Murder, Crime, And All That Jazz: Lakeside Theater Company Closes Out Another Stellar Production

Photos courtesy of: Ruthie Hoover

As the most ambitious musical Lakeside Drama Department has put on stage, Chicago displays expert choreography, professional-grade singing, and a whole lot of jazz! The show centers on Roxie Hart (junior Hanna Baniassad) and Velma Kelly (senior Bella Reynolds), both of whom wind up in jail due to the murder of their lovers. All of the action goes down during the roaring twenties, a time of breaking Prohibition, mass consumerism, and flirty flappers. The show opens with a fantastic and sultry welcome from the one and only Luis Vijil, the Master of Ceremonies. “Ladies and gentleman, you’re about to see a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, adultery, and treachery. Thank you.” Vijil led the audience through the twisting and turning story of love, murder, and all things in between.

The show premiered on March, showcasing months of preparation. With auditions beginning in November 2018, taking place only a couple of weeks after fall shows had ended, rehearsal began in December. “It was a lot of work after school over the four months of prep time. We’d go home really late, and there was so much dancing, it was exhausting. It was a lot of work,” said senior and first-time ensemble member Anna Floyd.

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Pop… Squish… Lighting:

“Cell Block Tango”’s dramatic red lighting

amplified the song’s power,

creating a dark and dangerous mood for the murderers’ confession tune.

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The orchestra sounded fantastic, thanks to Orchestra Conductor Daniel Macnamara, but I wish they had a larger role in the action. Although they performed on stage and they interacted with the cast on occasion, their positioning on the seven-foot set piece blocked most of them from view.

The expertly choreographed “Cell Block Tango” and “They Both Reached For the Gun” wowed me the most of all the numbers, but it left me wanting more choreography. The blocking in these two numbers, choreographed by Kelsey Poole, made the most use of the large ensemble and added a layer of professionalism to the show in general. The other remaining songs, though, didn’t cleanly organize the multitude of ensemble members on stage as well.

The musicality of the performers especially took my breath away. Senior Sam Greene has performed in practically every show put on by Lakeside’s drama department and never fails to disappoint with his top-notch vocals, with Chicago as no exception. His song as Amos Hart, “Mr. Cellophane” broke everyone in the audience’s hearts with the gut-wrenching lyrics (“You can look right through me, walk right by me, and never know I’m there… ”), but Greene’s incredible singing capabilities took it to another level.

Although the musical had an overall high production value, the show seemed to lack a sort of energy due to, in my opinion, a lack of agreement regarding the facial expressions throughout the performance; on the nights I attended, some people smiled whole-heartedly while others remained stuck in a semi-sexy, semi-awkward expression. If the whole cast had agreed on a common story line to build their individual characters around, this may have alleviated the problem.

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Lips Are Sealed: Senior Sebastian Mendez played ventriloquist-controlling Billy Flynn, a lawyer who, apparently, only cares about love.

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The courtroom scene in Act Two elevated the show from the funny, risqué characteristics of the first Act. Even though the first Act touched on elements of unjust collusion, the courtroom scene in particular made a powerful statement about the corruption of justice in society. The easily-persuaded reporters, cheerleading pom-poms, popcorn, and whole circus-like parallel added to the informality and absurdity of the satirical approach to a fair trial. The entire ensemble moved as a cohesive, unit to play along with the dark comedy, but freshman Thomas Schneider stole the scene with his caricaturist, and hilarious, acting.

An interesting and ambitious choice for a high school production, Chicago pleasantly surprised me. The professional-grade makeup and hairstyling (kudos to senior Hope Davis for the wigs!), original and fitting choreography, and overall moral-of-the-story all moved me past my expectations for this year’s Spring musical.

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