Dancing, new theater director, commentary on media and all that jazz


Zella Lezak, Staff Writer

Following the retirements of beloved Urban theater teachers Frances Evens and Wendy Parkman, growing pains were to be expected within the drama department. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm surrounding Urban’s upcoming production of “Chicago” is a testimony to the Urban theatrical tradition of igniting discussion about important social issues.

Una Lomax-Emrick ‘19, a member of the cast said, “I am so excited to be doing this production. I love everybody in the cast!”

Brooke Steele, Urban’s choral director, said she is “looking forward to the journey of teaching acting with your voice” so that key traits of the characters can shine through during songs.

The musical “Chicago” is set in the 1920s and follows six murderesses along their journey to face a trial where they do their best to not get convicted. The two protagonists are Velma Kelly, played by Lomax-Emrick, and Roxie Hart, played by Renée Theodore ‘19. Along their journey, they meet successful lawyer Billy Flynn, played by Nicholas Tachibana ‘20, who masks his greed as a desire to find love.  

Jason Patrick Sands is currently playing Billy Flynn in the Broadway production of  ‘Chicago’. In an interview with the Urban Legend, Patrick Sands commented about Urban’s production by saying, “I was a little surprised. But at the same time, if I was in high school, and I found out that we were doing ‘Chicago,’ I would be so excited!”

Patrick Sands was not the only one who was surprised by Urban’s choice of “Chicago” for the Fall Production class. Theodore said that “Chicago is the most show-tuney” of all of the shows that she has been in at Urban. In addition, “Chicago” is notably different from previous productions because of the amount of dance and movement it involves.

Urban’s new theater director John Warren commented, “I understood that there had not been a dance-heavy show at Urban done in a while, so we decided that this would be a great opportunity to give students an experience with dancing.”

Urban alumnus and show choreographer Zach Isen (‘08) said that he “[loves] being influenced by a choreographer (in the case of “Chicago”, Bob Fosse) “trying to take their motifs and the style of their dance and make it my own.”

While “Chicago” has its beautiful dance numbers and intricate speakeasy scenes, the show is also packed with commentary about corrupt justice systems and the power of media.

Theodore said, “‘[Chicago]’ says a lot about the culture of consuming suffering and pain as a sort of entertainment. I think that is really prevalent in today’s culture and always has been. There’s this idea that murder is fun and cool and it doesn’t take into account [the] fact that people are dying.”

Other cast members shared similar reflections on the lessons of the play. Lomax-Emrick said that “Chicago” shows “how thoroughly greed and corruption can permeate a society.”

When asked what he was looking forward to about “Chicago,” Warren said, “I’m just thrilled to be coming forward as the theater director. I’m really grateful to Frances and Wendy for all that they’ve created and I hope to carry on their legacy.”

Overall, Urban should look forward to a production riddled not only with catchy songs and entertaining dance numbers but also with intense commentary on how our justice system is influenced by the media.