Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Conestoga High School

Conestoga - Joseph Coat 3

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA

March 11, 2020

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

We all dream a lot. Some are lucky; some are not. But if you don’t care and have an hour or two, Conestoga High School’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will tell you the tale of a dreamer like you!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a modern, musical retelling of the classic biblical tale of Joseph’s coat of many colors. When Joseph shows off his snazzy new coat to his rotten brothers, they ship him off to Egypt in a fit of jealousy. But fortunately for Joseph, Egypt has had a recent run of crazy dreams, and Joseph’s skill at interpreting them rocket him into stardom.

Despite having to perform nonstop for the show’s entire runtime, Conestoga’s cast and orchestra maintained infectiously high levels of energy, displaying their jaw-dropping musical skills and dancing prowess.

Will Dusinberre led the cast as the charming Joseph, showing off his gorgeous vocals in songs like “Close Every Door.” Starring opposite him was Emma Krapels as the Narrator, who took on the monumental task of explaining the entire show’s plot. She did so beautifully, acting as a vocalist in a staggering eighteen songs without stumbling over any of the fast-paced lyrics.

JP Infortuna stole the show with his hilarious portrayal of the Elvis-impersonating Pharaoh. Infortuna showed his mastery of improv and situational comedy during a long, unscripted conversation with audience members that left everyone in the auditorium in stitches. The ensemble of eleven brothers had palpable chemistry on stage, and showed incredible acting and vocal range as they performed everything from the Jazzercise inspired “Go, Go, Go Joseph” to the western “One More Angel in Heaven.”  Ethan Overton was especially entertaining as Simeon, maintaining a hilariously thick accent throughout the satirical French ballad “Those Canaan Days.” Another standout among the supporting cast was Yunge Xiao who wowed the audience during her several entrancing solo dances.

The Conestoga Pit Orchestra served as the backbone of the production, effortlessly ducking in and out of the different keys and musical styles in the show’s difficult score. Also impressive was the set by the Conestoga Set Build Crew which fused the modern influences of the show’s many musical numbers with the hieroglyphics and limestone columns of ancient Egypt. The psychedelic lighting design by the Conestoga Light Crew helped make every song feel distinct, and combined with the Conestoga Special Effects Team’s fog to create stunning pillars of light.

You could “close every door to me, hide all the world from me, bar all my windows,” but even that couldn’t stop me from coming to see Conestoga’s breathtaking production.

 

Review submitted by Fiona Moser of Agnes Irwin School

Audience members at Conestoga High School’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat didn’t leave the theatre feeling blue (or azure or lemon or russet or gray)! This past weekend, Conestoga’s cast presented a masterful performance which transported audiences to the holy land hundreds of years ago.

Following the tale of Joseph as presented in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, the plot of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is recounted by the aptly named Narrator. She brings the audience along on the story of Joseph’s prophetic ability, his rise to power, and his relatable relationship with his family. In 1982, the original Broadway production opened. It featured music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice and received six Tony nominations.

To pull off this difficult piece is no easy feat, and Conestoga rose to the challenge with an effortlessly stunning performance.

Will Dusinberre led the cast as Joseph, showcasing spectacular vocal skill and rigorous stamina throughout the performance. His charming naivety and heart-wrenching emotion in numbers like “Close Every Door” won the audience’s hearts. Emma Krapels gave a stellar performance as the Narrator. Her powerful and controlled riffs and her focused stage presence lent themselves to an impressive display. Although their material was exceedingly challenging, both Krapels and Dusinberre exuded strong levels of professionalism which set good examples for the rest of the cast.

JP Infortuna as Pharaoh was a suave show-stopper – literally – when he paused his energetic number to wipe sweat off his brow and make his way through the theatre. There, he improvised interactions with audience members to peals of laughter. His ability to stay in character, his excellent vocals, and his unstaggering confidence led to one of the most memorable moments of the musical. Yunge Xiao as Mrs. Potiphar showed off spectacular dance skills and spot-on characterization. Also notable were Joseph’s brothers. The eleven-person ensemble displayed incredible versatility in styles of music, dance, and mood, and transitioned flawlessly between each. Their astonishing vocal agility, admirable dance performances, and strong character choices contributed to many of the production’s most exciting numbers, including the hilarious “Those Canaan Days”. Conestoga’s ensemble elevated the show with their high energy, polished dancing, and blended vocals.

