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All That Jazz About NHS Chicago!

“Chicago: Teen Edition” opened its doors on February 10, 2022, with a 5, 6, 7, 8. Set in Chicago during the Roaring Twenties with its lead murderesses, Roxie Hart played by Caroline Ritacco and Velma Kelly played by Valeria Flores, “Chicago” follows the story of Roxie Hart and her unique adventures on Murderess Row at Cook County Jail. It provides an incredible mix of scandal, jazz, fame, and humor with a hint of love.


“Chicago: Teen Edition” was the result of months of preparation. Whether it was delight, sympathy, or humor, the audience was always engaged. The set for the stage was unique and vivid with color; it truly helped bring the production to life, especially for the “Cell Block Tango” and “Funny Honey” musical numbers. However, there were some inconsistencies with the microphones and the volume. The microphones kept cutting out as well as being unstable and the volume was inconsistent. Despite the technical difficulties, the actors on stage did not miss a beat. They were well-focused, knew what they were supposed to be doing, and when they were supposed to be doing it. They were clearly well-prepared for all of the smooth transitions and performances. Frankly, they brought out the meaning of “the show must go on” to life. 


Their dances were choreographed exceptionally well and fit the production nicely. In addition, the scenery and the overall feeling of the musical were shown in the lighting and the costumes. Most of the cast, including Velma and the murderesses, wore revealing black outfits that fit the style well. Amos, played by Uriel Concepcion, had a classic 1920s common style which consisted of a vest with a dress shirt underneath, and some dress pants. Billy Flynn, played by Dylan Thayer, wore a 1920s-esque suit which essentially added to his character's personality. Fred Casely, played by Lincoln Boyce, and Officer Fogarty, played by Samuel Guanzon, were both wearing plain black t-shirts and pants. Ritacco had multiple outfit changes including a baby pink silk robe, a classic black outfit, a modern blue dress, and a gold 1920s dancing dress.


Caroline Ritacco is a competitive sailor in the summer, drum major of the Marching Band in the fall, and has been involved in theater in the winter and spring. When reflecting on the musical, Ritacco shared that her favorite song to perform was either “Roxie” or the beginning of “Nowadays”, and her favorite scene to act in was “Razzle-Dazzle”. When describing “Chicago" in three words, she said "frivolous, bold, and exciting". She also can’t just pick one favorite musical; Ritacco’s top three favorite musical theater shows are “Falsettos,” “Something Rotten,” and “Avenue Q.” She enjoys unique street plays, which fits her personality because she later revealed that she is a “more street play kind of person.” Ritacco’s dream musicals to act in are “Avenue Q,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Legally Blond,” and “Mean Girls.”


This past fall, Ritacco led the Marching Band to victory at the US Bands National Championship. She wants to “major in a BFA or a BA in musical theater…” and if that doesn’t happen she would like to,  “major in music production or maybe minor in it; but, [her] goal is to major in musical theater, and become an actress.” Along her journey, Ritacco’s character, Roxie Hart, encounters many strange but helpful characters to guide her on her journey. For example, when Roxie meets Velma Kelly.


Velma Kelly is played by Valeria Flores in a sassy and spunky fashion. Velma is known as a rude, selfish person that only wants to get out of jail to achieve her theatrical goals without helping anyone else. Flores is quite different. She is a very bubbly and kind person who would probably do the complete opposite. Her portrayal of someone who is completely unlike her only highlights her skills as an actress. She enjoys getting boba, playing guitar and piano with her friend Jordan Baluyot who plays MC in the production, and getting grilled cheese with her friends. 


When looking back at her time on the musical, Flores said that her favorite song that she performed was “All That Jazz”, and her favorite scene was a tie between the finale and a scene with Velma, Roxie, and Mama Morton. She was confident in her description of  “Chicago” as "fierce, powerful, and fun". Flores’ favorite musical theater show though, is “West Side Story,” and if she were to act in it, she claims she would want to be Anita. 


She frequently does musicals as she wants to major in theater and has recently gone to ten auditions for colleges in Chicago, IL. Aside from Nutley, Flores has her musical adventures predominantly at a studio in South Orange called Class Act Performing Arts Studio. She's been attending there for a little under ten years. She mentioned that she, “gets all [her] training there.” Flores participates in Paper Mill PlayHouse every summer and does their summer conservatory. 


“Chicago: Teen Addition” was directed by numerous people including Rebecca Polynice (the director and conductor), Alexandra Miller (the assistant director), Alexis Rizzo (the vocal director), and was choreographed by Rebecca Vigna. The main director was Rebecca Polynice. Polynice has been directing for two years; but, she started doing musical direction in 2019 for Nutley High School’s, “Newsies”.  Of the two musicals she’s directed so far, Polynice believes that the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” was her favorite musical to direct because she thought it was “adorable and really easy for kids to identify with those characters.” Nevertheless, she said “Chicago” was a lovely musical to direct as well because though it was the most work, it provided the most reward. 


Her favorite part of directing was, “working collaboratively with the other directors, so when our visions all come together it creates magic and it honestly is like more than any of us can do on our own.” Polynice said that this production couldn’t have been done without all of its directors and collaborators. She shares that her dream musical to direct is “Beauty and the Beast” and if she were in “Chicago”, she would want to be Mama Morton. Her favorite characters in “Chicago” were the murderesses and Amos.


Overall, “Chicago: Teen Addition” is a story of multiple women killing their husbands, boyfriends, and lovers out of pure frustration and female rage. It is a wonderful musical and the Nutley High School portrayed it admirably. It was great to watch, engaging, and it was very entertaining.