Release Date: 01.14.03
Record label: Epic / Sony Music Soundtrax
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Solidifying the Return of Movie Musicals
by: bill aicher
When classic musicals are discussed, a few names are bound to pop up as the best of the best: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and (of course) Kander and Ebb. And when it comes to choreography, one name continually rises to the top: Bob Fosse. So, it's only a given that the movie musical Chicago, if done properly, would excel to an enormous level. The show is classic, the songs are classic, and the choreography is classic. All you really need from here is to get together a cast and crew who can pull it all together.
Based on the success of the movie alone, you'd be inclined to think the soundtrack would be just as good. And you'd be right. In fact, on CD the performances by Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger, Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta-Jones sometimes shine even brighter than in their onscreen performance. It's easy to to distract the audience with the flash and pizzazz of performance, and given the proper performance one can get away with murdering the vocal performance. On CD, however, all attention is on the audio side - and Chicago continually proves the onscreen performance wasn't just glue and glitter.
Given Catherine Zeta-Jones' previous experience in the London musical scene, her vocal strength and "oomph!" aren't much of a surprise. She's perfectly at home as Velma Kelly. What is a bit more surprising is the remarkable performances from Zellweiger and Gere. They've both proven their acting prowess plenty in the past, but to put on such a stellar vocal performance is simply fantastic. Gere is Flynn, and Zellweger's transformation into Roxie Hart is simply remarkable.
Still it's fairly easy to put most of the focus on these leads. After all, their performances are superb. The biggest gems here, however, are Queen Latifah's performance of "When You're Good to Mama" (made much more memorable after you've seen her performance) and John C. Reilly's simply inspired understated performance of "Mister Cellophane."
But what is perhaps the biggest bonus to the soundtrack is the inclusion of "Class" - a song from the original show which was cut from the final version of the film. Like the rest of the performances on the soundtrack, it's top-notch. Hopefully we'll see the finished sequence on DVD.
And then there's the extra tracks; the quick "cash-ins" required for every soundtrack, no matter how unnecessary they may be. This time around we have the hip-hop rendition of "Cell Block Tango," which thankfully is not in the film, and Anastacia's "Love is a Crime" which is thankfully only present in the end credits. Here's a tip: just because Moulin Rouge had it's big hit with "Lady Marmalade" doesn't mean that song was the reason the soundtrack did as well as it did.
Apart from this atrocious ending, the Chicago soundtrack (when it sticks to the songs actually in the movie) is a class act. If the inevitable onslaught of movie musicals in the coming years follows the trend of excellent performances put forth by Moulin Rouge and Chicago, we're in for a healthy helping of treats. 27-Jan-2003 1:45 PM