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Walnut Hills High School's CHICAGO (TEEN EDITION)


“And All That Jazz” Velma Kelly (Izzy Lachey, center) opens the show with Mona (Lael Ingram, left) and June (Emma Dalton, right) in Walnut Hills High School’s production of Chicago (Teen Edition). 


Review by Norah Shadwell, Highlands High School Critic Team

Behind the headline of a million papers, concealed by rusted cell bars and rotting fantasies of stardom, lies jazz hands, red lipstick, and something sinister. Walnut Hills High School masterfully fused dark narratives with dazzling lights, flowing choreography, and a plethora of glamorous musical numbers in Chicago; showcasing a killer talent for spectacle in both cast and crew.


With book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, Chicago is a satirical musical, poking fun at the American legal system and society's clouded perception of female capability for violence. Exemplifying many real women, the story follows Roxie Hart, who after shooting her lover, is thrown into a world of merry murderesses and a lingering death sentence. With the help of charismatic lawyer, Billy Flynn, Roxie gives the performance of her life to fabricate innocence, but as her time in the spotlight flees, she must lie, cheat, and deceive to remain the star that shines the brightest in Chicago's bustling constellation.


Walnut Hills High School’s incorporation of new elements into their performance displayed brilliant originality from popular source material. Songs like “Cell Block Tango” and “We Both Reached For The Gun” were able to meet the high expectation with big character choices and lasting energy. However, Vaudeville elements sprinkled throughout “Courtroom Scene” and the caricatured reactions of the reporter ensemble made the adaptation unique.


Lizzy Rebber elegantly displayed many complex layers in her depiction of Roxie Hart, confiding to the audience her naïve excitement for the trial in “Roxie." Rebber subtlety shifts to a more bitter tone in “Nowadays," still giving an equally magnetic performance. Wolf Singer perfectly balances Roxie’s wildness in his natural and charismatic presence on stage as Billy Flynn. Singer’s ability to act within a character, with Flynn reflecting the emotions of others in order to get what he wants, shows the mastery of intention that Singer can portray. Coupled with an astounding vocal range in “Razzle Dazzle," he truly showcased a rare expertise.


Velma Kelly, played by Izzy Lachey, gave a powerhouse performance in “All that Jazz” and “I Can’t Do It Alone." Lachey’s gritty timbre evoked an aura of chaos and intensity that perfectly encapsulated Velma’s reflections upon the parallels between herself and Roxie. Conversely, Christian Jordan’s portrayal of Amos Hart was a heartbreakingly wholesome addition to the second act in “Mister Cellophane." Jordan’s delicate vocals beautifully captured the melancholy energy that makes the song hilariously pitiful.


Lighting Designer, Ryan Peerless, used LED tape inside the inner lining of the jail cells to create a striking silhouette effect in “Cell Block Tango." Lighting crew’s tasteful concept utilized bursts of red throughout the show against the black and white, reflecting the confusion of right and wrong throughout the numbers. Similarly, Makeup designer, Laylah Torain, and crew, thoroughly incorporated aspects of the time period, with idiosyncrasies like the “bee stung lip” and prominent gray sideburns.


Overall, Walnut Hills High School’s production of Chicago was a testament to what gives the classic musical its greatness. The powerful individuality of the leads coupled with the syncretism of the ensemble in a story that requires constant razzle, dazzle, and shine delivered a performance worthy of adoration and glory.



“Funny Honey” Roxie (Lizzy Rebber) belts out her “love” for her husband in Walnut Hills High School’s production of Chicago (Teen Edition).  


Review by Peyton Pope, Highlands High School Critic Team

A bloody story of greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery - the traits everyone holds near and dear to their hearts - Walnut Hills High School’s production of Chicago was an exceptional display of talent that left the audience dying for more.

 

Based on a 1926 play of the same name by famous criminal reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, Chicago follows Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her lover, Fred Casely, when he tries to leave her. In a series of desperate attempts to avoid hanging, she openly deceives the public eye with the help of the most skilled yet sleazy lawyer in Chicago, Billy Flynn, while rivaling the iconic and similarly vain Velma Kelly for a spot in the limelight. With fame and attention on the line, desperation and dramatics ensue. 

