Chicago: High School Edition – Bordentown Regional High School in Bordentown, NJ
March 6, 2019
Review submitted by Anna Bobok of Upper Merion Area High School
Bordentown Regional High School killed it this weekend with their glitzy production of Chicago: High School Edition!
Set in the decadent and dangerous era of the 1920s, Chicago tells the story of Roxie Hart, a woman who hopes to use the publicity of her crime to work her way into the vaudeville scene. But other women at the Cook County Jail have similar ideas, including notorious murderess Velma Kelly. Through mutual struggles to regain the media’s attention, the two women realize they might just have to put aside their differences to stay in the public’s eye.
Abigayle Harnum opened the show with a haunting rendition of “All That Jazz,” showcasing her fluid dancing, intoxicating vocals, and unparalleled acting. Harnum’s Velma Kelly was a perfect balance of brash and distraught, which was evident in both her acting and her singing. Coupled with Annissa Richard’s mellifluous voice as Roxie Hart, the two female leads brought down the house with the act one closer “My Own Best Friend.”
Gabriel Planas-Borgstrom played slick lawyer Billy Flynn with charm and polish, entertaining the audience thoroughly with his numbers “We Both Reached for the Gun” and “All I Care About.” Another standout performance came from Gabby Takacs as Matron “Mama” Morton, who commanded the stage with her powerful belt in “When You’re Good to Mama”.
The ensemble was full of exemplary dancers, several of which showcased incredible skills in “Razzle Dazzle,” where they mimicked circus performers through ribbon twirling, splits, and feats of flexibility. Several ensemble members who had minor roles also displayed their acting prowess, specifically Lauren Redwood, Isabella Mayo, and Kayla Downing as Master of Ceremonies, Mary Sunshine, and Kitty/Mona, respectively.
The BRHS Chicago Pit were as near as professional in their execution of the demanding score, leaping effortlessly between quick ragtime to sultry jazz throughout the performances. Kyle Meier and Makayla Coleman worked well with the pit to keep the performers audible over the roaring instruments, and they must be commended for their lack of sound mistakes despite a substantial amount of microphones. Riddi Gupta, Lydia Braasch, and Mia Procacinno created a minimalist yet effective jail setting on the stage, as it set a chilling atmosphere but didn’t distract from the performances and allowed set pieces to transition smoothly.
Chicago was full of “Razzle Dazzle” and made certain the name on everybody’s lips would be ‘Bordentown!’
Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School
In Jazz Age Chicago, criminals are celebrities, the justice system is all show-business, and murder is an art. This weekend, Bordentown Regional High School’s production of Chicago: High School Edition, transported the audience back to the 1920s as its cast of sleazy lawyers and merry murderesses fought tooth and nail for their chance in the spotlight.
Based on the 1926 play of the same name, Chicago tells the story of murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, two fame-hungry aspiring vaudevillians. Each enlists the help of the suave but manipulative lawyer Billy Flynn, who transforms his clients into celebrities in order to abuse the power of public opinion. Unfortunately, the fame he creates is fleeting, and Roxie and Velma do everything from teaming up or faking a pregnancy in order to ensure that the media’s spotlight stays shining squarely on them.
The highlight of Bordentown’s production was its performers’ stunning vocals and effortless physicality, both of which were dripping with vaudevillian sensuality.
Abigayle Harnum, who played the tough and sarcastic Velma, was the heart of the show. She masterfully transitioned from a low-volume jazzy drawl to a full-on belt in songs like “All That Jazz,” and wowed the audience with her dancing prowess in “I Can’t Do it Alone.” Gabriel Planas-Borgstrom’s more energetic performance as Billy Flynn served as the perfect counterpart to Harnum’s jaded smoothness, and he delivered skilled vocals in songs like “We Both Reached for the Gun” without stumbling over the fast-paced lyrics. Finally, Annissa Richard’s more controlled and reserved performance as Roxie helped contrast her with the other leads, although her character’s shyness always dropped away in time for her show-stopping vocals in songs like “Funny Honey.”
Lauren Redwood, who played the charismatic Master of Ceremonies, fully embodied the physicality of the Jazz Age, oozing the energy of the 1920s. Mitchell Reames was another audience favorite, winning them over with his endearing yet tragic performance as Amos. Other standouts among the supporting cast were Gabrielle Takacs, who drew in the audience with her magnetic rendition of “When You’re Good to Mama,” and Kayla Downing, whose hilarious portrayals of Mona and Kitty left the audience roaring with laughter. The ensemble as a whole was a delight to watch, keeping simple Fosse-inspired choreography from becoming visually boring by executing it in perfect unison.
The technical star of the show was the BRHS Pit Band, which masterfully played the show’s brassy and difficult songs while maintaining an impressive level of control, not once overpowering the actors’ vocals.
All in all, Bordentown Regional High School’s production of Chicago delivered a magnetic performance with vocals and physicality so “splendiferous,” row after row of the audience was growing vociferous.