The opening performance of this year’s Bedford High School musical “Chicago: Teen Edition,” which was held on Wednesday, was a smashing hit, and very well received by teachers, parents/families, and friends.
This is a show that calls for some razzle-dazzle and it does not disappoint. The song “All That Jazz” in the opening of the musical certainly dazzled the audience leaving them wanting more, which certainly followed as the musical progressed.
Throughout the performance, the audience was attentive and interested in this play, laughing and clapping, showing their support for the creative, enthusiastic, and talented hard work of the students.
“Chicago: Teen Edition” is based on a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins; the script adaptation was by David Thompson.
Maurine Dallas Watkins was a Chicago reporter who had written about women who had committed murders and were held at the Chicago House of Corrections. The public became obsessed with these criminals as the media made them into celebrities. When she quit her job at the Chicago Tribune, Watkins wrote this successful play based on what she had observed during her time as a reporter.
Bedford teacher and artistic director Katrina Faulstich says that “Chicago: Teen Edition” explores the theme of “what is justice” via a satire of celebrity criminals, their lawyers, and their questionable courtroom antics set in the Prohibition era of the 1920s in Chicago, but is still relevant today as audiences continue to be interested in true crime stories and the psychology of the killer. She went on to say that the audience watches as the media makes temporary starlets out of the women who compete with each other for attention.
When asked why this play was selected, Faulstich said she chose this year’s production as a contrast to last year’s production of “Mama Mia.” She added, “This play is part of a larger picture of the theater experience for Bedford High School students as the curriculum is designed to give students an overview of theater and the culture that creates it.”
She prepares the curriculum to encompass the time theater students will encounter over the arc of their high school experience.
She especially likes to seek out plays with an ensemble or chorus that is also on stage with the main characters, complementing them via song and dance. This gives more students a chance to participate in the annual musical.
This play includes the stylized dance of American actor and dancer Bob Fosse. Jessica Martin, a choreographer, has been working with the students on this year’s play; as the audience watches the energetic movements of the dancers, they can appreciate the time and effort that was put into this show.
Cate Goetschius is the technical director who worked with the students to create the atmosphere of the roaring 1920s in Chicago, overseeing the lights, props, and general construction of the sets. She brings her expertise gained while working on Broadway to this production.
The students at Bedford High School can certainly be proud of their commanding and spine-tingling performance as they sang, danced, delivered their lines, and showed quite a display of acrobatics. BHS students also performed in the pit orchestra.
Jennie Noh as Velma Kelly put on a great performance as did Zoe Kramer as Roxie Hart. Connor McClung as Roxie Hart’s husband, Amos Hart, drew applause as he told his story about how invisible he had been all his life, demonstrated by when he asked the orchestra to play his departing music – and they did not respond.
Hayden McAllister as the lawyer who knew how to manipulate the court did a superb job in that role. Cate Galante gave a strong performance as Matron “Mama” Morton as she bilked the prisoners out of their money while “helping” them.
Aleksi Dubaquie-Sanchez did a very believable death scene when his character Fred Casely was shot by Roxie Hart.
Of course, no performance is ever a success without the behind-the-scenes arduous work of other talented students.
Kudos to those students who designed the sets, controlled the lights and sound, worked on publicity, and on all the other myriad of matters that need to be done to make the play come to fruition.
The striking costumes were well conceived. Be sure to stop by and see the poster which gives an explanation of how BHS students Diya Singh designed the costumes. Christina Lu, Katie Chiu, Shirley Sun, and Carina Panfili provided backstage with costume support.
The set designs worked well, portraying the prison setting as well as the courtroom without needing major set changes, all the while being believable. Props were brought in and out without disturbing the continuity of the play. The scene with the accused women and the female ensemble performing the “Cell Block Tango” with its replicas of jail cell doors was extremely well done.
Be sure to come early to the additional performances so you can appreciate the posters about all the students who have worked hard to make this musical such a stupendous success as well as background material on the women who are featured in this play.
The final performances of “Chicago: Teen Edition” at Bedford High School are at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 18. Tickets are available to the general public through the Performing Arts Department website: https://bhschorusandtheater.weebly.com/tickets.html. Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. The online box office will close seven hours prior to each performance time. Tickets will be sold at the door, if available.