Having an excellent cast to begin with, Conestoga’s technical details brought the musical to a whole new level. The carefully crafted set complemented the production and allowed the audience to see all members of the cast, even in large ensemble numbers. The lighting made every transition appear smooth. It highlighted the production without detracting focus from the action onstage and also included fun colorful cues during some high-energy numbers.

Overall, Conestoga High School’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat showcased a professional-level cast and crew who created an impressive and practically flawless performance.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella – Delaware County Christian School

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella by Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square, PA

March 11, 2020

Review submitted by Sophie Curran of Jenkintown High School

A girl going from rags to riches, a prince looking for himself and a bride, a fairy godmother, and an evil stepmother with two daughters: all of these characters are familiar ones to most. At Delaware County Christian School this past weekend, these faces from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella were brought to life by a lively and colorful cast.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a musical that was written for television, originally airing on CBS live in 1957 and starring Julie Andrews. The storyline is different from the one most often recalled by the public: Cinderella still goes to the ball with the help of her fairy godmother, but she is surrounded by newer characters like the young revolutionary Jean-Michel and unlikely friend Gabrielle. This version of the classic tale featured the beloved, classic characters with modern ideas and intentions.

Delaware County Christian School’s production of Cinderella was fun and heartfelt. Everyone in the cast seemed to enjoy performing as much as the audience loved watching the show. Despite several small technical hiccups, the whole cast was able to construct a comedic and enjoyable performance that had the audience laughing and sitting on the edges of their seats.

Brendan Tuttle as Prince Topher and Lilly Fischer as Ella worked together to create a memorable storyline as the main characters. Their duets “Ten Minutes Ago”, “Loneliness of Evening”,  and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” were charming and enjoyable. Brendan Tuttle was memorable in his role, garnering cheers many times throughout the production.

The supporting cast was delightful to watch onstage. Many of their performances stood out, such as Jazmine Scotton as Marie, who blessed the audience with her lovely voice during several musical numbers, such as “Impossible” and “There’s Music in You”. The stepsisters, played by Emily Chung (Gabrielle) and Emma Carrington (Charlotte), provided heartwarming and comedic performances, respectively. The various ensembles wonderfully uplifted the main character’s performances, although the overall energy of the cast dropped a few times throughout the show. Overall, the supporting cast made the show enjoyable to watch and hear.

The stage crew did an exemplary job under the stage managers, Declan Thompson and Eowyn Oh, although there were some small issues with the spotlights and microphones during musical numbers. The set changes were quick and well-planned, thanks to the DC KMMICP Crew. The costumes were designed and refurbished by students and lent a lovely hand in making the show colorful and fantastical, thanks to Noelle Griest, Madison O’Shea, Aubrey Theis, and the DC Red Team.

Overall, Delaware County Christian School’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was an enjoyable and lovely take on the classic tale.

 

Review submitted by Meg Matsukawa of Academy of the New Church

As pumpkins turned to carriages and foxes turned to footmen, so the impossible turned to possible in Delaware County Christian School’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, the musical based on the classic fairy tale, was written in 1957 for television. Since its original debut, the musical has been adapted into numerous forms, most recently into a 2013 Broadway version with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane. Delaware County Christian School brought the story to life in their own interpretation of the timeless tale.

Delaware County Christian School’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was carried by the small but mighty ensemble whose energetic facial expressions brought the backdrop of the fairy tale to life, painting a picture of the poor and determined villagers and the eager and flirtatious ball guests. Their soft singing and harmonies brought depth to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic songs, helping support the voices of the lead actors.

