April 4, 5 and 6, Only Opportunity to see ‘Chicago’

Jenna Ross (left) and Gabi Feingold perform ‘Hot Honey Rag’ at Palisades High School.

Stellar Production of ‘Chicago’ at PaliHi

 If you have a desire to see a Broadway musical, such as “Chicago,” you can travel to New York City and pay anywhere from $50 to $160, or more, and be nicely entertained by professionals.

OR, you can go to PaliHi and see a first-class production with an exceptionally talented cast. If Gabi Feingold, playing Velma Kelly or Jenna Ross as Roxie Hart don’t go on to Broadway careers, it will only be because they don’t want to — they’re that good.

For the mere price of $16 (for adults), you will be in for the treat of your life. “Chicago” has to be one of the best shows that has been produced in Pacific Palisades in the past 10 years. The moment Feingold came on stage with “And All That Jazz,” (and owned it), I knew this production was going to hit it out of the park. And it did!

Speaking to a friend during intermission, we both came to the conclusion that in many high schools, if you’re a reasonable singer, you could easily get the lead in a production. Not here. The talent is so deep, that only the exceptional get the starring roles.

“Cell Block Tango” with Feingold, Rain Chichester, Hunter Barnett, Ruby Smith-Anderson, Eloisa Huggins and Sally Kearns was a joy to watch. I want to go back to the show a second time just to see the number, again

Jamie Clark-Mazur, as Roxie Hart’s husband, was nicely “invisible.”  Jack Essner, playing Billy Flynn, was perfectly oily and charismatic. Both had great voices.

Directed and choreographed by Cheri and Monique Smith, the dancers moved with Bob Fosse’s style. (In 1976, Fosse was nominated for three Tony Awards for “Chicago”: Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography.)

Before the show and during intermission, students dressed in 1920s-style clothing, and mingled with the audience. The Smiths always manage to use the maximum number of students in their shows, which is to be applauded.

“Chicago” is set in the flapper decade in Chicago. Roxie Hart, a housewife and night club dancer, murders her lover when he tells her he’s leaving her. In order to avoid conviction, she convinces her husband to come up with the money to hire lawyer Billy Flynn, known for his slick tricks and jury manipulation. In the process, her rival cellmate and murderer, Velma Kelly, who had been the sensation du jour is lost in the background. Not a place Kelly wants to be.

The music is by John Kander and the book and lyrics are by Fred Ebb. The PaliHi band is great and led by Alex Dale and Elizabeth Stoyanovich. The choir is directed by Jaco Wong.

The costuming was inspired and the students in charge: Lauren Bernstein, Madeline Jalali, Celine Rahnama, Sarah Senator, Valentina Silardi and Mia Taher are to be commended. Putting the boys in baby “suits” for Roxie’s solo “Me and My Baby” was just the right touch.

The Broadway revival of this show was the winner of six 1997 Tony Awards — and the Palisades High School production is a mega winner. If you’ve never gone to a show, go. The duet/dance number “Hot Honey Rag” with Feingold and Ross is spectacular. Free parking, $16 admission, the best entertainment you’ll find in the City — and let it all “Razzle Dazzle” you.

Shows are April 4, 5 and 6 at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 6, in Mercer Hall, 15777 Bowdoin Street.

“Chicago” is presented through special arrangement with R&H Theatricals. www.rnh.com.

Dancers/singers perform “Cell Block Tango.”

The only question this reviewer asks is “When will PaliHi have a real theater for its performers?” They deserve it.

 

 

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