Theater program gets a head start on production of Chicago


Hannah Silver

One of the two Chicago choreographers, Lily Morris prepares choreography to teach to prospective candidates for the show.

Hannah Silver

If performing on stage isn’t enough pressure, try choreographing as well. Senior Lily Morris and Junior Isabelle Kamel have taken on the responsibilities of being choreographers for Midtown’s production of “Chicago.”

This year Jacob Dreiling, theater teacher and “Chicago” director, is switching things up, starting early on the choreography of the show’s complicated dance movements. On top of that, Dreiling plans to submit “Chicago” for judging in the Shuler Awards. The Shuler Awards showcase and reward achievements of prestige in high school theatre.

“We had to move the dates of the musical about two weeks earlier than what we usually do,” Dreiling said. “We are trying to frontload all of the choreography now in order to hopefully have all of the choreography ready for rehearsals so we won’t have to spend as much time on it.”

Kamel has enjoyed the experience so far. 

“It’s been great working with the other choreographers, and it’s been so fun teaching people new to dance and [and to teach them] theater, especially freshman,” Kamel said. “I think the timing is different from last year because we started choreographing during the summer; so, now we have more time to teach other people.”

Morris has been doing dance since she was 3 years old. She has training in tap, jazz, ballet and modern styles. She worked as a choreographer for the theater’s production of “Mamma Mia” last year, and said she was happy to help again this year. 

“It’s a challenge because we all have different visions for the show, but everyone is very creative, as well,” Morris said. “I think that when it comes to such a stylized show such as [“Chicago”], it’s kinda easy to make the dances look similar since they all have to be based in Bob Fossey technique.”

Bob Fossey was an actor, director, choreographer, and dancer. In an article it states, “Fosse is best known for his signature jazz style, which features sultry hip rolls, smooth finger snaps, turned-in pigeon toes and specific, detailed movements. He changed Broadway forever in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s with his groundbreaking choreography for musicals such as Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, The Pajama Game and more.”

Sophomore Lannea Kimmons is in the theater program and is preparing before auditions start in the spring. 

“The workshop started off slow, and then sped up as they taught it, and then towards the end, we went line by line and did the choreo we had learned,” Kimmons said. “I’d love to be in [“Chicago”], even ensemble would be really fun because it’s such a great atmosphere and auditions are so fun.”

This year Dreiling is looking for real dance talent. In the past, dance has not made as big of an impact on auditions, but this year it will significantly affect the casting decisions.

“Traditionally I am looking for acting, singing and then dancing, but this year it will probably be a tie between acting and dancing; dancing might even come slightly higher than acting,” Dreiling said. “It will be a significant factor in the casting decisions, and we’re looking to have a cast of 42.”

Senior Bee Walker has been to one of the dance workshops that took place on Aug. 12 and said she is excited for the start of the new season. The choreography is specific, but Walker says with the help of the choreographers, she’s had fun learning it.

“They’re so nice and such great teachers. They know how to talk to us in a way that makes us excited,” Walker said. “Fosse is extremely difficult, it’s very precise and goes against pretty much all basic dance training. The show is very stylized, and since it’s [Fosse choreo], it’s a lot trickier to pick up.” 

Since the decision to start working on choreography and smaller aspects of the spring musical so early is new to the theater crew, there is concern about whether different preparation method will work out.

“I like doing brand new things, but sometimes we do brand new things, and they just don’t work out,” Dreiling said. “I’m hoping for the best, take big swings, big risk, big reward.”

Kimmons comes from a background in dance but can said she appreciates the initiative taken to start teaching aspects of the play so early.

“I think it’s a great idea for them to start teaching things early since “Chicago” is such an iconic dance show,” Kimmons said. “They are giving non-dancers a leg up, and I think this will result in a really fun show to watch and be a part of.”

Kamel said she has found the adjustments and new environment a bit difficult to navigate. 

“The actual choreographer part, where you come up with stuff for the dance, that is the hardest, since it takes forever to try and find the right moves for certain songs,” Kamel said. “I think there’s a little bit of added stress, but overall it’s all worth it because in the end you realize how much fun it is.”

Dreiling said he attempts to give students a taste of real-world theater, preparing them to pursue a future in the industry.

“This is my 24th year of putting on shows, and we have never done anything like this before,” Dreiling said. “The industry is trying to go away from longer hours for actors, due to post-pandemic situations and, so, we’re just trying to echo a little bit of what’s happening professionally and what we’re doing here.”