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Posted at 11:37 PM ET, 06/ 9/2010

Nominees for the 2010 Cappies Awards

Student year-in-review photo gallery

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The 2010 nominees for best play: Johnny Landers (H-B Woodlawn), Arianna Heck (Westfield), Sammy Zeisel (Walt Whitman) and Maggie Monk (Chantilly). Not Pictured: Duke Ellington School of the Arts. (Photo by Andy Mays)

The Cappies Critics and Awards Program completed its 11th season dedicated to high school theater. Student actors, stage production workers and theater critics from 54 high schools in Fairfax, Loudoun, Montgomery and Prince William Counties, the District of Columbia and the cities of Alexandria, Arlington and Falls Church will be recognized during a Tony Awards-like gala at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, June 13. Here are the nominees:

Musical
"Time's Square 2090," Langley High School
"Merrily We Roll Along," Stone Bridge High School
"Chicago," Fairfax High School
"Les Miserables: School Edition," South Lakes
"Little Shop of Horrors," St. Albans & National Cathedral School

Play
"Amadeus," Walt Whitman High School
"Aftermath II - The Silence Soldiers: Breaking the Appearance of Delicacy," Duke Ellington School of the Arts
"Remembering Sarah Jane," H-B Woodlawn
"Brighton Beach Memoirs," Westfield High School
"Street Scene," Chantilly High School

Song
"Mister Cellophane," TC Williams High School, "Chicago"
"Franklin Shepard, Inc.," Stone Bridge High School, "Merrily We Roll Along"
"Honestly Sincere," Wootton High School, "Bye Bye Birdie"
"Stand Up", Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
"The Innkeeper Song," South Lakes, "Les Miserables: School Edition"

Lead Actor in a Musical
Alex Garretson, Wootton High School, "Bye Bye Birdie"
Paul Goldberg, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
Sean McCoy, South Lakes, "Les Miserables: School Edition"
Connor Smith, Robert E. Lee High School, "Godspell"
Lyon Stewart, St. Albans & National Cathedral School, "Little Shop of Horrors"

Lead Actress in a Musical
Ellen Chapin, G. C. Marshall, "Peter Pan"
Mary Davis, South Lakes, "Les Miserables: School Edition"
Olivia Haller, The Madeira School, "Little Women"
Anne Norland, Fairfax High School, "Chicago"
Chelsea Raitor, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"

Lead Actor in a Play
Chris Albrigo, Chantilly High School, "Street Scene"
Kevin Clay, Westfield High School, "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
Noah Gavil, Walt Whitman High School, "Amadeus"
John Odom, Annandale High School, "The Crucible"
Patrick Stearman, H-B Woodlawn, "Remembering Sarah Jane"

Lead Actress in a Play
Sarah Blush, Walt Whitman High School, "Amadeus"
Rachel Frenkel, JEB Stuart High School, "Anne of Green Gables"
Noelle Vinas, Lake Braddock Secondary School, "Macbeth"
Emily Wolfteich, Thomas Edison High School, "The Curious Savage"
Emily Woods, West Potomac, "Sideways Stories from Wayside School"

Supporting Actor in a Musical
Ryan Bardenett, Stone Bridge High School, "Merrily We Roll Along"
Ben Mitchell, St. Andrew's Episcopal School, "The Pirates of Penzance"
Brian Patterson, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
Josh Simon, Winston Churchill HS, "Chicago"
Joey Truncale, Herndon High School, "Oklahoma!"

Supporting Actress in a Musical
Madison Auch, James W. Robinson Secondary School, "The Boy Friend"
Kristen Bouchard, James Madison High School, "Singin' in the Rain"
Abby Coryell, South Lakes, "Les Miserables: School Edition"
Harper Franklin, Stone Bridge High School, "Merrily We Roll Along"
Ana Olson, The Madeira School, "Little Women"

Supporting Actor in a Play
Miles Drawdy, Chantilly High School, "Street Scene"
Anthony Ingargiola, Centreville High School, "Dracula"
Henry Knotts, St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Awate Serequeberhan, Albert Einstein High School, "You Can't Take It with You"
Sammy Zeisel, Walt Whitman High School, "Amadeus"

Supporting Actress in a Play
Emily Adler, W. T. Woodson High School, "David and Lisa"
Shanna Bess, Manassas Park High School, "Hiroshima: Crucible of Light"
Megan Fraedrich, West Springfield High School, "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe"
Billie Krishawn-Holmes, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, "Aftermath II - The Silence Soldiers: Breaking the Appearance of Delicacy"
Sophia Sperling, Thomas Edison High School, "The Curious Savage"

Comic Actor in a Musical
Erik Pike, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
Adam J. Santalla, Bishop Ireton High School, "Go-Go Beach"
Joey Schepis, St. Andrew's Episcopal School, "The Pirates of Penzance"
Iason Togias, St. Albans & National Cathedral School, "Little Shop of Horrors"
Alex Turner, South Lakes, "Les Miserables: School Edition"

Comic Actress in a Musical
Lindsay Dillard, South County Secondary School, "Anything Goes"
Maddy Goubeaux, Fairfax High School, "Chicago"
Erica Heer, James W. Robinson Secondary School, "The Boy Friend"
Olivia May, The Madeira School, "Little Women"
Maggie Roos, Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, "Urinetown"

