By Kyra Li (III)
This year, on February 20, 21, and 22, Pingry’s Drama and Music Departments, under the direction of Mr. Alan Van Antwerp, performed Chicago, the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. With its show-stopping music by John Kander and choreography by Bob Fosse, Chicago has won 6 Tony Awards, 2 Olivier Awards, and a Grammy. Chicago was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, who was influenced by the true stories of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, two women who were suspected of murdering their lovers. The musical follows two women, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, as they commit crimes and find their way to freedom.
The musical opens with the “Overture” and is directly followed by “All that Jazz.” In this scene, the vaudevillian, Velma Kelly (Nicole Gilbert ‘20), is shown shooting her lover. Moments later, the ambitious Roxie Hart (Nina Srikanth ‘20) is also shown shooting Fred Casely (Zach Burns ‘23), the man she is having an affair with. Roxie’s husband, Amos Hart (Alex Kaplan ‘21), initially takes the blame for Casley’s death. Though, when he discovers that Roxie had lied to him, he tells the police the truth, and Roxie is sent to prison. When Roxie talks to Velma and Matron “Mama” Morton (Ola Weber ‘20) in the Cook County Jail, Roxie realizes that she will need a lawyer in order to be set free. Thus, she finds the best lawyer in Chicago, Billy Flynn (Ore Shote ‘21), who also happens to be Velma’s lawyer. As the story progresses, the characters gradually unfold their true intentions and desires, as the attempt to convince the juries of their innocence. In the end, Roxie and Velma are both freed of their charges, and the show closes with a depiction of their duo Vaudeville act.
Throughout the performance this year, unlike many past shows, the pit was visible on stage and was even included in some scenes. Conducted by Dr. Andrew Moore, the pit consisted of students, teachers, and hired professionals. In the weeks leading up to the performances, the pit practiced weekly. The cast and pit also came together for a Sitzprobe, a rehearsal dedicated to integrating the singers with the pit. In addition to the cast and pit, the crew also played a vital part in creating the show. With the help of Mr. Joseph Napolitano and Ms. Emma Barakat, the students helped build the set and worked in the booth, where the lighting and sound was controlled. The costumes were also a major element in the production. Stage manager Julia Guagliardo (VI) said, “Finding costumes was really enjoyable. Mr. Napolitano and the costume team worked very hard to find costumes that fit with the time period and that worked well with our set.”
Overall, Chicago was an amazing experience for all of the cast, crew, and teachers involved. Nicole Gilbert, who played Velma, said, “Chicago was my favorite Pingry production. It was a hard show to be in and to direct because there are so many elements to it, but the cast and crew really pulled it off and made it a very rewarding experience.” The show also taught everyone involved many new skills. Guagliardo stated, “The musical taught me a plethora of skills that I will take with me. Working with such a large group of people was challenging at times, but overall showed me how powerful collaboration is. It was so wonderful to be given the opportunity to work hand in hand with both other students and teachers.”