Okay, so I'm a sucker for watching two fantastically beautiful and talented women put on an impeccable show.

That would be Brenda Braxton and Bonnie Langford, the terrific co-stars of the truly wonderful CHICAGO that just opened at the Palace.

We're slated to see a similar duet when WICKED thankfully comes next month.

But from start to finish, this CHICAGO is truly special. Many of us will unavoidably compare it to the star-studded movie that got all that hype and won all those Academy Awards.

But I, for one, VASTLY prefer this one. The presentation is simple, unpretentious and both completely professional and personally engaging.

Braxton and Langford carried off their demanding, athletic and operatic leads with grace and charm. We---my 11-year-old daughter, Shoshanna, who was mesmerized for the entire performance---and I were engaged, amused, entertained and ultimately in awe.

I'm tempted to call the overall production "muscular," in part because of the astonishing physiques of most of the cast. But it was also a taut, beautifully timed, no-bullshit kind of show that dragged nowhere and never flagged The simple black stage used an orchestra on risers for its visual backdrop and occasional dramatic foil (as well as for providing a very nice rendition of this classic score). They were the perfect picture frame for a wonderful team of very talented but apparently relaxed performers who did not miss a beat and who actually seemed to like each other.....and US! Somehow, everyone seemed to be comfortable and having fun, which this show is meant to be, and which must be taken as a great compliment to the team that staged and directed it.

Brent Barrett was wonderful as the thankfully-not-Richard-Gere attorney Billy Flynn, and Tom Riis Farrell was endearing and convincing as Roxie Hart's downtrodden sap of a husband. Carol Woods was powerful and gracious as Matron "Mama" Morton. All three of these folks filled their critical supporting roles with the understated flair and endearing idosyncrisy required for a true ensemble performance. I was occasionally reminded of the joy of watching a really good basketball team perform with stars up front who cannot succeed without a great supporting cast that works efficiently and smoothly in synch.

For those of you who've seen the movie, I'll state unequivocably that this is way better. Ms. Langford and Ms. Braxton are bona fide singers and dancers, charming and endearing as well as very much on top of their game. There is no preening in this show and no "look-at-me" star turns. The play oozed midwestern Chicago, not star-struck New York, and that made all the difference.

Usually I throw some negative in these reviews for a semblance of balance, but I feel no need here. I was deeply ambivalent about what I saw of this show on the silver screen, and felt none of that here. Go see CHICAGO in Columbus. You've got it coming!

Harvey Wasserman can't act, sing or dance, but he did renounce BP and nuke power at a great statehouse rally just before this show, and he reviews 'em as he sees 'em for FreePress.org.