Comic Actor in a Play
Elliot Duffy, McLean High School, "Twelve Angry Jurors"
Zak Goldberger, Oakton High School, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Four Dames and a Casket"
Taylor Jarrell, Chantilly High School, "Street Scene"
Jake Miller, Paul VI Catholic High School, "The Pink Panther Strikes Again"
Timothy Yuan, Thomas Jefferson High School, "Once in a Lifetime"

Comic Actress in a Play
Rory Beckett, Albert Einstein High School, "You Can't Take It with You"
Phoebe Dillard, Westfield High School, "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
Morgaine Gooding-Silverwood, The New School of Northern Virginia, "Commedia Dell' Arte - Isabella's Jealousy"
Chanukah Jane Lilburne, Homeschool Teens n Theatre, "My Friend Irma"
Loreal Watts, Wakefield High School, "Dearly Departed"

Male Vocalist
Sam Allen, Dominion High School, "Grease"
Jonathan Helwig, Wootton High School, "Bye Bye Birdie"
Wes Horton, Washington-Lee High School, "Godspell"
Trevor Morgan, Herndon High School, "Oklahoma!"
Kevan Olsen, Robert E. Lee High School, "Godspell"

Female Vocalist
Kelly Craige, Seton School, "Beauty and the Beast"
Ally Dawson, Fairfax High School, "Chicago"
Abby Middleton, Stone Bridge High School, "Merrily We Roll Along"
Emma Rackstraw, Walt Whitman High School, "Amadeus"
Shelby Sykes, Winston Churchill HS, "Chicago"

Male Dancer
Alex Alferov, James W. Robinson Secondary School, "The Boy Friend"
Josh Kaufmann, Winston Churchill HS, "Chicago"
Kevin Kelly, Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, "Urinetown"
Takuma Koide, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
Noah Lubert, James Madison High School, Singin' in the Rain"

Female Dancer
Madeline Bryan, TC Williams High School, "Chicago"
Kirsten Lloyd, Herndon High School, "Oklahoma!"
Leslie Ann McConnaughey, James Madison High School, "Singin' in the Rain"
Lizzy Stapula, Hayfield Secondary School, "Curtains"
Tara Youssefi, Wootton High School, "Bye Bye Birdie"

Featured Actor
Ayinde Bray, Falls Church High School, "Lend Me a Tenor"
Alex Kaplan, Lake Braddock Secondary School, "Macbeth"
Nathan Kohrman, Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, "Urinetown"
Kenny Lau, Chantilly High School, "Street Scene"
Shaquille Stewart-Merritt, Albert Einstein High School, "You Can't Take It with You"

Featured Actress
Orla Conway, G. C. Marshall, "Peter Pan"
Maya Martin-Udry, Albert Einstein High School, "You Can't Take It with You"
Divya Mouli, Wootton High School, "Bye Bye Birdie"
Emily Stern, James Madison High School, "Singin' in the Rain"
Victoria Tovig, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"

Ensemble in a Musical
The March Family (Marmee, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy), The Madeira School, "Little Women"
Audrey 2, St. Albans & National Cathedral School, "Little Shop of Horrors"
"Stand Up" Ensemble, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
Silly Girls, Seton School, "Beauty and the Beast"
The Poor, Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, "Urinetown"

Ensemble in a Play
The Witches of Forres, Lake Braddock Secondary School, "Macbeth"
The Jurors, McLean High School, "Twelve Angry Jurors"
The Wayside School Kids, West Potomac, "Sideways Stories from Wayside School"
Venticillo, Walt Whitman High School, "Amadeus"
All The Women, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, "Aftermath II - The Silence Soldiers: Breaking the Appearance of Delicacy"

Creativity
Wesley Brandt, Director, Writer of Music, Lyrics and Book, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
Keziah John-Paul, Billie Krishawn-Holmes, Aleca Piper, Ellen Winter, Playwriting, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, "Aftermath II - The Silence Soldiers: Breaking the Appearance of Delicacy"
Olivia Myers, Playwriting, H-B Woodlawn, "Remembering Sarah Jane"
Kelsey Rose, Composition and Performance, West Springfield High School, "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe"
Walt Whitman Pit Orchestra and vocalists - musicianship, Walt Whitman High School, "Amadeus"

Choreography
Thalia Ertman, Ryan Kanfer, Josh Kaufmann. Ariana Nasseri, Winston Churchill HS, "Chicago"
Logan Hillman, Erica Heer, James W. Robinson Secondary School, "The Boy Friend"
Nicole Kang, Liza Mayman, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
Kaitlyn Palumbo and the Choreographic Team, Stone Bridge High School, "Merrily We Roll Along"
Jillie Terrill, Tori Terrill, Nicole Pradas, Leslie Ann McConnaughey, James Madison High School, "Singin' in the Rain"

Orchestra
The House Band, St. Albans & National Cathedral School, "Little Shop of Horrors"
The Les Miz Pit Orchestra, South Lakes, "Les Miserables: School Edition"
Chicago the Musical Orchestra, Winston Churchill HS, "Chicago"
Stone Bridge High School Orchestra, Stone Bridge High School, "Merrily We Roll Along"
Robinson Orchestra, James W. Robinson Secondary School, "The Boy Friend"

