Who Sang It Better…All That Jazz
I thought that lockdown provided the perfect time to continue my ‘Who Sang It Better’ series. In thinking which song to look at I was shocked (and frankly disappointed with myself) that it had taken me this long to look at this song! Performed by so many of our musical theatre greats I have picked out a few of the most memorable performances.
Chita Rivera was the original Velma in the 1975 Broadway production. This lady is an icon for so many reasons but let’s start with her version of the number!
Rivera just owns this number and I love how they have choreographed the mics into the routine and how she manages to continue singing in some of those lifts needs acknowledgement in itself. She has so much fun with this number, it is flirty whilst still being full of her own personality. It is probably the most different version of the song on the list and it gets a big, quirky thumbs up from me.
Bebe Neuwirth played Velma Kelly in the Broadway revival in 1996 and won a Tony award for Best Actress in a Musical. She returned to Chicago in
Here we see the version we are all much more used to with the slick Fosse choreography and the iconic black, tight fitting costumes for all involved. Her vocals sound how Velma Kelly should sound, Kelly is a club singer and Neuwirth’s vocals have a ‘rough’ quality to them which helps portray this.
Ute Lemper was the first person to play Velma in the London revival in 1997.
This is another Velma with a really distinct vocal quality. I enjoy how she plays around with the vocal line, enough to make it her own but not too much that it becomes distracting, an example of this is at around 1:27 through to 1:44 with her ending of that chorus. I would have loved to have seen her in the production itself as whilst her riffing works well as a stand alone number I would be interested to see how it fitted into the show itself. She clearly is an outstanding vocalist however I do miss the interaction between herself and some of the dancers throughout the number. I also think that this interpretation concentrates on the vocals so much that it looses a bit of the sex appeal and Kelly’s character.
Ruthie Henshall has played Roxie, Velma and Mama and is the only person to have done this. This is her as Velma in 1999.
To me Ruthie is the ultimate Velma. She not only oozes sex appeal you believe that she was one half of the infamous double act Kelly speaks so much about. Her poise in carrying out the iconic choreography never waivers and her vocals are beautifully thick. She makes the whole number just look effortless.
One of the most famous Velma’s was Catherine Zeta Jones who played Velma in the film and won an Oscar for doing so. Excuse the dubbed dialogue!!
I adore Catherine Zeta Jones in this role. Her ability combined with some wonderful camera technique makes this a really enjoyable version of the number. I particularly like how the choreography echoes what is happening with Roxie and Fred. This version feels like it has a bigger build up to the climax of the number, both vocally and chorographically.
It’s hard to pick my favourite. I would probably have to go for Ruthie’s version as it’s live theatre but with a massive acknowledgement that Zeta Jones’ performs Kelly wonderfully and the camerawork in this really adds to the plot in this number.
So who is your favourite? Do comment and let me know!