The 15th Annual Cappies Gala Recap

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The 15th Annual Greater Philadelphia Cappies Gala was a virtual hit!   Although the Gala was forced away from Unionville High School and into everyone’s living rooms, the night still showcased the brilliant theatre that happened in the Philadelphia Area this year.

The night began, appropriately with a word from the founder of the Greater Philadelphia Cappies chapter, Upper Darby’s own, Mr. Harry Dietzler.  He was excited that the Cappies was still going strong after fifteen years, and he remarked on the importance of celebrating high school theatre, the mantra of the Cappies program.  “Theatre is important and I thank you for making it happen this year in whatever form it happened.”

With that, Noelle Ackland, the Program Director of GPC started the awards announcements, and the show was off and running!   The night was filled with announcements of awards, “Fan Videos” that showcased the nominees for Play, Musical and Song, and the honoring of special Cappies critics.

The most crucial part of the Cappies program is the student critics.  Each school chooses three to six students who travel to schools across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware to watch shows, write reviews, and nominate performers and crews for Cappies nomination consideration.  The top reviews are posted here on this blog.  This year, Oakley Blinman (Harriton High School – 9th/10th grade), Fiona Moser (Agnes Irwin School – 11th grade), and Patrick McCann (Harriton High School – 12th grade) received the top critics honors for their grade level.  Oakley and Patrick spear-headed Harriton High School as their school also took home the Cappies Award for Critics Team!

For performances categories, none shined brighter than Conestoga High School whose production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat took home twelve Cappies Awards including Set, Orchestra, Male and Female Vocalist (Will Dusinberre and Emma Krapels, respectively), Song (“Those Canaan Days”), and the coveted Musical award among their haul.  Conestoga continues their incredible streak of taking home four of the last five Cappies Award for Musical.  Ridley High School’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone took two of the top performing awards by scoring awards for the Lead Actor in a Musical (Ethan McKeller) and Lead Actress in a Musical (Mackenzie Cannon).

For the Play categories, Episcopal Academy took home three Cappies awards for their production of Walk Two Moons.  The performance earned them the Lead Actress in a Play (Katie Locke), Comic Actor in a Play (Arnav Shiva), the top award by winning the Cappies Award for a Play.  Lead Actor in a Play (Ian Duane) went to Friends Central School’s production of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost.  Friends Central School and Interboro High School, with their production of The Curious Savage, both earned three Cappies Awards each for their school productions.

Another special moment of the night was presented by Joel Feldman, the co-founder of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation.  Casey Feldman was a published critic and actress for the Cappies program, and she was tragically killed by a distracted driver.  Each year, the foundation honors a Cappies critic who embodies Casey’s celebration of life, love for theatre, and most importantly, the spirit of giving and sharing that made her shine on and off stage and as a Cappies critic.  This year, the Casey Feldman scholarship was awarded to Cassidy Lennick of the PA Leadership Charter School Center for Performing and Fine Arts.  Cassidy was described as “An outstanding academic student with a long track record in excellence in dance, theatre, and volunteerism… with a huge heart with a love for theatre.”  Congratulations to Cassidy and best wishes for your promising future.  And the Cappies appreciates everything the Casey Feldman Foundation has done for the Cappies program over the years.

The complete list of nominees and winners can be found here.

2019 – 2020 Cappies Nominations and Winners

Thank you for a memorable, interesting, fun year of theatre.  We are looking forward to celebrating another year of high school theatre in the fall!

2019-2020 Cappies Nominations Released!

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The votes have finally been cast for the 2019-2020 Greater Philadelphia Cappies Awards!  The critics and shows have persisted, and after twenty-nine schools performed, some live, some virtually experienced, this crazy season is in the books.  On Sunday May 17th, Cappies critics cast their votes and the results were announced online.

In the Musical categories, Conestoga High School, with its over-the-top, and exuberant production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, was nominated for eighteen production awards, including eight technical awards, ten performance awards, a nomination for overall Musical Production.  Other shows with top honors include Upper Darby High School’s spunky production of Footloose, with nominations in fifteen categories including Lead Actor in a Musical, Lead Actress in a Musical, and overall Musical Production, Ridley High School’s transcendent production of The Drowsey Chaperone, which also included Lead Actor in a Musical, Lead Actress in a Musical, and overall Musical Production, and Abington Friends School’s poignant and lively production of Jason Robert Brown’s song cycle Songs for a New World which captured eleven overall nominations.

