Windy City Melodies

click to enlarge Chicago - Paul Kolnik
Paul Kolnik
Chicago

The lights dim. The curtain rises. A tall, long-legged woman stands bathed in light.

Her beaded black dress and short tomboyish hair embody the classic flapper girl of 1920s Chicago. Her body is taut, her eyes piercing.

Somehow, you can tell that you're about to see something criminal, something devious, something completely wonderful. Then, she begins singing:

"Come on babe. Why don't we paint the town?"

Hailed by the New York Times as a "musical for the ages," Chicago tells the story of Roxie, a chorus girl sent to prison for murdering her lover. With help from her sly lawyer, Billy Flynn, Roxie uses her trial and notoriety as a means to attain stardom. Along the way, she encounters a captivating cast of characters, including veteran stage star and fellow inmate, Velma Kelly (who's been played by everyone from Catherine Zeta Jones to Bebe Neuwirth) and the unexpectedly protective prison warden, Matron "Mama" Morton.

Originally choreographed by stage legend Bob Fosse, this Kander and Ebb musical debuted on Broadway in 1975 to glowing reviews and ran for a little under two years before its subsequent retirement. The onetime smash hit returned to the Great White Way in 1996, earning six Tony Awards (including Best Revival of a Musical) and becoming one of the few recent musicals to make a successful transition from stage to screen.

In the latest traveling edition, former Seinfeld and Dancing with the Stars favorite John O'Hurley takes his razzle-dazzled Broadway turn as lawyer Billy Flynn on the road, appearing in three stops on the Chicago national tour. See him take the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center stage beginning this Tuesday.

Chicago, 7:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sun., June 27-July 2, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa, $30.50-$66.50, 813-229-7827, www.tbpac.org.

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