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Chicago dazzles

 

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There was razzle dazzle to burn when the Senior Production of Chicago: High School Edition, had its spectacular run at the start of Term 2.

Over six sold-out shows, audiences were wowed by the remarkable showcase of talent, teamwork, and creativity on display. With so many sensational, toe-tapping musical numbers, and outstanding performances from the cast, it was almost impossible to pick a highlight from the song and dance extravaganza.

Rector Christine Leighton said the show was simply stunning. “During the performance I had to keep reminding myself that I was at a school show and not in town at a professional theatre. The cast and those who put the show together were incredible, and the singing, dancing, and acting were of an exceptional standard.”

The stunning production of Chicago: High School Edition brought the roaring 1920s to life in spectacular fashion and was the result of a great deal of hard work from the cast, band, and crew, says Director, and Head of Drama and Dance, Laurence Wiseman. “I am so proud of everyone involved. They worked positively, collaboratively, and empathetically with each other, and I know for certain their passion and hard work translated into the incredible performances.”

It can be a risky business mounting a provocative show as well-known as Chicago, which has also been immortalised as a six-time Oscar award winning film, but then, Laurence is not one to shy away from a challenge. “I have tended to steer clear of these types of shows before, as there are preconceived notions and certain expectations about what they will look like. However, there comes a time, for whatever reason, when one finds themselves in the position of having just the right students for a particular show. This was one of those times.”

Laurence says Chicago’s themes of how the media circus controls the narrative, spin doctors work their magic, and the fine line between truth and fiction, are timeless, he says. “Nowadays, with the explosion of social media platforms, discerning the truth about anything is made rather difficult. The discussions Chicago enabled with the cast around these issues were invaluable, interesting, and highly engaging.”

Laurence says the beauty of creating theatre in a school environment is having the license to explore, play, wonder, and take risks. “The whole team fully supported the vision and were unapologetic in creating a version of Chicago which was a little different from the traditional. While the many creative individuals in the production and design team have worked their magic, special mention must be made of our choreographer, Hana Pearce (OC 2019). Chicago without dance is like a library without books – it just doesn’t work. The quality she achieved from a cast of largely non-dancers was outstanding, and this show would not be what it was without her.”

Others in the production team to make a significant contribution to the show were Head of Music Duncan Ferguson (Musical Director), Performing Arts Co-ordinator Ginnie Thorner (Production Manager), and Sylvia Campbell (Costume Design and Construction), along with the rest of the crew, the incredible band who brought the superb score to life, volunteers, and parent helpers.

Chicago: High School Edition is the last Senior Production to be held in the existing Theatre before it is demolished to make way for the new purpose-built Performing Arts Centre, the Ben Gough Family Theatre, which will open in Term 2, 2023.

Although set 100 years ago, Chicago’s satirical look at fame, justice, and the media machine resonate just as strongly today. The story unfolds as conniving Roxie Hart murders a faithless lover and convinces her hapless husband, Amos, to take the rap. Once he finds out he has been duped, Amos turns on Roxie, who is convicted and sent to death row.

While in Cook County Jail, Roxie stops at nothing to create a media storm and raise her profile, competing with another ‘Merry Murderess’, Velma Kelly, for both the spotlight and the headlines. The feuding femme fatales are both represented by big shot, smarmy lawyer, Billy Flynn. But it is not long before the celebrity criminals realise there is greater power in joining forces in search of fame, fortune, and ultimately, acquittal.

The show opened with a spine-tingling performance of All That Jazz, by Grace Lawrence (Year 12) as hardened murderer Velma, and Estee Wilke (Year 12) as her sister, and ultimately her murder victim, Veronica, whose powerhouse voices and song and dance number immediately captivated the audience.

Catelin Riordan (Year 13) was flawless as Roxie. As well as being a talented singer and dancer, Catelin delivered an incredible acting performance to portray the nuances of a seemingly naïve and vulnerable character, but who was in fact, cunningly playing all those around her, to create the sort of fame and attention she craved. Catelin had great chemistry with Grace Lawrence, who was equally as outstanding as Velma Kelly. Their soaring notes and high kicking dance numbers were impressive.

Jack Calder (Year 13) totally nailed the character acting required to pay the master manipulator Billy Flynn, which was highly evident in both the iconic Razzle Dazzle, and the incredible number We Both Reached for the Gun where he played a puppet master, with Catelin (Roxie) as his marionette, as they tried to convince the gathered media of her innocence. It was a tour de force performance from them both.

Another to shine was Thomas Wells (Year 13) as Roxie’s wronged, but still faithful husband, Amos. He perfectly captured the sweet but downtrodden character, and his performance of Mister Cellophane was both warm and heartbreaking.

Madeline Bailey (Year 13) also had a strong stage presence as sassy Mama Morton, the corrupt top dog of Cook County Jail, who was always happy to accept a bribe. She had a great voice, and particularly shone in When You’re Good to Mama.

Harry Withers (Year 12) is another star of the future. He delivered an energetic performance as the Master of Ceremonies linking many scenes and songs together. He was particularly impressive in Cell Block Tango with the other Merry Murderesses of Cook County Jail – played with intensity and relish by Lily Welsford (Year 13), Elise Vaudrey (Year 12), Lucy Ojala (Year 12), Poppy Rumble (Year 11) and Selena Gan (Year 12).

Scarlett Rumble (Year 13) had great fun in her role as Mary Sunshine, the sob sister newspaper reporter, as did the other students in speaking parts. They were well supported by a company of 16 enthusiastic students who gave their all, especially in the other big production numbers.

The set, costuming, and stunning score, delivered by Musical Director, Duncan Ferguson and the 13-member band, perfectly set the scene for 1920s Chicago. Spectacular choreography by Hana Pearce (OC 2019) was another key element to creating a wildly entertaining and hugely fun show.

 

There was razzle dazzle to burn when the Senior Production of Chicago: High School Edition, had its spectacular run at the start of Term 2.

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