 

The cast and crew of Walnut Hills’s production demonstrated an exemplary knowledge of the era, the characters, and the iconicity of the show, making for an incredible viewing experience. The cast brought perfect and cohesive energy to each scene and song which complimented the crew who shone through their impressive technical displays.

 

Lizzy Rebber excellently portrayed the deceptive and conceited yet demure and timid Roxie Hart. Roxie’s emotional development throughout the show from a vain housewife to a coldblooded murderess was transitioned flawlessly while not being too over-the-top. This was highlighted during the song “Roxie” where Rebber showed the perfect amount of unhinged energy as she dreamed about her new-found celebrity status. Her performance was balanced marvelously by Wolf Singer’s performance as Billy Flynn. Flynn’s charismatic disguise to his sleazy and greedy personality was shown expertly by Singer who wooed in each of his scenes, especially during the iconic song “All I Care About is Love” as he winked and whistled. Together, both Rebber and Singer created an impeccable dynamic that engaged and immersed the audience.

 

The iconic Velma Kelly was played to perfection by Izzy Lachey as she exhibited a confident yet distressed criminal trying to claw her way back to the top. Her contrasting demeanors between being a headliner versus a second thought were displayed excellently through her body language and increasing levels of desperation for Roxie to join her in her double act. Another notable performance was Christian Jordan as the hilarious Amos Hart, the pitiful husband of Roxie Hart who continues to be strung along as a receptacle for Billy Flynn’s illusive plans. Jordan’s perfect innocence and oblivious nature were a stand-out in the production as he won the audience’s hearts.

 

Never to be overshadowed, the exceptional crew outdid themselves in all aspects of the show. Notably, the lighting design by Ryan Peerless transformed the stage in every number. From the LED lights inside of each cell to the “broken” look of the Chicago sign during Roxie and Velma’s number “My Own Best Friend," each cue showed intentionality and precision that perfected the aesthetics of the show. The marketing and publicity team, headed by Lizzy Rebber, was outstanding as well. Utilizing social media to broadcast the production, Rebber put copious amounts of effort into advertising through sneak peeks, behind-the-scenes interviews, and much more, resulting in Chicago being the highest-grossing production at Walnut Hills.

 

Overall, Walnut Hills High School’s production of Chicago was an expertly crafted love letter to the iconic show that exhibited both the cast and crew’s admirable effort, passion, and ambition.



 The Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail (Caroline Lovelace, Sophie Catalanotto, Emma Dalton, Mya Verticchio, Izzy Lachey, and Lael Ingram) dance and sing their rendition of the “Cellblock Tango” in Walnut Hills High School’s production of Chicago (Teen Edition). 


Review by Katie Mundy, Saint Ursula Academy Critic Team

As each cell lights up in a ripple fashion, the stories of murder, fame, and loyalty are brought to life by Walnut Hills High School in their production of Chicago. Black and red color palettes, Fosse dance routines, and glittery costumes work in tandem to make the stage at Walnut Hills truly dazzle with this astonishing musical.


The longest-running American musical in Broadway history, Chicago is a 1975 musical based off of the play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins of the same name, set in Chicago amidst the influential Jazz Age. With its foundations of satire, this production serves as a critique of the judicial system through the story of the fame-chasing Roxie Hart when she shoots her lover and has to create a deceiving alibi so she won’t face consequences.


The students of Walnut Hills truly encapsulated the satirical and flamboyant elements of the production with ease, as their incredible attention to detail and unique initiatives of each department fostered an undoubtedly entertaining experience. From the exquisite costumes (designed by Paloma Lanzador and crew) to the captivating student choreography (done by Izzy Lachey), the creativity of these students perfectly fit this beast of a musical.


The intense character development of Roxie Hart was brilliantly revealed in Lizzy Rebber’s depiction due to her mannerisms and passionate line delivery. She carried out the transformation from a puppet-like figure to a strong-willed and determined woman effortlessly and never failed to uphold a presence on stage. The figure who catalyzed this transformation, Billy Flynn, was turned into a confident and cunning character by Wolf Singer. His clear vocals and acting decisions such as the checking of a watch when holding out a note captured the charisma of this clever lawyer.


