I watched a 2002 musical “Chicago” based on the book written by Bob Fosse. The production was masterfully directed by Rob Marshall who choreographed and directed the screenplay written by Bill Condon. The director’s work, as well as the choreographic production, costumes, music, and set design, were merged into an impressive criminal comedy story. The production conveys a 1920s plot about Roxie Hart played by Renee Zellweger who secretly from her husband dates her boyfriend who has some connections in the cabaret club where she dreams to sing. As soon as she finds out that the boyfriend deceived her and there were no club connections she kills him, gets imprisoned and eventually becomes a famous star like the one she always admired, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones). I enjoyed this production because the various themes it brings up are worth to be reconsidered.
Renee Zellweger did a great job performing as Rosie Hart. She managed to express the depth and dreamy playfulness of a desperate young woman eager to achieve her dream to sing on the cabaret stage at any cost. The actress’ ability to constantly transform her personality from the real-life simple woman to a dream-like talented cabaret star loved and appreciated by hundreds of admirers. She looks natural both in her everyday clothes in a spectator’s seat in the first scene of the production and in a fabulous dress and make-up on the stage in every her performance no matter if it is imaginative (as at the beginning of the play) or real. Her singing also leaves a viewer undoubted of her talent and stage passion.
The main theme of this production is the collision of dream and reality and the cost that a person is ready to pay for the dream to come true. For Rosie Hart, her anticipated performing career is worth any price, even if it takes murder or marital betrayal. She lives in an egocentric world with no place for regret or guilt. One of the scenes that most brightly illustrate her unawareness about the outcomes of her crime is the one where she performs a song about her love affair with her boyfriend whom he murdered. The scene is impressive in its details. The mirrors are brought to the stage for the actress to admire her reflection in them in-between the moments of the audience’s appreciation of her performance. This illustrates the director’s stress on the powerful ego of the character which enforces her for action.
The lighting techniques impress a viewer from the first scenes of the production. The dim lights beaming through the smoke of the cabaret stage brightly bring to life the atmosphere of the 1920s. Jazz music combined with such lighting underlines the specific features of the era and the environment of the musical world of that time. It is worth to admit that every scene of the play involves a technique of lighting where the singing character is spotlighted and the background of the stage remains darker. Such attitude attracts the attention of the audience in a traditional and efficient way.
The scenery is designed according to the requirements of the time period portrayed by the director. Each singing performance is designed differently in accordance with the authors’ conception. The supporting dancers on the background overshadow the leading themes of the songs of the musical thus contributing to the overall image of the scenery.
The choice of the costumes for the performances also conveys the fashion of the 1920s. Short, brightly sparkling dresses with a low neckline are designed to underline the advantages of the female actresses’ figures and their passionate and explicit action. Hats and suits characteristic for men of 1920s also contribute to the realistic performance which helps to transfer the audience back in time into the criminal Chicago city of the beginning of the 20th century.
The well-combined work of the actors, the director, and the stage crew is delivered in the best possible way. Every detail of the performance, including the actor’s playing, costumes, set design, lighting, and choreography serves for the same ultimate goal in every scene. The one scene that illustrates the teamwork of the professionals involved in the creative process of “Chicago” is the “puppet scene” where Roxie and Billy Flinn give a press-conference presenting their false version of the murder events made by the lawyer Billy Flinn to take Roxie out of the jail. In this scene, the leading actors Renee Zellweger (Roxie) and Richard Gere (Flinn) perform a very realistic puppet impression. Renee Zellweger’s movements really portray the ones of a puppet in the hands of Richard Gere. Their movements are so intertwined that a viewer immediately believes that Renee moves at the wish of Richard. The spectacular background performance of the dancers in the roles of puppets underline the overall message of the scene – the world is divided into those who rule and those who are ruled. And the same goes for the main character played by Renee Zellweger.
This message in the context of the main theme of the production makes the audience reflect on the important issues of the cost of the valuable things in life. Upon watching the performance, one asks themselves if the dream is worth betrayal and if the crime is so easy to be got away with?
I enjoyed this spectacular performance. Renee Zellweger’s powerful acting work made me believe her and even to hesitate in my considerations about her positive and negative traits. In fact, this kind of considerations made me think that after all life is complicated and there are no easy questions to be answered in it. In my opinion, this is the real power of art when a performance is capable of making people think and reflect. On a scale of 1-5, I would give this production a solid 5 because it impressed me with the talented performance of the main actors who, in a team with the director and the crew, delivered the important themes in a masterful manner.