WOODBURY - Crime pays. Particularly when your names are Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly.

In "Chicago," the two deliriously conniving murderesses scheme, vamp and dance their way from death row to fame and celebrity.

The musical is set in 1926, when the windy city was awash in bootleg booze, political graft and the spilled blood of mob hits. Created by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, it killed 'em when it premiered on Broadway in 1975.

A 2002 film version won six Academy Awards.

For two weekends beginning Friday, the Merrill Community Arts Center will perform Chicago High School Edition, a slightly shorter version with the most obvious sexual innuendos expunged. Publishers Samuel French introduced the version last year as part of their 101 School Editions imprint.

It's hardly a watered down, edited-for-television version, however.

"The core stuff is all there," director Kajsa Jones said. "If people saw the movie, it's actually very close to the movie."

Roxie is an ambitious chorus girl who wants to make it big in show business. The fact that she's in jail for murdering her lover doesn't seem to faze her.

She meets Velma, who was a vaudeville star until she killed her sister and husband after she caught them in bed together.

Cashing in on their notoriety, Roxie and Velma each take their case to the court of public opinion, with the goal of making it big and, oh yes, avoiding the gallows. Their partner in crime is Chicago's slickest lawyer, Billy Flynn. But can Billy handle both cases? After all, there's only room on the front page for one killer sensation.

"It's kind of intriguing to watch both of these girls fight over Billy Flynn and just try to make it to the top," cast member Cassie Klinga said.

Klinga, of Cottage Grove doubles as a newspaper reporter and dancer. A sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Klinga has appeared with the Minnesota Opera and performed in talent shows and theater productions at Park High School.

"We stay in our jazz black the entire show," she said. "Whenever we become our onstage character we add a piece of clothing or an accessory."

Director Jones said that nearly every song is an ensemble number, which means everyone sings and dances their heads off.

"It's not really difficult. It's always come natural to me to sing and dance," Klinga said. "They kind of go hand in hand. Whenever I learn the music, I'm always hitting on certain beats."