Cal drama brings criminally good jazz with ‘Chicago’


Alex Gomes

Student performers dance in front of a city backdrop in full Chicago-style with flair, darkness and all that jazz. The show opens tonight at 7 p.m. in the Cal High theater.

Tejas Mahesh, Staff Writer

The dark thrill of Broadway’s musical “Chicago” finishes its three-night run tonight at Cal High’s theater.
Set in Chicago during the jazz age of the 1920s, “Chicago” is a musical about women killing their lovers, husbands, and boyfriends. The murderers are taken to jail and court, where the price is their death. Despite the high stakes, the women try to become famous.
One such murderer is Roxie Hart. Despite being married to Amos Hart, she has an affair with Fred Casey, whom she murders after he tries to break up with her. Arrested and taken to Cook County Jail, Hart gets her first taste of fame.
Senior Briana Farias, who is portraying Hart, hopes to show the audience the character’s dual nature.
“I am trying to show her thought process [and] evolution of her being really ditzy and playing dumb to actually being very meticulous,” Farias said. “I want that to come across as like she isn’t really a good person.”
At the Cook County Jail, Hart meets Billy Flynn, played by senior Dylan Burlingame, the assistant director for the musical. Flynn is a lawyer who has represented every infamous murderer in the jail and won nearly every case. As the silver-tongue of the courtroom, he knows the tricks of convincing the jury of innocence.
Hart tries to buy Flynn’s services by convincing Hart to find a way to pay Flynn $5,000. But things get dicey when Hart fires Flynn.
“His whole model [is that] everything’s kind of show business,” Burlingame said. “He has this whole song, ‘Razzle Dazzle’, about how these trials are all show business. It’s just a big circus.”
Fame, money and revenge are the driving motives that are woven into the musical and each character’s actions.
“I think a lot of the characters are overtaken by greed. They want to be famous, or money, and [they] like to be this massive, famous star,” Burlingame said. “Roxy at least gets super famous and everyone wants to know her and have her autograph. You kind of see the downfall of that.”
The idea of producing “Chicago” came from band director Javier Cerna, who planned to conduct the pit. But because of a change in plans, play productions and drama teacher Laura Woods bought the royalties for the music instead.
In addition to the music, the directors, actors and crew chose symbolically representative colors.
“We want a lot of big dramatic red, because when you think Chicago and murder and blood, you think of red,” Woods said. “So we have some characters in red, but we have a lot of washes, which is when we throw light on the back wall, which is called the cyclorama.”
Cal’s drama program consists of student actors and techies. The techies are in charge of building the sets and props, designing costumes, handling the lighting and sound during shows.
The light techs oversee all elements of lighting including color, which is used to highlight characters on and create an overall mood of the show. Sound techs deal with microphones, music tracks and sound effects, while shop techs design and build the sets on stage.
“You have to envision what you want each scene to look like,” head designer Darren Murphy, a senior, said. “Each scene could be in a different place, or the big musical numbers should be here or there. You also need to have a set that’s conducive to all the choreography.”
Each department works together to create the musical. With lighting, costumes, music and set design, Burlingame hopes bring out the dark atmosphere of “Chicago.”
“It’s really cool to kind of see all these pieces over time, kind of build closer to your vision,” Burlingame said. “And then at the very end, they all come together for the show, which is the final vision, obviously.”