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Married but unfaithful Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) dreams of singing and dancing her way out of her suburban life, following in the dance steps of Chicago’s hot vaudeville performer Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones). When she is dumped by her boyfriend, Roxie shoots him. She meets Velma in prison, who is also up for murdering a guy and is attracting big headlines. Under the crooked care of jail warden Matron Morton (Queen Latifah), Roxie meets legendary defence lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), who knows how to get a gal off a murder rap. At a price. Now it’s Roxie who is the media celebrity, but Valma has a few aces left in the garter of her shapely legs.

Review by Louise Keller:
My favourite film of 2002; like me, I am sure there are plenty of people who have been holding their breath for the release of this razz-a-matazz musical on DVD. And it’s worth the wait. 

The ultimate razzle dazzle, Chicago is a stunning show stopper, a seamless integration of toe-tapping tunes, riveting routines in the wicked and wonderful seedy side of the swing city. Delighting at every turn, Chicago tantalises, enthrals and above all, entertains for every single, divine moment. Of course Kander and Ebb’s catchy songs are pretty cool to begin with, and if you’re an ardent fan of the musical, I promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s everything you can hope for and more! A muted trumpet wails, 5-6-7-8 taps the count-in and presto, we are ensconced in the smoky, sleezy, sensual surrounds, where suspenders and fishnets flash and vanity flaunts itself like a narcissistic lion. 

Director/choreographer Rob Marshall uses everything that cinema has on offer to bring this musical fantasy about murder, mayhem and celebrity to the screen. Slick editing, superb production values, innovative choreography and sublime performances take us to this whoopee spot where the gin is cold and the piano’s hot. 

The songs? What can you say about gems like ‘When You’re Good to Mama’, ‘He Had It Coming’, ‘All I Care About Is Love’, and the seductive ‘All That Jazz’. Dingy prison settings are juxtapositioned with fantasy routines, and succinctly spliced together. One routine starts with the drip of a tap, the steady step of a prison guard, the click of idle fingers to set the rhythm. Innovative choreography takes over in this spectacular set piece. And of course, we are reminded of those great one-liners like ‘He ran into my knife… 10 times’, and ‘We had artistic differences: he saw himself alive, I saw him dead’; ‘If Jesus Christ had lived in Chicago and had $5,000, things would have been different’. The cast is perfect with curvaceous Catherine Zeta-Jones as the conniving vixen Velma Kelly, Renee Zellwegger as attention-seeking, scheming Roxy Hart and Richard Gere as you’ve never seen him before in the guise of the manipulating lawyer Billy Flynn, who cuts a mean tap dance. 

The musical numbers are tops, allowing these three enigmatic stars to showcase their considerable singing and dancing talents. (In case anyone isn’t sure, the closing credits confirm that the singing and dancing is performed by the billed artists themselves.) Great support from John C. Reilly as the sucker of a husband (his ‘Mr Cellophane’ a highlight) and Queen Latifah as the Madam of the Jailhouse, whose ‘Mama’ routine is a knockout. Dashing costumes, extravagant sets and outrageous routines are all part of this delectable package. The temptation is too much to resist, so … Come on babe, why don’t we paint the town – this is Chicago – and all that jazz.

Capturing the infectious mood of Chicago on DVD comes a 28 minute behind the scenes feature that is absolutely jam-packed. The most interesting bits without doubt, are the candid rehearsal scenes – from the initial read-through when all the actors get to sing and strut their stuff to the recording studio and finally the film itself. Goosebumpy stuff. The challenge, we hear, was to integrate the songs without stopping the story and every actor cast was the perfect fit. Rob Marshall explains how each actor owns their roles.

Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon make a good team in the lively audio commentary and talk about the philosophy behind the making of the film and then the intricacies as the film itself plays out. You can also watch the full version of the deleted song ‘Class’ sung by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah. Although it worked in the Broadway show, Rob Marshall and Bill Condon explain in the optional commentary why it was excluded. 

Published October 2, 2003

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CAST: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Dominic West, Lucy Liu

DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall (Choreographer: Rob Marshall)

SCRIPT: Bill Condon (screenplay); John Kander, Fred Ebb (musical); Maurine Dallas Watkins (play)

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

PRESENTATION: Dolby Digital 5.1; widecreen 16:9

SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the scenes special; deleted musical number ‘Class’ with optional audio commentary; feature commentary by Bill Condon and Rob Marshall


DVD RELEASE: September 17, 2003

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