Student Story: Pennsauken High School Dazzles Audience With Its Production of “Chicago: High School Edition”

Review By: Ryan Hans, Rancocas Valley Regional High School

Pennsauken High School’s theatre group, Pennsauken Stages. Photo credit: Pennsauken Stages Facebook page.

PENNSAUKEN, N.J. — Pop, six, squish, uh-uh, Cicero, Lipschitz. This weekend, Pennsauken High School “Razzle Dazzled” us with their recent production of “Chicago: High School Edition.”

The American musical “Chicago,” with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, first took the 46th Street Theatre stage in 1975. Following the success of the stage version, the story was spread to a larger audience through the big screen in 2002. Set in the jazz age in Chicago, the story of two rival murderesses, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, is told through their time in the Cook County Jail. The themes of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery are all represented accurately through this witty story.

Pennsauken High School put on a spectacle of a show. The lighting was a key attribute to the show, and thoroughly impressed me from beginning to end. Large ensemble numbers, such as “All That Jazz” and “Cell Block Tango, caught the attention of the audience and were rewarded with a well-deserved applause.

The two students who brought Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart to the stage did not disappoint. Grace Raymond, who played Velma Kelly, brought strong dance ability and quality vocal talent to the role in a way I had never seen before. She brought the house down in “All That Jazz” and “I Can’t Do It Alone,” and shined from the moment she stepped on stage until bows. Janell Darby brought a new refreshing Roxie Hart to the stage with her quick wit and vocal talent. It was a breath of fresh air to see a strong independent actress act a role at this demand effortlessly.

While the two leads had much of the stage time, the supporting characters in the show also had their moments to shine. Amos Hart, played by Ryan Vu, stole the hearts of the audience in his rendition of “Mister Cellophane.” Billy Flynn, played by Logan Endes, had a strong vocal ability and captured all the characteristics of the famous lawyer. He had powerhouse moments in “All I Care About” and “Razzle Dazzle.” Despite the stage time that Brazil Taylor, who played Liz, received my eyes were drawn to her in every large ensemble number. She was a crowd favorite during “Cell Block Tango” and her dancing skills caught the attention of many amidst the large ensemble.

The costumes, lighting, and sets did not go unnoticed within this production. I enjoyed how every set, costume, and light fixture told a different story. I also enjoyed that while the set stayed stationary, the lights were always moving bringing us to a different location in each scene. However, I would have liked to see a more unique costuming of the ensemble to further the true story of “Chicago.”

Pennsauken’s recent production of “Chicago: High School Edition,” was an exciting night, filled with high energy, talent, “And All That Jazz”!

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