Mrs. Spillane Brings the “Razzle Dazzle” to the Stage

Ali Karpowich’19
EE Contributor

THS students shown rehearsing for the 2018 production of Curtains.

Next stop for Chicago, one of the longest running shows on Broadway: Trumbull High School’s stage. In the spring of 2019, THS will produce Chicago the Musical: School Edition.

Mrs. Jessica Spillane ㅡ a Connecticut High School Musical Theater Award winning artistic director ㅡ is returning for her 21st year working with THS students. “The storyline itself has not been touched, but some language has been changed to be less jarring,” says Mrs. Spillane, explaining how the Broadway version is different from the High School version. “We went with the version to be more in the comfort zone of a high school.”

Chicago focuses on the media portrayal of two women who have committed horrible crimes. “It was so different back then, even though these women committed heinous crimes, they were painted as celebrities,” explains Mrs. Spillane.

“Working with Mrs. Spillane is always incredible. Every time I work with her I always learn something new. She is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met and I am honored she has given me so many opportunities to learn and create,” says Harrison Gilberti, a senior at Trumbull High.

Mrs. Spillane has really tried to incorporate theatre into the THS english department with classes such as Dramaturgy and Drama (a performance class).  Not only has she worked as a high school English teacher for years, but she has also been involved in theater, in front of the curtain as well as behind it, her whole life. She spent high school and college dabbling in the arts and shadowed the director at Trumbull High during her first year of teaching. Soon after her first year of helping the department ended, the principal hired her as the artistic director, a position she still holds to this day.

“I did not want to be one of those teachers who came into school and saw faces in a classroom then left right after the bell rang. I always knew I wanted to connect to students outside of the classroom,” says Mrs. Spillane.  

The class of 2019 has performed a variety of musicals, including How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a satirical look at big business in the 1960’s; Seussical the Musical, a make believe world with storybook characters; and Curtains, a comedy about a show within a show.

The plot of Chicago is based on the portrayal of a murder in the media during the jazz age, quite a different genre from anything they had done before.  The creative team wanted to give the graduating seniors a diverse group of musicals to perform in with a different dance style, incorporating Fosse, and some more mature content. Having a vast range of content really makes an actor challenge themselves. “It makes you think more. You wanted to get it right so you have to work harder” said Gilberti.  

Spillane has built such a great team over the years, including Producer Shannon Bolan, Musical Director Jerold Goldstein, Technical Director and Webmaster Matt Bracksieck, and Choreographer Abby Root. “After 15 years, we can all read each other’s minds!”      

Chicago the musical: School Edition will bring all that jazz to the stage through March 15-17 and 22-23.

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