Stage Crew
Kylie Carey, Chelsea Chansen & Stage Crew, South County Secondary School, "Anything Goes"
Hannah Cohn, Christina Dean, Kelsi Allison, Christine Sorrentino, The Madeira School, "Little Women"
Jennifer Grape, Nora Hayman, Jessica MacDonald, Jenna Pratz, W. T. Woodson High School, "David and Lisa"
Amelia Kirby, Jenn Manes, Lea Schild, Liz Zwicker, Briar Woods High School, "Cinderella"
Ariel Lang, Derek Wahdan, Erin Becker, Alessandro Gaiarin, South Lakes, "Les Miserables: School Edition"

Props & Effects
Yara Alemi, Shannon Brown, Madeleine Fleshman, Robbie Teague, G. C. Marshall, "Peter Pan"
Kerowyn Brewer, Laura Kapinos, Westfield High School, "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
Gwen Edwards, David Kutchma, Will Perkins, Yael Urbach, George Mason High School, "Little Shop of Horrors"
Chris Foote, Chris Rosecrans, James Madison High School, "Singin' in the Rain"
Kevin Ortiz, Timothy Padilla, Vanessa Seay, Albert Einstein High School, "You Can't Take It with You"

Make-up
West Springfield Make-up Artists, West Springfield High School, "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe"
Nicole Kroeger, Walt Whitman High School, "Amadeus"
Elizabeth Lamb, St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Susha Stone, Jared Jacobsen, Maggie Miller, Riki Perlik, The New School of Northern Virginia, "Commedia Dell' Arte - Isabella's Jealousy"
Leslie Zapiain, Seton School, "Beauty and the Beast"

Costumes
Maddy Atteberry, Sarah Hix, Morgan Moran, Chi Chi Ramos, Fairfax High School, "Chicago"
Karly Hirst, Annie Stringer, James W. Robinson Secondary School, "The Boy Friend"
Michelle Kearns, Westfield High School, "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
Julia Munro, Meghan Pearson, Nicole Weinard, Bishop Ireton High School, "Go-Go Beach"
Thomas Norman, Thomas Edison High School, "The Curious Savage"

Sets
Giovanni Bellafiore, Jonathan Oakes, Timothy Padilla, Christina Williams, Albert Einstein High School, "You Can't Take It with You"
Alex Butterfield, Annie Dykstra, Westfield High School, "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
Andrew Emmons,David Kutchma, Will Perkins, Elise Sanders, George Mason High School, "Little Shop of Horrors"
Meghan Sharon, Mustafa Qarghah, Chantilly High School, "Street Scene"
Clayton Southerly, Alex Neblett, Keir Allison-Bourne, John Miller, Fairfax High School, "Chicago"

Lighting
Will Bartlett, Alison O'Hearn, Coleman Quimby, Mia Tong, Walt Whitman High School, "Amadeus"
Luke Cresson, Chris Sisson, Fairfax High School, "Chicago"
Kenzy Forman, South Lakes, "Les Miserables: School Edition"
Sarah Korn, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
Elizabeth Movius, Maiya Elliott, Justin Klingenberger, St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Sound
Taylor Aucott, Kieran Claffey, Westfield High School, "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
Lydia Carroll, Aaron Rosansky, David Kanter, Walt Whitman High School, "Amadeus"
Andrew Elliott, Washington-Lee High School, "Godspell"
Yusuf Goal, Sean Lyons, Langley High School, "Time's Square 2090"
Molly Moses, Hunter Shippey, Elain Sledge, Christina Williams, Albert Einstein High School, "You Can't Take It with You"

Critic Team
Bishop Ireton High School
Langley High School
McLean High School
Oakton High School
Westfield High School

Graduating Critic
Colleen O'Brien, Fairfax High School
Julia Katz, McLean High School
Grace Donovan, Osbourn High School
Steve Einhorn, Robert E. Lee High School
Megan Fraedrich, West Springfield High School

Returning Critic
Holly Kelly, Oakton High School
Chris Papas, Oakton High School
Brittany Simmons, Westfield High School
Elisabeth Bloxam, Westfield High School
Tess Higgins, Langley High School

Rising Critic
Ally Markussen, Bishop Ireton High School
Catherine Addington, Bishop Ireton High School
Jonathan Polson, Bishop Ireton High School
Marianna Barbosa, JEB Stuart High School
Max Johnson, McLean High School
Joey Biagini, Westfield High School

By Mario Iván Oña  |  June 9, 2010; 11:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Posted at 10:48 AM ET, 05/20/2010

‘Whodunit’ weaves murder and intrigue into Hayfield’s madcap ‘Curtains’

Emily Mannon, a student at Langley High School, reviews the Hayfield Secondary School’s performance of “Curtains” as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Hayfield Secondary School’s Lizzy Stapula, MaryEllen Martelli, Aubrey Meeks, Catherine Braunlich, Nathan Brown, Michael Bayerle, Jessica Musman, Carter Plemmons, Ryan Colpitts, Daniel Kingsley, Dani Wagner, Rebecca Reed, Keelin Burke and Meghan Peterson. (Photo by Jean Martelli)

What’s catchier than pink-eye, a production of "No Exit” and a murder — all with the integrity of musical theater? Hayfield Secondary School’s production of “Curtains,” of course.