In the Play categories, Friends Central School’s imaginative Shakespearean production of Love’s Labour’s Lost garnered twelve nominations including Lead Actor in a Play, Lead Actress in a Play, and overall Play Production.  Episcopal Academy’s endearing production of Walk Two Moons gathered ten performance nominations.

For the critic awards, Academy of the New Church received five nominations, including  four out of their six critics being nominated for top awards and also the Outstanding Overall Team.  Harriton High School was recognized with four nominees, including Outstanding Overall Team.  Upper Merion Area High School and Conestoga High School both received three critics nominations.

See the full list of nominations here –2019 – 2020 Cappies Nominations

The 15th Annual Cappies Gala, where the Cappies awards will be revealed for all the categories, will be held online this year.  Sunday June 7th at 7pm, the Cappies Steering Committee will host the Cappies Gala.  The online location will be announced soon.  So, get your online watch parties ready!

 

 

Songs for a New World – Abington Friends School

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Songs for a New World by Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA

May 12, 2020

Review submitted by Kristiana Filipov of Harriton High School

Have you ever felt like you’re at the precipice of a new world? Looked around just before you made a decision?  Thought about how things won’t be the same after this? So has the Abington Friends School’s theater company, who conveyed these momentous feelings in their musical-concert hybrid Songs for a New World.

With music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, the production is a “song cycle” of music about “one moment,” in which everything changes, and the things you may have been sure about cease to exist. Through a collection of different perspectives singing their stories, the cycle makes a point about the universality of change in our lives, and makes for a poignant experience.

Abington Friends’ production was lively and emotional, with soaring vocals from a phenomenally talented cast. The ensemble filled the stage and added energy to multiple solo numbers, and executed their choreography fluidly and skillfully in numbers like “The River Don’t Flow” and “The Steam Train.” Their tight harmonies also added to the show’s resonance, and brought it up to a level beyond compare.

Notable vocal performances came from Sophie Pugh and Katie Brady-Gold, whose powerful pipes filled the entire auditorium and brought goosebumps to many audience members. Pugh serenaded the audience with her performances in “The New World,” “I’m Not Afraid,” and “I’d Give It All For You,” while Brady-Gold wowed with “Surabaya Santa.”

Another notable performance was Zachary Ford’s “The River Won’t Flow,” which captured a sense of whimsical jazz among the other soulful tunes in the show. His mannerisms synthesized a recognizable character that the audience could understand, despite never speaking a word. Similarly, Halle Jacobson’s engaging performance of “Just One Step” demonstrated an impressive ability to convey a strong character through singing. Her forceful movements and body language were convincing and enthralling.

The Songs For A New World Pit Band brought the entire production up a notch, with their skillful performance of a wide variety of musical genres, transitioning between each different song seamlessly. Benjamin Goldstone’s sound was clear and crisp, despite some issues with the recording that made it difficult to understand some lyrics. Becca Pitcairn’s props were also woven into the show wonderfully, and never interrupted the focus of any scene.

With virtuosic singing talent and poignant emotional performances, the Abington Friends School’s production of Songs for a New World certainly created that new world, and entranced everyone into dumbfounded silence.

 

Review submitted by Claire Jenkins of Conestoga High School

Abington Friends School’s production of Songs for a New World beautifully immersed all audience members into a “new world” of musical theatre! The students delivered a unique performance consisting of high energy and an enormous amount of passion.

Songs for a New World is an abstract musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. With an array of musical genres such as pop and jazz, this show encompasses an overarching theme of the moment of decision. Each song consists of a different story line, all the way from a teenager boasting about his future basketball career in “The Steam Train” to Mrs. Claus angrily singing about her neglectful husband Santa Claus in “Surabaya Santa”.

Originally a show consisting of four performers, Abington Friends School succeeded in transforming this show into a performance of thirty ensemble members. Demonstrating both excellent musicality and emotion, the cast was outstandingly victorious in putting on a musical with a demanding score. The cast carried an amazing amount of emotion, adding character to each song performed.

Sophie Pugh was a bright spot in this show, singing powerful solos such as “I’m Not Afraid”. Pugh had an incredibly dynamic voice that was also very expressive of the emotions within each song. Zachary Ford, in songs such as “The River Won’t Flow”, also established his excellent vocal control and expression.

