And All That Jazz!: "Chicago" Film Hits Top U.S. Markets Dec. 27

News   And All That Jazz!: "Chicago" Film Hits Top U.S. Markets Dec. 27 It's taken nearly three decades for Chicago to be filmed, but the long wait is over. "Chicago" — directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall — opens in the top 20 markets in the U.S. Dec. 27.
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in "Chicago." (Photo by David James)

The eagerly-awaited Miramax film of Kander and Ebb's award-winning musical will hit 300 other screens Jan. 3, 2003, before rolling out across the country later in the month. Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones head the star-studded cast of the movie musical as, respectively, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. The duo are joined by film veteran Richard Gere, who portrays the slimy lawyer Billy Flynn and gets the chance to offer a tap-dance routine towards the end of the film.

Featuring a screenplay by Bill Condon, "Chicago" marks the feature-film debut for Rob Marshall, a six-time Tony Award nominee for his work on Damn Yankees, Little Me, She Loves Me, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Cabaret. At a recent press junket for the movie, director Marshall discussed the challenges of translating the vaudeville-style musical for the screen: "What I explained [to Miramax's Harvey Weinstein], basically, was that we needed to embrace the fact that [the show's musical] numbers took place on a stage, and that needed to stay intact. In other words, they only work on the stage, on a vaudeville stage. That's how those numbers are created . . . Simultaneously, you could have a real story, the real Chicago. So you could live in these two different planes and still tell one narrative. And, it was such a new way of thinking, but I knew it was the only way this movie could be done.

Then, the question was, 'So you live in those two different worlds. How does that work? Is it just the way you tell the story? Is it just a Fellini-esque way of telling the story . . . jump to vaudeville numbers, or is there a way that we can get into it?' And one of the thoughts that I had come up with — and this hadn't been solidified, really, until Bill Condon and I started finding it together — one of the thoughts was that it could happen through Roxie's mind . . . because she was the dreamer.

The movie features the bulk of John Kander and Fred Ebb's score, although a few songs have been excised. The tune "Class" — sung in the musical by Matron "Mama" Morton and Velma Kelly — was filmed, but was ultimately dropped from the final version. That scene, however, will be included on the "Chicago" DVD. About the decision to remove the song, Catherine Zeta-Jones recently told Playbill On-Line, "I was really upset, but I always look at the broader strokes of the film, and the beauty of what Rob [Marshall] had done so flawlessly in getting the transitions from drama to song or music. When 'Class' was in the middle, it just jumped out because it wasn't through Roxie's eyes. It wasn't that fantasy aspect — it was me and Queenie [Latifah] just sitting there, and it broke it up. That's why I love DVD, because the whole world can see it!" The soundtrack of the film will be available on the Epic/Sony label on Jan. 14, 2003. The film includes a new Kander and Ebb song for Roxie and Velma, "I Move On," which is heard over the end credits.

The "Chicago" company also includes John C. Reilly (Amos Hart), Dominic West (Fred Caseley), Christine Baranski (Mary Sunshine), Queen Latifah (Mama Morton) as well as Taye Diggs, Colm Feore, Lucy Liu, Mya, Marc Calamia, Deidre Goodwin, Sebastian La Cause, Mary Ann Lamb and a cameo from original Chicago star Chita Rivera. The $45 million film features cinematography by Dion Beebe, and the Tony-winning lighting team of Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer are the movie's lighting designers. Kander and Ebb's musical, which features such songs as "All That Jazz," "Mister Cellophane," and "Nowadays," debuted on Broadway in June 1975 with choreography by the late Bob Fosse and a cast led by Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach. The Tony-winning revival opened in November 1996 with Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking, Joel Grey and James Naughton in the lead roles. Featuring direction by Walter Bobbie and choreography by Reinking "in the style of Bob Fosse," the musical satire continues to thrill audiences at the Shubert Theatre.

Richard Gere as Billy Flynn and Ren
Richard Gere as Billy Flynn and Ren (Photo by David James)