Scene | Theater
Fame, Fortune and All That Jazz
Kimberly High School Debuts Chicago
by Tricia Schwartz
A tale of fame, fortune and acquittal unfolds when nightclub starlet Velma Kelly and chorus girl Roxie Hart claw for the spotlight in a quest for stardom during Kimberly High School’s production of Chicago.
Set in the roaring twenties against the backdrop of the Chicago’s Jazz Age, murderesses Velma and Roxie seek absolution from their crimes while vying for headlines and public adoration amid a media circus orchestrated by their smooth-talking attorney, Billy Flynn.
KHS senior Macy Berendsen is one of two students cast as Roxie Hart. She likes Roxie’s naïve, curious and bold energy, but finds the character’s naivete to the world of murder and jazz rivaled by her strong confidence and unapologetic nature. Berendsen finds embodying Roxie’s bold and flirty energy integral to her portrayal, but is quick to label the character as “unlikeable”.
“Roxie is motivated for the wrong reasons and is ignorant to the way others feel,” Berendsen said. “It’s difficult to play someone who is so fun and bold, but yet so turned off to a sense of humanity.”
Kimberly High School theater teacher and Chicago director Todd Wegner seeks material – for both the classroom and the stage – that is well written and exposes students to a wide variety of genres and historical periods.
“I look for material that provides more than just a surface experience for the students as well as the audience,” Wegner said. “We can’t just focus on doing things that are meant for teenagers, because I don’t think that deals with the substance that these kids can handle.”
Salty in nature with motifs of seduction, corruption and murder, Chicago doesn’t shy away from adult themes. Students will perform a tamer version specifically licensed for high schools that has been adapted to omit overt sexual references and language.
Wegner says with the exception of absent musical numbers including “Class,” “A Bit of Good” and portions of “I Know a Girl,” along with a few lines of dialogue, the integrity of the story remains.
“It’s virtually the same,” Wegner said. “And [it] retains its initial intent.”
Wegner cited Chicago’s intense choreography as another reason for choosing it as one of three KHS theater productions for the 2019-20 school year.
“We didn’t do a lot of choreography last year. We have a lot of students who are excellent dancers,” said Wegner. “It was time to put on a dance musical,” he continued.
Audiences can expect a storyline of sassy lyrics and snappy beats to be accentuated with dance numbers inspired by famed choreographer Bob Fosse, who choreographed the original Broadway production in 1975.
Berendsen finds the Fosse choreography, which includes tight, quick movements requiring physicality and core control, fun and energetic.
“Compared to past shows we’ve done, the choreography is a lot more challenging because it follows the very specific style of Fosse,” Berendsen said. “It can be difficult to maintain a very isolated style.”
“We have spent a lot of time really focusing on capturing those movements and expressions. I think we’ve done Bob Fosse proud,” she said.
Performances will be March 27 and 28 at 7:00 p.m., March 29 at 2:00 p.m., and April 2, 3 and 4 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets are available in advance online at www.kimberlytheatre.com or between 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. by calling 1-866-967-8167. Tickets will also be sold at the door (if available) starting one hour prior to every performance. The show is rated PG-13.