Chicago Dazzles Sold-Out Audiences

by The Ellis School
The Upper School musical, Chicago, razzle-dazzled audiences on February 9 and 10, with sold-out crowds in attendance on Friday and Saturday night. A satire on corruption, sensationalism, and celebrity, Chicago tells the story of two rival vaudevillian murderesses, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, who won’t let a little thing like an impending murder charge get in the way of their showbiz dreams.
The Ellis production opened with Payton Ferris, Class of 2019, transporting audiences to the prohibition-era, roaring 1920s, as cabaret singer Velma Kelly. Payton belted out the toe-tapping, crowd pleaser hit “And All That Jazz” alongside the white costume-clad company. Audiences were then introduced to leading lady, Roxie Hart, played by Lysa Meyer, Class of 2018, with a literal bang—as she shot her lover who foolishly tried to walk out on her which sets the plot into motion. Lysa’s first solo, a wide-eyed, comedic performance of “Funny Honey,” showcased her soulful voice as she’s pegged with murder after her well-meaning, yet pathetic husband Amos, played by Megumi Kivuva, Class of 2018, attempts to cover for her but uncovers her infidelity at the same time.

As Roxie is charged and the show moves to the prison, Natalie Beattie, Class of 2018; Gabriela Boyiadzis, Class of 2018; Sierra Brandegee, Class of 2019; Laurel Conover, Class of 2018; Payton Ferris, Class of 2019; and Olivia Simon, Class of 2018, led the company in the provocative “Cell Block Tango” which shares the backstory of the women convicts—who explain to the audience that their crimes were completely rational, because the men all “had it coming.” Lemlem Gamble, Class of 2018, then debuted as Matron Mama Morton in the show-stopping number, “When You’re Good to Mama,” where her booming voice, stage presence, and swagger lit up the stage.

While Roxie tries to find her place and her motive for murder, she is introduced to best lawyer in town, the one, the only, Billy Flynn played by Renee Petersen who’s rendition of “All I Care About” showed her impressive range and powerful voice. Faculty members then joined the cast on stage, a longstanding Ellis tradition, for the number “We Both Reached for the Gun” which featured the entire company.

Act Two brought even more big numbers with highlights including Roxie and company singing, “Me and My Baby,” a memorable and self-effacing performance of “Mr. Cellophane” from Megumi Kivuva, and “Razzle Dazzle” where Roxie’s trial turns into a media spectacle courtesy of Billy Flynn and Mary Sunshine, played by Lily Baker. The show concluded with a finale from Roxie and Velma, clad in sequins and fur, who agree to put their differences aside and team up for a murderess double act that will get their names back in the marquee. With huge smiles and in-sync dance moves, Lysa and Payton brought the show to a close with spunk and enthusiasm.

As the curtain closed, audiences roared with applause as the casts took their bows, proving once again that our student actresses and Performing Arts Department are truly top-notch. Ellis parent Annette Banks shared, “Congratulations to the cast and crew for an exceptional performance last night! And kudos to Ms. Sturdevant for her vision and hard work in bringing it together.” Ellis parent and strings teacher Kim Hardin said, “Congratulations to the Ellis girls and my fabulous colleagues and friends on a FABULOUS all girls performance of Chicago! Not an easy show, but the Jazz was hot, and the Fosse was on point!

Students began preparing for the musical in November under the direction of stellar faculty and staff members: Sara Studevant, Director of Production and Choreography, Elisa Hill, Conductor and Director of Music and Choreography, and Brian Krugle, Technical Director. With all hands on deck for the production, students not only sang and danced from center stage, but were an integral part of the behind-the-scenes preparation, planning, and direction. Students built sets, designed costumes, collected stage props, and even controlled the stage lighting.

Chicago was a big challenge and the girls rose to it in a way that was totally their own. From original choreography to the nature of the show’s content, Chicago was really an opportunity for students to take a chance and trust themselves and their castmates,” said Ms. Sturdevant. “This year’s show was really good and I was happy to see that they were so tremendously proud of themselves and the production.”

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Chicago!

Company List:
Lily Baker, Class of 2021
Olivia Ball, Class of 2019
Sydne' Ballengee, Class of 2019
Aira Bazaz, Class of 2020
Natalie Beattie, Class of 2018
Gabriella Boyiadzis, Class of 2018
Sierra Brandegee, Class of 2019
Laurel Conover, Class of 2018
Erica Davis, Class of 2019
Mady Denko, Class of 2019
Leah Ewers, Class of 2019
Payton Ferris, Class of 2019
Louise Finnstrom, Class of 2019
Kay Fleischner, Class of 2020
Lemlem Gamble, Class of 2019
Maggie Ginter-Frankovitch, Class of 2020
Andie Hardin, Class of 2020
Kiera Harrell-Danks, Class of 2021
Lauren Jasper, Class of 2019
Megumi Kivuva, Class of 2018
Hunter Kloss, Class of 2021
Alena Lateef, Class of 2020
Calista Martin-Singer, Class of 2021
Lysa Meyer, Class of 2018
Renee Petersen, Class of 2019
Jamaya Purdie, Class of 2018
Amelia Rosenstock, Class of 2019
Simone Rothstein, Class of 2020
Samantha Silk, Class of 2021
Olivia Simon, Class of 2018
Jayce Sledge, Class of 2020
Annie Trimbur, Class of 2020
Meg Wolfe, Class of 2018
Alexandra Belville Wood, Class of 2020
Lowrie Woodside, Class of 2021

Click here to view more photos from the show.