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'Chicago' shows a little extra 'Razzle-Dazzle'

By Brian Truitt
Examiner Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, December 25, 2005 6:54 PM EST
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Catherine Zeta-Jones, center, stars in "Chicago." Buena Vista Photo

Rob Marshall's currently chronicling "Memoirs of a Geisha" on the big screen, and three years ago he was showcasing the murderously musical memoirs of two Jazz Age dames with the brilliant and Oscar-winning "Chicago."

If you already own the DVD of the Best Picture winner and adaptation of the Bob Fosse/Fred Ebb stage show, then "Chicago: The Razzle-Dazzle Edition" may not be enough to get your Vaudeville garters in a bunch. But if you just can't get enough of Catherine Zeta-Jones sliding down poles and straddling chairs, Renee Zellweger playing perhaps the cutest little social climber ever and dozens of toned dancers in fishnets writhing around prison bars ... then perhaps you want to shell some extra moolah out for this new two-disc set.

Along with "Moulin Rouge" and the recent release of "Rent," "Chicago" is one of the best in the current movie-musical revivals, and what Marshall did that was so ingenius was instead of just having characters burst into song randomly, he crafted classic showtunes as "All That Jazz," "Mister Cellophane" and "Cell Block Tango" into dream sequences. It keeps the story based in reality, as seemingly innocent married girl Roxie Hart (Zellweger) shoots her no-good boyfriend in 1920s-era Chicago and gets put on Murderer's Row, where she meets Windy City celebrity Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones), a showgirl who offed her sister and husband when she found them in bed in the "spread eagle" position.

Velma's the hottest of the hot until Roxie enlists the efforts of ace defense attorney Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), who creates a media star out of the cherubic Roxie, much to Velma's self-possessed chagrin.

The first disc of the spanking-new edition contains the old bonus material - commentary, the cut musical number "Class," a making-of featurette - while the second will get the true fans drooling. There are extended takes of the main musical numbers that intersperse performances with rehearsal footage, features on Marshall, his costume designer and production designer, and a special on Chita Rivera, the woman who originated Velma on Broadway and has a small role in the film. A "VH1 Behind the Movie" episode is actually pretty intriguing in its breakdown of the long period it took to make the film, which shares disc space with a random but entertaining look at the one time Liza Minnelli had to step in as Roxie in 1975 for five weeks when star Gwen Verdon came down with an infection when she swallowed a feather.

Who knew being on Broadway could be so dangerous?

btruitt@dcexaminer.com

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