And All That Jazz
Cinema’s ability to produce top class musicals has been in decline for many decades now. I’ve seen numerous commentaries that public tastes have changed and they no longer desire to see musicals.
However, I disagree with this view.
Given the numerous musical stage shows that are continually being released and the public’s insatiable appetite for them and their popularity, albeit, IMO, the music and songs seem to pale into insignificance compared to yesteryear, I believe it’s simply a case that the filmmaker’s craft for producing such entertainments has dissipated over time.
However, the dearth of a really good musical was broken in 2002 with the release of Chicago, based on the 1975 stage black comedy musical which tells the tale of two murderesses who find themselves in jail together awaiting trial in 1920s Chicago.
The film starts with a bang with Catherine Zeta-Jones (in her Academy Award winning role) as Velma Kelly belting out the opening number.
The films’ numbers are cleverly presented as mostly cutaway scenes in the mind of the character whilst scenes in real life are filmed with a gritty hard-edged style. The film marked the directorial debut of Rob Marshall who seemed to get his cues from the late, great Bob Fosse who had directed the original 1975 Broadway production. However, Rob Marshall would go on to direct the absolutely dreadful Cats ! ! !
The film also boasts one of the great all-time show stopping numbers ever filmed for a musical.
It’s an absolute corker of a number, brilliantly choreographed, in which six women, at the Cook Country Jail, explain their presence in the prison, all of whom stand accused of killing their male partners.
The film also stars the excellent Renée Zellweger as Roxie Hart, a bored housewife who dreams of becoming a musical star and Richard Gere as Billy Flynn the smooth-talking, slimy lawyer who turns his female clients into celebrities to gain public support for their acquittal.
Unusually for a musical, the characters are mostly unsympathetic and quite dislikable as the whole film eschews any sentiment. It’s the excellence of the execution in terms of direction, acting, choreography and the music that makes the film such a standout.
For those that are interested I have created the following playlist from this movie which features 13 numbers in total.
Singin’ In The Rain is my favourite musical of all-time, but I would include Chicago as one of the best 5 musicals ever made to come out of Hollywood.
24 thoughts on “WolfmanOz at the Movies #33”
Don’t like Musicals, that said Chicago and Cabaret are really good. Appreciate your work Wolfman.
All good GreyRanga – musicals aren’t for everyone’s tastes, but when they’re done well, then they’re something special.
For me “Porgy and Bess” remains top.
I saw it at The Forum theatre, George St Sydney, June 1960. It blew me away.
Totally agree Wolfman. Wonderful movie; choreography outstanding.
Some musicals leave me cold; e.g. “The sound of mucous”. Saccharine overlaid with sugar.
Others, however, rank right up there at top of my list of “watch again and again”; for example, “Singin’ in the rain”, “White Christmas” and “Camelot” (1967).
I am also going to include there one that probably strictly speaking isn’t a “musical” per se — “Goodbye Mr Chips” — the Peter O’Toole, Petula Clark version. O’Toole was, for me, absolutely spot on as the teacher/headmaster of the title. He sings, too, and nowhere near as badly as everyone expected. The music and lyrics, for me at least, touch just the right spot on the continuum from joy to pathos. I think … I hope … there will always remain a place for musicals.
Speaking of Fosse, the video for Rich Man’s Frug from Sweet Charity, with the music changed changed to Nutbush City Limits. Featuring the fabulous Suzanne Charney.
Against my better judgment my late friend and I went to see Chicago when it came out in the cinemas.
We both thought it was a terrible film and left about two-thirds of the way through.
I wouldn’t have gone in the first place if he hadn’t invited me.
I am not a fan of musicals at all, and loathe jazz.
Mmm…Bollywood’s many fans might disagree.
Bruuuu ffrom WA
If Peter O tool could sing then what about his contemerary Richard Harris with McArthur Park.
Lee Marvin – OMG
Oh the horror, the horror
I am not a fan of musicals either – I have never seen The Sound of Music and never voluntarily will.
Someone dragged me along to performances of Cats and The Rocky Horror Show when they were around, and both were boring (to me).
There is one important exception – Mel Brooks’ The Producers, although it is not a conventional musical. Seen it several times, and would again tomorrow!
Sound of Music – I used to shit my dacks when that came on – the hamemring the next day from the other kids in the neighbourhood being a Crout
Now the Producers – LSD Wow
Forgot about Porgy and Bess. Saw it very young. Must revisit.
What was the name of the theatre in Pitt or Castlereagh just down from Liverpool or the next one. Had no frontage and was in the middle of the block. 79-80. Showed arthouse stuff. Went to Daves Encore in North Sydney a lot too.
I saw a few films there, the last one being “Monterey Pop” in 1985. Can’t remember the name of it either.
Richard Harris could sing. Watch “Camelot” or listen to “My Boy” or “Didn’t We“
I really enjoyed 2000 Film – Jesus Christ Superstar
Clip This Jesus Must Die – 2000 Film | Jesus Christ Superstar
and Rik Mayall as Herod
King Herod’s Song – 2000 Film | Jesus Christ Superstar
New Zealands greatest musical.
Porgy and Bess, West Side Story, and Chicago.
I love them all and can’t choose between them.
The musicals of the 50’s were fun, even Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Annie Get Your Gun.
Saw Oklahoma on Broadway and more recently South Pacific on stage in Sydney.
Both still good.
But other than Chicago, more recent musicals, especially on stage, are unwatchable.
Cats, Phantom of the Opera, even Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables, the music is shit and the acting is woefully boring. Overblown smaltz, and not memorable in any way for me. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t go to them, but I’ve heard enough on the airwaves and in extracts to never want to see any of these.
You can add My Fair Lady to the three faves of mine up there.
On stage or on film, I’ve enjoyed both.
Totally agree Lizzie !
I saw an ad the other day for Evil Dead The Musical . . . FFS ! ! !
So many of today’s stage shows and musicals have goddamn awful music and songs with horrendous acting to boot. And yet they continue to draw audiences.
I’d also have My Fair Lady as well as one of my favourite musicals.
Wolfman, I just lost an hour watching that great compilation clip of Chicago.
Yep. I was tossing up whether to go to dance class tomorrow, but now, I’m on.
Dancing wild to jazz, or slowly doing the dying swan in a cool down, there’s nothing like it.
Even at my age. 🙂
I use to think Roxie was short-changed in the awards, but on dance and drama points I’d award the honours definitely to Velma. Glad Zeta-Jones won an acadamy award for it. Brilliant. The hinted reprise of Monroe and Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the end was fantastic too. Helps me to recall that I was constantly changing my hair colour from blonde to deep brunette throughout my twenties. Never could decide.
Richard Gere as Billy Flynn – the essence of persuasive slime – his tap dance number intercut with the courtroom scenes was inspired; as were so many of the numbers.
Sound of Music makes me want to throw up. I have had to sit through it a couple of time. Erk.
Hairy, on the other hand, likes it for its childhood memories for him.
Took my grandson when he was nine to see stage show of Mary Poppins in Sydney.
He loved it. I went along with him on that, but I was nauseated by the script of bad daddy banker and how we must now all hug each other and fly kites. Middle class fantasies, like Sound of Music.
Nice one Lizzie !
By the way I actually like The Sound Of Music – but I have to be in the mood for it !
Chicago is excellent. Don’t forget The Blues Brothers – a wonderful celebration of American music. My Fair Lady and Paint Your Wagon are my other favourites.