by Andie Conlon
This month, Chadwick students will roll their stockings down, “shimmy shake,” and “paint the town,” as they bring the Roaring 20’s back to life with the Upper School musical production Chicago.
Two casts will present this award-winning musical on Mar. 2, Mar. 3, and Mar. 4 at 7:30 pm, Mar. 5 at 2 pm and 8 pm, and Mar. 6 at 3 pm.
The Saturday evening performance will feature a pre-show dinner theater—this year with a cabaret theme and student performances.
Chicago is a colorful, high-energy song and dance spectacular that features dazzling Bob Fosse choreography and catchy music and lyrics, including “All That Jazz” and “Give ’em the old razzle-dazzle.”
Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, the musical takes on the themes of love, adultery, murder, fame, and scandal as it tells the story of chorus girl Roxie Hart (Ally Van Deuren and Sarah Brown), who murders her lover and is sent to Death Row.
Her cellblock is already inhabited by starlet Velma Kelly (Molly Heller and Amanda Long), who murdered her husband and her sister after she discovered they were having an affair.
The jail is controlled by the corrupt prison matron “Mama” (Zoe Fiske and Vanessa Contratto), whose song “When You’re Good To Mama” explains her system of aiding inmates in exchange for cash.
Mama has helped Velma become a media sensation as the “murderess of the moment” in the tabloids. Velma is not pleased to see Roxie, who is stealing her headlines as well as her lawyer, Billy Flynn (Jared Agnew and Matt Beshke).
After Roxie convinces her husband, Amos (Zach Blickensderfer and Arjun Bedi), to pay for Billy’s fees, Billy, surrounded by his adoring female fans, performs his anthem “All I Care About Is Love.” Billy takes Roxie’s case, Roxie becomes the new media sensation, and Velma’s fame is left in the dust.
When Roxie finds her own stardom fading, she fakes a pregnancy to put her back on the front page.
Drama teacher Thom McLaughlin is directing the musical, and choral music teacher Bob Marino is the musical director. Choreographer Leslie Miller is being assisted by sophomore Isabel Ngan. Austin Welch, a sophmore, is the stage manager.
According to junior Zach Blickensderfer, the phrase “razzle dazzle” pretty much sums up what this musical is all about.
“The music is fantastic, catchy and memorable. The audience will enjoy the musical for its familiarity. People have seen the movie and have heard of the musical so they’ll know what the musical is going to be like going into it,” says Blickensderfer.
Chicago is known for its showstopping musical numbers and sizzling dance routines.
“The musical itself is different from any other I’ve done,” says Junior Jared Agnew, “because every other musical I’ve done has had music incorporated into the show and in this, the [musical] numbers are the whole show, with talking incorporated into the numbers.”
Senior Molly Heller thinks the audience will also enjoy the message of the musical.
“I love that the show really does a great job of commenting on the way societies [have a] fascination with celebrities and does so through great song and dance,” says Heller.
Most of the musical numbers are upbeat and light with the exception of Amos’s melancholy “Mr. Cellophane,” which is about how people can see right through him.
Numbers such as “All that Jazz” allow all members of the cast to shine.
“My favorite musical number has to be the ‘Cell Block Tango,’” says Heller, “it tells the story of six, sexy, menacing murderesses and how they killed their significant others. It’s really dark but really fun!”
Cast and crew have been working long hours to put together the best show possible. Rehearsal time increased after semester break to include weekend rehearsals. While some students will be relaxing or vacationing over President’s Day weekend, the Chicago cast and crew will be hard at work.
“It’s a big commitment,” says Blickensderfer. “The Fosse choreography is very difficult, and just getting the dance down is very challenging.”
That’s not to say that students aren’t having fun. According to Stage Manager Welch, “The organization of having over sixty people in the performance is difficult, but enjoyable. It makes for quite a large family.”
Agnew agrees that working with a large cast can be challenging, but fun.
“There are so many people I’ve never talked to before, so it’s a nice way to meet people,” says Agnew.
As to the camaraderie backstage, Agnew says, “Everyone likes each other. Everyone is supporting each other and wants to make the show the best.”
Chicago was inspired by real world headlines from the 1920’s. The original play, written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, was made into a musical in the 1970’s with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, choreography by Bob Fosse, and book by Ebb and Fosse.
Heller says, “The Chadwick audience will like that this show is funny and sad. It is extremely entertaining, and the entire ensemble does an incredible job. This is a show you won’t want to miss!”