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Return of the Razzle-Dazzle 

Chicago comes to the Playhouse for three performances.

Va-va-voom! Velma and her gals spice up - Chicago.
  • Va-va-voom! Velma and her gals spice up Chicago.
8/5-8/6

Brenda Braxton, who plays Velma Kelly in the touring production of Chicago that comes to town this weekend, isn't worried that the success of the 2002 movie version of the hit musical will keep people away from the theater. "It's a whole different ballgame," she says. "There's no telling what can happen."

Like?

"We once had a bat in the theater," she laughs. "The whole audience loved being there, watching the bat fly around onstage."

Braxton also doesn't fret over the play's once-salacious theme of a chorus girl who becomes a celebrity after killing her lover. "People relate to this story," she says. "Look at the Michael Jackson trial. Our legal system has become a show."

Even though the role of Velma (a jailbird doing time for killing her cheating husband and sister) was based on the true story of a white woman, Braxton, who's black, says the character transcends color lines. "The color of the person doesn't matter," she says. "The subject matter is universal." Chicago is at the State Theatre (1519 Euclid Avenue) at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $37 to $62; call 216-241-6000. -- Michael Gallucci

Tropical Strum
Kenny Chesney searches for his lost shaker of salt.

FRI 8/5

You really can't blame Kenny Chesney for going tropical on his latest album, Be as You Are (Songs From an Old Blue Chair). After all, Jimmy Buffett isn't going to be around forever, and somebody's gotta be mayor of Margaritaville when the son of a son of a sailor goes out to sea one last time. And Chesney -- who dabbled in island sounds on last year's When the Sun Goes Down -- qualifies. Loaded with steel drums, acoustic strumming, and a laid-back attitude, Be as You Are recounts the benefits of coastal life on "Somewhere in the Sun" and "Guitars and Tiki Bars." It's all quite soothing, even if the question looms: Do we really need another Jimmy Buffett? Judge for yourself, when Chesney (the newly anointed Mr. Renée Zellweger) plays Gund Arena (100 Gateway Plaza) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $49.50 and $59.50; call 216-241-5555. -- Michael Gallucci

Double Trouble
Local singers team up for street show.

FRI 8/5

Whenever Scott Smith & Joe Rohan take their rock and reggae to the streets, Smith sees the difference between a Cleveland audience and the kind in his native South Carolina. "There, you see some nasty, sloppy people not handling their liquor right," Smith says. "Here, people are more well behaved." Hopefully, that'll include the crowd watching the duo on Friday. While Rohan hawks his solo CD, These Days, Smith will play tunes from his album, due in October. "I've handed out hundreds of demos and résumés," says Smith (pictured right). "But when it comes down to it, I'm just another new guy in town." They perform from 7 to 9 p.m. on East Fourth Street between Prospect and Euclid avenues. It's free. Visit www.cleveland.com/sparx for info. -- Cris Glaser

Meet Your Veggies

THU 8/4

The dancing, singing, and moralizing cucumbers, tomatoes, and broccoli in VeggieTales Rockin' Tour Live know a thing or two about entertaining little ones. Never mind the occasional God talk; the tunes (like "The Hairbrush Song" and "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything!") are insanely catchy. Show times are 3 and 7 p.m. at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center, 2000 Prospect Avenue. Tickets are $17 to $28; call 216-241-5555. -- Michael Gallucci

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