The show had several very strong voices, but Brendan Tuttle, who played Prince Topher, stood out among the actors. His powerful voice filled the room with ease, and he carried himself with grace and poise befitting a prince. Lilly Fischer played the part of Ella with a sweet voice and unique portrayal of the timeless character.

The supporting cast of the production was incredible, showcasing their acting and singing abilities within their smaller roles. Emily Chung, who played Gabrielle, beautifully brought a soft side to the classically rough character, as well as an incredible voice and emotional acting. Emma Carrington gave a lively and comical performance of Charlotte, and even when technical difficulties got in the way of her performance, she carried on with ease and professionalism.

The production was tied together by swift and seamless scene changes, helping the show transition from palaces to pumpkins with effortless ease. The costume team handled having many difficult and onstage quick changes with skill, adding to the magic of the story with their well thought out transitions. Although there were some microphone pops, the sound crew was able to navigate controlling many body mics, a testimony to their talent.

Even as the clock struck midnight and the ball ended, the magic of Delaware County Christian School’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella left you believing in the possibilities of your dreams, and the “music in you.”

 

Chicago: High School Edition – Germantown Academy

Chicago:  High School Edition by Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA

March 11, 2020

Review submitted by Kelly McCarthy of Ridley High School

The Roaring Twenties were comprised of shorter skirts, harder liquor, louder jazz, and for some Chicago women, more heinous crimes. In a notable performance of Chicago: High School Edition, the hustle and bustle of the 1920s sprung to life on Germantown Academy’s stage.

Based on a 1924 play of the same name, Chicago details the homicide cases of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two women who murdered their lovers. Set in the jazz age, this musical boldly explores the questionable morals and standards of Americans in the 1920s through Velma and Roxie’s attempts to garner fame despite the charges pinned on them.

Throughout Germantown Academy’s production, cast members came together in powerful performances such as “Razzle Dazzle” and “Cell Block Tango”, highlighting their vocal capabilities. Most notably, Velma (Alex Kafrissen) and Roxie (Rachel Roth) showcased their impressive voices during many difficult songs, especially together in “My Own Best Friend”.

Velma (Alex Kafrissen) was at the forefront of the opening number, “All That Jazz”, establishing herself as the epitome of a Roaring Twenties’ leading lady. Dancing with grace, she completed an abundance of impressive moves, including a daring lift and jaw-dropping splits. Roxie (Rachel Roth) truly came into her character, dragging along her husband Amos and doing anything for fame. Her lawyer, Billy Flynn (Will Cooper), sang masterfully and maintained consistent energy in every scene.

While the lead actors were certainly impressive, those filling supporting roles also stood out. Leading transitions between scenes, the Master of Ceremony (J. Fassler) did a nice job helping excite the audience and leading the show’s flow. Additionally, Amos Hart (Michael Wood), the chagrined husband of Roxie, balanced his comedic role with emotional nuances. While some scenes felt a bit rushed, the sizable cast worked cohesively overall, especially in difficult dance numbers like “All That Jazz”.

The sound team, led by sound designer Harry Mirabile and assistant sound designer David Savidge, tackled the challenge of controlling twenty microphones, all while working with a new sound system. They were also tasked with incorporating the musical component of the show, as the orchestra was pre-recorded, which they did well.

Thanks to an impressive cast and crew, Germantown Academy gave audience members “the old razzle dazzle” in their production of Chicago: High School Edition.

 

Review submitted by Nicole Kopko of Ridley High School

Germantown Academy killed it this weekend with their glamorous production of Chicago: High School Edition! Based on the play of the same name, Chicago tells the story of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two fame-hungry murderesses aspiring to have their names in the lights of Vaudeville. Each of the duo secures charming but manipulative lawyer, Mr. Billy Flynn, as her defense lawyer. Flynn uses his power to obscure the media’s views of the women and get them off clean and as celebrities. With the media constantly moving, and their names falling out of the public eye, Roxie and Velma do everything in their power such as faking a pregnancy and teaming up to keep their names in lights.

