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Chicago Comes to Houston With John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn

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The music and lines in Chicago, the musical are so distinctive, so memorable that John O'Hurley who has starred in the show on Broadway says he can step in and out of his role as the lawyer Billy Flynn at a moment's notice.

O'Hurley, of Seinfeld fame (he played Elaine's boss J. Peterman) is coming to Houston thanks to the Society for the Performing Arts for a one-week run at the Wortham Center next week. The cast is an international group of actors, chosen from previous productions around the globe of the Tony Award winning musical.

"I left the show on Broadway in September and I didn't pick it up till May and I never needed one rehearsal. It just stays in my head. I can't say that about any other show I've done," O'Hurley told Art Attack in a telephone interview from Chicago. "I did King Arthur in Spamalot for three years but I'd have to really go back and study that again."

O'Hurley has been doing Flynn off and on since 2006 (he joined the Broadway show after his stint with Dancing With the Stars). An added attraction for him was the Houston stop; his wife Lisa Meloh grew up in Sugar Land and will have a chance to connect up with old friends. Their 4-1/2 year-old son will be along as well.

O'Hurley says he loves playing Billy Flynn. "He's a tremendously complicated leading man with a sense of elegance and he's got a very strong comedic side and a very strong dark side. So it gives me a chance to really stretch as an actor," he said.

Chicago, set in the 1920s, is the story of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart who each murder a man and then turn to lawyer Flynn to get them off.

O'Hurley says the show differs from the 2002 Academy Award winning movie that starred Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger Richard Gere, John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah in that it calls on the audience's imagination much more. Instead of the movie sets, "we have nothing more than chairs. The burden of the show really falls on the actors to create the environment," O'Hurley said.

It appeals to youngsters because of the imagination involved, he said. And it should especially appeal to girls who want to dance on stage because "the two roles of Velma and Roxie are just great dancing roles," he said.

Calling it "one of the five great musicals in Broadway history," O'Hurley credited that to the songs in the show with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The lyrics and book were by Ebb and Bob Fosse.

The Society of the Performing Arts presents Chicago the Musical June 21-26 in the Brown Theater at the Wortham Center, 501 Texas Avenue. For ticket information call 713-227-4772 or go to www.spahouston.org.

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