Last Thursday evening the Mountebanks Theater Club premiered its performance of “Chicago,” a musical set in “roaring ’20s” Chicago. The story revolves around two fame hungry dames, each facing murder trials while also competing for the newspaper’s front page. Directing the production was psychology major Jessica Rosenthal ’18.
The assistant director and stage manager was organizing theme major Arielle Singer ’18. Both students have been members of the Mountebanks Theater Club since their freshman year and performed in last year’s production of “Spring Awakening.” Choreographing the musical was mechanical engineering major, Giorgia Comeau ’16.
Em Hiller ’18 and Julianne Tatelbaum ’17 star in their respective roles of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelley. Co-starring in the production were Kyle Miller ’18 as Roxie’s doting husband, Amos Hart and Riley Konsella ’17 as the greedy, womanizing lawyer, Billy Flynn. Miller also served as the production’s musical director, with the Union College Jazz Ensemble serving as the pit band.
As the original “Chicago” production was incredibly dance intensive, choreographers Comeau and Singer were tasked with re-choreographing the numbers to fit with the students’ levels. Singer comments, “We’ve taken a decently traditional path with this show, meaning we were rather inspired by the work of Bob Fosse, one of the original creators of the show.”
Additionally, as “Chicago” was run by a theater club as opposed to the Theater Department, students were forced to seek outside resources for the set design and lighting of the musical. Altogether, the set design was cleverly done. Students used black drapes and white scrims for backdrop which contributed to cool silhouetted scenes behind the white scrims. This worked especially well for the murder scenes of Roxie’s lover, Fred (portrayed by Michael Stalteri ’19) and the hanging of the Hungarian prisoner, Hunyak (portrayed by Comeau).
Costumes looked stunning on the actors and further drew the audience into “Chicago’s” world. Singer comments, “From a costuming perspective, my goal was to bring a traditional Fosse look to the show (fishnets, black leotards, just overall sexy) but still have a glimpse of the 1920’s (the time period the show takes place in).
So, costuming wise there is a bit of both.” “Cell Block Tango” was a major highlight of the musical. The girls were sassy, engaging and played to the back of the house.
Tatelbaum truly sold her performance as the sexy ex-vaudevillian convict Velma. From the beginning of the musical she had the audience intrigued with her story.
Hiller also put on a great performance as the pretty yet murderous blonde Roxie.
Although the dynamic duo of Roxie and Velma were corrupt and manipulative, the actresses still managed to make the characters identifiable.
Their chemistry was believable and kept the audience rooting for their side. Konsella’s portrayal of Billy Flynn was engaging and strong, while Miller had the audience pitying him in his rendition of “Mr. Cellophane.”
The show’s blocking was varied and cleverly done, especially considering Old Chapel’s layout, which is not very conducive to staging a theater performance.
The students really made the most with their limited resources. The supporting cast also gave a great performance.
Whether they were portraying paramours, murderers, or news reporters, the supporting cast really made the musical truly immersive. Altogether, “Chicago” was a roaring success.