Humbug – Academy of the New Church

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Humbug by the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA

December 10, 2019

Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

As soft Christmas carols rang throughout the theater, Academy of The New Church’s production of Humbug was a jolly, festive, and hauntingly funny retelling of a classic story.

A contemporary twist to the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, John Wooten focuses his rendition of the story on female empowerment in the workplace. Humbug follows Eleanor Scrooge, the powerful and bitter businesswoman, on her journey to become a woman with a heart of gold. On Christmas Eve, her least favorite holiday, she is visited by her three “advisors”. Christmas Past, Present, and Future help her to realize life is more than chasing after riches and instead focusing on the people she genuinely loves.

The production had just the right amount of holiday flare. The Carolers provided the perfect atmosphere in the theater from the start of the show. Meanwhile, Maggie Stine and Tara Pitcairn (The Homeless Helpers) had a brilliant and enjoyable performance together.

Julie Daum as Eleanor Scrooge comically played the cold-hearted and miserable “queen of Wall Street.” Her portrayal of the dynamic businesswoman was key to relaying the central message of the play. Her character’s transformation from being a selfish, reserved, miser to the gracious and loving boss was an integral part of her performance.

Contrasting Daum’s Scrooge, Aurelle Odhner portrayed the hilarious secretary Bobbie Cratchit. Odhner’s charismatic performance and skilled comedic timing were unmatched, especially at the beginning of the show. In addition, Levon King and Ainsley Odhner, Christmas Past and Present, had memorable moments as well. Both embodied unique characterization with their physicality and strong acting abilities.

Many of the technical aspects of Humbug were extremely challenging. The professional set, built by the ANC Stage Craft Class was very effective in filling the stage. The use of secret doorways added a surprise factor to the production. Similarly, the lighting was a highlight of the show. The ANC Lighting Team’s usage of colors and complicated designs vividly brought the apartment building and dream sequences to life.

The true meaning of Christmas is more than just receiving gifts, but remembering to be compassionate, generous, and, of course, joyful. The Academy of The New Church kicked off the holidays with an important message for audiences to remember during this year’s season.

 

Review submitted by Sophia Borgesi of Haverford High School

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” This celebrated quote delivered by Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, became the finale of Academy of the New Church’s production of Humbug.

Humbug, written by John Wooten, takes the known and loved plot of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and places it into the 21st century. When the stubborn boss, Eleanor Scrooge, is far from generous in helping out her employees. Spirits of her past, present, and future send her into a rude awakening.

There is only one name that comes to mind when discussing the “leads” or principle players in this play. Eleanor Scrooge, played by Julie Daum, phenomenally portrayed the spirit of the Grinch in a modern-day business woman’s body. With her fiery spirit and stringent comebacks, the audience became engulfed in the history of her character, ultimately leading her to overcome her former menacing persona.

To remedy the negativity spread by Scrooge, the upbeat and optimistic secretary, Bobbie Cratchit, played by Aurelle Odhner, was able to bring comedic relief at difficult points in the plot. Odhner’s enthusiastic attitude made it impossible for the audience not to love her “I’ll get here early on Friday” outlook.

The technical elements of this play were for the most part flawless. The set stepped the audience into a high-tension business office and the lighting created smooth scene transitions and emphasized key points of the plot. Even considering the absence of body microphones, the actors were easily picked up by the hanging microphones, thanks to ANC’s sound crew headed by Levi McFall and Declan Williams.

Humbug at Academy of the New Church was a riotous yet authentic experience for both the participants and viewers of all ages.

Peter and the Starcatcher – Harriton High School

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Peter and the Starcatcher by Harriton High School in Rosemont, PA

November 27, 2019

Review submitted by Lisa Green of Friends Central School

All aboard! Journey along with Harriton High School as they present the tale of Peter and the Starcatcher! Be prepared for stormy waters, severe winds, and a brilliant story.

Inspired by J. M. Barrie’s beloved novel Peter Pan, playwright Rick Elice further explored the fantastical world of Neverland. He provided explanations as to how a nameless orphan boy became a hero and a typical black-stashed pirate became the ever-feared tyrannical villain, Captain Hook. The two spend the duration of the story on pirate ships named The Wasp and The Neverland, each attempting to win sacred treasure and protect their respective crews.