At the forefront of the productions were the two leading ladies, Alex Kafrissen (Velma) and Rachel Roth (Roxie). Kafrissen proved to be a true triple threat as she encased the sensuality and energy of 1920’s jazz era in numbers such as “All That Jazz” and “I Can’t Do It Alone.” With a buttery voice, Roth proved to have the smoothness of conniving Roxie down flat in “Roxie” and “Funny Honey”.  The opposing duo shined and blended their talents for powerful numbers like “My Own Best Friend” and “Hot Honey Rag.” Will Cooper (Billy Flynn) proved to be no amateur as he stepped onto stage became the suave, mercenary lawyer. Though a difficult role vocally, Cooper never faltered in large production numbers “We Both Reached for the Gun” and “Razzle Dazzle”.

Adding to the glitz were the Merry Murderesses, Brina Cartagenova (Liz), Maeve Diver (Annie), Jenna Nolan (June), Isabella Venziale (Hunyak), Laura Paynton (Mona) and their fearful leader Sydney Hill (Matron “Mama” Morton). Not to be walked right through, Michael Wood (Amos Hart) stole and broke the hearts of the audience as the hopeful and wholesome husband. Though hard to hear at certain points during the show, the ensemble put energy and intention into every stylized move they made!

Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of this production was the sound designed and run by Harry Mirabile and David Savidge. With responsibility of having microphones and music tracks to cue and run, Mirabile and Savidge did a fantastic job of blending and balancing the overall sound. At no point did it feel that any music cues lagged as the pace kept up throughout.

Where murder is an art and the legal system is all show business, Germantown Academy gave the audience the old razzle dazzle this weekend with Chicago: High School Edition!

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella – Marple Newtown High School

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella by Marple Newtown High School in Newtown Square, PA

March 11, 2020

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

Come one, come all! Marple Newtown High School is throwing a ball, and you’re all invited for a night of stunning vocals, jaw-dropping costumes, and breathtaking choreography!

This weekend, Marple Newtown High School put on an upbeat production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The show follows kindhearted servant Ella, who has been forced into servitude by the cruel Madame. At first, Ella is resigned to a life spent fantasizing in her own little corner. But after an encounter with the magical Marie, Ella allows herself to dream big, courting powerful Prince Topher while opening his eyes to the rampant suffering in his kingdom.

The backbone of Marple Newtown’s production was its gorgeous technical elements, which were vital in capturing the show’s fantastical setting. The cast breathed life into this fantasy setting with their infectiously energetic vocals and dancing.

Amanda Reed led the cast as the selfless Ella, masterfully capturing her character’s transition from a “plain country bumpkin” to a powerful champion of the oppressed. Reed delivered beautiful vocals in songs like “Ten Minutes Ago” and managed to perform the difficult choreography in “The Pursuit” despite being in a ball gown and heels. Feliks Kocibelli starred opposite her as the winsome Prince Topher, convincingly showing his character’s internal struggle.

Arianna Berryman stole the show with her portrayal of Marie, skillfully depicting both her loony alias and enchanting true identity (Fairy Godmother). Gina DiStefano, who played the bratty Charlotte, left the audience in stitches with her physical humor and dry one-liners. Another standout was Shirley Truong (Madame), who managed to make her character equal parts hilarious and menacing.

A highlight of the show was the varied and skill-appropriate choreography by Eve Turner. Turner choreographed everything from the slapstick fight choreography in “Me, Who Am I” to the elegant ballroom dancing in “Ten Minutes Ago,” all while coordinating the near 100 cast-members on stage. Also impressive was the costuming by Taylor Brekus and Gina DiStefano, who pulled off countless quick-changes and two onstage dress transformations. Leia Bruno and Lizzy Staud’s set incorporated light steampunk elements while still remaining true to the show’s time period.  The marketing team of Justin Capoferri and Julia Fallows hosted a “Cinderella Ball” for the children of the community that raised over $1,000 in the process.

With upbeat performances and breathtaking technical elements, Marple Newtown’s production of Cinderella paid tribute to the classic fairytale on which the show is based, reminding the audience that “on the wings of your fancy, you can fly anywhere,” and be anyone you want to be.

