"Give 'em the old razzle-dazzle," suave lawyer Billy Flynn coaches his murderous client, Roxie Hart, in "Chicago." "Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it."
And, by golly, Roxie does, using sex appeal, feigned innocence and every other trick in the book to try to win the jury's sympathy, and ours. It works, not just as an act in the musical, but as a description for the whole fetching package as well.
"Chicago," whose umpteenth tour edition opened Tuesday at the Ordway Center in St. Paul, is a show with justifiably long (and gorgeous) legs.
Its staying power could be attributed to Bob Fosse's slinking and sexy choreography, which isolates hips and shoulders in lusty, supple seductions. The show's longevity is also due to the witty, alluring songs of Kander and Ebb, conducted with flair at the Ordway by Eric Barnes, as these characters, often in noirish silhouette, explore murder and media in Chicago during the roaring '20s.
Roxie (TracyShayne), Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod) and some other beautiful women in sheer, black skintight outfits, are in the slammer for killing men through various means (guns, knives and poison). Roxie killed her lover and cheated on her nave husband, Amos (Ron Orbach).
This staging, Scott Faris' re-creation of the Tony-winning 1996 revival directed by Walter Bobbie, has a relish for fun and physicality. On numbers such as "All that Jazz," "Cell Block Tango" and "Mister Cellophane," the cast, led by TV actor John O'Hurley as Flynn, shows that it is top-shelf.
O'Hurley has charisma and a high-wattage smile to go with his solid voice.
Shayne's Roxie looks like a milder, sweeter version of Joan Rivers. Still, she's a tightly wound ball of energy, balancing between grace and ravenousness. High-cheek-boned MacLeod is delightful as Velma, investing her with steeliness and athleticism.
Orbach milks his simpleton hubby for all the sympathy he can get. His "Mister Cellophane" is a highlight.
The production, noteworthy for its energy and sophistication, also proves timely in its focus on fame in society.
As Roxie's trial comes to a climax in "Chicago," a sensational murder elsewhere in the city draws media attention away from her courtroom. Roxie turns sad and does not even care about the outcome of the proceedings that will decide her fate.
Fame, in this world, is more important than even one's own freedom.
Rohan Preston 612-673-4390 Twitter: @rohanpreston