Harriton took every measure to transform their regular high school auditorium into raging seas fit to host rival pirate ships. This production displayed significant commitment to the art of storytelling. Every technical department was entirely student run, and the dedication put forth shone through at every turn.

Henry McCullough (Black Stache) brought so much life and energy to every scene in which he was featured. Every line, joke, and quip was delivered with excellent comedic timing and no shortage of “starstuff.” Angelina DeMonte (Molly) led her shipmates (including title character Peter), as well as the rest of the cast, with grace, flair, and a very convincing English accent.

Audrey Sigler (Smee) kept the audience in stitches by fully delving into her character and utilizing hilarious physical comedy. In addition, Julia Green (Alf) and William Coleman (Mrs. Bumbrake) elevated their romantic story line with whimsy, beautiful harmonies in each of their songs, and plenty of playful chemistry.

This performance was filled with many impressive technical nuances. The Harriton Pit Orchestra enhanced each scene transition with professional caliber music. While there were occasional instances of the songs overpowering the actors, the cast quickly recovered each time. Propmasters Maren McDonnell and CJ Browser created and operated a life-size crocodile, complete with glowing red eyes and terrifying roar sound effects. Furthermore, the lighting successfully conveyed transitions and changes of location with style.

Harriton’s endlessly talented cast and skilled stage crew came together to create a funny, thought-provoking and outstanding performance.

 

Review submitted by Hope Odhner of Academy of the New Church

Stop by Harriton High School to catch the magic of childhood and the wonder of friendship in their latest production, Peter and the Starcatcher.

Peter and the Starcatcher tells the timeless story of Peter Pan. The script, adapted by Rick Elice, is based on the 2004 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and serves as a prequel to the classic tale of Peter Pan, offering origin stories for the central characters.

The story begins with a spectacular mix-up involving two identical trunks onboard two sea-faring vessels. Lord Aster, protecting the trunk filled with a powerful substance known as “starstuff”, travels on one, while his daughter, Molly, and a trio of unfortunate orphans are aboard the other. A few betrayals and trunk mix-ups by a devious captain and some undercover pirates result in utter chaos and one of the orphans going overboard, along with the trunk full of starstuff. Act Two picks up on a strange island filled with angry natives and a hungry crocodile. Starstuff from the trunk leaks out, turning fish into mermaids, a friendly bird into a sparkling fairy, and growing orphans into ageless boys.

Aiden Kaliner played the nameless orphan who later became Peter Pan, displaying his prickly pride and underlying desire for connection. Angelina DeMonte brought self-confidence, compassion, and charm to the role of Molly Aster. The wicked pirate Black Stache, played by Henry McCullough, filled the stage with his flamboyant character and dramatic monologues. Luckily, his chaotic charisma and hysterical malapropisms were faithfully kept in check by his right-hand man.

Audrey Sigler, as Smee, wore an energetic and effusive smile, despite the scorn and needy demands of her boss, Black Stache. Maddie Leftkowitz embodied a bitter and ferocious savage as the stern leader Fighting Prawn. Julia Hoeffner and Sammy Biglin created a dynamic duo as the orphans Prentiss and Ted, although Hoeffner’s bossy orders as the self-acclaimed leader did little to sway the food-obsessed Biglin.

The show took place in a student-built black box theater created directly on the mainstage. Noah Shelanski and Sam Gerike not only constructed the versatile central platform, but also the surrounding tiers of seating. The artistically simple sets were complemented by the elaborate lights which transported the audience from the stormy seas, to a tropical jungle, to a mysterious lagoon, using various colors and patterns. Maren McDonnell and CJ Bowser supplied thoughtful and fun props, including a fork-and-rolling-pin sword, as well as an enormous, leering crocodile.

An almost entirely student-run show, Peter and the Starcatcher was filled with energy, humor, heartbreak, and a little bit of magic. Harriton High School’s creativity and dedicated efforts brought to life a beloved tale that never gets old.

 

Boeing Boeing – Upper Dublin High School

Boeing Boeing by Upper Dublin High School in Maple Glen, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Lisa Green of Friends Central School

Ladies and Gentleman, please take your seats. Sit back, relax, and prepare for takeoff, as Upper Dublin High School presents Boeing Boeing!

