Sex, murder, celebrity. Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger.
Nick Reynolds 2003
With its themes of murder, celebrity and media manipulation, its dark sexuality and bone deep cynicism, 'Chicago' is a musical that seems very contemporary. It's been so successful that Hollywood has now given it the big budget treatment, with accompanying soundtrack.
And much of John Kander and Fred Ebb's score is so strong that it stands up even without pictures. "And All That Jazz" and "Razzle Dazzle" are great songs, witty showbiz standards. Set pieces like "Cell Block Tango", are delivered with so much oomph that they remain compelling.
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger as the two leading bad girls get all the best material, throws themselves into it and are pretty entertaining. And rap star Queen Latifah excels as Mama Moreton in her showcase "When You're Good To Mama". Her rap version of "Cell Block Tango" with Lil Kim and Macy Gray is not bad either.
But Richard Gere as shyster lawyer Billy Flynn seems merely irritating rather than genuinely vile and doesn't have much of a vocal presence. And the less said about the obligatory pop song tacked on the end of the album, a useless effort by Anastasia called "Love Is A Crime" (ugh!), the better.
Soundtrack albums are by their nature incomplete. If you love the film so much you must have a souvenir this will do. But the real problem is that 'Chicago' itself is so relentlessly bleak that it can get a bit samey and one note. Without the razzle dazzle of hot babes to punch it home, it needs better performances and a deeper, more interesting interpretation than this to produce a really satisfying album.