Filming is expected to begin Dec. 12 in Toronto for the new feature-film musical, "Chicago," which draws on elements from the smash 1975 John Kander-Fred Ebb-Bob Fosse musical that is still enjoying a hit revival run on Broadway.
Directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall, who scored big with TV's "Annie," the film is produced by Marty Richards and Miramax's Harvey Weinstein and executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron of Storyline Entertainment.
A spokesman confirmed that the picture (with screenplay by Bill Condon) will star Renee Zellwegger as Roxie, Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma, Richard Gere as Billy Flynn, Queen Latifah as Matron Mama Morton, Christine Baranski as Mary Sunshine, John C. Reilly as Amos and R&B singer Mya as cellblock girl Mona. (Britney Spears has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the bit part of "Go to Hell Kitty.")
Paul Bogaev (TV's "Cinderella" and "Annie") is music director. The movie is expected to be released at Christmas 2002.
It is not yet clear how screenwriter Condon is adapting the libretto by Ebb and Fosse into a film script. The stage show has a free-wheeling, presentational vaudeville frame — the story is told as a series of vaudeville specialty numbers (the fan dance, the ventriloquist act, the sad clown number, etc.). The score by composer Kander and lyricist Ebb is considered one of the best from the team, and includes "Razzle Dazzle," "All I Care About," "Cell Block Tango," "A Little Bit of Good," "I Can't Do It Alone," "My Own Best Friend," "Roxie" and "All That Jazz." *
Plans to make a movie version of Chicago have dragged on for years. Along the way, such names as Goldie Hawn, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell were bandied about as casting possibilities, and Larry Gelbart and Wendy Wasserstein were mentioned as possible scribes.
The Chicago revival opened on Broadway on Nov. 11, 1996, and talks of a film version have lasted nearly as long. The 1975 staging starred Gwen Verdon as Roxie and Chita Rivera as Velma. Both played murderesses in the Windy City of the Roaring '20s who use slick lawyer Billy Flynn to get out of jail and into vaudeville careers.
The darkly comic material, slicked up with a hot tin-and-brass sound by orchestrator Ralph Burns, who died recently, is based on a 1926 play, Chicago, by Maurine Dallas Watkins. There have been two non-musical films of the story: "Chicago" in 1927 and "Roxie Hart" starring Ginger Rogers, in 1942.