This three-act farce tells the story of Bernard, an American businessman living in Paris with a seemingly average life. When his old friend, Robert, arrives, it is revealed that his life is anything but average: Bernard has three fiancées who work as flight attendants for three different international airlines. The comments from Bernard’s maid, Berte, along with the three fiancées always coming and going, provide a healthy helping of turbulence.

Upper Dublin went above and beyond to make this production unforgettable. The black box theater, coupled with a small ensemble cast of six, created an intentionally intimate and personal atmosphere. In addition, small touches like the actors’ consistent accents and ending the show with airplane-themed bows really showed the care and forethought that went into this show.

Brady Lincavage (Robert) filled his performance with brilliantly executed physical comedy, showed emotional authenticity, and never failed to generate uncontrollable laughter from the audience. Zoe Halperin (Berte) welcomed the audience in with sassy quips, total awareness of the crazy world around her, and masterfully playing off of her co-stars.

Benjamin Brown (Bernard) displayed a very genuine transition from being the calm, straight man with a plan to a deer in headlights toward the end of the performance. Furthermore, each of the three fiancées—Courtney Varallo (Gloria), Hana Yolacan (Gabriella) and Bailey Rifkin (Gretchen) made each of their characters distinct, and they engaged with the audience marvelously. While there were slight pacing issues at the beginning, the cast and crew consistently improved throughout the duration of the show.

Upper Dublin’s cast members did their own makeup, making sure to stay true to the early 1960s time period. Additionally, each of Sarah Joseph’s sound cues were consistent and made this production feel professional. Finally, prop masters Lizzy O’Connell and Katie Harton creatively managed a broad range of props, such as the rotating pictures and travel bags of each fiancée.

Get ready for the flight of a lifetime! Upper Dublin’s committed cast, thoughtful direction, and talented tech crew make this production of Boeing Boeing a must see event!

 

Review submitted by Grace O’Malley of Germantown Academy

Upper Dublin High School’s production Boeing Boeing took flight into a realm of chaos as the cast engrossed the audience into a hysterical tale of a man and his three foreign fiancées.

Boeing Boeing is a play focused on the life of Bernard, a bachelor who spends time organizing the flight schedules of his three flight attendant fiancées. Three women from different countries believe that they are the only woman in Bernard’s life, however, that is certainly not the case. Everything goes downhill when all three fiancées end up at Bernard’s apartment at the same time. Perplexed by the situation, Bernard and his friend Robert must devise a plan so that the fiancées don’t figure out the truth.

The small cast of Boeing Boeing filled the room with energy as well as brought the stage to life with their ravishing 1960’s inspired looks. There was never a dull moment in the production since the entire cast played their roles to their full potential. The cast was challenged by the difficulty of accents, but tackled it head on and delivered to the best of their ability.

Zoe Halperin’s appearances as Berthe left the audience star struck after her accurate portrayal of the hysterical maid. Her astonishing French accent combined with her body language fit the aggravated yet funny maid. The two male actors Benjamin Brown and Brady Lincavage approached their roles head on and delivered solid performances.

Gretchen, played by Bailey Rifkin, and Robert, played by Brady Lincavage, had the best onstage chemistry. The pair worked well to develop their characters’ relationship. Courtney Varallo and Hana Yolacan played the other two flight attendants Gloria and Gabriella and did a great job of making their characters their own. Hana Yolacan’s usage of an Italian accent gave an authentic performance of her Italian character.

The Upper Dublin High School tech crew was spot on with sound effect cues. Bravo to their one set which was detailed, creative, and really captured a plausible 1960’s French apartment. Makeup and hair was flawless:  giving the audience an authentic blast to the past to the 1960’s.

Overall, the cast of Boeing Boeing delivered a memorable performance with their talented cast.

Metamorphoses – Friends Select School

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Metamorphoses by Friends Select School in Philadelphia, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Hanna Matsukawa of Academy of the New Church

A single droplet can stir a sea, a single misstep can transform a life. Far too often we overlook the ripples we create and the tales we incite. Friends Select’s Metamorphoses is a beautiful reminder of human nature in the most human form, storytelling.

