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.