When the new production of “Robbin’ Hood” opens to terrible reviews, the cast is sure nothing could be worse —until their lead actress is found dead on stage. Quarantined in the theater by Lt. Frank Cioffi (Jacob Brisson) until the murderer can be caught, the cast gets to work revamping their dying show. Among the blossoming loves and rekindled romances that ensue, two more cast members are found dead. Can the lieutenant find the killer before the whole cast ends up six feet under? “Curtains” is a laugh-out loud, insanely over-the-top murder musical mystery that “follows the yellow brick road in the wrong direction ... to Kansas.”

In a show with more than 11 main roles, several actors stood out. Especially strong was Aubrey Meeks as the tough-as-nails co-producer of “Robbin Hood.” Her powerful voice filled the auditorium, and she commanded the audience’s attention whenever she stepped on stage. Some actors did not project loudly enough or spoke too fast, but Meghan Peterson, as lyricist-turned-actress Georgia Hendricks, did not have either problem. Her clear voice and strong dancing skills were showcased in numerous numbers. Michael Bayerle, as Georgia’s husband, Aaron Fox, also showed off a smooth voice.

The 16 songs in the show call for a wide variety of dancing and singing styles. While the dance numbers were not always in synch, they were splendid when they were. The huge tap number “A Tough Act to follow” was particularly well done, and Lizzy Stapula, as the misunderstood Bambi Bernet, shined in the demanding “Kansasland.” The pacing during the dances could have been quicker, but overall the ensemble had good energy, especially during the second act.

In a show known for laughs, several cast members delivered the punch lines particularly well. Carter Plemmons, as pompous yet loveable director Christopher Belling, shined. In a manner reminiscent of Jim Carrey’s Count Olaf in “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” Plemmons came up with a distinct walk and accent to perfectly capture the snobby director. Even when not speaking, he kept the audience entertained with amusing facial expressions and mannerisms. Equally comedic was Maria Cammarata as showgirl Niki Harris. Cammarata was ditzy without being overbearing and made the audience smile every time she spoke in her articulate, high-pitched voice.

While the scene changes and some dance numbers were long, overall the Hayfield High cast and crew kept the audience laughing and entertained -- always shocked by the ever-occurring gun shots (timed perfectly by sound lead Zack Kiszka) and always wondering who the murderer was. A “killer time” was certainly had by all.

By Emily Mannon, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 20, 2010; 10:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 05/20/2010

Things go right in South County's 'Anything Goes'

Joey Biagini, a student at Westfield High School, reviews South County Secondary School’s performance of “Anything Goes” as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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South County Secondary School’s Flash Trumbetic, Ally Barrale and Nikko Custodio. (Photo by Anne Gallant)

A multitude of disguises, a quirky English noble and a wannabe mobster were all aboard South County Secondary School’s recent production of the outrageous farce “Anything Goes.”

The musical debuted in 1934 at the Neil Simon Theatre, which at the time was the Alvin Theatre. It has music and lyrics by Cole Porter, as well as a book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse that was later revised by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse. Set aboard a ship on its way from New York to London, “Anything Goes” follows the story of stowaway Billy Crocker (Nikko Custodio) as he attempts to win back the heart of Hope Harcourt (Emily Sargeant) with the help of “Public Enemy 13” Moonface Martin (Flash Trumbetic). Unfortunately, Hope is engaged to the wealthy Englishman Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Blake Albertson), who also happens to be in love with a nightclub performer aboard the ship, Reno Sweeney (Ally Barrale).

South County’s production featured exactly six doors, which were constantly opening and closing in traditional farce fashion. During high-energy musical numbers such as “Anything Goes,” which was led by Barrale, the ensemble tap-danced in superb synchronization. This made up for any one-dimensionality or blandness that may have been shown by some actors.

Custodio and Barrale led the production with their portrayals of Billy and Reno, respectively. Custodio played the young leading man with determination and vigor; he also displayed pleasing vocals in “It’s Delovely,” which also featured Sargeant. Barrale’s vocal ability was evident in “Blow Gabriel Blow” and “Take Me Back to Manhattan.” Custodio and Barrale also collaborated nicely in the duet “You’re the Top.”

Other standout actors helped to balance out any lack of energy seen in the performance. Trumbetic played the uproarious Moonface Martin with tremendous success; his comedic timing and delivery were perfect in both his dialogue and his musical number, “Be Like the Bluebird.” Lindsay Dillard played Bonnie, Moonface’s girlfriend and partner-in-second-rate-crime. She was able to maintain a very strong character voice without distracting from the natural comedy of the script.

South County’s technical aspects of the production were shaky in some areas but worthy of recognition in others. Emily Witt and Curt Megivern produced effective lighting designs without going over the top. The South County Pit Orchestra played the musical score professionally. The stage crew, led by Kylie Corey and Chelsea Chansen, transitioned between scenes quickly and efficiently.

The overall charisma of key actors and the stunning nature of large ensemble numbers were unquestionably the highlights of the show. South County Secondary School’s production of “Anything Goes” was wonderful.

