‘Chicago’ Dances onto Headlines at NAHS

Theater Review


Hope Rose Mauch

Cast of Chicago poses during Billy Flynn’s main song.

Hope Rose Mauch, Editor-in-Chief

This past month, Norristown Area High School’s auditorium transformed into the Cook County Jail for the production of “Chicago: Teen Edition,” which ran on Nov. 5 and 6. 

Directed by Norristown Area High School teacher Damien Bucci, the hour and 45-minute show with a 15-minute intermission featured amazing performances from lead actors Brandon Zuniga, Riley Logan, and Xiomara Smith. There’s not an extravagant set design, which is how the original director of the production, Bob Fosse, intended the set to look. In the back of the stage stood 2 canvases that had different colored lights behind them, which was just the minimalist look that a flashy show like “Chicago” needed.  For different scenes, a few chairs or jail cell bars were added to the stage. 

“Chicago, ” set in the roaring 20s, follows its two main characters, Velma Kelly and Roxy Hart, and their crimes of killing their male companions within the city of Chicago. Velma Kelly was a cell block star, the most well-known in the prison, due to her newspaper recognition through her murder trials. Roxie Hart came along and stole her spotlight again with the assistance of Billy Flynn, their celebrity lawyer. With Flynn, the girls become free through trickery and start a double act together to become big stars in the big city, working together knowing they will never be able to make it alone. 

“Chicago: Teen Edition” is a variation on the original “Chicago” script that many might be familiar with. Due to its simplistic design and intended demographic, “Chicago” is an easier production that can be recreated with a very low budget, making it perfect for a high school production.

“Chicago checks all of these boxes,” said Bucci. “It’s a beautifully simple show in terms of props, costumes, and scenery, even when produced at the highest levels of professional theater.”

Logan, who played Roxie Hart, gave a performance that captivated the majority of the room since many gasped and cheered for her when she sang and spoke.  Many students argue that Billy Flynn played by Zuniga was a better performer, but there is no reason to compare when they both complemented the other perfectly. 

Amos Hart is usually an overlooked character, but for this production, Rafael Avelino-Castillo stole the show, not only with his song “Mr. Cellophane” but also with his acting that made the audience feel for him and his story. The song gives the audience the backstory of Amos being walked on and looked over his whole life and how no one ever sees him. Avelino-Castillo portrayed this heartbroken and distorted man in a beautiful way.  

The leads of the show were well cast and showed off their best talents, but it was the ensemble and select ensemble that honestly pulled the show together. The number “All I Care About Is Love” showed dancers who covered the stage in feathers that made not only this number so much more entertaining for the audience, but for every number after this, Billy had an ensemble follow him, making his numbers even more entertaining.  

Even though the show was well put together and had many talented people, there were parts of the show that weren’t perfect. Many of these are problems that the actors cannot fix, but it was distracting. The mics on the actors were not the best, so it was very hard to hear the songs and lines, which made it hard to follow the show if you have never seen it before. The mic problem could also be because high schoolers are not experienced with using a body mic, as there is a different way to talk and project when using a body mic. 

The mic problem was very noticeable. Most of the time I could not hear anyone besides the two leads, who have the best mics. To me, this was unfair to the other cast members because it gives the impression their parts aren’t as important to the show. The performers who did have better mics still didn’t sound great. Many notes did crack on the higher notes in songs. However, this was just my experience when I was at the Saturday performance. 

There were also only costume changes for the ensemble but I would have liked to see Roxie at least add something blue to herself. In the show, the reporters do say Roxie was wearing a blue dress and it would have just added that little extra something to the show.

Overall the show was fun for everyone, not just the audience. The actors kept up energy throughout the entire performance and the show was a great start to this year’s theater season. 

Correction: An earlier edition of this article misstated that Fosse adapted “Chicago: Teen Edition” himself. Fred Ebb wrote the lyrics to the original show, and the adaptations were made by David Thompson.