Full of spunk, spice, glitz and glitter, Fairfax High’s musical, “Chicago,” is ready to burst upon the stage. With a cast and crew of 40 and a live, 30-person orchestra, it promises to raise the roof with energized performances.
“Sixty-two people auditioned for the show,” said Theater Director Wendy Knight. “I was originally going to just take 30, but I was shocked at the amount of really talented kids that walked through the door.”
Show times are Friday-Saturday, April 30-May 1, and May 7-8, at 7:30 p.m., plus the Cappies performance, Sunday, May 2, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance at www.fxplayers.org or $12 at the door.
Since “Chicago” is so well known from the movie, the actors already knew most of the music and many of the lines. But since it’s the school’s first dancing show not in partnership with its academy, Knight said, “The students really had to step it up so we could focus on the dancing. Academy dance teacher Andrea Heininge did the choreography, and the dances are fresh and unique. They have a Fosse-esque flair without being old-fashioned.”
Praising the musicians, too, Knight called the show “jazz-intensive with complicated music, and our all-student orchestra, directed by Meghan Benson, is going to knock it out of the park.” A team of six to eight students is also designing, making and modifying 70 of the show’s 90 costumes, and Knight said they’re doing a terrific job.
Sophomore Anne Norland plays aspiring Vaudeville dancer Roxie who, while drunk, shot her lover. Her attorney Billy Flynn hopes to keep her from being hung by razzle-dazzling the jury. “The whole world is a show for her,” said Norland. “Her personality is whatever the world wants it to be. The story’s told through her eyes, and she’s dramatic and definitely a diva. It’s so fun. Everything’s big and bold. You can’t go too overboard. I like her personality. She’s always ready to perform.”
Her favorite number is “All That Jazz” because “it looks really awesome. The dancing’s so spot-on, and the cool effects really add to it.” She also likes her song, “Roxie,” because “it gives you insight into what she’s really like.” Norland said both Knight and Heininge have “done amazing things” with the cast and attendees will enjoy the familiar story done with “a special spin and flair.”
Senior Brandon Touhy portrays Amos Hart, Roxie’s husband. “He’s invisible, so normal that no one sees him. He’s a nobody,” said Touhy. “He loves Roxie, the only good thing that’s ever happened to him, until she two-times him. It’s a good role. It gives you a chance to grab the audience’s emotions. It’s a main part, about someone unnoticed, and how it affects him.”
Touhy especially likes his song, “Mr. Cellophane,” because “it’s powerful and poignant and keeps you rooting for him. Anyone with a heart would.” Touhy also designed the show’s special effects. “We’ll be the only school in the county to use pyrotechnics,” he said. “We’re going to use flash paper in the torches for Billy Flynn’s entrance and the ‘Razzle Dazzle ’Em’ number, and we’re really excited about it.”
Jail matron Mama Morton is senior Maddy Goubeaux. “She’s the top dog in Murderer’s Row. She runs the jail and those are all her girls,” said Goubeaux. “She’s not arrogant, but proud. People know not to cross her. If she has a weakness, she doesn’t let you see it. She’s a rock with soft spots for a few inmates.”
“It’s a good finale role for high school, and it’s challenging because I’m trying to combine her characteristics with mine to make us one on stage,” said Goubeaux. “I want to break the mold and make it my version so people won’t think about the movie, but about Fairfax High’s interpretation. It’s also cool working with so many new people and different personalities and see them come together into one cast. We are ‘Chicago’ — moving, breathing art.”
Her favorite song is “Class” because her voice and Ally Dawson’s mesh so well. “I belt things out, but she can match me,” said Goubeaux, adding that attendees will instantly feel the cast’s energy and will leave at the end “with smiles on their faces and saying, ‘Wow, that was really something.’ The set rotates and the costumes are glitzy and glam. Theater kids love to do glitter and jazz, sing loud and let it all out, and this is the big shebang.”
Playing Velma Kelly is junior Ally Dawson. “She’s determined and feisty and has always wanted to act, sing and dance in larger shows,” said Dawson. “She uses her popularity from her own trial to her advantage. People want to see her shows after she’s released from jail. Then Roxie, the new sensation, [steals her thunder] so Velma’s trying to regain her fame. She has a tough exterior, but is a dreamer and is emotional inside.”
Dawson likes Velma’s storyline, attitude and “how she carries herself. And she has such good songs, showing her different sides. My favorite is ‘My Own Best Friend,’ a duet with me and Roxie. I’m saying I can’t depend on anyone but me to get what I want and to succeed, and the music’s really pretty.” Dawson said even the show’s minor characters have such strong personalities that people will enjoy watching them all interact. “There’s so much to attract your eye,” she said. “Everything about this show is big.”
Junior Clayton Southerly is stage manager and set designer. As stage manager, he handles rehearsal logistics and will call technical cues during performances. He designed the set in December. It’s a two-sided unit portraying the theater and the jail and containing a ladder, fireman’s pole and dual spiral staircases. So, said Southerly, “I get to be both practical and artistic.”
He said the audience will like “the originality we bring to the show. We altered some set elements and lighting colors to make an icon our own. In the story, celebrities use the media for their own benefit. So, although it’s set in the 1920s, it’s a commentary on American society today.”
Regarding “Chicago’s” appropriateness for students, Director Knight said its language and content make it PG-13. “But we’ve edited it a bit, and the costumes and choreography are classy, without being boring,” she said. “It’s going to be an amazing show. People will be shocked that it was all done by students, and what good quality it is. The lighting, acting, costumes, singing, dancing, everything. There’s not a weak moment in the show.”