Last weekend’s spectacular George Mason High School production of “Chicago,” was called “a fantastic retelling of one of the most produced musicals of all time” by W.T. Woodson High School’s Marlaina Horewitz, selected by the Cappies of the National Capital Area program to write the student review for the show. In its 19th year, the Cappies organizes students and mentors to attend and draft reviews of selected high school drama productions throughout the region.
“Chicago” was a smash hit at Mason High last weekend, performed to sell-out crowds all three nights. In a creative move, the school’s jazz band, under the baton of music department instructor JoAnne West, was positioned elevated at the rear of the stage to assume a central role in the production, which was directed by the school’s drama instructor Shawn Northrip.
The following is the review by Ms. Horewitz, published on the Cappies’ website and posted to the News-Press:
Jazz, sequins, fringe, love, silhouette, and murder. The audience had it comin’. George Mason High School’s “Chicago” is a fantastic retelling of one of the most produced musicals of all time. Written by Maurine Dallas Watkins in 1926, Chicago was originally a straight play inspired by her own reporting experience. Embracing the popular vaudeville vignette style characteristic of the 1920s, Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb, and John Kander created a musical loved by audiences everywhere.
The star of the show is Roxie Hart (Meggie Ferguson), a woman who yearns for fame. She finds it in the most unlikely place: death row of the Cook County Jail. Ferguson plays the role quite humorously; over the top facial expressions and dynamic vocal choices add to the overall vaudeville style. She has palpable stage chemistry with her suave lawyer, Billy Flynn (Miles Jackson). Jackson’s impeccable comedic timing and stellar vocals outshine the sequins on the costumes behind him. Featured in “They Both Reached for the Gun,” Jackson hypes up the audience with a high F held for over 20 counts. It is impossible to ignore his contagious energy.
Billy’s other fame-desperate client is Velma Kelly (Mithi Penaranda). Her strong belt-mix guiding the audience through “All That Jazz” sets the high energy tone for the show the second the light comes up. Dancing next to Kelly is Liz (TiKa Wallace) another woman locked up. Wallace commits to playing an intense murderess whom the audience cannot take their eyes off of. Fred Casely (Sasha Ronning) also captivates the audience. Ronning leaves the audience gasping and laughing every time he is killed. And who could forget the adorable and invisible Amos Hart (Hansin Arvind), who has a tiny personality but a huge heart.
During dance numbers Rebekah Ayre and Kevin Hong entrance the audience. Ayre plays Hunyak whilst in pointe shoes. She floats eloquently across the stage adding an exquisite contrast to the harsh numbers like “Cellblock Tango.” Hong plays Harry, enthralling the audience with flawless tumbling passes and wonderful stage presence in every number.
To compliment a strong cast is a detail-oriented crew. Stage manager Greyson Smith has over 170 cues which he executes with precision. The costumes and props are carefully crafted with care for minor details including significant numbers on the prison uniforms and accurate headlines. The pit is also fantastic, handling a difficult jazz score without missing a beat. Seated on stage and supplying perfectly timed sound effects, the orchestra and cast function as one unit. Never overshadowing the actors but milking every violin or trumpet solo.
For a night of criminal amounts of fun, go see George Mason High School’s “Chicago.” Just be sure to bring $5,000 for a lawyer.