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Inspiring Chicago Musical
Even people who don't like musicals will find it hard not to like this one. The songs are catchy, the dialogue is snappy and the dancing is terrific. The Chicago musical was adapted from a play and debuted on stage in 1975. It was directed and choreographed by the celebrated Bob Fosse. Set in the turbulent 1920s, the songs are inspired by jazz and vaudeville music.
There is no saccharine plot here. The story involves murder, betrayal and prison.
The three central characters are Velma Kelly, Roxie Hart and Billy Flynn. Velma has found her sister and husband in a
compromising situation and killed them both, whilst Roxie has murdered her boyfriend. They are both sitting on death row.
With songs like All That Jazz, the musical soon transferred to Broadway. A lot of unknowns and stars have passed through.
Liza Minnelli played Roxie for a brief period and Bebe Neuwirth has played Velma. The Chicago musical hit the West End stage
in London in 1997, winning an Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical. Ute Lemper played Velma and Ruthie Henshall played
Roxie. There are productions currently running all over the world including in China, Japan, Brazil, Sweden and France. It is
the eighth longest running musical in the world.
Given the success that it's had, a movie version was inevitable. The film of the Chicago musical was released in 2000 and was a big hit. It received critical acclaim too, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. Rob Marshall directed an unusual cast for the lead roles. Roxie was played by Renee Zellweger, who said that she had never sung and danced before. It was a gutsy performance. Catherine Zeta-Jones took on the role of Velma and was more than equal to the task, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Richard Gere played Billy Flynn. This was a surprise perhaps, as Gere is not associated with musicals but it's the sort of thing he was involved in during his early career. Other parts were taken by Queen Latifah, Christine Baransky (Cybill) and Lucy Liu (Charlie's Angels, Kill Bill).
The musical has become a respected part of the canon of great shows. It appeals particularly to people who like their
entertainment to be a bit edgy. Perhaps only Cabaret has a darker setting. It's the songs and choreography of the Chicago
musical that sends the audience skipping out into the street. It's a breath of fresh air in the midst of some bland
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