Behind the scenes: Chicago prepares for opening night


Senior Lorenzo Isacs, playing Billy Flynn, and Chicago ensemble practice the ending of Razzle Dazzle during rehearsals on Feb 11.

The stage is empty, the quiet chatter starts to fade as the curtain draws and the music starts. Performers step onto the stage—it’s show time.

Senior Bethany Womack has participated in the last two musicals at Irvine High School, but not yet as the main character. Taking dance for two years, drama since junior year and choir for all four years, Womack has a plethora of influences encouraging her to participate again in this year’s musical “Chicago.” Starting in late November, Womack practiced for the three day audition process set in early December. After the long procedure, Womack landed the role of Roxie Hart, the sassy protagonist trying to get away with murder.

“I didn’t actually plan on auditioning for Roxie,” Womack said. “I even told my friends I didn’t want to be one of the main characters and would rather be a smaller character, but when I started learning the songs I could audition with, I really liked them. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that just because I sang Roxie’s song for the audition that I would get to play her role.”

Womack’s day revolves around getting ready to give it her all during rehearsal. She tries to drink lots of water throughout the day and conserve her voice so that she could project her voice across the stage. Rehearsals start around 4 p.m. and end around 7 p.m. and are scheduled Monday through Friday. In addition, Womack spends her free time practicing her songs, reviewing choreography, looking over blocking and stage directions and memorizing her lines.

“She blew us away at the audition,” drama teacher and director Jonathan Mesisca said. “She really embodies [Roxie Hart] and has a powerful voice. But even more than her talent, she’s dedicated to the program as a senior and has been really involved. She eats, sleeps and breathes this show.”

Seniors Lorenzo Isacs and Bethany Womack, playing Roxie Hart, and ensemble work through The Courtroom Scene during rehearsals.

During rehearsals, cast members always work with tech theater on sound, light, props and costumes. Towards the end of the production, in what is known as a Sitzprobe, the orchestra and performers go through the songs together, as they must learn their individual parts before collaborating. Moreover, towards the last two or three weeks, the cast must memorize their blocking and where they move before working with stage crew, who move props on and off the stage during the show.

“It’s a lot of work, but what’s really unique about the pit for the musical is that all the musicians are handpicked from the top bands,” senior and drummer and percussionist Yoni Cohen said. “We are really passionate about playing in this musical and are willing to put in the work outside of school.”

The musical also dedicates much of their time to creating strong bonds within all groups. They achieve this through monthly drama bondings and the sheer amount of time spent together while working on the production.

They also credit some of their success to the strong bonds and good energy created within their tight-knit community.

“With all the bondings and time spent together it increases the overall vibe of the show,” senior and stage and publicity manager Izzy Barbosa said. “When you have strong connections and bonds to your fellow cast and techies it makes the show overall so much better!”

Opening night is tonight at 7 p.m., with other showtimes being Friday, March 4 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 5 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 without an ASB card and $15 with, and can be bought online. Further information can be found on their website.

“Personally this musical means a lot to me,” Womack said. “I used to be terrified of singing in front of anyone, but being a part of this show has really pushed me so far outside my comfort zone, forcing me to do things I thought I would never have had enough confidence to do. But now, being a senior, I find myself trying to push myself even harder than ever before as I want my last musical to be the best it can possibly be. I’m learning to appreciate every single day of rehearsal and practice as I keep reminding myself it is the last one I’ll ever be a part of.”