Who knew? Who knew Catherine Zeta-Jones, the sultry woman from across the pond, could sing and dance with the best Broadway stars? And, who knew Renee Zellweger could, too?
It seems the producers of the new movie musical Chicago did, and they’re milking it for all it’s worth. The soundtrack features all the songs from the big screen and stage, as well as a few new ones. The new orchestrations and treatments of the John Kander and Fred Ebb classics do them justice, and have enough sex appeal to make Bob Fosse proud.
Also adding their considerable song-and-dance talents to the project are Queen Latifah as Matron Mama Morton, Richard Gere as slick lawyer Billy Flynn and character actor John C. Reilly as the clueless Amos Hart. While all the stars claimed to have gotten their starts on stage, the question is whether that was in high school or in actual productions. Putting the naysayers to shame, the entire cast has produced an album up to speed with the Tony-award winning Broadway revival album, starring Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking.
From the hot and intense “Cell Block Tango” to the morose “Mr. Cellophane” to the showstopper “Razzle Dazzle,” the soundtrack drips with the drama and sex of the movie and reminds people why this show deserved big-screen treatment.
The only problem comes with tracks that are “inspired” by the movie. The producers, no doubt trying to capitalize on the success of last year’s “Lady Marmalade” that accompanied Moulin Rouge, brought together Lil’ Kim, Macy Gray and Queen Latifah to do their own version of “Cell Block Tango.” The movie version is better. A rap/R&B take on this song just doesn’t cut it.
Then there’s “Love is a Crime,” by R&B artist Anastacia. While the song relates well to themes in the movie, it doesn’t fit on this soundtrack. Its rhythms and beats are much more updated than the 1920s feel on the rest of the album.
Danny Elfman’s score is perfect for the time period. Shedding the darkness of Batman and Edward Scissorhands, Elfman taps into the jazz and swing feel of the speakeasy era in downtown Chicago. His music is both seedy and hopeful, exactly like the music of the time.
If the movie floats your boat, so will the soundtrack. It’s an unbelievable album of songs that have been around for decades and some great singing from the most unlikely sources: Hollywood stars.
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