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Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland presented Chicago: Teen Edition to the Cappies Critics on April 6, 2024. Here are the top two Cappies Critic reviews.

Alden Walcott

Langley High School


An enticingly sparse black nightclub bustled with patrons drinking and laughing, their excitement spilling into the audience.  Warm, red-toned lighting rose to fill the back wall of the 1920s-era jazz club as the first notes of brassy music began to pulse, followed by a velvety growl urging “Come on babe, why don’t we paint the town, and all that jazz?” With that, Quince Orchard High School’s production of Chicago: Teen Edition had begun.


Chicago, the musical theater classic with book by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander, premiered on Broadway on June 3, 1975. Based on journalist Maurine Dallas Watkins’s 1926 play detailing her experience covering sensational criminal trials, the jazz-age musical satire has won six Tony Awards, launched an Oscar-winning film adaptation and inspired multiple international performances. Its star-studded 1996 Broadway revival is now the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart, a down-on-her-luck wife and showgirl who murders her lover and leans on her hapless husband, Amos, to take the blame.  Roxie soon becomes a willing media darling, due to her sleazy lawyer, Billy Flynn, and the bribes of jail warden, Matron "Mama" Morton - earning her the jealousy of fellow inmate, Velma Kelly, who had hoped to spawn her own fifteen minutes of fame.


Ava Turley brought down the house as the vulnerable, yet manipulative, Roxie Hart. Revealing a new side of the character with every musical number, Turley skillfully encourages her brazen media following in tunes like “Me and My Baby,” while her physicality and vocal tone convey her fear and vulnerability after watching a fellow inmate being put to death.


Roxie’s jailhouse rival, Velma Kelly, was played with charisma and panache by the skillful Maren Lewis. Lewis’ strong belt and perfect jazz-age growl gave just the right amount of “razzle-dazzle” to Velma’s signature “And All That Jazz,” and her comedic timing was note-perfect in her duet with Roxie, “Me and My Baby.” Her commitment to the larger-than-life Velma’s dance moves and seductive qualities also elevated the delightful dance numbers with the ensemble, encapsulating the decadence and hedonism of the 1920s. Turley and Lewis’ electric chemistry as rivals-turned-vaudeville co-stars showcased their powerhouse strength and versatility and sizzled as an undercurrent throughout the production.


Serving as a counterpart to Roxie’s dynamism was the mousy, overlooked Amos Hart (Jesse Nuell). Equal parts tragically comedic, as the husband hopelessly in love with a woman who mistreats him, and heartbreakingly huggable, as a broken man expecting to be overlooked, Nuell’s Amos consistently embodied these competing emotions, leaving audiences viscerally rooting for him. A man so invisible, the spotlight purposely didn’t follow him as he crossed the stage, his hapless antihero was a scene-stealer.


While the acting and vocals glittered, the production was elevated by the versatile set (Evan Hays, Emma Londoño, Ivy Speck & the QO Theatre Build and Paint Team). The underlying black set pieces doubled as everything from staging at a nightclub to a judge’s courtroom, but the standout components were the large banners that dropped from the ceiling at key story points, revealing newspaper headlines and creating the paneled walls of Billy Flynn’s office. The costumes (Mimi Bozic, Maggie Brady, Priyanka Estoll) were likewise exceptionally crafted to emphasize each individual character’s personality. Combining the flapper style of the 1920s with the grittiness of inmates in a women’s prison, the costume choices brought the show to life.


With talented actors and dazzling production quality, Quince Orchard’s Chicago: Teen Edition took audiences on a journey back to the 1920s with just the right amount of “razzle-dazzle.”

Nataline Phillips

West Springfield High School


Golden and glistening, a dancer steps under the neon lights. Her show is electric and alive, but the same can’t be said about her murder victim. Ladies and gentlemen, the name on everyone’s lips has got to be Quince Orchard High School’s dazzling performance of Chicago: Teen Edition.


Inspired by a 1926 play of the same name, Chicago was brought to Broadway with its premiere in 1975, with a teen edition coming later. The musical’s 1996 revival has made it the second longest-running show on Broadway, and remains beloved to this day. The show is set within the backdrop of the vaudeville age in the ‘Windy City’ following two women as they await trial dates for their individual murder cases amid fame and shame.


Whisking away reporters and the audience too were the infectious Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, portrayed respectively by Ava Turley and Maren Lewis. Turley was a beacon of glamor and crime with a voice that could knock off anyone’s rhinestone shoes. Just as Hart wooed the Illinois public, Turley impressed the theater through every scene. Her envious counterpart, played by Lewis, embodied the lively spirit of a true 1920s performer. She maintained a perfect vocal inflection of the time, in conversation and song, and earned applause with stylish kicks and the splits.


Supporting the main murderesses was courtroom showstopper, Billy Flynn, played by Jordan Richard. Richard channeled the charm of the dashing lawyer and proved that even though all Flynn allegedly cared about was love, it wasn’t the only area in which he was an expert. Songs, such as “We Both Reached For The Gun” and “Razzle Dazzle,” let Richard show off movement and vocals that were well worth the price that could secure just a phone call with Flynn.


Vaudeville was decorated by the Jazz Age just as Quince Orchard’s production was accentuated by its orchestra. Soulful sounds echoed from the pit below and from the small jazz band that was occasionally on stage. Each trumpet note and drum beat threw the audience right into the funky setting with a party for the ears.


A final virtuosic group was the crew of Chicago: Teen Edition. The highlights of the night were expertly lit by the lighting department (Alexa Rosenthal, Maddie Schully, Luke Atkinson, Coco Mazzarino). The city came to life under tantalizing reds and whites. The props department (Jay Crotts, Rae Forth, Izabel Alegi, Marwan Younis) also transported viewers with well-researched and crisp items like period accurate typewriters and cigars.


Quince Orchard High School took a stand, delivering a realized vision of the unforgiving Roaring Twenties in its glory and greed. The public may jump from headline to headline in a daze, but no one will forget this production with ease. After all, that’s Chicago.


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