Chicago: High School Edition by Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA
March 11, 2020
Review submitted by Kelly McCarthy of Ridley High School
The Roaring Twenties were comprised of shorter skirts, harder liquor, louder jazz, and for some Chicago women, more heinous crimes. In a notable performance of Chicago: High School Edition, the hustle and bustle of the 1920s sprung to life on Germantown Academy’s stage.
Based on a 1924 play of the same name, Chicago details the homicide cases of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two women who murdered their lovers. Set in the jazz age, this musical boldly explores the questionable morals and standards of Americans in the 1920s through Velma and Roxie’s attempts to garner fame despite the charges pinned on them.
Throughout Germantown Academy’s production, cast members came together in powerful performances such as “Razzle Dazzle” and “Cell Block Tango”, highlighting their vocal capabilities. Most notably, Velma (Alex Kafrissen) and Roxie (Rachel Roth) showcased their impressive voices during many difficult songs, especially together in “My Own Best Friend”.
Velma (Alex Kafrissen) was at the forefront of the opening number, “All That Jazz”, establishing herself as the epitome of a Roaring Twenties’ leading lady. Dancing with grace, she completed an abundance of impressive moves, including a daring lift and jaw-dropping splits. Roxie (Rachel Roth) truly came into her character, dragging along her husband Amos and doing anything for fame. Her lawyer, Billy Flynn (Will Cooper), sang masterfully and maintained consistent energy in every scene.
While the lead actors were certainly impressive, those filling supporting roles also stood out. Leading transitions between scenes, the Master of Ceremony (J. Fassler) did a nice job helping excite the audience and leading the show’s flow. Additionally, Amos Hart (Michael Wood), the chagrined husband of Roxie, balanced his comedic role with emotional nuances. While some scenes felt a bit rushed, the sizable cast worked cohesively overall, especially in difficult dance numbers like “All That Jazz”.
The sound team, led by sound designer Harry Mirabile and assistant sound designer David Savidge, tackled the challenge of controlling twenty microphones, all while working with a new sound system. They were also tasked with incorporating the musical component of the show, as the orchestra was pre-recorded, which they did well.
Thanks to an impressive cast and crew, Germantown Academy gave audience members “the old razzle dazzle” in their production of Chicago: High School Edition.
Review submitted by Nicole Kopko of Ridley High School
Germantown Academy killed it this weekend with their glamorous production of Chicago: High School Edition! Based on the play of the same name, Chicago tells the story of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two fame-hungry murderesses aspiring to have their names in the lights of Vaudeville. Each of the duo secures charming but manipulative lawyer, Mr. Billy Flynn, as her defense lawyer. Flynn uses his power to obscure the media’s views of the women and get them off clean and as celebrities. With the media constantly moving, and their names falling out of the public eye, Roxie and Velma do everything in their power such as faking a pregnancy and teaming up to keep their names in lights.
At the forefront of the productions were the two leading ladies, Alex Kafrissen (Velma) and Rachel Roth (Roxie). Kafrissen proved to be a true triple threat as she encased the sensuality and energy of 1920’s jazz era in numbers such as “All That Jazz” and “I Can’t Do It Alone.” With a buttery voice, Roth proved to have the smoothness of conniving Roxie down flat in “Roxie” and “Funny Honey”. The opposing duo shined and blended their talents for powerful numbers like “My Own Best Friend” and “Hot Honey Rag.” Will Cooper (Billy Flynn) proved to be no amateur as he stepped onto stage became the suave, mercenary lawyer. Though a difficult role vocally, Cooper never faltered in large production numbers “We Both Reached for the Gun” and “Razzle Dazzle”.
Adding to the glitz were the Merry Murderesses, Brina Cartagenova (Liz), Maeve Diver (Annie), Jenna Nolan (June), Isabella Venziale (Hunyak), Laura Paynton (Mona) and their fearful leader Sydney Hill (Matron “Mama” Morton). Not to be walked right through, Michael Wood (Amos Hart) stole and broke the hearts of the audience as the hopeful and wholesome husband. Though hard to hear at certain points during the show, the ensemble put energy and intention into every stylized move they made!
Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of this production was the sound designed and run by Harry Mirabile and David Savidge. With responsibility of having microphones and music tracks to cue and run, Mirabile and Savidge did a fantastic job of blending and balancing the overall sound. At no point did it feel that any music cues lagged as the pace kept up throughout.
Where murder is an art and the legal system is all show business, Germantown Academy gave the audience the old razzle dazzle this weekend with Chicago: High School Edition!