The Patuxent Harlequins, all of them (90 student-actors, techs, pit musicians, and 10 adults that make up the production) owned opening night of Chicago with a performance that would make Ben Brantley and Caitlin Huston nod in approval.
Price made a statement, one that reverberated loud and clear in and out of the Patuxent High School Auditorium. And let me be clear, I’m not comparing to other high school shows out of abundance of fairness to other high school plays.
Set in Chicago during the jazz age, Chicago is a musical satire based on a 1926 play by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and the crimes on which she reported.
“It is a beautiful satire” said Allen Price, Director. “It is a satire that highlights our need for entertainment and how the truth doesn’t matter to a fickle society.”, says Price.
Agreed, this rendition is a beautiful satire, one which Price emphasized the burlesque in a significant yet subtle way. It had the razzle and dazzle that one may expect, without facsimile feel of other renditions that you may have seen before. These young actors and actresses made it their own by bringing a high-level energy and exceptional talent across the stage.
“Velma” played by Micah Estep, rocked it from beginning to end, and set the tone early with a splendid performance of “All that Jazz”.
“Billy” played by Zachary Leclerc was in complete command of the stage and whose combination of acting, singing, and dancing is elite.
“Roxie” was flawlessly played by Julia Atwell who is a gifted star in the making. “Mary Sunshine” by Bell Mills, and “Mamma Morten” by Lilly Windsor were terrific.
“Amos” played by Heather Farley was truly impressive and pulled on the heart-strings with his performance..
Watching the premier, one quickly forgets that these are still high school students, and it was not until the final curtain closed that I began to really appreciate what the Patuxent Harlequins had just accomplished.
Behind the Curtain
This show is a remounting of the first attempt back in 2020 when COVID shut the show down two weeks before opening night. The real challenge was recreating the show to be new and original for the students involved but also honoring the original group and their work. Of the 90 students involved in this year’s production, 20 are seniors from the original production. How satisfying for them to see this through. They understand the meaning of “the show must go on.”
The design begins in the summer, and production in December. The stagecraft classes start building stud wall after stud wall. The winter build is a two-day process during the holiday break where about 30 students will come in and assemble what stagecraft built and make skeletons of other structures. The building continues through the end of February in stagecraft classes and 6 hours every Saturday. The Saturday techs, about 30 students, continue up until the show. They are working on costumes or details on set.
Rehearsals started mid-January. For 6 weeks, students will have rehearsals from 2:30-6:00 Monday through Friday where they learn singing, dancing, and blocking. In March, the hours roll back to 2:30-5:00 where we assemble everything they learn, add the lights, sound, and how to move the set and clean the dances and vocal work.
An actor will spend 15 to 20 hours a week on the play.
These are Price’s blueprints, and they are the gold standard.
Chicago is brilliant and entertaining, and one show you don’t want to miss. For information on times and dates, or to purchase your tickets, visit: www.patuxentharlequins.weebly.com.