McLean High School
"Who says that murder's not an art?" Surely not any of the characters from the mischievous yet mesmerizing world of Chicago. From criminals to convents, Falls Church High School presented a delightfully glamorous performance of "Chicago: Teen Edition" through their expert use of shimmering lights, dynamic set pieces, outstanding vocals, and just the right amount of razzle dazzle.
Written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, "Chicago" debuted in 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre but is better known for its 1996 revival which holds the record for the longest running American musical on Broadway. The story is based on the play of the same title by Maurine Dallas Watkins and the real crimes and criminals she reported on in the 1920s. Set in the jazz age of Chicago, the musical follows two wannabe vaudeville stars, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, who both end up in jail for homicide. But there is hope for these two ladies--Billy Flynn, the city's best criminal defense lawyer and master manipulator of the press. As both Velma and Roxie fight for his help and the spotlight, the lengths they will go for stardom are put to the test.
Dara Kearney portrayed the timid but spunky Roxie Hart with refreshing energy and unfaltering, animated facial expressions. Kearney incorporated a higher pitched, panicked inflection into her voice which demonstrated the naivety of Roxie and was consistent with balancing the tones of a scared convict but confident performer throughout the story. In perfect contrast to Kearney's lighthearted Roxie was Mariela Palencia's Velma Kelly, with her stunning vocals and suave dance moves serving as an impressive opening to the show. Using blunt sarcasm with a touch of sincerity for Velma's fleeting vulnerable moments, Palencia successfully created a character who the audience could not help but root for in awe.
A special shoutout was also deserved for Luis Silva as Amos Hart, the overlooked and gullible husband of Roxie Hart. Silva provided many comedic moments in his interactions with the audience, but truly shone in his performance of "Mister Cellophane" with melodious, yet somber vocals and a lonely, defeated attitude that made the audience sympathize with his character. Judy Zam as Matron Mamma Morton was another standout performer with her jaw-dropping voice and powerful performance of "When You're Good to Mamma." Zam commanded the audience with a well-established stage presence and sophisticated movements in every scene.
Lighting designed by Leslie Fon and Brian Gutierrez Lujan was skillfully utilized in this production, most notably with the Chicago sign in the back of the set that added extra sparkle to each musical number. Red backlighting during the final number also popped in contrast to the black and white set and created a dramatic look for the end of the show. The props, curated by Christina Nguyen, livened each scene, such as the detailed newspapers with eye-catching headlines and the flashing cameras held by the fervent reporters. Last but not least was the hair and makeup designed by Alice Rojas-Perez which beautifully encapsulated the noir film theme with black and white wigs and pale makeup paired with dark black lips. Rojas-Perez and her crew even included subtle touches of white makeup to actors' exposed arms and necks so that the pale face makeup would look natural.
Ultimately the cast and crew of Falls Church High School's production of "Chicago" put on an incredibly memorable performance that was sure to have left the audience thinking of nothing but celebrities, criminals, and "all that jazz!"
Walt Whitman High School
Scandal, deception, and a whole lotta Razzle Dazzle! This is true of Falls Church High School's production of Chicago: Teen Addition.
Following the same story as the award-winning smash-hit, Chicago: Teen Edition follows vaudevillian wannabees Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly seeking stardom while being tried for murder. With music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, Chicago is a timeless spectacle shedding light on the corrupt justice system and the concept of the "celebrity criminal," ideas still relevant today.
Overall, Falls Church High School's production of Chicago: Teen Addition was well-executed and thoroughly entertaining. The precise attention to maintaining the film noir atmosphere and minimalistic set configuration paralleling that of a 20s Jazz Club brought this beloved story to life!
Mariela Palencia's portrayal of Velma Kelly stood out in this production. Palencia not only excelled vocally but was dazzling to watch onstage. While seamlessly balancing the precise Fosse style of choreography and demanding score, Palencia's performance proved that both she and Velma are a force to be reckoned with.
Dara Kearney showed excellent acting chops in the role of Roxie Hart. Kearney's ability to manipulate her movements to imitate that of a puppet in "We Both Reached for the Gun" was hugely impressive. Her consistent commitment to the role of Roxie Hart made her performance compelling and convincing.
The spectacular performances from Judy Zam (Matron Mama Morton) and Luis Silva (Amos Hart) were equally excellent. Zam commanded the stage with her booming vocals and captivating performance. Her stylistic choices during "When You're Good to Mamma" elevated her portrayal of the brassy Matron Mamma Morton and made for a show-stopping musical performance. Silva's Amos was as charming as he was sweet. Silva's "Mister Cellophane" was endearing and forged a deep and meaningful connection with the audience. Silva made the audience feel deeply for Amos in his struggles.
Another notable aspect of this production was its ensemble's commitment, skill, and ability to wear many different hats, figuratively and literally. They not only tackled Fosse-Esque choreography but proficiently altered the character they were portraying based on the scene they were in. From lively babies to impressionable jurors, this ensemble executed each role they played with energy and accuracy.
Lastly, the impressive Chicago/Roxie lights and innovative props were thrilling for the audience's eye. The detail and backlighting, as provided by the exquisite Chicago sign, illuminated the stage and the efforts of Justin Chenh, Adli Nashashibi, Scar Emmerson, and Max Purtill. In addition, the brilliant concept by Cris Nguyen, An Nguyen, and Vin Watts to incorporate a small flashlight as the flashes of a camera and a red cloth to signify death in "Cell Block Tango" was clever and amusing.
Falls Church High Schools' rendition of Chicago: Teen Addition was creative, entertaining, and absolutely All That Jazz.