Chicago Teen Edition: Spotlight Theatre Show Dazzles


Courtesy of Harley Hopkins

Mariela Palencia as Velma Kelly, surrounded by the ensemble, strikes a pose at the end of the first number, “All that Jazz”

The lights dim, the curtain opens, and the word Chicago appears in bright lights as the first musical number begins.

This year the FCHS Spotlight Theatre Company put on the Teen Edition of Maurine Dallas Watkins’ play Chicago that originally came out in 1926. Chicago wasn’t made into a musical until it was brought to Broadway in 1975 by director and choreographer Bob Fosse.

Chicago is about two criminals who become vaudeville theater rivals after their individual cases become “flavor of the month” type murders.

The show was creative and overall just really entertaining to see. The skillful cast came together to show off the best of the FCHS theatre program.With enchanting dancing coordinated to a tee, and spectacular singing that lit up the stage, the Falls Church performers made their first unmasked show one to remember.

The musical features main characters Roxie Hart, played by Dara Kearny (11), and Velma Kelly, played by Mariela Palencia (12).

The story leads you through murder, intrigue and the mob mentality of the press during the 1920s.Chicago is about a woman named Roxie who shoots the man she has an affair with, and her journey from criminal stardom to her eventual fall from grace.

Roxie Hart is the contradictory, innocent but conniving, leading lady. Kearny’s portrayal brings Roxie to life.  “I love just getting out there and performing, there’s nothing like it,” said Kearny.

Roxie’s rival is Velma, a prison veteran who is trying to revive her cabaret career.

Palencia’s strong performance translates beautifully with the nature of Velma Kelly’s domineering  character. Palencia is a singer, dancer and actor extraordinaire, leaving the audience in awe during her scenes

The leads are joined onstage by an ensemble that is always adding flamboyant flair.  This teamwork-oriented cast brings you into the mysterious world of jazz-age Chicago.

While watching the show my first impression was of the extremely talented singing by every single character.  One number that specifically caught my eye was when supporting lead Luis Silva (12) who portrayed Amos Hart, the husband of accused murderess Roxie, showed his sincerely sad yet comical feelings through his song “Mr. Cellophane.”

But when recognizing the powerhouse voices within the show, I’d be remiss to not mention Judy Zam (12), whose first performance at Falls Church  was playing the character Mama, the jazzy prison warden who helps elevate the inmates’ careers. Zam sings the song “When You’re Good to Mama”, which is a song detailing the reciprocation of favors the prison inmates receive if they pay her.

“It was my first year being a part of the theater program and I didn’t know if I had what it took to play one of the big leading roles. Chicago allowed me to meet new people and experience the flow of musical theater and getting to experience all of that would be my favorite part” said Zam.

The show’s greatest strength was the charisma that had me at the edge of my seat. Skeevy lawyer character Billy Flynn, played by Jimmy Benjamin (12), has a career built on helping famous inmates and his newest clients are Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart. It’s his mission to garner sympathy by changing public perception, all the while earning himself a pretty penny.

The set design was fantastic and set the mood just right when the actors took the stage. From the audience everything on stage seemed perfect, but the cast had to overcome the chaos that ensued during rehearsals. Despite illnesses everyone put 110% effort into getting the show performance-ready.

“What’s funny about Chicago is that all of us were sick, the main characters had fevers!” said McKenna Cobb (10) .  Working through their illnesses, the show went on running smoothly without a hitch.

I have nothing but praises for the show and the entirety of the FCHS theatre department .I’m excited for their spring production The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. 


*Correction: The print edition of this article incorrectly identified the actor who played Billy Flynn. The name has been corrected here.