Nate Caudill in the role of Fred Casely was able to take the gruesome murder of the adultering salesman and turn it into a humorous event of the musical. His grand gestures and unique voices displayed in the courtroom scene brought out the satirical aspects of the story and enhanced the energy on stage.


The complicated atmosphere of glamor and squalor was perfectly defined by the lighting design, featuring Ryan Peerless and crew. The timing of the light cues was strategically placed to catch the eyes of the audience, as well as the specific colors implemented to highlight the ever-changing moods of each scene. The marketing and publicity crew brought Chicago to life offstage with the creativity of Lizzy Rebber and crew. The utilization of a plethora of social media platforms, graphic design, and photography were all strategic approaches to publicizing the production that made it create a presence outside of the theater.


To sum up this glamorous staging, “All That Jazz” and more was created by Walnut Hills High School in their production of Chicago with the merging of impressive technical abilities and innovative acting initiatives. With this riveting collaboration, themes of the Jazz Age are divulged in a remarkable manner and define why this musical has dominated Broadway for so long.



Billy Flynn (Wolf Singer) professes that “All (He) Cares About Is Love” to his girls in Walnut Hills High School’s production of Chicago (Teen Edition).  


Excerpts From Other Top Reviews

"Actress Maya Busche, who played Mama Morton, was show-stopping. In her solo 'When You're Good to Mama' Busche showed pure and unbridled talent with her remarkable singing. Throughout the show, she made her presence known and displayed Mama Morton's confident and powerful energy."

-Julia Biernat, Saint Ursula Academy Critic Team


 "To compliment Peerless’ work, set crew, led by Max Rush worked hard to construct the various aspects needed, such as the jail cells and stage for the Master of Ceremonies. While these crews stood out, it was clear that all of Walnut’s tech crew persevered to ensure their show ran smoothly."

-Violet Hisey, Highlands High School Critic Team


"The makeup crew, led by Laylah Torain, did a fantastic job of bringing the 1920s to life. In addition to doing a great job in tackling this period piece, they also helped bring the story to life through Amos’ makeup at the end of “Mister Cellophane."

-Marie Rainey, Ursuline Academy Critic Team


"Mama Morton, played by Maya Busche, is both a mother figure to the inmates and a shady individual. Busche was a wonderful choice for this role, playing up Mama's sweet-talking character and proving a strong singer in her number 'When You're Good To Mama.' Mya Verticchio impressed the audience with her performance of Hunyak, in which she spoke almost entirely in Hungarian. Aside from her impressive voice work, Verticchio brought moments of seriousness to the otherwise comedic musical, perfectly performing the desperation of a character who faces execution."

-Ravyn Jones, William Mason High School Critic Team


"Exceptional lighting design by Ryan Peerless added wholly to the ambience of the show through using warm, flashy tones, employing different colors of pink, blue, purple, and red to indicate deeper meanings, and utilizing silhouettes in the infamous “Cell Block Tango.” Additionally, choreography by Izzy Lachey and Lael Ingram stood out as they skillfully met the challenge of blocking eleven dance sections, all while attempting to stay true to the original Fosse-style trademark of the original Chicago."

-Charlotte Weghorst, Highlands High School Critic Team

"In her role as the fame-hungry Roxie Hart, Lizzy Rebber’s proclamation 'I’m a star, and the audience loves me,' rang true. Rebber’s execution of the character captivated audiences with clever comedic timing, bold stage presence, and expressive acting choices. Furthermore, Roxie simply would not be the star she was without her puppeteering lawyer Billy Flynn. Skillfully brought to life by Wolf Singer, Billy Flynn’s numbers “All I Care About Is Love” and “Razzle Dazzle” were undeniable highlights of the production. Singer’s strong vocal ability and authoritative portrayal of the character was done with intention and believability as he delivered a performance indicative of high-level expertise."

-Eddie Pierson, LaSalle High School Critic Team


"The cast of Walnut Hills Chicago went all out in every move, note, and line performed! The essence of Bob Fosse was flawlessly executed in each number with the cast hitting each motion in sync and on beat every time. From crazy reporters to criminal dancers, each moment was full of energy and power."

-Grace Flerlage, Mariemont High School Critic Team


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