Visual and Performing Arts presents “Chicago

Trevor Haren ('21) swings across the stage as he plays Billy Flynn.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Trevor Haren ('21) swings across the stage as he plays Billy Flynn.

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On Nov. 15 and 16, Jewel Theater opened its doors to an audience eager to see the theatrical production “Chicago,” based on the book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Ebb. The show was directed by Associate Professor of Theater Robert Vrtis, choreographed by Professor of Dance Jane Hawley, and featured music directed by Instructor in Music Mark Potvin. 

“Chicago” was chosen because the Paideia theme of Resistance and Resilience. The play explores this theme in a manner, which drew the attention of the Visual and Performing Arts committee. 

The characters in the show must be able to find ways to thrive in jail and acquire sympathy from the media so they can be exonerated for their crimes. Garret Baumler (‘20), who plays the defense attorney Aaron, believes that the time period in which the show is set creates a good foundation for exploring the Paideia theme. 

“This idea of resistance and revelations is set in the 1920s, in a time when prohibition is going on,” Baumler said. “There’s this impression of a moral high ground that everybody needs to be like “Chicago” is an antithesis to the moral high ground.”

The show tells the story of two women named Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly who must make an image for themselves to be saved from the death penalty  are both in prison for being accused of murder and Roxie, a new inmate, hires defense lawyer, Billy Flynn, to make sure she does not receive the death penalty. She begins to gain a lot of attention from the media, who cover every aspect of her trial.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau
Linny Briggs (’22) who plays Roxie Hart, dances with Trevor Haren (’21) in one of the scenes.

While awaiting her trial date, she meets Velma Kelly, who was accused of murdering her husband. Velma was formerly in the limelight until Roxie stepped into the picture. Now, Velma must struggle for attention from the media and her lawyer, Billy Flynn. 

The musical version of “Chicago” adds music and dance to the original version written by Maurine Watkins. Baumler believes that the music and dance add an important element to the performance.

“I think getting to experience it first-hand, you get to see all the different elements and how they all cohere and how one can’t exist without the other,” Baumler said. The dance and the music have to be one otherwise it just doesn’t work very well.”

Rehearsals for the show started the third week of classes. Potvin began teaching the music to the pit orchestra. Gradually, rehearsals added in to dance rehearsals.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau
Grace Huber (’20) plays the Vaudevillian Velma Kelly.

Josie Ramler (‘23) says that the performance was quite impressive. 

“The acrobat rings were something that was unique and interesting, and not something that you could see in a lot of other shows or musicals,” Ramler said. “The dancing in the show was really complex, so that was something that was interesting to see; it was clear that a ton of work was put into the dancing and making it all look smooth.”

The show will be performed again on Nov. 21 and Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Jewel Theater.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau
Chicago was on in Jewel Theatre last weekend.

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