"Chicago" the musical has been around for as long as I can remember. Conceived in the 1970s by Bob Fosse, it went Broadway in no time and even showed up in community theater by the early 1980s. I understand one of my music teachers from elementary school was in the play at one time. And she seemed so wholesome back then... But I digress.The story centers around two vaudeville performers: One is a seasoned veteran, Velma Kelly (Catherine "T-Mobile" Zeta-Jones), part of a twin-sister act until recently when the twin is "inconvenienced"; and an aspiring platinum-blonde novice, Roxie Hart (Renee "Don't Call Me Bridget Jones" Zellweger), whose affair with a show promoter comes to a murderous end.
The two are both sent to the Cook County Jail and await their separate trials, under the watchful eye of "Momma" Morton (Queen "I Still Want You To Dance For Me" Latifah). Both of them know they're gonna need to get a real good lawyer to save them from the hangman's noose. Enter hotshot attorney Billy Flynn (Richard "Can We Stop Talking About Gerbils? Please?" Gere) to save their sweet asses. He knows how corrupt the justice system is (and how gullible the media are) in 1930s Chicagoland, and he's got a plan to drum up sympathy and support for his clients. The whole story seems to take place in parallel universes: there's the real world, where the courtroom & jailhouse drama unfolds; and the showbiz world, where everything is seen and heard in a vaudeville light, where wardens, jurors and reporters suddenly break into song and dance.
Having never seen the stage version of "Chicago", I can imagine the staging would be pretty complicated, what with the big-house-to-burlesque transitions and everything. I'm sure the storyline was truncated somewhat to fit into the timeframe of a movie. But the parallel-universe storytelling proves to be perfect for the silver screen, as we are treated to a visual festival the likes of which hasn't been seen since "Moulin Rouge", albeit a tad more muted than that 2001 spectacle. The ladies will love the musical numbers and the cattiness of Roxie & Velma, and the men can gawk at the sexy costumes, some of which don't quite fit in to the style of the times.To quote from one of the songs, "Chicago" the movie indeed gives us the old razzle-dazzle, and does it with plenty of style and flair. Basically, if you ever wanted to see Richard Gere sing and dance, you won't get a better chance than this.