I have loved musicals since a young girl when I watched those old black and white Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies.
They were so elegant and sophisticated as they flowed and danced around the room. I was hooked. Since then I have seen musicals on stage and on the screen…and Chicago is one of my favorite movie musicals.
The Oscar-winning movie, Chicago brought a glimmer of hope to movie musical lovers. The movie received critical acclaim with 13 Academy Award nominations and winning 6 Oscars, including Best Picture.
- Catherine Zeta-Jones- Best Actress in a Supporting Role
- Colleen Atwood- Best Costume Design
- Gordon Sim / John Myhre -Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
- Martin Walsh – Best Editing
- Michael Minkler/Dominick Tavella/David Lee – Best Sound
- Best Picture – Directed by Rob Marshall
It is one of my favorite movie musicals.
Murder, mayhem, and fantastic dance numbers, choreographed by the great Bob Fosse. Director Rob Marshall brings Chicago to the screen with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, and Richard Gere in the lead roles of Velma Kelly, Roxie Hart, and Billy Flynn.
What is there not to love about Chicago? Rob Marshall’s casting of Gere and Zellweger was brilliant, who knew they could sing and dance?
The story of Chicago starts with a popular nightclub performer, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who catches her dancing partner-sister and her husband at a moment of passion. Not one to be upstaged by her sister, Velma fires a few warning shots that land her in the Cook County Women’s Jail. On “Murder’s Row”.
Renee Zellweger plays the younger, but not so innocent Roxie Hart. A girl who wants to be in show business and is willing to do anything (and I mean anything) to get her big break. Too bad for Roxie’s latest road for stardom, Fred Casely. Fred promised Roxie an audition with a nightclub owner. Problem was, Fred was lying just to seduce Roxie. Roxie didn’t take the news well and explained it to her lying lover with a couple of bullets in the chest. Just in time for her loving husband, Amos to arrive home from work.
The Music & the Dancing
That is just the beginning.
All of the best scenes happen in prison. This is where the jazz-inspired music of the legendary team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, famous for their Broadway hits Cabaret, Zorba, and The Kiss of the Spiderwoman; and the sensual, pulsating choreography of Bob Fosse really shine.
The music on the Chicago soundtrack is full of incredible songs. In numbers like “When You Are Good to Mama“, Queen Latifah shows us that she is more, much more than a hip-hop performer as she explains her pay up and pay off the philosophy of life. Queen plays the role of Matron Mama Morton with the perfect combination of menace and larceny.
By far, my favorite dance number is the “Cell Block Tango“. The lovely lady inmates of Cell Block 8 tell their tragic stories of the men that done ’em wrong and the tragic, deadly consequences of their cheating ways. But as the song says, “He had it comin“.
The dancing showcases Bob Fosse’s brilliant choreography and his love of the female form as the dancers’ high kicks, stomps and splits re-enact their crimes.
Best Line: ‘You know some guys just can’t handle their arsenic.’
Richard Gere gets a chance to show off his song and dance skills in “All I Care About is Love“, “Razzle Dazzle” and a dazzling tap dance number. John C. Riley is heartbreaking as Roxie’s long-suffering and very gullible husband Amos in “Mr. Cellophane“.
Watch Sweet Charity and Cabaret to see other examples of Fosse’s dance style. For a deeper look into Fosse’s relationship with Gwen Verdon, watch Fosse/Verdon.
The Big Finish
It wouldn’t be a really good musical, without THE BIG FINISH or a big musical number to get your toes tapping. Chicago won’t disappoint you. After much tap dancing and legal maneuvering, Billy Flynn (Gere) helps both Roxie and Velma beat their murder charges.
Unfortunately for Roxie, the trial’s publicity doesn’t bring Roxie any closer to her dreams of stardom. It is as true in Jazz Age Chicago as it is today: People are always looking for the next big thing. So, Roxie and Velma join forces to create a killer of an act.
A Few of My Favorite Movie Musicals
“Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone: a comedy tonight!” Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton, and a very young Michael Crawford star in this hilarious romp through ancient Rome with music by Stephen Sondheim. This movie is so funny.
It’s slapstick comedy, but it seriously cracks me up every time.
West Side Story (1965)
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet gets a musical makeover while The Jets and the Sharks dance through the streets of New York City to the music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Broadway’s Jerome Robbins. Starring Natalie Wood, George Chakiris, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno.
Funny Girl (1968)
(or anything with Barbra Streisand)
What can I say? She’s Barbra…she’s like buttah. Barbra plays Vaudeville performer, Fanny Brice and sings one of her most famous songs; People. ‘People who need people….are the luckiest people in the world!‘ You have to hear Barbra sing it.