By Joey Biagini, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 20, 2010; 10:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Posted at 10:11 AM ET, 05/20/2010

Music and murder make T.C. Williams High School’s ‘Chicago’

Jonathan Polson, a student at Bishop Ireton High School, reviews “Chicago” performed by T.C. Williams High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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T.C. Williams High School’s Madeline Bryan and Brielle Welch. (Photo by Shane Canfield)

Jazz, liquor and murder. Not the most common themes examined in high school theater; however, T.C. Williams High School recently took a stab at the extremely adult show Chicago and with much triumph.

Chicago premiered on Broadway with a bang on June 3, 1975, and ran for 936 performances. It featured music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb and was written by Ebb and Bob Fosse. It was then revived in 1996 and is currently the sixth longest-running Broadway revival of all time. The 2002 film won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The story revolves Roxie Hart (Kirby Porterfield) who happens to murder a departing lover. While in jail, she finds herself among the likes of famous vaudeville murderesses, including Velma Kelly (Madeline Bryan). With the help of the very loving lawyer, Billy Flynn (Zachary Frank), Roxie finds a way to turn a scandal into a living.

As the lead, Porterfield performed with confidence and poise. She displayed her vocal ability in songs like “Funny Honey,” and worked well when arguing with other actors, especially Zachary Frank, who played Billy Flynn. Frank brought many laughs to the show as the somewhat crooked lawyer. He was also a talented singer as displayed in the show stopper “Razzle Dazzle.”

Bryan, as Velma, proved to be one of the strongest singers and actresses of the night. She brought a much needed sense of sex appeal to the show. Her voice was soulful and confident, as shown in “All That Jazz.” She projected strongly and clearly and kept the show together even though it sometimes felt disjointed. She also displayed amazing dancing abilities during songs like “I Can’t Do It Alone.”

Another pleasant surprise of the night was Samuel Jones as the tender-hearted and easily overlooked Amos Hart. During most of the show, Amos goes unnoticed, but in the second act Jones made him shine brighter than any other character. In his song “Mister Cellophane” Jones not only sang well, but also sang with emotion and feeling, something that was often missing on the stage. His portrayal of the ever-loving husband was sweet and believable.

The set (designed by Hunter Burget, Andrew Flack, Sam Jones, Angelique Laboy-Coparropa, and Ben Reiner) was two stories tall and was mostly the backdrop for the Cook County Jail. It was well constructed and was supported by a stage crew who did their job perfectly by not ever being noticed.

Attempting to put on a show such as Chicago in high school is a big task. T.C. Williams welcomed the task with open arms and came out with a slaying production. Despite many moments that felt as if there was a lack of energy, the actors kept up the pace in what can’t be denied as an extremely entertaining show. T.C. Williams’ production of Chicago was a razzle dazzling night.

By Jonathan Polson, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 20, 2010; 10:11 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Posted at 9:50 AM ET, 05/20/2010

'20s roar in Robinson Secondary School’s 'The Boy Friend'

Grace Donovan, a student at Osbourn High School, reviews “The Boy Friend” performed by J. Robinson Secondary School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Robinson Secondary School’s Fabiolla Brennecke, Madison Auch and Julian Rosen. (Photo by Frank Ruth)

French Riviera. A suntan and hotdogs? Non. L'amour? Oui. And there’s plenty of that when the happy-go-lucky girls of a British finishing school prepare for their ball. First performed in 1954, The Boy Friend was Julie Andrew's first Broadway show. With panache and flair, Robinson Secondary School parodied classic 1920s musicals with a combination of light-hearted songs, fun dances, and a gifted cast.

Set in an all girls’ French boarding school run by Madame Dubonnet (Madison Auch), the local residents include the rich and lonely Polly Browne (Corrie McNulty) and coquettish and easy-going Maisie (Erica Heer). While Maisie flirtatiously taunts wealthy and love struck Bobby Van Husen (Alex Alferov), Polly meets the poor and shy Tony (Ben Johnson). All are preparing for the evening ball, including Madame Dubonnet who is interested in Polly’s father Percival Browne (Julian Rosen). After some dance numbers, white lies, and playful games of hard-to-get, each couple finds their own meaning of love.

Auch was graceful and versatile onstage. Her movements were delicate and fluid, even her subtle expressions were elegant. Batting her eyelashes or pouting her lips, Auch was charming. But she could just as easily transform into motherly and protective: patting the hair of a crying student or cooing over the girls, Auch made for a lovable headmistress with plausible chemistry. Her vocals were also strong, and she shone in her duets.

Heer (Maisie) was a delightful character to watch, with her complicated dance numbers that included flips onstage. Her rendition of the Charleston with Alferov was impressive, and so were her other dance numbers, including “Safety in Numbers” in which she stood out among an ensemble of admiring beach-goers.

Johnson also did an excellent job of characterizing his character as awkward but endearing. Shuffling feet and avoiding kisses, Johnson gradually developed into the braver and more forward character who the audience grew to love.

With such a big cast, some of the strongest scenes included the large ensembles. The beginning and namesake song, “The Boyfriend,” utilized every school girl to take over the stage in cheery song and dance. Some characters seemed unsure, and there were some lapses in accents. Overall, though, the actors’ bubbly dispositions proved contagious to the audience.

Vocals were almost consistently strong throughout. Creativity was apparent, especially in one scene in which two dancers in the background mirrored Madame Dubonnet and Percival Browne to create an illusion of a memory.

