaking character in any performance like this is wrong on any stage, Broadway or otherwise. When someone does this, they make the performance about themselves rather than the entire show. It's offensive to the rest of the cast and the source material. It's also offensive to the audience in attendance, who paid a good amount of money to see a show where actors stay in character throughout the performance.
But what makes this situation so glaring and noticeable, is that she posted it on her social media with pride. While we hear stories of actors breaking character, we almost never see them brag about it. The infamous Patti LuPone picture-taking outburst was only made famous because another audience member recorded it. You didn't see Ms. LuPone wear as a badge of honor.
That's because Broadway veterans and trained performers know that doing something like this is a cardinal sin in this industry. Doing it, would likely result in never being cast again, not to mention fines from Actors Equity.
And that's my biggest problem, while other actors would be punished for something like this, Mel b. will escape unscathed. While she may never be brought back to Broadway, Mel b.'s livelihood doesn't depend on 42nd St. It feels like she's saying to the rest of the community, "Look what I can do, because I don't need this."
To those involved with Chicago who might be upset with this, I have to only ask, "What did you expect?"
When you cast someone known for being in p Pop Girl Group(not to mention the "Scary" one), you had to expect that she would do something like this before exiting the show. Also given the fact that she's British and is obviously knowledgeable of British theatre traditions, it's not too much of stretch to believe she was following the "time honored" British tradition of the "Muck Up Matinee". This is just one of many possible explanations of why she did it or why she thought it was acceptable to do.
In the end, a mediocre run in an iconic role ended in the worst way possible. Mel b. thumbing her nose to the community that welcomed her as a guest, is about as insulting as it gets.
Please don't let the door hit you on the way out.