 

Review submitted by Fiona Moser of Agnes Irwin School

Marple Newtown High School’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella made for “a lovely night”! This past weekend, the cast transported audiences into a tale of royalty, romance, and revolution.

Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers first wrote Cinderella for a 1957 television special. Their version followed the rags to riches plot that most of us recognize today. Having opened on Broadway in 2013, Marple Newtown’s iteration includes a modern twist on the familiar story. For example, Ella doesn’t lose her slipper; she leaves it for Prince Topher to find. Ella not only ensnares the prince in the end but also changes her kingdom for the better. This production includes additions to the book by Carter Douglas Beane. It received nine Tony nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical.

The energy and commitment of Marple Newtown’s cast and the detailed technical elements made Cinderella an entertaining and joyous performance.

Amanda Reed as Ella showcased sweet sincerity and radiant vocals. Feliks Kocibelli performed by her side as Topher. His strong vocal ability and unassuming charm made him a likeable addition to the show.

Shirley Truong as Madame had excellent comedic timing. She caused many of the audience’s loudest laughs. Truong, Reed, and the rest of Ella’s stepfamily (Taylor Brekus as Gabrielle and Gina DiStefano as Charlotte) played off of each other well. Their rapport created memorable moments such as “A Lovely Night.” Owen Clark, who portrayed the stalwart revolutionary Jean Michel, rounded off the cast. Brekus and he displayed good chemistry, bouncing hilarious dialogue back and forth. Marple Newtown’s ensemble members added liveliness to each scene in which they appeared. Notable was student Eve Turner’s choreography. She tackled many of the most difficult pieces of the show. Her movements showcased all members of the large cast to the best of their abilities.

Marple Newtown’s set design had beautiful details and allowed for smooth transitions between scenes. A production of Cinderella would be remiss without spectacular costume changes, and Marple Newtown didn’t fail to deliver. The show had three beautifully crafted and magically executed onstage costume changes.

Overall, Marple Newtown’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was an enjoyable take on this universal tale in which the heroine takes charge of her own destiny.

Legally Blonde – The Shipley School

Screenshot 2020-03-11 10.25.30

Legally Blonde by The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, PA

March 11, 2020

Review submitted by Niva Cohen of Jack M Barrack Hebrew Academy

When picturing a successful lawyer, the image of a peppy, blonde, sorority girl is not what comes to mind. Shipley’s production of Legally Blonde aims to uproot the stereotype of dumb blondes and instill a message of open-mindedness in its place.

Legally Blonde by Laurence O’Keefe, Nell Benjamin, and Heather Hach, adapts Amanda Brown’s book and the 2001 movie of the same name. It follows Elle Wood, a perky blonde Delta-Nu president, who decides to pursue her boyfriend, Warner, to Harvard Law when he breaks up with her for not being “serious” enough. After combating preconceived notions and learning to work hard from Emmett, her teaching assistant, Elle rises in the ranks to prove to everyone — especially herself — that her sorority personality does not define her and that she does not need a boy to succeed. Legally Blonde, despite speaking to unfair stereotypes that many women must face, is a light-hearted celebration of girl power.

What made Shipley’s production remarkable was its energy, even in the later numbers. The actors’ excitement in every word, in every step, added personality to each of their characters. This was a true ensemble show, and it was delightfully clear how much fun the cast was having.

Sarah McGrath, who played Elle Wood, stole the show. Not only did she amaze the audience with her mastery of difficult vocals, but she also found depth in a character who could appear shallow. Although she portrayed Elle’s bubbly lightness, she brought real emotion when it mattered, especially in the song “Legally Blonde.” Emmett, too, played by Jonathan Kimmel, balanced his awkward nerdiness with macho bluntness in an entertaining performance.

The rest of the cast made this show a funny one, especially De’Rin Price, who demanded laughter in his portrayal of Kyle, the UPS Guy. The Frat Boys, too, were a hilarious addition. Whatever errors the ensemble made in pitch and timing, they made up for in energy and dedication. Specifically, the Greek Trio, played by Lily Nevo, Julia Meckley, and Abby Kanes, was having such a blast that they made the audience want to jump up and dance along.