Written by Mary Zimmerman, Metamorphoses is composed of a series of vignettes based on the poems of Ovid. This unique work premiered in 1996 and opened on Broadway in 2002. Though each classical myth distinctly tells its own familiar tale, they seamlessly weave together with expert storytelling, compelling characters, and a mesmerizing pool of water.

A non-linear storyline seems difficult to pull off, but Friends Select’s Metamorphoses skillfully kept the audience engaged throughout the play. Though some lines were lost due to weak diction, the actors expertly displayed their versatility by portraying multiple characters and bringing emphatic emotion to every role. The heavy, contemplative aspects of the play were well-balanced with light comedic scenes and witty characterizations, leaving the audience both deep in melancholy thought and thoroughly amused.

Olivia Shuman’s portrayal of the greedy King Midas was perfectly self-affected and playfully humorous. Perhaps one of the most compelling and emotionally stirring performances was that of Sara Kelley. Kelley beautifully embodied the pure anguish and heartbroken denial of Alcyone and captured the strenuous labor turned to hopeful love of Psyche.

Every actor took on numerous roles and shined in various ways. Elena Milliken brought sweet sincerity to the stage as the daughter of Midas, Eurydice, and the inquisitive Q. Kaiyuan Chen crept across the stage sending shivers throughout the audience as the macabre Hunger and Claire McHarg delivered much-needed hilarity to the play as the petulant Phaeton.

The striking costumes were both designed and created by Isabella Iannozzi. Each piece of clothing brought the essence of the characters to life, from the skeletal suit of Hunger to Iris’ glowing skirt. Freeman Rabb impressively composed all of the music for the production. His accomplished work both polished the transitions and enhanced the emotion of the narrative. At the heart of the play was a pool of water built onto the stage. Not only was the pool integral to the telling of each myth, but the water on stage served to consolidate the stories with irresistible harmony.

With simple beauty, Friends Select’s Metamorphoses breathed life into timeless stories resonant with human frailty and understanding, reminding us that “wherever our love goes, there we find our soul.

 

Review submitted by Hope Odhner of Academy of the New Church

A timeless tale of transformations, Metamorphoses is the story of the human condition. At the Friends Select School, this collection of ancient myths was revived in a modern theatrical production.

The origins of Metamorphoses date back to Ovid, who wrote a narrative poem, comprised of over 250 Greek and Roman myths, chronicling the history of the world and the transformations of man. The stories have been told and retold for centuries, and are still beloved by readers today. The script was first written and directed by Mary Zimmerman and premiered in 1996.

The story meanders through nine different tales, unrelated to each other in plot, but connected by common themes such as love, hubris, and a central pool of water. The myths vary greatly in length and tone, together bringing humor, heartbreak, and philosophy to the stage. While the set was minimal, the student-built pool played a vital role as a symbolic and interactive space for each scene. The actors wove on and off, switching smoothly from one character to the next.

Olivia Shuman performed a more modern take on King Midas in the first myth, and reappeared again at the end of the show, when the king finally cleansed himself of his curse and embraced his daughter. Yannick Haynes played a regal Hermes in two separate myths, but he truly shone in his role as the headstrong Ceyx. Sara Kelley gave a captivating performance as the distraught Alcyone, then went on to become the sweet Psyche, whose chemistry with Eros (Freeman Rabb) was tangible. Each of them appeared as various other characters as well, while some actors followed a single archetype throughout the show. Elena Milliken played myriad different characters, but always embodied an innocent young girl.

The tales of Ovid are ancient, but they were kept entertaining and relevant by actors such as Claire McHarg, playing a resentful Phaeton, and Annalise Shuman as his father Apollo. Michaela Fineman’s lovable awkwardness brought a light-hearted air to the story of Pomona and Vertumnus. Many of the actors contributed to behind-the-scenes work as well. Kaiyuan Chen made an ethereal, chilling Hunger, and offstage he worked as a stage manager with Margo Latty. Freeman Rabb appeared as several different gods, and also composed and recorded a compelling score, while Claire McHarg arranged a vocal interlude. The costumes, created by Isabella Iannozzi, reflected the show’s simplistic story-telling and attention to detail, and they also adapted nicely to the added challenge of submersion in water.

The show as a whole was striking and thought-provoking in its imagery and symbolism, while remaining light-hearted and genuine. Stories that have been passed down for generations were beautifully depicted by the students at Friends Select School.

