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The Student News Site of Royal Oak High School

Acorn Newsmagazine

Drama Club performs “Chicago”

Cast and crews fuel success of fall production
Photo Credit: Drama Club Instagram

The Royal Oak High School Drama Club staged its  production of the musical “Chicago” on November 18th, 19th and 20th in the Kimball Auditorium. 

“Chicago” follows the story of Velma Kelly, a Vaudevillian who killed her sister and husband after catching the two together, and Roxie Hart, a housewife who killed the man with whom she was having an affair. Seniors Paige Clark (as Velma) and Ellie Russell (as Roxie) were supported by other principal characters including: Roxie’s lawyer Billy Flynn, played by senior Xander Ballew, and Roxie’s husband Amos Hart, played by senior Maya Rummel.

The plot revolves around Roxie’s murder of her ex-lover, the media circus that follows her trial, and how it plays out with the inmates at the Cook County Jail. 

This story is one that has engaged the minds of many who have seen “Chicago,” one of whom is ROHS Drama Club Director Matthew Harmon. 

An ROHS Class of 2016 graduate, Harmon interviewed and was offered the directing job last year.  His first production as director was “Willy Wonka.” During his years  at ROHS, Harmon was an active and dedicated member of the drama club, and appeared in seven of the eight productions during his time at the high school.

When the drama club director position opened, Harmon seized the opportunity. He remembered the wonderful community that the club provided and wanted to be a part of that community again.

“There was no second thought. I want to do this job,” he said.

As drama club director, Harmon oversees the productions and makes sure that everything runs smoothly in preparation for the first production in November and the second, which follows in March. He ensures that the student leaders get any help they need and that all students are achieving their full potential.

 “I am always here at drama club, whether it’s a Super Saturday, tech day, or whether it’s a rehearsal during the day,” he said.

Having directed last year’s productions of “Willy Wonka” and “Radium Girls,” Harmon has experience with musicals as well as plays. A play is a theatrical production that does not use music to further the plot. whereas a musical does. “Chicago” falls under the category of musical, one that focuses on the songs, and  in this case, dances.

 Bob Fosse is the writer, director, and choreographer of “Chicago.” The Fosse dance style is seen as a theatrical burlesque, with slow jazz-like pinpointed movements and flashy poses. This style, which is demonstrated throughout Fosse’s many plays, takes center stage in “Chicago,” which features nineteen musical numbers throughout its two acts.

“‘Chicago’ a dance first show. These dances have to be incredibly tight and incredibly evocative of the Fosse style,” Harmon said.

According to “Chicago” cast member Allison Wilson, the work is rewarding. 

“It’s really gratifying. It’s fun to perform these dances,” Wilson said.

Wilson plays Fred Casely, the man who is murdered by Roxie and acts as the catalyst to her story. A veteran of the drama club, Wilson has been involved in every production, and explained that the prepwork that goes into the songs and dances is extensive. The process involves learning the songs and dances at separate times and then combining them together into a singular cohesive act. Learning and perfecting this way may seem easy, but it’s challenging, as even small movements of an actor’s hands and keeping pace with your fellow cast members are vitally important to ensuring that the dances are performed correctly. 

According to Wilson, the popularity of “Chicago” adds to the excitement of being able to perform. 

While Wilson and all of the other members of the cast work on memorizing their lines and preparing for their musical numbers, the rest of the drama club focuses on making sure that the show runs smoothly. It should be noted that this preparation includes the cast, as every cast member is required to be a part of a crew as well.

Oftentimes. there is such a difference between like ‘Oh I’m cast and I’m crew.’ but we’re both.We are doing everything.

— Matthew Harmon

Senior Maddie Hanes serves as the secretary and stage manager of the drama club. She organizes the cast and crew, giving cues during shows and assisting during rehearsals.

“Anything behind the scenes is from the minds and effort of the crews,” said Hanes. “My job as a stage manager is to just put their hard work together.”

Hanes appreciates the camaraderie that develops among the drama club members.

We are a tightly knit group that all comes together to create amazing productions,

— Maddie Hanes

One major aspect of drama club productions involves costumes, which are organized by a crew. As head of the costume crew, senior Lily Devine works to ensure that the cast has the outfits that they need to perform the show. Her responsibilities include keeping the crew on schedule and fitting and organizing the costumes. 

Devine explained  that the first thing the crew does is research the costumes to know what their end product should look like. Then they look in thrift shops or the drama club costume collection to see what can be used and what alterations are needed for the clothes to be usable. Costume crew members also help during the production by helping the actors switch their costumes quickly between scenes.

Another key aspect of the prepwork that goes into a drama club production is publicity. The publicity crew works to make sure that people know about “Chicago” and the details about the production. In addition to acting, Wilson serves as the head of the publicity crew. The duties of publicity crew include making the official program and advertising the play throughout the school and community. Wilson organizes and ensures that the rest of the crew is engaged and able to meet deadlines.

“Chicago”  is a musical about murder and media. The topic of the media taking a trial and sensationalizing it to the extreme still holds true, forty-seven years after the musical was written. “Chicago” is one of the most famous musicals of all time, and has been seen by more than thirty-one million people. Hundreds more were added to that list following the drama club’s performances.

Harmon said that audiences familiar with Chicago  recognized certain elements of the production as “classic Chicago,” but that there were also portions that were a surprise.

Hanes saw the production as a success.

“The show came together because of the efforts of the cast and crew,” she said. “If you saw the show, you would agree that all of the long rehearsals, Super Saturdays and late nights paid off.  I couldn’t have asked for an easier and more successful run.”

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About the Contributor
Aidan Morris
Aidan Morris, Layout Editor
Hello! My name is Aidan Morris and I am a Senior here at ROHS. As a layout editor, a position I share with Estela, I work to create the layout of the magazine putting together the ads, photos, and stories. When I’m not writing and working on Layout’s, I enjoy going on walks, going to the ponds at the graveyard, spending time with friends, and going bowling. I have been a member of the ROHS bowling team for 3 years now. My favorite memory was when we beat North Farmington at home last year. I can’t wait to see how my final year of Acorn goes and I am certain it will be a wonderful year.

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