The challenges of dressing actors in a modern show are often underestimated, but Riley Dewey faced and overcame them wonderfully. The level of uniformity, especially in the denim of the Greek chorus, made it clear that Dewey put great care into making costumes fit, both literally and figuratively. Even though mics were sometimes off and the spotlight slightly late — both understandable in such a complex show — the production ran remarkably smoothly, thanks to the stage management of Carina Jiang.

Harvard Law would be lucky to have the talented cast of Shipley’s Legally Blonde which pulled off a difficult show.

 

Review submitted by Molly Levine of Upper Merion Area High School

Omigod you guys! The Shipley School put on a fantastic production of Legally Blonde!

Legally Blonde, originally a novel by Amanda Brown, focuses on the effervescent Elle Woods who commits herself to getting into and succeeding at Harvard Law School in order to win back the heart of her ex-boyfriend. Elle learns lessons from new friends of integrity, courage, and sisterhood, as well as teaches others of the importance of compassion and confidence. The musical is filled with toe-tapping music, great comedic lines, and wall-to-wall girl power!

Shipley School’s production of Legally Blonde was full of energy because of the enthusiasm of the entire cast and creativity of the crew! The ensemble’s consistent engagement and in sync choreography kept the show moving, and lead vocals blended well with the incredible student orchestra.

Elle Woods (Sarah McGrath) propelled the show forward with bright vocals and dynamic stage presence. McGrath’s comedic timing showcased both the naïve and intelligent, quick-witted aspects of Elle Woods. Jonathan Kimmel portrayed the adorably nerdy yet compassionate Emmett Forrest perfectly. The two underdogs balanced each other out with McGrath’s bubbly enthusiasm and Kimmel’s dry wit, especially in “Chip on My Shoulder,” where the two won over the hearts of the audience with their chemistry.

The Greek Chorus (Lily Nevo, Julia Meckley, Abby Kanes) provided constant laughter and in-sync choreography as they motivated Elle to follow her dreams! Kyle the U.P.S. Guy (De’Rin Price) stole the spotlight the moment he walked on stage, and performed an impressive Irish jig. The Frat Boys were standout members in the ensemble whose ridiculous antics in “What You Want” and “Bend and Snap” produced much laughter and applause, but also remained engaged and blended cohesively with the rest of the ensemble in courtroom scenes. The ensemble as a whole brought tremendous energy in every number, particularly “There! Right There!” in which the entire cast created a hilarious tableau of a chaotic court.

Shipley’s technical elements elevated the production further with student designed and run teams who took creativity to the next level. The pit orchestra masterfully handled the difficult task of playing professional level music from offstage. Costumes playfully reflected the early 2000s atmosphere with pops of color and denim, with most characters having multiple costumes! Stage crew skillfully navigated moving large set pieces and the many props on and offstage effectively. The cast and crew were a well-oiled machine thanks to the organization and leadership of stage manager Carina Jiang!

This critic is “Positive” that Shipley School’s production of Legally Blonde is one to remember!

Footloose – Upper Darby High School

Footloose by Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, PA

March 11, 2020

Review submitted by Meg Matsukawa of Academy of the New Church

“There’s a time for everything under heaven… a time to mourn and a time to dance,” and what a time the cast and crew of Upper Darby High School’s production of Footloose gave us!

Based off of the 1984 movie of the same name, Footloose premiered on Broadway in 1998, where it ran for two years. The story follows Ren McCormack who left Chicago with his mother in the hopes of leaving behind their broken home, only to wind up in a town just as broken as their family. Upper Darby High School’s production of Footloose brought to life Ren’s fight to bring joy back to Beaumont.

With impressive choreography and undeniably talented vocalists, the production of Footloose was tied together by the energetic joy of the cast. The ensemble executed difficult dance steps with ease, making it seem impossible for dancing to be outlawed in a place with as much talent as the town of Beaumont appeared to have. From high energy dance numbers to slow soliloquies, the cast of Footloose was able to keep the audience spellbound throughout the entire show.

