Many years of cinema history have taught us that It's hard to adapt a Broadway musical to the screen. For every "West Side Story" there are five "Jersey Boys". It's a tough process to get right.
In 2002, Director Rob Marshall nailed the transfer with CHICAGO.
Re-framing the stage version brilliantly for the big screen, Marshall presents all the musical numbers as fantasies within the mind of murderess Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger at her best).
After Roxie murders her lover and convinces her dim-bulb husband Amos (a fantastic John C. Reilly) to take the fall for her, she soon finds herself on murderer's row next to Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones in an Oscar winning performance).
Through song and dance, we meet the prison matron Mama Morton (Queen Latifah), Bandleader Taye Diggs and Richard Gere in a winning role as Billy Flynn, the slickest lawyer in Chicago.
Kander & Ebb's music and lyrics are smart, witty and as rapid fire as the tommy guns firing throughout.
It's the musical for people that don't like musicals, and Zellweger and Zeta Jones are as good as it gets.
By staging the songs as dream sequences, it avoids the "why are these people singing all of a sudden?" pains that most musicals encounter with modern audiences.
Look for Chita Rivera and Christine Baranski in small but pivotal roles that they both kill.
CHICAGO won six Oscars, for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Zeta-Jones), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Editing and Best Sound, all well deserved.
"All That Jazz", "Cell Block Tango", "We Both Reached for the Gun", "Roxie", "Mr. Cellophane" and "Nowadays" are all great songs, and brilliantly visualized by Marshall and his team.
To prove just how hard it is to adapt a musical, Marshall stumbled with his next two efforts, "Nine" which was flawed but very watchable and "Into The Woods" which I would compare to two hours of waterboarding.
But in 2002, and arguably so far this century, CHICAGO stands as the best musical in decades.
It gets an A.