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Music and murder make T.C. Williams High School’s ‘Chicago’

Jonathan Polson, a student at Bishop Ireton High School, reviews “Chicago” performed by T.C. Williams High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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T.C. Williams High School’s Madeline Bryan and Brielle Welch. (Photo by Shane Canfield)

Jazz, liquor and murder. Not the most common themes examined in high school theater; however, T.C. Williams High School recently took a stab at the extremely adult show Chicago and with much triumph.

Chicago premiered on Broadway with a bang on June 3, 1975, and ran for 936 performances. It featured music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb and was written by Ebb and Bob Fosse. It was then revived in 1996 and is currently the sixth longest-running Broadway revival of all time. The 2002 film won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The story revolves Roxie Hart (Kirby Porterfield) who happens to murder a departing lover. While in jail, she finds herself among the likes of famous vaudeville murderesses, including Velma Kelly (Madeline Bryan). With the help of the very loving lawyer, Billy Flynn (Zachary Frank), Roxie finds a way to turn a scandal into a living.

As the lead, Porterfield performed with confidence and poise. She displayed her vocal ability in songs like “Funny Honey,” and worked well when arguing with other actors, especially Zachary Frank, who played Billy Flynn. Frank brought many laughs to the show as the somewhat crooked lawyer. He was also a talented singer as displayed in the show stopper “Razzle Dazzle.”

Bryan, as Velma, proved to be one of the strongest singers and actresses of the night. She brought a much needed sense of sex appeal to the show. Her voice was soulful and confident, as shown in “All That Jazz.” She projected strongly and clearly and kept the show together even though it sometimes felt disjointed. She also displayed amazing dancing abilities during songs like “I Can’t Do It Alone.”

Another pleasant surprise of the night was Samuel Jones as the tender-hearted and easily overlooked Amos Hart. During most of the show, Amos goes unnoticed, but in the second act Jones made him shine brighter than any other character. In his song “Mister Cellophane” Jones not only sang well, but also sang with emotion and feeling, something that was often missing on the stage. His portrayal of the ever-loving husband was sweet and believable.

The set (designed by Hunter Burget, Andrew Flack, Sam Jones, Angelique Laboy-Coparropa, and Ben Reiner) was two stories tall and was mostly the backdrop for the Cook County Jail. It was well constructed and was supported by a stage crew who did their job perfectly by not ever being noticed.

Attempting to put on a show such as Chicago in high school is a big task. T.C. Williams welcomed the task with open arms and came out with a slaying production. Despite many moments that felt as if there was a lack of energy, the actors kept up the pace in what can’t be denied as an extremely entertaining show. T.C. Williams’ production of Chicago was a razzle dazzling night.

By Jonathan Polson, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 20, 2010; 10:11 AM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2010  
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