Razzle Dazzle 'em: Wheaton North puts on 'Chicago: High School Edition'

For its spring musical, Wheaton North High School is putting on "Chicago: High School Edition" on April 21-23.

This thrilling show is full of intrigue, murder, scandal, and the trial of the century.

Set in Chicago during the Roaring '20s, this show follows the story of Roxie Hart (played by Skylar Rasmason) as she is sent to prison for the murder of her adulterous lover.

Skylar Rasmason, right, as Roxie Hart sings about her "Funny Honey" husband Amos, played by Cole Morgan, during "Chicago" at Wheaton North. Courtesy of Anna Hudson

Roxie's husband Amos (played by Cole Morgan) stands by his wife's side, despite her lying and betrayal.

While in prison, Hart meets Velma Kelly (played by Bella Diaz), a former stage performer, now serving time for murdering her husband and sister.

Both Hart and Kelly dream about being able to once again perform on the stage, and with the help of Mama Morton (played by Katie Payne) they hope to use the press to influence the jury that they are innocent.

Will smooth talking lawyer Billy Flynn (played by Cal Sohmer) help free these two wannabe starlets, or will their verdict be guilty?

Director Jessi Lim, as well as members of the cast and crew talk about the production of the classic Kander and Ebb musical, with Wheaton North junior Anna Hudson contributing the photos.

Bella Diaz as Velma Kelly tells her story during the "Cell Block Tango" number of Wheaton North's spring musical "Chicago." Courtesy of Anna Hudson

Q: Why did you choose "Chicago" for Wheaton North High School's spring musical?

Jessi Lim: We continually try to challenge our students with each production, and "Chicago" is one of the most iconic shows in the modern musical theater canon. Bob Fosse's dance style is so incredibly specific and we knew our students would be able to take on this production and sell it! We are so proud of what these students have done!

Q: How many students are involved with the production?

Lim: We have 31 students in the cast, 22 in the pit band, and 30 involved behind the scenes on different crews, including lights, sound, props, costumes, and student leadership.

Ryan Mark, left, and Connor Robbins dance the opening number, "All That Jazz," for Wheaton North's spring musical "Chicago." Courtesy of Anna Hudson

Q: How will your play differ from the original?

Lim: We are doing the high school edition, which makes adjustments and edits to the original script such as adjusting some songs and cutting other songs altogether. This version still encompasses the essence of the show, however; and everyone involved still gets to experience a piece of musical theater history.

Q: What were the most challenging aspects of getting this production together?

Lim: Timing. We begin our process in February when there are so many things going on at once, which made the rehearsal process a bit of a challenge. Once we came back from spring break, we had effectively two weeks to really put the show together, which can be incredibly stressful. But our students met this challenge with grace and aplomb.

Q: What did you find most rewarding?

William Neff (ensemble): The community that we are able to create. I am not one to normally do theater, but I have loved every second on stage and also off. We have all become best friends and I am beyond excited to be able to share this wonderful piece of art with the rest of the community.

Cole Morgan (Amos): Seeing the lighting and the fog machine come together to set the mood on the stage was very rewarding and almost overwhelming. It gave the show some razzle dazzle and really sews it all together.

Leoni Reilly (student technical director): The constant roller coaster of emotions experienced by everyone involved has surely been a ride. The blend of all theatrical elements: performers, lights, set, sound, costumes, and every other part of the process has been tremendous. This is the most technical show we've ever put up; being a part of that element and seeing all of the work that we put into building up the program is something that I will forever treasure. This show will make an impact, so that by the first second of the show, when the house dims and lights focus on the actors as the band begins to play, the audience will feel fully immersed in the satire of murder, scandal, and jazz that is "Chicago."

The cast and crew of Wheaton North's production of "Chicago" come together for the first time at the "sitzprobe," where the orchestra and singers rehearse together. Courtesy of Anna Hudson

Q: What were some of the best moments in putting together this production?

Annemarie Zimmerman (set crew): I love watching the cast use the set we build and seeing all the parts of the production come together to make something amazing.

Zoe Shores-Navata (Squish): I've always loved dancing and the choreography and combination of singing and acting really allows the actors to shine on stage. "Cell Block Tango" is an iconic number and I'm so grateful to be a part of it.

Darcy Ewoldt (ensemble): Some of the best moments of this show are the incredible memories you are able to make with such incredible people. There is nothing better than getting to know people like theater people; they are the best.

Bella Stone (Mary Sunshine): My favorite moment in this production was watching such an iconic show become our own. All of us have heard "All That Jazz" sometime in our life, and having the opportunity to put our own spin on it was an incredible honor and something we will all treasure for the rest of our lives.