Anthony Flamminio pulled the audience into Ren McCormack’s struggle to bring happiness back to Beaumont with his acting ability while lighting up the stage with his incredible dancing and powerful voice. Genevieve Bruce played the angry, sad, yet somehow hopeful Ariel Moore, the fierce determination to leave the prison of her hometown evident in her emotional interpretation of the preacher’s rebellious daughter.

Emma Speck dazzled the stage with her impressive vocal range and dancing ability in her role as the sweet and sassy Rusty. Speck raised the roof with her rendition of “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” and left the audience stunned with breathtaking harmonies in “Somebody’s Eyes,” along with the incredible vocals of Audrey Shaw and Bene Green. Kenneth Bruce and Rachel Hauben heartbreakingly captured the pain of losing a son and the fear of losing a daughter in their impressive and beautiful portrayals of Reverend Shaw and his wife Vi.

John Troy’s complex lighting design aided the flow of the show, while the cast and crew were able to move the sets swiftly and with ease. The orchestra was able to both beautifully support the vocal parts and hold their own when playing over scene transitions. And, although a few microphone cues were missed, the sound crew managed the difficulty of navigating wireless mics with professionalism.

Upper Darby High School’s production of Footloose filled the theater with joyful dancing and incomparable vocals, a performance that was truly “almost paradise.”

 

Review submitted by Aurelle Odhner of Academy of the New Church

“He’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be fast, and he’s gotta be larger than life!” The bar is high for heroes in Beaumont, but luckily the students at Upper Darby High School came to the rescue, exceeding equally high expectations with their performance of Footloose.

Born as a film in 1984, Footloose was adapted for the stage and made its way to Broadway in 1998. This upbeat show follows Ren, a Chicago teen who relishes living freely and dancing his heart out as he moves with his mother to the tiny town of Beaumont to start a new life. However, his new ideas and restless feet quickly stir up trouble in a place where everybody knows everybody and old memories linger for years. Eventually, with the help of strong friendships, the youth of Beaumont come together to defend their freedom to dance, and to show their town how to take a closer look at the things and people they had deemed dangerous.

The cast of Upper Darby High School filled the stage with explosive energy, singing and dancing with total freedom. The performers capably carried the show through moments of elated excitement, but also brought powerful emotional impact to more sobering scenes. The characters and relationships they created on stage were as richly real as their authentic love of dancing.

Anthony Flamminio led the cast as Ren, expressing all the frustration of a misjudged teenager and showing off his smooth moves while he belted for the whole world to hear. Genevieve Bruce played the coy preacher’s daughter, Ariel, and drew the eyes of the audience on the dance floor as easily as she attracted the attention of the boys in her small town. Her father Reverend Shaw, played by Kenneth Bruce, was a pillar of righteousness and created a strong, dynamic character to pit the plot against.

The talented supporting cast included performers such as Emma Speck, whose show-stopping vocals made her performance of Rusty a highlight of the show. Rachel Hauben gave a heart-wrenching performance as Vi, demonstrating her ability to act even when she was seen and not heard, while Myles Knight joined a hillbilly attitude with youthful energy to portray the loyal friend, Willard.

The student orchestra matched the energy of the performers throughout the show. A simple, efficiently moved set left more room for dancing while well-designed lighting created unique spaces on stage and effectively directed the audience’s attention.

The students at Upper Darby High School gave their hearts to this liberating production, proving that “If there’s anything worth our love it’s worth a fight.”

Hairspray – The Hill School

2020-02-26 Hairspray Dress Rehearsal, photo credit: Sandi Yanisko

Hairspray by The Hill School in Pottstown, PA

March 3, 2020

Review submitted by Kyra Keenan of Upper Merion Area High School

The Hill School’s production of Hairspray will certainly welcome you to the 60’s!

The show opens in Baltimore, a city that was still dealing with segregation issues in the 1960s. “The Corny Collins Show” is every teen’s muse in the musical. Among these teenagers, Tracy Turnblad falls for a star on the show, Link Larkin. Tracy sneaks onto the show and becomes an overnight superstar. Throughout the musical, Tracy fights for equality with her newfound fame.

