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Chicago The Musical

Updated on February 19, 2008

Chicago and all that Jazz

Chicago the town is synonymous with prohibition,gangland killings and jazz. Chicago The Musical is based on the original story by a reporter covering the trials of 2 women accused of murder. The story was sensational at the time and has been remade many times. The musical combines violence and jazz spectacularly. Earlier versions of the story have included a play, a silent movie and a movie called Roxie Hart, after the lead character , staring Ginger Rogers.

Photo by: smako
Photo by: smako

Chicago originally made it to Broadway in 1975 - a version which was nether a commercial or critical success. However when in 1996 it was re-staged as Chicago the Musical it set the record for the fastest recouping of costs by a musical. The musical is a traditional musical in that the characters naturally burst into song and dance in ways which move the plot forward. It it not however a huge cast musical. The female leads dominate the dancing, with the lawyer the only non-dancing part in the show. There is a huge chorus line, but the staging is clever and effective.

The movie, Chicago, released 2002 starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere. For my money though I prefer the show. The movie present the musical numbers as fantasies - which drastically cuts down the amount of dancing - by staging it as fantasy sequences. Unlike say Moulin Rouge we are not allowed to pretend that the singing and dancing fits in naturally. It has to be explained away instead.

The show-stopper for me in the stage version is the Cell Block Tango where the five inmates describe the way their significant other's died with clever lyrics combined with stunning choreography. As one lady says - "we had artistic differences: he saw himself alive and saw him dead!" The tango is raunchy and aggressive for most of the time. The Hungarian women however dances a beautiful slow smooth show tango - which unfortunately still ends in a "death"! Tangoi s predominately show Argentine Tango rather than the more refined ballroom version of the dance. Though I see some figures of Paso Doble thrown in, with the woman playing the traditional male role.. The very old theatrical device of a red scarf to reflect blood and death is used to great effect.

See the movie if you have the chance - but if you love dance don't miss the stage show. Currently playing in London and New York and touring in the UK and US

Cell Block Tango:He Had it Coming


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      Laura Long 9 years ago

      Thanks for the review, I loved the movie. Maybe someday I can see the musical. I'll have to travel to do so. But, Hey~~~let's do it.