Audience members lucky enough to see Northampton Area High School’s production of the Kander & Ebb classic “Chicago” (teen edition) were transported to the glitzy, glamorous, and dangerous Windy City from the moment the curtains rose. The production, which ran from March 23 to March 26, featured a cast of over two dozen students bringing to life the witty characters and challenging choreography made famous by Bob Fosse.
The musical opens with vaudeville singer Velma Kelly (junior Karah Abarca) setting the scene of 1920s Chicago where “the gin is cold but the piano’s hot,” and aspiring star Roxie Hart (sophomore Audrey Wood) murdering her lover in cold blood. Hart, Kelly, and a cast of other “merry murderesses” at Chicago’s Cook County Jail spend the remainder of the show scheming, plotting, and dancing their way out of their murder charges. Accompanying Hart and Kelly are Matron “Mama” Morton (senior Annabel Pyne), the jail’s matron; Billy Flynn (junior Will McMahon), the suave defense attorney hired by Hart and Kelly; and Hart’s husband Amos (senior Adrian Mohrey), a simple mechanic who continues to love his wife despite her bloody past.
The multi-level stage gave the actors plenty of room to navigate the set and added dimension to numbers like “Me and My Baby” and “Razzle Dazzle.” Meanwhile, a light-up marquee reading “Chicago” hanging above the stage made the setting of a cold Chicago jail feel more like the vaudeville or cabaret stage. The glittery flapper costumes also helped transport audiences back in time.
The entire cast worked hard to replicate some of Fosse’s iconic numbers. Abarca led the ensemble in two show-stoppers: “All That Jazz” and the fan-favorite “Cell Block Tango.” She also performed a solo number, “I Can’t Do It Alone,” that saw her flip and cartwheel across the stage. Wood captured all Hart’s sass and snark, especially in the numbers “Funny Honey” and “Roxie.” The two actresses played off each other perfectly in their performances of “My Own Best Friend” and “Nowadays,” and brought the crowd to cheers with their rendition of the “Hot Honey Rag.”
McMahon captured the showmanship of Flynn, arriving and exiting the stage surrounded by an ensemble of dancers and feathered fans. The audience thoroughly enjoyed his rendition of another fan-favorite, “We Both Reached for the Gun,” which sees his character puppeteering Wood’s. His showmanship contrasted the humility of Mohrey’s Amos, who sang of his invisibility in “Mr. Cellophane.” Meanwhile, Pyne had her own chance to own the stage in “When You’re Good to Mama.”
The production was directed by Christine Marto and choreographed by Gianna Neal. The vocal director was Hannah Milagio, and the orchestra director was Isabelle Beedle. Catherine Espinal served as production manager, Tony Beleno was the set design advisor, and Carolyn Peters was the costume advisor. This razzling, dazzling production is eligible for this year’s Freddy Awards on May 25.