Katie Brady-Gold, an audience-favorite, showed terrific character and witty humor as Mrs. Claus in “Surabaya Santa”. Her comedic body language personated a contemptuous Mrs. Claus perfectly. Another commendable performance came from Mar’keece Barnett. Appearing in songs such as “Flying Home” and “The Steam Train”, Barnett added a vibrant attitude to the performance through his lively energy and admirable vocals. Devyn Costello-Henderson and Halle Jacobson also had notable performances. Costello-Henderson exquisitely conveyed great character depth in “Christmas Lullaby” while Jacobson dealt with both comical and serious tones in “Just One Step” and “The Flagmaker, 1775”.

A key element to this remarkable production was Noah Vinogradov’s impressive music arrangement. His creative and innovative incorporation of the guitar and piano matched the different emotions conveyed in each song. The set was another fine aspect, as it included a city skyline with a background that changed colors. With very few sound issues present, Benjamin Goldstone did a great job working with the sonic components of the production.

Overall, “I’m Not Afraid” to say that Songs for a New World was a huge triumph for Abington Friends School. Each student involved brought something new to the table to create this diverse, noteworthy production.

 

The Drowsy Chaperone – Ridley High School

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The Drowsy Chaperone by Ridley High School in Folsom, PA

May 12, 2020

Review submitted by Clara Steege of Conestoga High School

For those who wish to do more than just “stumble along” through life comes Ridley High School’s zestful production of The Drowsy Chaperone! Their show proves the invigorating power of musical theater and evokes its ability to vitalize audiences. Filled with humor and fun, this musical is sure to leave an audience feeling energized.

The Drowsy Chaperone, which debuted in 1998, is a classic example of a show within a show. The story begins in a living room, where the Man in Chair invites the audience to listen to the soundtrack of his favorite 1920’s musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, which depicts the wedding day of Robert Martin and famed Broadway actress Janet Van De Graff. To his delight, the characters materialize in his home and he is swept up by the drama as a series of mishaps, including the inattention of Janet’s alcoholic Chaperone, begins to threaten the marriage.

Proving the magic of theater, Ridley’s performance of The Drowsy Chaperone wowed with exceptional energy and professionalism.

Ethan McKellar presided over the show as the endearingly awkward Man in Chair. Through his skillful delivery of humor and consistent characterization, he effectively broke the fourth wall to engage with the audience. Equally impressive was the vocal talent displayed by both Mackenzie Cannon (Janet Van De Graff) and Grace Ireland (The Drowsy Chaperone). While each of their performances highlighted their strong voices, they also elevated their characters with excellent acting. Cannon’s over-the-top dramatism communicated Janet’s showy nature and Ireland’s easy wit conveyed the Chaperone’s laid-back approach.

Joey Kovach, as Adolpho the seductive ladies’ man, stole the show with his strong accent, passion, and vocal talent. Tyler Motslaz (George) and Cole Burwell (Robert Martin), impressed with their skilled tap dancing, mastering difficult choreography with ease and showmanship. Also a talented dancer, Lindsey McCue made an impression with her hilarious portrayal of the ditzy Kitty, an optimistic up-and-coming actress. And the Gangsters, played by Amanda Fusco and Gabby Fusco, had the audience in stitches with their excellent comedic timing and hilarious synchronized dance moves.

Complementing the actors’ vibrant performance was an array of immaculate technical elements. Props by Cole Burwell, Amanda Fusco, and Gabrielle Fusco added depth to the stage, allowing it to simultaneously embody a modern-day home and a 1920’s musical set. The Ridley Drama Group Pit Orchestra played the challenging score with expertise, further enhancing the performance. Also, the lighting and sound were both executed without a flaw to make for a very polished show.

Ridley’s production was definitely “lovely in the end” with a spectacular cast and crew that allowed the show to realize its full potential.

 

Review submitted by Elizabeth Joslin of Haverford High School

Don your “Fancy Dress” and raise a glass of “Ice Water” to Ridley High School’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone.

The show, written by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, originally premiered in 1998 in Toronto and moved to Broadway in May of 2006. The musical masterpiece follows the Man In Chair as he plays the record of his favorite show, The Drowsy Chaperone. A ridiculous tangle of weddings, gangsters, and show business all comes to life in the Man In Chair’s living room, as he expresses a deep connection to the musical’s many motifs.

Ridley High School delivered an intoxicating production, leaving audience members enthralled with the lavish lifestyle of the roaring 20s.