Newsies – Dock Mennonite Academy

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Newsies by Dock Mennonite Academy in Souderton, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! This weekend, a ragtag group of ragamuffins from Dock Mennonite Academy took on the kingmakers of New York!

If you haven’t already guessed, Dock Mennonite delivered their rendition of the classic characters and songs from Newsies, a 2012 musical based on the movie of the same name. Underneath the show’s catchy songs and witty banter runs a dark undercurrent of child exploitation as it chronicles the Newsboys Strike of 1899. Led by Jack Kelly, an orphaned dreamer turned revolutionary with an artistic streak, the Manhattan “Newsies” fight to improve the working conditions of all the newsboys in New York.

Early on in the show, Crutchie remarks to Jack “I don’t need folks, I got friends.” This remark perfectly captures what made Dock Mennonite’s production so entertaining. The Newsies’ energy and chemistry were palpable, forcing the audience to become invested in their cause.

Miguel Santiago starred as the tough yet secretly vulnerable Jack, tackling the role’s demanding vocal, dance, and dialect requirements with ease. His vocal prowess was especially apparent in the recurring song “Santa Fe.” Greta Schrag’s performance as the resourceful Katherine was also impressive. “Watch What Happens” is one of the most difficult songs for any actress to sing, and Schrag powered through it without stumbling over any of its fast-paced lyrics.

Ruth Michel was a standout among the supporting cast, perfectly portraying the character of the cerebral Davey. Her vocals were also consistently impressive despite the songs being below her normal register. Debi Boerner tugged at the audience’s heartstrings as the optimistic Crutchie, and stole the show with her heartfelt rendition of “Letter from the Refuge.” Although the cast’s vocals and characterizations sometimes faltered during big musical numbers, this is more than forgivable given the show’s difficult and unique style of dance.

The technical star of the show was the student-choreographed “Once and For All,” which created an intricate network of newspaper tossing. The lighting was simple but effective, drawing attention to scene changes and solos.

With infectious optimism, ambitious choreography, and enthusiastic vocals, Dock Mennonite Academy’s production of Newsies paid tribute to the bravery of the real newsboys that the show is based on, reminding the audience that if you keep your “eyes on the stars and feet on the ground,” there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

 

Review submitted by Lisa Green of Friends Central School

“Watch What Happens” when Dock Mennonite Academy brings the story of the New York Newsies to life onstage!

This tale of courage, camaraderie and heart, Newsies was inspired by the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 and composed by Alan Menken. “Newsies”, or Newspaper boys,  Jack Kelly and Davey Jacobs organize a strike to protest Joseph Pulitzer’s unjust rise in prices of newspapers for the newsboys to sell. With the assistance of up-and-coming reporter, Katherine, the Newsies face off against the all-powerful owners of the newspapers themselves. While the group faces obstacles, they never fail to stand up for one another and persevere!

Dock Mennonite crafted a performance that radiated so much hard work and care from all of the cast and crew, but the cohesion of the ensemble really made it stand out! Every large group number was accompanied by understated choreography, performed perfectly in sync, and outstanding harmonies. In addition, “Once and for All” was choreographed completely by students and the forethought and creativity they put into this number paid off in spades!

Miguel Santiago (Jack) showcased his classic ballet training at every opportunity, led the cast with enormous success, and displayed a very wide and impressive vocal range throughout each challenging song. In addition, Greta Schrag (Katherine) made every scene she was in memorable with her lovely voice and passionate stage presence.

Ruth Michel (Davey) “Seized the Day” by delivering a very convincing and genuine performance, as well as being the vocal highlight of each song she was featured in. Furthermore, Carlie Cocco (Medda) made the show come alive with a very heartfelt and energetic rendition of “That’s Rich.” Finally, the Newsies Featured Dancers elevated each dance break into a lively and fun experience!

Stage Manager Dalton Moore tackled a very ambitious show with skill and talent. For the most part, the vocal power was amplified very well by Sound Mixer Maggie Dowell. While there were instances of the music overpowering the vocals, the actors always recovered quickly thereafter.

All in all, this performance was consistently “Something to Believe In.” Electric choreography, beautiful vocals, and a wonderful story came together to produce an extraordinary performance.

