Chicago, starring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger, is set in 1920s Chicago, the era of booze, liquor, jazz, mobsters and Al Capone.

Roxie Hart is a nobody who dreams of the fame and wealth of a singing career. She is watching Velma Kelly a nightclub star perform and daydreaming, when Velma is arrested for the double murder of her husband and her sister.

Roxie goes back home, and kills her lover who is about to ditch her.

Both Velma and Roxie end up in the same gaol.

Velma uses her notoriety to boost her career. Roxie learns from Velma. Both engage the same sleazy lawyer who guarantees to get them off.

The stage musical produced all the musical numbers as vaudeville pieces. This made the picture somewhat difficult to adapt from stage to screen.

A clever technique is used, where Roxie, the dreamer, fantasises, and her fantasies are turned into stage numbers. This avoid the clumsy technique of what one moment is a drama, the next moment the characters dancing and singing.

'Cell Block Tango' is brilliant. A dripping tap, a guard walking by, fingers tapping. Each sound is layered over the next, a rhythm develops, until we have a tango.

Richard Gere, as the sleazy lawyer, performs a brilliant tap dance routine.

Chicago the movie is based on the Kander and Ebb Broadway musical, Chicago, which in is turn based on the Maurine Watkins play, Chicago, which was in turn was based on the stories of two Jazz-era killers, Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner.

Maurine Watkins was a reporter on the Chicago Tribune who turned her experience of reporting on the Jazz-era killings into a play. The recent success of of the musical Chicago, was a revival of the 1970s musical.

A success on Broadway, following its mid-1990s revival, Chicago has also been a success in the London West End.

Chicago is a satire. It was success in the 1990s onwards, in that the era it portrays, where reporting on showbiz murders becomes in itself media entertainment, is little different from the media today. Made all the more ironic by the action by Catherine Zeta-Jones, when having sold her grubby story to a gossip magazine, it was stolen a march by a rival gossip magazine. She could hardly claim invasion of privacy and was probably the only one who failed to see either the irony or how pathetic her actions had become.

Chicago won six Academy Awards including Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones.

All the principal actors do their own singing and dancing in the film. Catherine Zeta-Jones performs the theme tune, 'And All That Jazz'.

Music ~ Moulin Rouge! ~ Dirty Dancing
(c) Keith Parkins 2005 -- January 2005 rev 0