Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart, a young mechanic’s wife, the show begins with her having an affair with a man who says he can get her into the show business. When he comes clean, she shoots home with a handgun. After that episode, Roxie is carted off to the county prison where she encounters a fellow murderer and performer, Velma Kelly. Throughout the time in the joint, both the inmates battle each other of their name in the press. With help from their expensive and media manipulative lawyer, Billy Flynn, both Roxie and Velma are acquitted of all the charges. Based in the 1920s, the story explores the darker side of feminism when women had just recently won the right to vote, with that in mind it is interesting to see that this musical has a mostly female cast and exceedingly few leading male roles. However, despite having the heavily female cast, it is disappointing that none of the three main women who are fantastically entertaining and full of attitude, they do not have any actual redeeming qualities. Velma and Roxie are unforgiving murderers who want all the limelight for themselves.
A look into the maker’s mind
If we take a look at the most iconic song, the cell block tango, the women take on the roles of Female Fatales as they unapologetically explain the murders that landed them in prison. The women, though beautiful, are barley dresses in lingerie, the fantastically symbolic choreography displays the women’s stories played out in Roxie’s mind. There is a sense of entitlement as they deny doing the crime but also declare that the men had it coming, it is the rage within them and the passionate delivery that make us believe that the men did have it coming. Hence, as we listen to these strong-willed women justifying their actions, we as spectators buy into their stories and hope for a positive outcome.
Billy Flynn – The corrupt lawyer
Billy Flynn, the best lawyer in Chicago, who never loses a case plays an important role. Roxie initially believes that he is a wholesome man who only cares about love. However, it is apparent that it is only in it for the money, and he uses these women is ways to prove to himself and the press, how great a lawyer he is. He manipulates Roxie not only to say and do what he says but also the people covering and following the case.
In this time in the 1920s, some people would use real court hearings and murder trials as their daily dose of drama. Considering that the story is full of shady characters, it is fascinating to look at the honest characters, Roxie’s husband and the Hungarian inmate in prison. The writers of the story have put both of these characters in the lower class, depicting that being acquitted of your charges requires money. Roxie’s husband is used over and over again for publicity stunts, and the only innocent inmate become the first woman to be hanged in Chicago.