The set was changed for every act, and each set was detailed. The stage converted from an office to a beach to a ballroom. Whether it was windows in the office or tents on the beach, the set allowed for actors to pop out during songs. The costumes, though relatively simple, were appropriate for the show. Couples were color-coordinated in pastels, and the final ball scene epitomized 1920s flapper fashions.

Too often love is portrayed as a burden, as a sort of trial of human will. But Robinson Secondary School showed the quirkiness of romance through festive exposition. The talented cast celebrated relationships through captivating songs and upbeat dances, and by giving its audience a million reasons to fall in love, they proved that there really is “safety in numbers.”

By Grace Donovan, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 20, 2010; 9:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Posted at 9:35 AM ET, 05/20/2010

Washington-Lee’s energetic ‘Godspell’ captures spirit of original production

Joey Biagini, a student at Westfield High School, reviews “Godspell” performed by Washington-Lee High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Washington Lee’s Wes Horton and company. (Photo by Keith Cassidy)

The story of the life of Jesus Christ expressed onstage could be colorful, joyous and heartbreaking. Fortunately, all of these aspects were present in Washington-Lee High School’s production of the critically acclaimed musical “Godspell.”

“Godspell” debuted off-Broadway in 1971. Stephen Schwartz, who made the music for the production, used lyrics from hymnbooks and also his own additions. It is adapted from a book by John-Michael Tebelak. “Godspell”—a series of parables from the Gospel of Matthew with some modern references—generated controversy over its portrayal of Jesus.

Jesus (Wes Horton) and John the Baptist/Judas (Nate Kresh) lead the cast through many songs, scenes and even silliness.

Washington-Lee High School’s production was organic and energetic. The cast’s performance stole the show with their perfect balance of unity and individuality. There were some pitch problems during parts of the show, but as the show progressed, the performance greatly improved. Their vocals and stage presence in the musical number “Day by Day,” led by Anne Donnelly, were captivating.

Horton led the show in his portrayal of the light-hearted and good-natured Jesus. His vocals were exceptional in the musical number “Save the People.” Playing Horton’s companion and eventually his betrayer, Kresh rendered moving portrayals of the opposite characters John the Baptist and Judas. Horton and Kresh collaborated in their upbeat musical number “All for the Best.”

Throughout the performance, members of the cast stepped out of the chorus in order to portray characters in the many parables as well as sing solos in their respective musical numbers. All of the soloists had good vocals, but there were some who stood out. Zoë Bellars’ solo in “O, Bless the Lord, My Soul” was powerful and professional. Caitlin O’Grady and Emily Mathae harmonized beautifully in their duet number “By My Side.”

Jill Luoma-Overstreet played an eccentric character that was hilarious without distracting from the focal point of the scene. Her hair was teased, her walk wonderfully demented, and her outlook optimistic. Luoma-Overstreet’s consistency in her characterization was one of her best attributes.

Washington-Lee High School’s technical aspects consisted of questionable decisions in some areas, but outstanding presentation in others. Sound by Andrew Elliott did not falter, which is rare for a high school production. Eileen Soiles’ stage set created levels that allowed the actors to be creative. Lighting by Madison Lane was especially effective during the crucifixion of Jesus, where the actors, technical designers and orchestra worked together in perfect harmony.

The performers at Washington-Lee High School put on a performance that was inspiring, motivational and energetic.

By Joey Biagini, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 20, 2010; 9:35 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Posted at 9:20 AM ET, 05/20/2010

Manassas Park High School’s poignant lessons in ‘Hiroshima’ production

Grace Donovan, a student at Osbourn High School, reviews “Hiroshima: Crucible of Light” performed by Manassas Park High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

Set against an all white set with a cast of white-clad actors and actresses, Manassas Park High School’s production of “Hiroshima: Crucible of Light” could almost be mistaken for a play set in the peaceful afterlife. However, the intention of the show is far from angelic. The play was an extended metaphor for the fatal follies of man. Centered on the bombing of Hiroshima, the conceptual set and straight choreography set the dark mood for this combination of symbolism.

Robert Lawson’s “Hiroshima: Crucible of Light” is an allegory for human tragedy. With modern characters like Oppenheimer (Jason Rose) and Einstein (Aaron DeLaGarza) mixed with classic references to Icarus (Kenny Moore) and King Lear’s Fool (Michele Katsaris) the play is more abstract art than a straightforward plot. It is Salvador Dali and Picasso synthesized onstage to create, not so much a storyline, but a historical tableaus with individual perspectives about man’s hubris. A Hiroshima survivor (Frank Kasik IV) and a paraplegic (Shannon Kitchen) underscore the motifs of human fragility and guilt.

Shanna Bess played Enola Gay—the plane that dropped the bomb over Hiroshima. Her compelling build-up in her dramatic monologue began at a near-whisper and ended chillingly shrill as she accused mankind of insensitivity. Bess also played the role of a schoolgirl from the Hiroshima bombing, and her final monologue had an innocence and desperation that garnered real tears from Bess and a stunned reverence from the audience.

Kitchen portrayed two different, engrossing characters. As a wheelchair-bound woman, she depicted paranoia and regret in her quivering voice and tense physicality. The marked transition to the character of Mom showcased Kitchen’s versatility on stage. She transformed into a bubbly and cheesy housewife, and, with her goofy smile and exaggerated gestures, she provided a sardonic justification for the bombing.

