Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School
Pop! Six! Squish! Uh-Uh! Cicero! Lipshitz! These are the cries of the desperate Merry Murderesses on death row in Chicago's own Cook County Jail. Actually, make that seven. Come follow Roxie Hart in her journey through Chicago's "justice" system, learning all of the tricks of the trade of the art of murder. Wakefield High School's Wakefield Players' production of Chicago: High School Edition transported the audience into the whirlwind of jazz, vaudeville, and murder that characterized 1920's Chicago.
Chicago was originally written and performed on Broadway by Fred Ebb, Bob Fosse, and John Kander in 1975. Revived in 1996, it has become the longest running American musical revival on Broadway and the second-longest running musical on Broadway, after Phantom of the Opera. The high school edition has been adapted for a younger cast and audience by David Thompson. Chicago is truly infamous and iconic in innumerable ways and the Wakefield Players excelled in capturing the very essence of betrayal, corruption, and fame onstage.
Roxie Hart (Samantha Rios) is a flirtatious woman, married to a dull but loving mechanic Amos Hart (Oliver Gaither), who is in love with vaudeville, jazz, and Fred Casely (Jason McPhee). The two have a whirlwind romance that comes to a screeching halt when Fred walks out on Roxie, and well, Roxie shoots him. No one walks out on Roxie Hart. After her husband Amos fails to cover up the murder as she instructed him to, Roxie must adapt to life at the Cook County Jail and the corrupted ways of Matron "Mama" Morton (Aaliyah Dade). She meets the infamous Velma Kelly (Xitlalli Dawson) who shot her husband and sister; the two instantly develop animosity towards one another. Roxie hires Billy Flynn (Xavier Molina), the silver-tongued prince of the courtroom to save her neck from hanging and to say the very least, chaos ensues.
Samantha Rios (Roxie Hart) stole the show as both an innocent yet conniving young woman who is looking to make her way in Chicago's showbiz scene. Rios' stunning vocals displayed an admirable range of techniques and skill while also revealing impressive characterization. Her sass and egotistical attitude paired with her entrancing dancing brought Roxie Hart to life. Xitalli Dawson (Velma Kelly) was the perfect counterpart to Rios' whiny murderess. Dawson stunned the audience with intriguing dancing (splits, spread-eagles, backflips, one right after the other). Together the powerful women were a force of nature in numbers such as "My Own Best Friend" and "Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag," with breathtaking vocals and smirks to match.
Xavier Molina (Billy Flynn) had the optimum balance of a blasé attitude and slick businessman's tactics. His carefully placed winks, infectious grin, and heart-fluttering vocals charmed each and every person in the audience. His interactions with Roxie were comical and timed to a T, particularly in "We Both Reached For the Gun." On the opposite end of the spectrum was Oliver Gaither (Amos Hart), who played Roxie's husband. His beat-down and rejected attitude evoked many a sigh of sympathy for Amos.
Two standouts from among the ensemble were Jason McPhee (Fred Casely) and Kayla Fluitt (Cell Block Dancer). Jason performed a few death-defying stunts which took the audience's breath away and Kayla's acrobatics and musicality were commendable. Paired with the actors on stage was an excellent pit orchestra that captured the essence of Ragtime Jazz and executed well-timed sound cues such as gunshots.
If one is looking for an exciting whirlwind of a night in the big city, come see Wakefield High School's production of Chicago: High School Edition. It is a spectacle one will never forget filled with all that jazz.
Washington-Lee High School
Chicago — a musical about the tumultuous, jazzy spiritual center of Illinois in the gilded 1920s, based on real tales of murder and courtroom intrigue. It follows the tale of a celebrity murderer attempting to convert her courtroom spotlight into a vaudeville career. This play, as performed by Wakefield High School's Wakefield Players, was stunning and energetic, keeping a play as old as its subject matter alive for an eager crowd.
The lead actress of the show played Roxie (Samantha Rios), the main character. Rios put a lot of depth into her acting, capturing the immature nature of Roxie that is in dire conflict with a mature world around her. As a vocalist, too, she shined, with intense command of the stage in her solos. The most essential moments of the entire show occurred in Roxie's trial, where she was put in the spotlight for the shooting of her affair mate Fred (Jason McPhee). Fittingly, this was one of the best sequences in the show. Hotshot lawyer Billy (Xavier Molina) showed his incredible facial control as he interacted with Roxie, creating plenty of hilarious moments. Roxie was an incredibly physical character onstage, working wonders as her foil Velma (Xitlalli Dawson) perfectly matched her in presence. Another great character was Roxie's husband Amos (Oliver Gaither), who grew a whole lot in the second act — realizing his own nigh-invisibility in a belting solo. Among Roxie's lovers there was another star, McPhee's Fred, who made a huge impact with his little available time — a real huge impact, in fact, a backflip!
With regard to music, two glowing numbers were "We Both Reached for the Gun" and "My Baby and Me." The whole cast did the iconic choreography justice — dancers with red scarves representing spilled blood in "Cell Block Tango" were notable, but the whole show was energetic yet stable & focused in dance.
Technical aspects of the show were also well-organized. The orchestra and cast were linked almost psychically, and each was perfectly in-tune with the other's cues. Lighting was also great. The backflipping death of Fred was synced threefold: in performance, musical accentuation, and a vivid splash of red lighting. Neat-looking props like hats and canes twirled around everywhere, giving the main cast and ensembles vintage Americana looks. The backgrounds were classy; the jail set was the best in the show, swinging back from the rear in an imposing display of faux steel.
All Jazz Age fantasies have a little dreamy fervor. Chicago is a bright, colorful show to watch, but it has its complexities. Wakefield High caught these nuances. It was not just the opulent dances that thrilled; it was also the subtle sight of Roxie all alone onstage, singing her heart out to thundering applause.