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Chicago comes to Canford

Over four nights in the penultimate week of term, the Layard Theatre stage transported audiences to Jazz-age Chicago and a story of murder, greed, corruption, adultery and treachery.

In the early 1920s, Chicago's press and public became riveted by the subject of homicides committed by women.  Several high-profile cases arose, which generally involved women killing their lovers or husbands.  These cases were tried against a backdrop of changing views of women in the Jazz age, and a long string of acquittals by Cook County juries of female murderers at a time when convicted murderers generally faced death by hanging.  A lore arose that, in Chicago, feminine or attractive women could not be convicted. The Chicago Tribune and Hearst newspapers at the time covered several of these women as celebrities.  The musical is based on a play of the same name by reporter and playwright Maurine Dallas Watkins, who was assigned to cover the 1924 trials of accused murderers Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner for the Chicago Tribune.

Alongside fine performances on stage, the cast was supported by a band of pupil musicians who had the sell out audiences every night tapping their feet with their lively renditions of classic numbers such as ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Razzle Dazzle’.  The technical team was also pupil-led, with set design by the Canford resident Layard production team of Kevin Wilkins, Colin Hoare and Jonathon Ledger.  Altogether over 80 pupils were involved in some way across the senior year groups.

Director Helen Craig was delighted with the outcome of many months of hard work by the cast and crew:

“Chicago may seem a risqué musical for a school to try – not only are the intricate, Bob Fosse style dance routines, characterised by clean, sharp lines and precise minimal movements alongside the fast-paced and complex jazz rhythms, a significant challenge for an amateur group, but the themes are dark and mature.  This cast has been, as ever, hardworking, intelligent and determined.  They have responded to the challenging choreography with grit and perseverance and have proven themselves as generous and thoughtful as their characters are selfish and cold.  It remains, as always, a privilege to work alongside such impressive young people.” 

Many congratulations to everyone involved in another memorable Canford production.

A selection of images and accompanying music from Chicago can be found on our YouTube channel

For more photographs from the production, please visit Chicago 2019 on our media site (password protected).

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