The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Beware of ‘Razzle Dazzle’: VOB’s performance of ‘Chicago’ is sure to sweep you off your feet

The Hustler attended “Chicago,” VOB’s final musical of the year.
Savannah Walske
The actor for Velma Kelly, one of Chicago’s renowned murderesses, in a musical number surrounded by other actors, as photographed on April 17, 2024. (Hustler Staff/Savannah Walske)

What better way to distract us all from the doom and gloom of upcoming finals than a hilarious, riveting performance by our very own Vanderbilt Off-Broadway. VOB performed “Chicago” this past weekend in the Rothschild Black Box Theater. In their last performance of the year, the acting group transported its audience into the glitz, glamor and gore of the 1920s. 

“Chicago” is a sensational musical that takes audiences into the gritty world of 1920s Chicago, where crime, celebrity and corruption collide. The story follows Roxie Hart (Kate Mason), a fame-hungry chorus girl who finds herself in jail for murdering her lover. Inside, she encounters Velma Kelly (Kat O’Mara), a vaudeville star also imprisoned for murder. Both women vie for the spotlight and enlist the help of slick lawyer Billy Flynn (Mattew Marcus) to sensationalize their cases and win public sympathy. As the media circus unfolds, themes of fame, manipulation and the pursuit of the American Dream are explored through catchy songs, dazzling dance numbers and sharp wit. With its jazz-infused score and cynical humor, “Chicago” is a provocative and electrifying theatrical experience that exposes the dark underbelly of the Jazz Age. Junior Kate Mason spoke on the experience. 

“Getting to play a dream role of mine, combined with working with an A-Board of all my best friends and getting the opportunity to welcome a bunch of new faces into VOB, this show was the highlight of my spring semester,” Mason said. “I’m so proud of the incredible production we were able to put together in only 10 weeks, but more importantly, I am so proud of the positive and supportive community we were able to foster among the students involved in this production.” 

Rothschild’s Black Box Theater was the perfect setting for the performance. While the theater may seat few, the tickets are always in high demand and the intimate atmosphere takes the performance to a different level. The stage was left bare, with only a few props used, directing the audience’s attention to the actors themselves, who did not disappoint.

Those in the crowd, myself included, laughed uproariously when Matron “Mama” Morton (Calista Pointer) addressed us directly by offering up her red feathers, or when Amos Hart (Sam Barlet) came out in clown makeup. The audience was on the edge of their seats for the entire musical, as they felt part of the action themselves.

I was wowed by the ensemble’s ability to take on a variety of different roles, as the entire cast was only composed of 13 individuals. The infamous “Cell Block Tango” introduced us to six other Vaudeville murderesses, Squish (Mia Lockett), Pop (Shannon Felder), Uh-uh (Emily Leatherwood), Six (Isabella Lough) and Lipshitz (Abby Hoelscher). Hoelscher is a Deputy Photography Director of The Hustler. Later, we got to see them in different roles, watching how their tone, mannerisms and overall personas shifted accordingly. Sophomore Spencer Bowden, who was music director, elaborated on the experience.

“There are moments where actors doubling as three plus characters absolutely got their spotlight moment and I’m so glad we were able to do a show like that,” Bowden said. “It really allowed us to present the performance as a true collaborative effort.”

Finally, the orchestra shone in support of the actors on stage. Positioned right on stage, members of the orchestra remained a central aspect of the musical. Led by their conductor, Bowden, they performed 21 separate musical numbers, nailing them all under the blinding spotlights and the audience’s watchful gaze. Everything from jazz to suspenseful to comedic, the orchestra did it all. 

Capping off an entire year of entertainment, Vanderbilt Off-Broadway’s “Chicago” was a must-see. If you were too late to the party and missed the sold-out performances, don’t lose hope, as I am sure they will continue to wow us next fall.

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About the Contributors
Retta Nash
Retta Nash, Staff Writer
Retta Nash (‘27) is majoring in economics and minoring in business and French in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her trying the new coffee of the week at Suzie’s or rereading the Harry Potter series for the millionth time. You can reach her at [email protected].
Savannah Walske
Savannah Walske, Staff Photographer
Savannah Walske (‘26) is from San Francisco and is double majoring in psychology and Spanish in the College of Arts and Science. When not shooting for The Hustler, you can find her playing guitar, photographing pretty Californian landscapes and obsessing over her dog. You can contact her at [email protected].
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