The script is ripe with allusion. With twists such as Oppenheimer becoming Oedipus, the show seemed intended for a knowledgeable audience. Although a difficult apologue-style thread held the production together, the cast seemed unfazed by its complexities and graphic nature, and interpreted the material commendably. The all-white costumes magnified strength. When lines were spoken in unison, the booming of their united voices was eerie but effective. Some stiffness was visible, and while some actors struggled to maintain a varied range in tone, the intended effect of the show was not lost.

An abstract, all-white, two-level set was minimalist but appropriate. Projections identifying scene changes and displaying real pictures from the bombing were shown on the back wall. One of the most interesting uses of the videos included having a girl walk onstage during a scene to sit in front of the pictures, essentially becoming part of the images. The costumes were purposefully plain to keep the focus on the acting and the show’s heavy symbolism. But the similar costumes often made it hard to keep track of the many characters.

One might have issues with the treatment of the scientists' characterization, but the show is designed to have a deeper lesson for the audience. Manassas Park High School demonstrated the delicateness of life: how in nine seconds everything we know can change forever. The production was a lesson in tolerance, in the sanctity of life, and makes the audience ponder, “What happens when those virtues go astray?”

By Grace Donovan, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 20, 2010; 9:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Posted at 11:47 PM ET, 05/ 9/2010

South Lakes takes on challenging ‘Les Misérables’

Daniel Browne, a student at Paul VI Catholic High School, reviews “Les Misérables-School Edition” performed by South Lakes High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Sout Lakes High School’s Kirrolos Guirguis, Nikhil Delahaye, Nigel Moore, Sobe Chinaka, Eric O’Brien, Austin Bur, Tyler Dos Santos and Topher Rodrigues. (Photo by Michael A. Slivinski)

The sound of gunfire cracked and popped, as smoke billowed from behind the backlit barricade. The red banner of the French revolutionaries fell from the hands of their leader. The young French students lost their lives in that fight, but South Lakes High School's production “Les Misérables”— the musical adaptation version by Alain Boubill and Claude-Michel Schönburg from Victor Hugo's classic novel—had the audience rooting for them nonetheless.

The plot of “Les Misérables” is long and complex. It follows Inspector Javert’s (Ben Cohn) lifelong pursuit of capturing escaped inmate Jean Valjean (Sean McCoy). Under persecution, Valjean tries to raise Cosette, the orphaned daughter of one of his workers. In the midst of the revolution, while exposing the plight of the lower classes, the musical confronts the universal struggle of the poor and downtrodden—the miserable ones—that Valjean encounters.

From escaping the chain gang to dragging a dying friend through the sewers of Paris, McCoy—a South Lakes freshman making his musical debut—expressed the emotional weight of his character’s moral dilemma. Cohn, a sophomore playing Javert, exuded frightening authority over Valjean until his failure to capture the elusive Valjean led him to contemplate suicide.

In each of the musical numbers, the chorus sang with strength, authority and clarity. “Master of the House” was particularly memorable. The physicality of Alex Turner, playing Landlord Thenardier, as he drunkenly staggered on stage and welcomed guests with a twisted smile was one of the exquisite moments of the production. And the dancing and drinking of the inn guests, while they sang about Thenardier’s greed, nearly had the audience singing along, not to mention, it provided levity to the serious subject matter.

Other standouts were the show’s best-known numbers, “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own”—delivered with gripping sincerity by Fantine and Eponine, played by Abby Coryell and Mary Davis, respectively. Both actresses commanded the empty stage with nothing but a spotlight, as they stood in front of the curtain and the student “Les Miz Pit Orchestra” backed them with passionate and precise musicianship.

The ensemble’s acting, whether they were playing dying soldiers at the barricade or starving beggars on the streets, created dynamic and emotive scenes.

Kenzy Forman’s light design helped make the actors’ facial expressions and emotions come alive during night and day scenes. Striking silhouette backlighting helped underscore the production’s most dramatic moments. Scene changes, led by stage manager Ariel Lang, were quick, efficient and quiet—the hallmark of a strong stage crew.

Despite being one of the most challenging productions to pull off at high school-level theater, South Lake’s “Les Misérables” had caliber beyond its student thespians' years and rendered superlatives practically inadequate.

By Daniel Browne, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 9, 2010; 11:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Posted at 11:31 PM ET, 05/ 9/2010

Slapstick and suspense in Flint Hill’s ‘Get Smart’

Joseph Deroma, a student of Homeschool Teens n Theatre, reviews “Get Smart” performed by Flint Hill School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Flint Hill School’s Jordan Pasternak, Keeley McLaughlin and Ian Campbell. (Photo by Jackie Viteri)

No matter how hard he tries, Maxwell Smart just can’t live up to his surname. He blows his own cover, mistakes innocent situations for dangerous ones and inadvertently disrespects his superiors while trying to impress them. This is the mode of operation of the world famous spy, as portrayed in Flint Hill School’s production of “Get Smart.”

