Chicago Director Wanted The Movie’s ‘Cell Block Tango’ To Be ‘Sexier’ Than The Musical

Rob Marshall’s take on “Chicago” is considered the gold standard of stage-to-screen adaptations, and his changes to “Cell Block Tango” are a perfect example of enhancing the source material. “The original began behind bars and then, the bars broke apart, and then the whole number was done like that,” he explained. “I thought, ‘Well, we can start there and then depart.'” With dramatic lighting, tight camera shots, and Marshall’s fantastic choreography, the piece takes on a life of its own. And thanks to the costume design of Colleen Atwood, granted a level of sex appeal that has since become the standard in future stage productions.

“The number had a little S&M vibe to it because of the violence,” Marshall noted. “We were able to work with great boots and straps and things like that in the girls’ costumes. So, it’s a female empowerment number.” I couldn’t agree more. The visuals of women clad in fishnets, strappy accessories, and armed with red fabric to symbolize the blood of their victims juxtaposed against drab prison garb as they narrate their stories is absolutely stunning, and in this writer’s opinion, a perfect example of how the cinematic medium can elevate live theater, rather than replace it.

Rob Marshall’s next foray into movie musicals is the upcoming live-action adaptation of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” due in theaters on May 26, 2023.

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