 

The Curious Savage – Interboro High School

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Photo by John Saddic

The Curious Savage by Interboro High School in Prospect Park, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Senta Johnson of Sun Valley High School

Interboro High School left audiences enraptured with their production of The Curious Savage.

This John Patrick comedy follows the widowed Mrs. Savage, whose noble intentions to donate her husband’s fortune are resented by her stepchildren. They commit her to a sanitorium called “The Cloisters,” where Mrs. Savage finds a true family bond from the hospitality of the guests. The Curious Savage captures the virtues of kindness in a world motivated by greed.

Talent was evident from every member of the cast and crew. With each scene overflowing with expertise and authenticity, there was never a dull moment. The commitment and energy from the company brought this 1950’s story to life.

It is the characters that make this comedy work, and this cast excelled at creating ones that were humorous and endearing. Center stage as the brutally honest Mrs. Savage was Bailey Rose Collington, who portrayed this character with comedic expertise. Accompanying her, the peculiar residents of the sanatorium were played remarkably by a group of fine thespians. Franchesca Parker as the animated Fairy May and Conner Shaffer as the quirky Hannibal were especially captivating. As an ensemble, the guests were a crowd favorite.

As the antagonistic Savage family, Ryan McGinley, Connor Wiseley, and Charlotte Relyea did a superb job creating despicable characters and admirable performances. Other standouts include Sarah Frank and Daniel McDougald as the neutral, hospitable staff. Each line and mannerism from the entire cast was executed flawlessly and effortlessly.

Drawing in their audience was The Curious Publicity Crew. Their program designs and promotional displays were more than exceptional. While their work was not on stage, it is still worth much applause.

The Curious Savage is a timeless comedy with an indispensable message that is sure to warm the hearts of every audience member. Don’t miss your opportunity to enjoy this excellent performance at Interboro High School.

 

Review submitted by Jolie Jaffe of Agnes Irwin School

Though greed can often overpower feelings of contentment, there is no doubt that love can drive a person to make difficult decisions. Interboro High School brought these problems to life in their production of The Curious Savage.

John Patrick’s play tells the story of an elderly widow put in a sanitorium by her family after she is left ten million dollars by her husband. The patients at The Cloisters become Mrs. Savage’s true family when she realizes her children are only motivated by their greed. As she sends her family on a wild goose chase, she realizes that the most important families don’t have to be biologically related. This 1950s play chronicles themes of love, greed, and friendship.

The cast and crew did a fantastic job of creating a charming environment of The Cloisters and captivating the audience. Throughout the three-act play, there was not a single dull moment. The show ran very smoothly without any technical problems or awkward pauses. This show was fast-paced, witty, and thought-provoking.

Bailey Rose Collington brought a complex portrayal of Mrs. Savage, the clever woman who would do anything to protect her friends. Collington was able to be brutally honest, and still portray a lovable character. She commanded the stage and led the show without overpowering any other actors.

Collington was joined by the guests of The Cloisters, a dynamic and comedic group of actors. Franchesca Parker perfected her comedic timing for a curious and loveable portrayal of Fairy May. Thomas Bosch represented one of the more normal characters of The Cloisters, without being overshadowed by the other actors. The audience easily empathized with Bosch’s portrayal of Jeffrey. The astonishing Aaliyah Michael took on the demanding task of conveying feelings without communicating in the role of Mrs. Paddy. The audience felt moved by her performance, and she never stopped acting.

The cast was supported by a set that created a tight-knit atmosphere of The Cloisters, and costumes that reflected the 1950s aesthetic. The marketing and publicity team did a great job of designing a logo that fit the charming theme and time of the play.

Interboro High School’s production of The Curious Savage was impressive and entertaining. Although these actors have never lived through the 1950s, they managed to make the issues and sentiments of the time just as relevant as if they had.

Chicago: High School Edition – Springside Chestnut Hill Academy

SCH Chicago (3) - Photo by Daria Maidenbaum

Photo by Daria Maidenbaum

Chicago: High School Edition by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

Not that the truth really matters, but I’m gonna tell you anyway: the Springside Chestnut Hill Players’ production of Chicago: High School Edition transported the audience back to the Jazz Age as its cast of “scintillating sinners” treated the audience to a vaudevillian night of both “unrelenting determination and unmitigated ego.”