The show was overflowing with energy from the cast and there was never a dull moment on stage. No matter the mood of the scenes, the cast was accurately able to translate it to the audience. All of the actors and actresses stayed in character, creating a time machine to the 60’s.

Tracy Turnblad, played by Greta Haverstick, displayed outstanding vocals with the opening number “Good Morning Baltimore.” All of her sung lines were clear and could be heard while she was rocking out with the other members of the cast. She easily captured Tracy’s desire for equality and the boldness of the character. Link Larkin, played by Matthew Saylor, did an excellent job demonstrating Link’s confidence. He participated in the lively dances during the show with the Corny Collins Council. The two leads had admirable chemistry and performed well as a pair.

Naomi Ude, playing Motormouth Maybelle, had multiple jaw-dropping vocal performances in the musical. She stole the show in difficult numbers such as, “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” and “I Know Where I’ve Been,” with her beautiful voice. Anna Gvodas’ performance as Penny Pingleton matched perfectly to Tracy’s, which made for a realistic-looking friendship. She was able to capture Penny’s excitement and nerves at the same time. The entire ensemble on “The Corny Collins Show” had exceptionally high energy, which they stayed true to in each scene. They reacted to all of the leads’ actions and each maintained a unique personality that lasted through the entire performance. The ensemble really shone through in the numbers, “The Nicest Kids in Town” and “Hairspray.”

The set was designed with mobile platforms that demonstrated multiple locations at once. The characters used “Ultra Clutch Hairspray” props which created spray effects during the performance. The cast persisted through any sound issues with projection and high energy and overcame any major distractions.

Hairspray at The Hill School seems “Timeless to Me” for sure!

 

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

This just in! Tune in to The Hill School’s channel, where big stars with big hair and even bigger egos are welcoming a whole new kind of dancer: one “who looks just like you!”

This weekend, The Hill School delivered a crowd-pleasing production of Hairspray, paying homage to the civil rights movement and counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s. When dance-enthusiast Tracy Turnblad auditions for the Corny Collins Show (a behind-the-times TV special that steers kids in the “white” direction), she rockets into overnight stardom. But when scheming producer Velma and her bratty daughter challenge Tracy’s opinions, she becomes a voice for the oppressed, proving that big and “colored” people can be big and colorful stars.

With flashing lights, fog-machines, and massive girders, The Hill School made the auditorium feel like a concert arena. The actors took that concert aesthetic and ran with it, jamming out with the audience with their powerful vocals and infectiously energetic dancing.

Greta Haverstick led the cast as the “pleasantly plump” Tracy, skillfully maintaining her plucky optimism and strong belt despite being a primary vocalist in eight different songs. Liam Keenan left the audience in stitches with his hilarious portrayal of Edna, performing the show’s difficult dance numbers while in heels and full drag!

Matthew McCray (Seaweed) was a true triple-threat, showing impressive physical and vocal stamina with his dance moves and vocal runs in songs like “Run and Tell That.” McCray had adorable amounts of chemistry with Anna Gvodas (Penny) who managed to make her dorky character incredibly endearing. Another standout was Matthew Saylor (Link), who masterfully transitioned from a bland and spineless wannabe to a determined champion of civil rights. Although some of the show’s more serious moments felt lost in the party atmosphere, Naomi Ude (Maybelle) kept the show grounded in reality with her emotive, show-stopping rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been.”

A highlight of the production was Reva Tharwani, who choreographed everything from the jazzy “Run and Tell That” to the tap dancing in “The Big Dollhouse.” Also impressive was the vivid lighting by Payton Jobson, which added to the show’s dance-party atmosphere. Although there were some difficulties managing the volume of the show’s sounds, it’s entirely forgivable given the large number of cast members with mics.

With energetic performances and concert-like technical elements, The Hill School delivered a superb, psychedelic spectacle that would keep any viewer from changing the channel.