Give 'em the old razzle-dazzle.
Marshall originally conceived of a very different version of the courtroom number that Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) sings to illustrate his slippery tactics for getting through to a jury. So much so that he shot part of that version before realizing that they couldn't execute it in the way he'd envisioned.
"I filmed a piece and thought, 'This is just not going to work,'"Marshall tells EW while reflecting on the film's 20th anniversary. "I thought we could do one shot where there were walls in place — they were in an empty room outside the courtroom. It was Richard Gere and Renée Zellweger, and they're both about to go in, and she's nervous to go in for this trial. He says, 'We'll just give him the old razzle dazzle.' And he starts to describe that to her.
"I thought what we could do is," the director continues. "As we were coming around with the camera and as we passed the wall, the wall would lift, and we would go all the way around. So, by the time we came back, all the walls would be gone, and we'd be in this circus environment that was the courtroom. But how you imagine it and the flow of it versus the reality of the camera movement, it seemed clunky, and it just didn't work. So, we scrapped that."
Marshall believes that if they'd had more time in the shooting schedule and a bigger budget, they probably could've pulled off his original concept. But it was too ambitious for what they had to work with. "Ultimately, we just didn't have the time to tech it," he explains. "Because we were on such a tight schedule because musicals at that point were not in favor. Our budget was tight. Our shooting schedule was tight. We didn't have the time to actually prep it in a way that could have worked. It was clunky. Thank God we went back and shot that in a more conventional way, that's still very exciting. What happens is Richard opens the doors, and now we're in this circus environment."
Even to pull off that version, Marshall had to ask the studio for an extra half-day of shooting to pivot and reshoot the number the way it appears in the final cut.
Marshall also cut one other number from the film, "Class," where Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Mama (Queen Latifah) bemoan the loss of class in 1920s society. But that was done in post-production because Marshall felt it was "dishonest" as the only number Roxie didn't witness and therefore broke the film's conceit of every song occurring in her head. (They later released the scene in DVD extras when the film went to home video.)
As a Broadway performer, director, and choreographer, Marshall made his feature film directorial debut with Chicago. Next up, he's helmed Disney's live-action update of The Little Mermaid for the big screen, which hits theaters May 26.
And while he may not have got to shoot "Razzle Dazzle" the way he originally conceived of it, the change didn't have much of a negative effect, considering that Chicago became the first musical to win Best Picture since Oliver! in 1968.
Chicago is now available in a brand new 20th anniversary Limited-Edition Blu-ray™ SteelBook™, arriving February 7, 2023 from Paramount Home Entertainment.