Lights dim, curtains open, and the spotlight lands on an ensemble of dancers. The pit orchestra plays the opening note, and the action begins. Eastlake High School is putting on their first live musical in almost three years, and they are going big with a production of Chicago.
Chicago begins when vaudeville star Velma Kelly murders her husband. Chicago’s top lawyer, Billy Flynn, decides to defend her. In prison, Kelly meets wannabe star Roxie Hart, who has also murdered her partner. When Flynn decides to take up Hart’s case as well, Kelly feels upstaged and the two women publicly spar for fame and celebrity.
As specified on the ticket website, Chicago is intended for more mature audiences. When asked about her decision to put on Chicago, director and Eastlake drama teacher Kate Wold said she likes to “have a balance between family-friendly shows, and something that is more challenging; something high schoolers actually want to do.” Through producing Chicago, Wold wanted to explore riskier but more realistic themes.
“Come prepared to be surprised about what we’re allowed to do in a high school,” said junior Daphne Ritz, who plays Velma.
For the first time in history, Eastlake’s production will have two casts performing the show on different days: Cast A and Cast B.
Wold said double-casting was a risky decision, as her double-casting experience was limited to a 2017 play.
“It was a lot more complicated than I thought, but I absolutely loved it,” Wold said.
Ritz said double-casting was pretty tricky in the beginning as many actors felt as if they were getting only “half as much rehearsal time.” However, as rehearsals progressed, Ritz found it “very helpful to be able to watch somebody else perform” the same part; visualizing choreography and blocking was now “10 times easier.”
Wold recalled how during auditions, there was an abundance of talent, and double-casting the show began to make more sense as the audition process went on because she was able to give more talented actors a chance to perform. Double-casting also created a new sense of community because there were many more actors in featured roles, and everyone had an alternate cast member to depend on. Eastlake was doing virtual classes for two weeks in January, during a critical time for rehearsals, so the extra support was especially helpful in keeping the production on schedule.
Although the actors have worked extremely hard to put on this show, Chicago would not have been complete without the dedicated production crew and the pit orchestra that provides the upbeat jazz soundtrack to this captivating story.
Costumes are an essential part of productions as they help set the mood, time period, and setting. Senior Jessica Kursardi accomplished just that as costume manager. Kursardi explained that she had to make sure she was picking clothing pieces for actors that could “show their character,” but at the same time be thrown on over or worn under articles of clothing because of the many quick changes.
Seniors Josh Park (drums) and Victor Moutafov (trumpet) are both orchestra pit members. Because they are under the stage, they cannot see what is happening on stage.
“Most orchestra pits have monitors so we can see what is happening on stage,” Park said. “But this one does not.”
Park said this can make it extremely difficult to sync with the actors at times because they only have their conductor to rely on. Moutafov finds the silver lining — despite multiple solos, being under the stage means that he “does not get many nerves.”
The two casts will be performing at selected timings over the next two weeks at the Eastlake High School theater. Sophomore Emily Stuart plays Roxie in Cast A.
“Be ready to have fun,” said Stuart. “You never know what’s coming next.”
Tickets for Chicago can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets. See this link for more ticket info. Cast A performs March 24 and March 30 at 7:00 p.m., March 26 at 1:00 p.m., and April 1 at 2:30 p.m. Cast B performs on March 25, 26, 31, and April 1 at 7:00 p.m.