May 26, 2014

Chicago, the Musical: Skip the Movie, See it on Stage

I hate the movie version of the musical Chicago (2002), directed by Rob Marshall.  It's set in the Jazz Age, but there are no scenes set in  speakeasies or vast Great Gatsby-style estates, or streets clogged with Model-Ts and movie marquees advertising Rudolph Valentino.   It's completely stage-bound.

There's no beefcake, not even an undone button, just lots of women in slinky leather outfits gyrating like exotic dancers.

And the lesbian angle is only hinted at, briefly.

The plot: during the 1920s, Roxy Hart (Rene Zellweger) is arrested for murdering her lover, and sent to Cook County Jail in Chicago to await her trial.   She becomes a cause celebre, and draws the attention of glitterati lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), to the consternation of his previous client, celebrity murderess Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

Velma and Roxy begin competing to see who can gain the most celebrity. When another murderess hits the news, Roxy ups the ante by getting pregnant (or pretending to).  Velma counters by sabotaging Roxy's case.

Finally Roxie is acquitted, but she misses the limelight, so she and Velma team up to do a celebrity-murderess act.

Yawn.  Why couldn't Richard Gere at least have taken his shirt off?

Fortunately, the stage versions take care of those problems.

Well, it's still stage bound, of course, but prison matron Mama Morton is definitely a lesbian, who helps Roxy in exchange for sexual favors.

And there's lots of beefcake, male dancers along with the women strutting their stuff with fedoras and jazz hands.

Not to mention shirtless, muscular Billy Flynns played by Jerry Orbach, Ben Cross, James Naughton, Christopher Sieber, Patrick Swayze, Billy Ray Cyrus, Taye Diggs, Adam Pascal, Mark Fisher, Joel Warren, Tony Yasbeck, David Hasselhoff, Tom Wopat, and Gregory Harrison.

You're not going to see a high school or community college production anytime soon, but it's worth checking out in the various national tours.

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