Arts Alive: Cappies Review of Chantilly High School's Production of Chicago

By Communication and Community Relations
November 07, 2018

Fairfax County Public Schools students are talented actors, musicians, and visual artists. Many FCPS high schools participate in the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Critics and Awards Program for High School Theatre, otherwise known as the Cappies.

The Cappies is a program through which high school theater and journalism students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, write reviews, and publish those reviews in local newspapers. There are fifteen Cappies chapters across the United States and Canada. 

Editor's Note: Check out this review of Chantilly High School's production of Chicago, written by Elizabeth Germain of West Springfield High School. 

"This is Chicago, kid. You can't beat fresh blood on the walls."

[Recently], Chantilly High School tackled the popular musical Chicago. This 1975 musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, tells the tale of Roxie Hart, who rockets to fame after murdering her lover Fred Casely. She is aided in her rise to the top by the famed lawyer Billy Flynn and replaces vaudeville dancer Velma Kelly as his star client. 

An engaged ensemble and detailed technical work anchored the show. The Merry Murderesses' excellent execution of difficult choreography and commitment to individualized characters made "Cell Block Tango" a highlight, and the ensemble displayed versatility in "Razzle Dazzle" with its various circus tricks, including two girls riding unicycles. Roxie's trial scene stood out due to the ensemble's varied reactions and Jun Ito's hilariously exaggerated portrayal of a violent Fred Casely. 

Lauren Spiers portrayed a bubbly Roxie Hart whose change from a nervous prisoner to a histrionic manipulator highlighted the sensationalism and materialism of the 1920's. Always by her side (unless more money was elsewhere), stood the smarmy lawyer, Billy Flynn, portrayed with confident ease by Alex Yee. In "We Both Reached for the Gun," Yee played the perfect puppeteer with his energetic vocal performance and imitation of Roxie. This, combined with Spiers' marionette doll movements and mechanical opening and closing of her mouth created an excellent number.

Elise McCue superbly portrayed Velma Kelly's dark edge and desperation to claw her way back into the spotlight. In "I Can't Do It Alone," her final notes floated effortlessly into a gentle call for help and contrasted with her usual confident belting to illustrate her genuine fear of losing fame. Suryanshu Kommoju provoked sympathy with his outstanding performance as the sheepish, loving, and gullible Amos. In "Mr. Cellophane" his intricate vocal performance balanced loud and soft notes to display both anger and sorrow. Also of note was Rosa Broadberry's bright operatic voice as Mary Sunshine and Max James and Piper Read's technical skill as featured dancers. 

Vickie Ly and the costume crew produced a dazzling display of 361 costume pieces, including sparkling blue peacock dresses and headdresses for the show girls, black outfits with pops of red for the Merry Murderesses, and and a golden gown hidden under the plain black uniform of a prison keeper for Mama Morton. The versatile set with two levels made for smooth scene changes and the impeccable sound work kept the flow of the show. The lighting set the mood, from dramatic red in "Cell Block Tango," to pink in "When You're Good to Mama," and blue in "Mr. Cellophane" wherein, in a purposeful ironic touch, even the spotlight could not locate Amos.  

With its commitment to both the glitzy surface and dark underbelly of a show about a city where there is always fresh blood on the walls, Chantilly High School gave its all in this razzle, dazzling musical, creating a world of murder, corruption, adultery, greed, and "all that jazz."