So where to begin with Chicago? Well, I'll begin with the stage show version which I saw live after I had seen and loved the movie. For me, the stage show is kinda bland compared to the film. The film is so much more intriguing with the way the story is filtered through Roxie, and the singing and dancing becomes more believable when you think of it as Roxie imagining the characters as performers. I love the framing device of this film, and how well that perspective tells this cynical story of murder and fame. The way it cuts in and out seamlessly between Roxie's inner perspective and reality is so brilliant too!
The casting is excellent across the board. All of the actors are amazing singers and dancers - and surprisingly so, since most were not known for those talents. Stunt casting in movie musicals nowadays is the norm, but it worked perfectly in this film. Renée in the "Roxie" number, and in "We Both Reached for the Gun"? Astonishing. Catherine Zeta-Jones in "All That Jazz"? A revelation! Richard Gere tap dancing his heart out. Stop being so awesome! And don't get me started on John C. Riley in Mr. Cellophane!
My favorite number in this film, from the very first time I watched it, is Cell Block Tango. Again, watching the stage version of this, it's ho-hum, but watching an actual tango with the victims, the palpable venom behind these female murderesses (except for one!) and the jaw-dropping choreography - this whole sequence gives me chills. I love every minute of it! And the dark humor in the lyrics makes me laugh even though it's awful how these men were murdered. (Some of them did have it coming though... haha)
Chicago is dark, sexy, cynical, smart, fresh, and just utterly brilliant. It's a wonderfully made film, as well as being a unique take on the stage version. The casting, the singing, the dancing, the music - all perfect to me. I don't think this film has a single flaw. I'm seriously surprised that it's only at number 12 on the AFI list!