WHS Drama Department to present 'Chicago'

Last evening was opening night for the spring theatrical by the Waxahachie High School Fine Arts Group and it was spectacular!

Adapted from the late 20th century Broadway production and adding the explanatory subtitle, it has been sanitized for parents and school supervisors. We elders would not understand some of the profanity, nudity, promiscuity and obscene gestures of the original without looking it up on the dark net but, of course, the teenagers know all that stuff already so the expurgation was pointless.

But, even after the cleansing, there remained several sexy, long-legged “Rockettes-style” dance scenes. And it’s possible to have good fun without all the foul language. The singing was excellent, also the jazz band, and the staging nicely fit the intimate auditorium of the new high school.

The ensemble of dancers, especially the girls, were trained mostly by Jennifer Stevens but, after her untimely death, her daughter, Summer, stepped in to finish the choreography; it was carefully rehearsed and synchronized, excellent throughout.

The ensemble had to sing also, and did a nice job as the supporting chorus. I thought Emmeline Bearden, who is a drum major with the WHS marching band, was especially good. Several of the other girls were skillfully athletic. Even the young men in the dancing ensemble were proficient.

Accompaniment by the WHS Jazz Band was great, as usual. A muted trumpet strain of minor tones in the second act by Ahstin Rostetter was haunting.

The two main female singing roles were taken by the skilled duo of Madison Zandt and Kamerann Burney. They were excellent. I thought Zandt’s slightly rough-edged voice fit well to the role of Velma.

Will Deen was effective in the role of the shady lawyer, Billy Flynn. At one point he was literally carried around by six of the dancing girls. Nice work if you can get it.

I hope you will excuse my bias, Dear Reader, but my grandson, Ben Barker almost pulled off a show-stopper with his “Mr Cellophane” song and dance in the second act.

I must complain about some of the sound work. Although properly set up and generally very good, Kamerann Burney as the Roxie character needed more volume. Some of the mikes were not soon-enough turned off when an actor left the stage; that interfered with subsequent spoken lines. The audience could also hear the rustling of clothes-changes from mikes not turned off. And the two pretty girls that sang farewell passages at the end of the play, didn’t have their mikes turned on at all.

I’m sure those issues will be solved in the presentations of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I must add that director Andy Reynolds did an excellent job of demanding good diction of his actors. We in the audience could understand practically every word.

I appreciated the display of name-labeled headshots of the actors and the entire troupe of back stage assistants, who are so essential to the successful presentation, around the entrance to the auditorium.

Great job, folks, all of you! This show should be advertised throughout the Metroplex.

It ought to be sold out every night. TV?

Joel Kirkpatrick is a retired pathologist who resides in Waxahachie with his wife. Their grandson, Ben Barker, is a member of the Spirit of Waxahachie Indian Band.

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