Photo by Daria Maidenbaum
Chicago: High School Edition by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, PA
November 20, 2019
Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School
Not that the truth really matters, but I’m gonna tell you anyway: the Springside Chestnut Hill Players’ production of Chicago: High School Edition transported the audience back to the Jazz Age as its cast of “scintillating sinners” treated the audience to a vaudevillian night of both “unrelenting determination and unmitigated ego.”
Based on the experiences of 1926 reporter Maurice Dallas Walkins, Chicago is both a love-letter to the conventions of vaudeville and a satire of so-called “celebrity criminals.” It tells the story of vaudeville-wannabes Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly as they enlist the help of the cynical Billy Flynn in hopes of securing their moment in the fleeting public spotlight.
The cast’s commitment to the over-the-top physicality Chicago requires was evident in their incredibly ambitious choreography. Whether they were executing sensual Fosse-inspired moves in “All That Jazz” or performing circus tricks in “Razzle Dazzle,” the show’s dancers never failed to impress.
Katie Walker skillfully managed to portray the immature and narcissistic aspects of Roxie without veering into full-blown un-likeability. She also showed off her mastery of physical comedy during “Courtroom,” leaving the audience in stitches with her hysterically exaggerated walking, crying, and knitting. Erin Jolly’s sultry performance as Velma provided the perfect contrast to Walker’s flightiness, and her voice never failed to impress. Yofi Guy commanded the stage as the suave Billy, masterfully delivering his rendition of the show-stopping “We Both Reached for the Gun” without stumbling over its fast-paced lyrics.
Michael Jarema’s portrayal of the lovable Amos elicited both cries of laughter and sighs of sympathy from the audience. Other standouts among the supporting cast included Whimsy Mark-Ockerbloom, who effortlessly sang Mary Sunshine’s difficult vocal part while in full drag, and Julia Lieberman, whose tough portrayal of Mama Morton helped balance out the eccentricities of the rest of the cast. Although several dances were performed out-of-sync and the cast sometimes struggled with diction during songs, these small errors are entirely forgivable given the extreme difficulty of the show’s choreography.
Throughout the performance, actors entered the auditorium in sets of small groups through unorthodox entrances like the doors to the lobby. Fortunately, these cues all ran smoothly thanks to the impressive stage management by Riley Farbstein, Max Scheuermann, Trevor Meyer, and Chandler Fattah.
With ambitious choreography, powerful vocals, and effortless physicality, the SCH Players’ production of Chicago: High School Edition reminded the audience that murder isn’t just a crime; it’s an art.
Review submitted by Julia Dani of Friends Central School
Start the car and get down to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for their dazzling performance of Chicago: High School Edition!
Set in the Windy City, Chicago follows two of the merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail. Nightclub star Velma Kelly is serving time for killing her husband and sister after finding the two “performing” behind her back. Hungry for fame, Roxie Hart has been tossed in the slammer for “silencing” the lover she’s been cheating on her husband with. Lookin’ for a little sympathy, Velma enlists the help of prison matron Mama Morton and quick talking lawyer Billy Flynn, who turn Velma into a ‘murder-of-the-week’ star in the eye of the press, preparing everybody in Illinois for her comeback. But Roxie, still bent on achieving her dream, has got some of tricks up her sleeve, also wanting to be seen and heard by the public.
Erin Jolly, who was tasked with portraying the starlet Velma Kelly held her own. She proved herself to be a vocal powerhouse in the production and blended well with the ensemble in dance numbers. Roxie Hart, played by Katie Walker was a stand out. With her strong vocals and impeccable acting, she truly brought a special something to the stage and really made the audience love her. Even when momentarily losing her wig, she kept that sweet smile on her face and trekked through not missing a beat, a very professional move that she should be very proud of! Walker and Jolly portrayed the love hate relationship we know so well, and kept the audience wanting more after every number.
Yofi Guy made the audience fall in love with the silver-tongued prince of the courtroom Billy Flynn. His charisma was unmatched on stage and his convincing nature proves not only to be effective on the players, but also on the audience. He worked well with his female counterparts, especially Roxie. They brought a special sparkle to the stage, and left me wanting more stage time for both of them. Guy showed off his vocal chops in numbers like ‘All I Care About’ and proved he has pizzaz in ‘Razzle Dazzle’. Great job!
Although it was hard to pick, my favorite number of the night had to have been ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’. Even as a puppet, Walker’s marionette moves and doll face kept me in stitches, and paired with Guy’s ventriloquism and the ensemble’s silly questioning, how could the audience not smile!
Taking on a demanding show like Chicago: High School Edition takes a lot of talent, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy delivered!