Based on the experiences of 1926 reporter Maurice Dallas Walkins, Chicago is both a love-letter to the conventions of vaudeville and a satire of so-called “celebrity criminals.” It tells the story of vaudeville-wannabes Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly as they enlist the help of the cynical Billy Flynn in hopes of securing their moment in the fleeting public spotlight.

The cast’s commitment to the over-the-top physicality Chicago requires was evident in their incredibly ambitious choreography. Whether they were executing sensual Fosse-inspired moves in “All That Jazz” or performing circus tricks in “Razzle Dazzle,” the show’s dancers never failed to impress.

Katie Walker skillfully managed to portray the immature and narcissistic aspects of Roxie without veering into full-blown un-likeability. She also showed off her mastery of physical comedy during “Courtroom,” leaving the audience in stitches with her hysterically exaggerated walking, crying, and knitting. Erin Jolly’s sultry performance as Velma provided the perfect contrast to Walker’s flightiness, and her voice never failed to impress. Yofi Guy commanded the stage as the suave Billy, masterfully delivering his rendition of the show-stopping “We Both Reached for the Gun” without stumbling over its fast-paced lyrics.

Michael Jarema’s portrayal of the lovable Amos elicited both cries of laughter and sighs of sympathy from the audience. Other standouts among the supporting cast included Whimsy Mark-Ockerbloom, who effortlessly sang Mary Sunshine’s difficult vocal part while in full drag, and Julia Lieberman, whose tough portrayal of Mama Morton helped balance out the eccentricities of the rest of the cast. Although several dances were performed out-of-sync and the cast sometimes struggled with diction during songs, these small errors are entirely forgivable given the extreme difficulty of the show’s choreography.

Throughout the performance, actors entered the auditorium in sets of small groups through unorthodox entrances like the doors to the lobby. Fortunately, these cues all ran smoothly thanks to the impressive stage management by Riley Farbstein, Max Scheuermann, Trevor Meyer, and Chandler Fattah.

With ambitious choreography, powerful vocals, and effortless physicality, the SCH Players’ production of Chicago: High School Edition reminded the audience that murder isn’t just a crime; it’s an art.

 

Review submitted by Julia Dani of Friends Central School

Start the car and get down to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for their dazzling performance of Chicago: High School Edition!

Set in the Windy City, Chicago follows two of the merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail. Nightclub star Velma Kelly is serving time for killing her husband and sister after finding the two “performing” behind her back. Hungry for fame, Roxie Hart has been tossed in the slammer for “silencing” the lover she’s been cheating on her husband with. Lookin’ for a little sympathy, Velma enlists the help of prison matron Mama Morton and quick talking lawyer Billy Flynn, who turn Velma into a ‘murder-of-the-week’ star in the eye of the press, preparing everybody in Illinois for her comeback. But Roxie, still bent on achieving her dream, has got some of tricks up her sleeve, also wanting to be seen and heard by the public.

Erin Jolly, who was tasked with portraying the starlet Velma Kelly held her own. She proved herself to be a vocal powerhouse in the production and blended well with the ensemble in dance numbers. Roxie Hart, played by Katie Walker was a stand out. With her strong vocals and impeccable acting, she truly brought a special something to the stage and really made the audience love her. Even when momentarily losing her wig, she kept that sweet smile on her face and trekked through not missing a beat, a very professional move that she should be very proud of! Walker and Jolly portrayed the love hate relationship we know so well, and kept the audience wanting more after every number.

Yofi Guy made the audience fall in love with the silver-tongued prince of the courtroom Billy Flynn. His charisma was unmatched on stage and his convincing nature proves not only to be effective on the players, but also on the audience. He worked well with his female counterparts, especially Roxie. They brought a special sparkle to the stage, and left me wanting more stage time for both of them. Guy showed off his vocal chops in numbers like ‘All I Care About’ and proved he has pizzaz in ‘Razzle Dazzle’. Great job!

Although it was hard to pick, my favorite number of the night had to have been ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’. Even as a puppet, Walker’s marionette moves and doll face kept me in stitches, and paired with Guy’s ventriloquism and the ensemble’s silly questioning, how could the audience not smile!

Taking on a demanding show like ChicagoHigh School Edition takes a lot of talent, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy delivered!