Well, folks, if you need some razzle-dazzle to brighten up a dreary, drizzly North Coast day, make your way over to the cinema for one heck of a story guaranteed to sweep away those winter doldrums.

"Chicago" is the film to see. With a record-tying 13 Oscar nominations and three Golden Globe awards, the film has received much media attention within the last couple of months. And, it's all well warranted.

The acting, choreography, singing, cinematography, editing and direction combine to tell the familiar story based on the hit Broadway musical written by Bob Fosse that marries murder and show biz in a deliciously stylistic and ultimately satisfying cinematic experience.

Renee Zellweger stars as Roxie Hart, a woman on trial for shooting her lover. The musical numbers are drawn from her obsessive desire to be star of the stage in the racy city of Chicago in the 1920s.

Roxie's personality type would fit into the present day with her career-driven mind set. The film has a slight feminist edge to it, and the "Cell Block Tango" is a sexy, dangerous number where Roxie's fellow murderesses tell their shocking tales.

The most mesmerizing of them is Velma Kelly, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, in prison awaiting trial for a double homicide. Zeta-Jones can act, dance and sing - a triple threat. There is an almost immediate animosity between green Roxie and the more worldly Velma, but Zellweger plays Roxie as more than just a naive blond, giving a potentially one-dimensional character a fascinating complexity.

Almost all of the characters are stand-out performers including Queen Latifah as the diva-like prison warden, Matron "Mama" Morton, John C. Reilly as Roxie's clueless, pitiful husband and Richard Gere as the audacious showman of a lawyer Billy Flynn.

Dion Beebe's cinematography and lighting, as well as Martin Walsh's film editing, help to mold this movie into the award-winning powerhouse it has become. The dance numbers, from the sultry backlit "Cell Block Tango" to the red-tinged spectacle of "Razzle Dazzle" and flashy over-the-top finale, are perfectly complimented by the lighting and camera work. The fast-paced editing serves the story well and blows through the theater with the force of a hurricane that can't help but draft the audience into its furious whirl of activity.

The real kudos here, however, must go to director Rob Marshall, whose only previous directing experience was the 1999 version of the made-for-television musical "Annie." In "Chicago" Marshall blends the key elements that made the stage musical so good with the advantages of editing and cinematography to make an incredibly entertaining film that stands on its own.

Some may think it's scandalous to try to improve upon a musical that had such success on the stage, but as one of film's taglines states, "With the right song and dance, you can get away with murder."Four stars out of four


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