Bella Diaz as Velma Kelly leads the ensemble in "All that Jazz" during rehearsal for Wheaton North's upcoming production of "Chicago." Courtesy of Anna Hudson

Q: What do you think audiences will enjoy most about this play?

Skylar Rasmason (Roxie): I think audiences will enjoy the thrilling twist on murder, mystery, and mischief, and also appreciate our celebration of feminism. There's something for everyone to relate to, because after all, the show hits pretty close to home ... Chicago!

Cate Freeze (set chairman): I hope that the audience will enjoy the many intricate lighting techniques that we implemented to amplify the set that we built. We really poured our hearts into this and we hope it shows!

Katie Payne (Matron Mama Morton): I think the audience will most enjoy the energy on stage and the chemistry between the actors. The amazing energy is absolutely infectious among all members of the cast and we have all enjoyed growing into our roles and becoming more confident in ourselves.

Danielle LeVasseur, Ryan Mark, Ruth Ahern, Vera Tax, Zoe Shores-Navata, Darcy Ewoldt, Charis Jackson, Natalie Diaz and Phoebe Lang rehearse "All That Jazz" for the spring musical at Wheaton North High School. Courtesy of Anna Hudson

Q: What do some of the performers have to say about the show and their role in it?

Connor Robbins (Fred Casely and every "Cell Block Tango" husband): The show is a fantastic satire, performing it is exhilarating. I have a terrible habit of dying on stage, but other than that, it is fun when I am alive.

Crew members Leoni Reilly and Melanie Kurtz build the set for Wheaton North's production of "Chicago" Courtesy of Anna Hudson

Q: Anything else you'd like readers to know about this show?

David Mann (assistant student tech director): A lot of love and effort has been poured into this production, in all aspects. From the cast, to the crew, and everyone else involved, it's been a wonderful production with some amazing folks. I certainly think the audience will enjoy it, so come check it out!

‘Chicago: High School Edition’

When: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, April 21-22, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, April 23

Where: Wheaton North High School auditorium, 701 W. Thomas Road

Tickets: $10, $5 for students and seniors; email brian.phillips@cusd200 to reserve your seats.

Cast and crewCast: Ruth Ahern, Sam Calderwood, Victoria Crowley, Bella Diaz, Natalie Diaz, Darcy Ewoldt, Maggie Gross, Lily Gurak, Ben Hanson, Matt Hyde, Charis Jackson, Phoebe Lang, Danielle LeVasseur, Ryan Mark, Cole Morgan, Will Neff, Katie Payne, Skylar Rasmason, Connor Robbins, Corinna Rodriguez, Marcos Rodriguez, Riley Scott, Zoe Shores-Navata, Cal Sohmer, Bella Stone, Vera Tax, Kailey Underwood, Ian Whiteside, Skylar Youngberg, and Habonimana ZuenaPit band: Matthew Cole, Molly Daniell, Melody Elbel, Nathan Gordeuk, Violet Grisco, Jackie Guglielmi, Michael Jenz, Max Martinez, Andrew Monson, Sarah Park, Charlie Peterson, Zach Rea, Meredith Taylor, Joe Toly, Josh Villanoy, Sam Wakeman, Evelyn Winchell, Blake Witter, and Micah YoderCrew: Sol Antunez, Ava Biagini, Cora Botts, Esme Burghart, Sadie Chelsen, Miya Dai, Kate Drost, Sarah Grossi, Anna Hudson, Megan Jaax, Ash Janik, Ivy Jobgen, Carver Johnson, Hannah Julian, Elliot Kozlowski, Melanie Kurtz, Katherine Nguyen, Addy Offutt, Christian Pedersen, Emily Peterson, Grace Pickut, Lukas Schaafsma, Avery Schuda, Nina Simon, Andreea Sofariu, Jupiter Staley, Abigail Williams, Shannon Winckle, and Annemarie ZimmermanStudent leadership: Josiah Cook, Cate Freeze, Kaela Maghinang, David Mann, Tobes Martin, Juno Pizziferro, Amanda Price, Leoni Reilly, Grace Wilson, and Rachel WilsonDirector of Performing Arts: Courtney FrickeDirector: Jessi LimVocal director: Kassy KrusePit band director: Kent KruseChoreographer: Alex StrahanoskiCostumes: Katelyn SuttonLights: Brian ThiesProps: Ally TuckerBox office: Brian PhillipsActivities director: Melissa Nilles

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