And All That Jazz: The Students Behind Chicago

by Lanie Hymowitz ’22

Source: Jocelyn Pena

Published Apr. 8th, 2022

Throughout the pandemic, live performances became a luxury for MHS. Yet even when working within the confines of a pandemic, students found a way to let their talents shine through, recording music in their own homes or performing in the empty Montgomery Performing Arts Center. Though the creation of music in any sense during the height of the pandemic is an impressive feat, MHS students are adamant: nothing beats being back on stage.

“It was hard to replicate the feelings that come with an in-person show,” says Kyle Sharma ‘22, a senior who plays the role of Amos Hart in Chicago, and has been involved with the district’s theater program since 5th grade. “Just being in the same room with people who share the same musical passion that I do is such an incredible feeling.”

This year’s musical also marks MHS’s first live musical performance directed by Miss Neelam Makvana, who also teaches choir classes at the high school and upper middle school. A majority of students involved in the cast are a part of the choral program, and many of them have been taught by Makvana since 7th grade. It’s no wonder that students rave about the sense of community that the club has been able to foster.

Jenni Crell ‘22 plays the hilariously ditzy Roxie Hart, alongside the brazen and witty Velma Kelly, portrayed by Bella Juhaeri ‘22. Crell remarks, “This show in particular has been very special to me because of the love and support I have received in and out of rehearsal… I can’t thank [all involved] enough for helping create such a wonderful environment. Because of them, I [looked] forward to rehearsal everyday.”

Like Sharma, both Crell and Juhaeri are seniors who have been devoted members of the theater program for multiple years and have put in extraordinary amounts of effort towards making these zany characters come to life. But equally important are the people off stage, which includes the A/V Club, the Pit Orchestra, and Stage Crew.

Grace DeJohn ‘22 is a stage crew captain, a title which entails designing and building sets as well as coordinating scene changes. DeJohn is incredibly enthusiastic looking back on her time in stage crew, saying, “Through the vast variety of people involved, I feel like I get to know the student body more…I have made friends that I can imagine keeping even past graduation.” 

Graduation looms large for the many seniors involved, who cite the music program as an integral part of their high school experience. But in their absence, they urge newcomers to try the one-of-a-kind experience and be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Kyle Sharma reflects, “Getting to learn new songs, practicing the dance steps until I’m able to do them in my sleep… seeing how quickly the production moves from practicing to refining to performing. It’s hectic, but that kind of environment is where I thrive the most, and the environment where I love to be.”

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