Chicago is an infectious toe-tapper, intelligently reworked by writer Bill Condon from the Bob Fosse/Kander and Ebb stage show. The tone is refreshingly cynical for a musical. The story involves the desperate search for notoriety as a shortcut to fame and fortune and has an added “reality TV” resonance for today, 80 years after it’s set.Director Rob Marshall starts high (with Catherine Zeta-Jones’ red-hot “And All That Jazz”) and the pace never lets up - the numbers just get bigger and more elaborate. Most of the name cast are singing and dancing on screen for the first time, and are sensational. Renée Zellweger’s vulnerability amazingly allows us to root for her ambitious, mercurial murderess Roxie Hart.
The songs are memorable, as are many of the cleverly layered sequences (the press conference-marionette show “They Both Reached for the Gun”). The frenetic pace recalls Moulin Rouge! but Chicago boasts a full-bodied score, rather than snatches of song. Martin Walsh’s cutting is occasionally feverish, and unfortunately sometimes at the expense of the dancers. Dion Beebe’s cinematography is rich and colourful and matches the exuberant staging.I felt like applauding after every number.