Ian Campbell in the title role played the not-so-average spy, equipped with all the spy gadgetry that would make any wanna-be spy jealous (yes, he had the classic telephone shoe). Maxwell is flanked by a partner who is hopelessly in love with him, Agent 99 (Keely McLaughlin). But he also has to contend with his dwarfish nemesis Mr. Big (John Curtis), who has a little bit of a Napoleon complex. Flint Hill School recreated the classic television show of the same name with a timeless play that combines the drama and suspense of a detective show with the sense of humor of a comedy.

“Get Smart” ran from 1965 to 1970 and grew to be popular with its unique fusion of slapstick comedy, mystery and suspense. The play followed Maxwell Smart with his partner, the glamorous Agent 99, as they tried to thwart the plans of an evil Russian organization, KAOS, as it tried to take down the U.S. government.

The cast streamed onto and off stage in rapid succession in many scenes. This revolving door of characters created a fast-paced template for well-controlled character chaos (not to be mistaken with KAOS). Cast synergy was evident in their onstage rapport, which helped with line recovery on numerous occasions.

Campbell was the energy powerhouse of the show. Other actors seemed to draw energy from his exaggerated mannerisms and the excitement expressed as he concocted his next foolproof plan. McLaughlin was the constant that balanced Campbell’s unpredictable nature. Steadfast and cool-headed, she supported and confronted Maxwell’s imprudent plans.

A number of other supporting actors stood out, including the Chief (Chris Halverson), who built his character around managing his frustration with Maxwell’s shortcomings. On occasion, his frustration escalated into fury, only to simmer back down to seething frustration. Zalinka’s (Aimee Marich) authentic Russian accent complimented her stern, all-business demeanor. Her unpredictable temperament balanced Mr. Big's stability.

The set consisted of three walls that resembled a large triptych. At appropriate points during the production, interesting props, including clocks, maps and pictures, were hung on this versatile backdrop. There was, however, a smattering of technical hiccups.

Flint Hill School’s production proved that in order to become a world-class international spy, you do not have to be smart, but you may have to “Get Smart.”

By Joseph Deroma, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 9, 2010; 11:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Posted at 9:51 PM ET, 05/ 9/2010

Movie industry transitions to ‘talkies’ in hilarious moments from ‘Singin in the Rain’

Margaret Berkowitz, a student at The Madeira School, reviews “Singin’ in the Rain” performed by James Madison High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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James Madison High School's Jillie Terrill, Claire Ashur, Shannon Michelsen, Nicole Pradas, Johnathan Nichols, Selena Dubar, Corrine Cass, Leslie McConnaughey and Tori Terrill. (Photo by Rachel Chandler-Liu)

Cue the lights, camera, -- and rain! An umbrella is necessary at the toe-tapping extravaganza performed by James Madison High School, that takes the audience back to 1920s Hollywood with bright lights, flashy costumes and triple threat actors, dancers and singers.

Singin’ in the Rain, the 1952 American comedy musical film that originally starred, and was directed by, the iconic Gene Kelly, comically depicts Hollywood and its ground-breaking transition from silent films to films containing audio, otherwise known as “talkies." The high-spirited musical, written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green with music and lyrics by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, received many Golden Globe, Writers Guild of America, and Oscar awards and nominations.

It tells the story of a popular silent film star, Don Lockwood (Noah Lubert), and how he finds love in the only woman not to faint in his presence, Kathy Selden (Leslie Ann McConnaughey). Don’s production company panics at the introduction to talkies, as Lina Lamont (Kristen Bouchard), their leading lady, has an ear-piercing, nasally, utterly obnoxious voice. Kathy, who happens to be a stage actress struggling to start her own career, becomes faced with a choice: does she stay true to herself and her dream, or continue to be stuck behind the scenes dubbing Lina’s voice, as it floods Don’s company with money and thriving success?

The cast of James Madison kicked off the show from a first premiere- arriving entrance with vibrant costumes, colorful makeup, and time period-appropriate mannerisms. Throughout the show, the audience was entertained with everything from chorus girl numbers to back-flipping boys going across the stage.

Leading the show was junior, Noah Lubert, whose straight-man charisma and calm voice proved to make for a character that everyone loved to watch. Lubert’s tap dancing skills were extremely impressive as he completed even the most challenging steps, such as "wings," with dexterity and ease. As Lina, Kristen Bouchard did a very skillful job making her character absolutely dreadful, but still loveable to watch. Her comedic timing in her solo rant song, “What’s Wrong with Me?” left the audience in stitches.

Other actors that dazzled were, Andrew Barat as Cosmo (Don’s best friend and assistant), and Ryan Elci as the male diction teacher. Both had commanding stage presence and stood out with their comedic performances. Barat’s number, “Make ’em Laugh,” was impressive, as he sang out while performing tricks and dance moves, with ease. Elci’s scene as the vocal coach, helping Don prepare for talkies, was memorable to say the least. Not only did Elci have impeccable comedic timing, but also was able to lead in the number, “Moses” performing next to Lubert and Barat.

The sets done by Christopher Liu were artistic and creative, as well as waterproof, because it actually rained on stage during Lubert’s title song, “Singin’ in the Rain.” A few microphone glitches didn’t hinder the actors.

Overall, James Madison High School’s production of "Singin’ in the Rain" was as exciting and vibrant as the show’s time period of early Hollywood, and left the audience praying to Mother Nature for rain, so they could try it out for themselves.

By Margaret Berkowitz, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 9, 2010; 9:51 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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