This weekend, for a night of murder and media scandals, Island residents can turn off the television and head to the Performing Arts Center where the high school production of Chicago premieres on Friday night.
When considering shows to stage for this year, director Brooke Hardman Ditchfield said Chicago stood out not only because of its killer choreography but because the sensationalism surrounding crimes and scandals is so applicable today.
“We live in an age where people will do anything for publicity,” she said.
This is Mrs. Ditchfield’s second year as head of the high school theatre department. In October, more than double the number of students from last year auditioned. Traditionally Chicago is not a large cast show, but Mrs. Ditchfield said she wanted to include as many students as possible.
“If you want to be here, we want to give you a home,” she said of her attitude to casting the show.
The musical includes a cast of 60. It’s the story of Roxie Hart, an aspiring singer on murderers’ row, whose only chance at freedom is flamboyant attorney Billy Flynn. The show still holds the title as the longest running musical on Broadway and was written by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. Penelope Dutton stars as Roxie Hart, Jared Livingston as Billy Flynn and Darby Patterson as Velma Kelly.
At a recent rehearsal students ran through choreography on stage with Ken Romero. Mr. Romero is using the original Bob Fosse choreography, full of tension and stillness.
“Remember, make it really small,” he instructed students in the opening number, All That Jazz, as they worked on their “whoopee” finger swirl. “Perfect, that is perfect. You are now my go to guy,” he said to an ensemble member.
Sharp subtle movement is key, especially in the opening scene that sets the tone for the show.
“Pulse that foot,” Mr. Romero called out. “Nothing else should move, keep the heartbeat of the number.”
Darby Patterson sauntered to the front of the crowd singing with a smoky jazz hall voice that belied her age. Behind the scenes, Nils Aldeborgh showed off his outfit to costume designer Chelsea McCarthy. In a strapping suit jacket with red suspenders and a blue striped tie, he was declared perfect. The cast is costumed in 1920s attire rather than the customary lingerie used in the Broadway performances.
Two eighth graders from the West Tisbury school arrived to ask how they could help.
“I just finished cummerbund nation,” Ms. McCarthy said.
The cast has shown resilience and dedication gathering together to rehearse at a cast member’s house when the snow interrupted their rehearsal schedule, Mrs. Ditchfield said.
“It really shows how much they have invested in the show,” she said.
Abigail Chandler, the music director, sat at the back of the stage going over harmonies with a small group of students. Mrs. Ditchfield said the scope of the show would be impossible without the community involvement. The orchestra is made up of a mix of students and adults. Faculty members are part of the ensemble and a support network of parents handled posters and press. Kate Hancock, the stage manager, brought in a friend fluent in Hungarian to help with the Hungarian spoken during Cell Block Tango. Charlie Esposito is the technical director, and Miles Thornton, a senior at the high school, does double duty as both the assistant director and the assistant technical director.
Mrs. Ditchfield said this weekend is perfect timing for the show.
“I hope everyone gets to bring their Valentine’s date to a show about murder and adultery,” she said with a laugh.
Chicago takes the stage on Feb. 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at the regional high school. Tickets are $10 general admission ($8 for students, seniors and children) and will be available at the door on a first come, first served basis.