Hollywood has a
mixed record in translating great Broadway musicals to the screen.
On the one hand there are Oklahoma with Shirley Jones and the
incredible Gordon McRae and The Sound of Music.
At the other extreme are the way Fox ruined South Pacific by
casting Rozzano Brazzi in Ezio Pinza’s role, one of the great singing
roles of the 20th Century Broadway and allowing Josh Logan to
fool around with directing, and the execrable Camelot with Vanessa
Redgrave, another non-singer, in Julie Andrews’ role.
I saw a virtually unknown Redgrave as Rosalind in As You Like It in
Stratford (opposite Christopher Plummer) and she was incomparable.
Shakespeare couldn’t have wanted more.
But as a singing Guinevere? Forget
it. Hollywood moguls seem to
think that if anybody can act they can dub in Marni Nixon’s voice and
nobody’ll know the difference. Wrong!
1975 Kander-Ebb musical, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, ran for
two years, it wasn’t a huge hit. Resurrected
in 1996 by Director Walter Robbie and Choreographer Ann Reinking, it was
so popular it’s still running on Broadway, after more than six years.
I saw it and loved it, mainly because of the music and dancing.
But when I went to this film version, it was starting with two
strikes against it.
Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones, not known for their singing and
dancing. Strike one.
They threw out
Bob Fosse’s choreography! Strike
seeing the film, Gere and Zeta-Jones still won’t be known for their
singing and dancing. But
Renée Zellweger is magnificent. Nothing wrong with
Gere and Zeta-Jones, who are merely spectacular.
Zellweger is in a class by herself.
If she doesn’t get the Oscar for best actress, something’s
choreography? Well, it’s
not missed because the dancing appears as mostly illusion.
The opening number, All That Jazz, by Zeta-Jones is a showstopper,
the best number in the film. But
the choreography exists in the way the film is shot and edited.
There are lots of quick cuts as short as three seconds, which keep
you from seeing that neither Gere nor Zeta-Jones can dance like Astaire
and Rogers. The camera angles and cuts are coordinated with the music in
such a way that you forget about Fosse’s missing choreography and marvel
at the editing and cinematography that make this such a delight.
although based on an actual event, is fluff.
Roxie Hart (Zellweger) shoots her paramour and goes to jail where
she meets Valma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) and Matron Mamma Morton (Queen Latifah).
Morton introduces her to Flynn and he’s hired to get her off.
There’s upbeat music throughout.
Chicago is a
masterful piece of movie making magic by Director/Choreographer Rob
Marshall. It took chutzpah to
dump Fosse and cast actors in singing and dancing roles, but it was the
right thing to do. Gere is
marvelous as flamboyant attorney Billy Flynn, and Zeta-Jones (boy, is she
gorgeous!) and Queen Latifah ably support Zellweger. As good as Gere, Zeta-Jones, and Latifah are, make no mistake
about it. No matter what the
credits say, this is Zellweger’s movie.
This is a funny,
entertaining, scintillating 113 minutes that everyone should enjoy.
January 3, 2003