“I hate theatre,” exclaimed Ethan McKellar as the Man in Chair. From his first words on stage, McKellar enchanted the audience with his captivating monologues and his sheepish personality. He led the audience through The Drowsy Chaperone with grace and an unmatched emotional maturity. His counterparts electrified the stage. Mackenzie Cannon played a flawless Janet Van De Graff, displaying a magnificent vocal range in songs like “Show Off” and “Bride’s Lament.” Grace Ireland was also impressive as The Chaperone, delivering a breathtaking performance of “Stumble Along.”

Small but mighty, the ensemble exhibited great vocal energy throughout the entire production. Standouts included Joey Kovach as Adolpho, whose comedic timing was impeccable, and Lindsey McCue as Kitty, who added charming levity to the stage. But perhaps one of the show’s most stunning moments was the elaborate tap sequence performed by Cole Burwell and Tyler Motslaz as Robert and George during “Cold Feets.”

The technical elements were all of professional quality. The sound team, led by Danny Lynch and Julia Santangelo, produced crystal clear sound. The unsung hero of the show, however, was the Ridley Drama Group Pit Orchestra. Although at times overpowering, the orchestra captured the true essence of the jazzy style the musical calls for.

Ridley High School’s The Drowsy Chaperone was a triumph. While the story “Stumbled Along,” it was certainly “Lovely in the End.”

Mamma Mia! – The Agnes Irwin School

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Mamma Mia! by The Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, PA

May 12, 2020

Review submitted by Layla Siahatgar of Baldwin School

Mamma, Mia! Here we go again – with a fun and vibrant production at the Agnes Irwin School!

Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical from 1999 based on the hit songs of the Swedish pop group ABBA. The story follows bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan and her search for her birth father. After reading her mother’s old diary, she brings three men, all possible fathers, to her wedding to try to determine her true lineage. With the use of irresistible ABBA songs to tell the story, Mamma Mia! makes for a playful and heartwarming feel-good musical.

Agnes Irwin’s spirited production of this musical was a delight to watch. The cast was very committed to their roles and brought an infectious energy to each scene; it was apparent that they had worked tremendously hard to make a successful show.

Fiona Moser led the cast in her skillful portrayal of Sophie Sheridan, with a sparky and animated determination that was perfect for the character. This deft acting, paired with her beautiful voice, made for a wonderful performance. Alongside her was possible dad Sam Carmichael, played by Gabriel Escobar. His thoughtful and sincere performance complimented his fellow actors well.

Other notable performances included Aaron Grossman as Bill Austin and Leila Rodriguez as Rosie. To the delight of the audience, Grossman consistently offered an abundance of energy in his scenes, helping him bring his character to life. Rodriguez also shone as Rosie, with strong vocals that complimented her enthusiastic portrayal of the former Dynamo. The two also proved to have excellent chemistry in their performance of “Take a Chance on Me,” a lighthearted and upbeat song during which they played off of each other well.

The intricate sets certainly elevated this performance, with a beautifully built two-tier taverna that served as the main set piece. The costumes were also thoughtfully chosen, giving a breezy, summery look to the characters. One standout set of costumes was those of Donna and the Dynamos, who had beautiful 70s style jumpsuits for their musical performances.

Overall, the Agnes Irwin School’s production of Mamma Mia! was a delightful experience that surely gave the audience a night to remember!

 

Review submitted by Maggie Dietrich of Marple Newtown High School

The Agnes Irwin show was one for the books, their production had every member of the audience clinging onto every lyric and line when they performed Mamma Mia!

This famous musical has everything an audience could want wrapped up in a two-and-a-half hour show: the phenomenal cast, an amazing plot and stellar musical numbers written by ABBA!  The story follows Sophie, the daughter of Donna, as they prepare for Sophie’s wedding on the small island where they live in Greece.  The conflict? Donna doesn’t know which of the three men who have shown up to the island is Sophie’s dad, and soon a tale of romance and woe ensues.

The production was magnificently cast, with the two lead actresses perfectly suited to their roles and having the amazing vocals as well as great singing voices.  The cast had a stunning amount of energy throughout the show while they performed simple yet powerful dance numbers like the crowd favorites “Dancing Queen” and “Voulez-Vous”.

Watching this show was like going along on the adventure, and that is all thanks to the talents of Fiona Mosser (Sophie) and Lia Della Porter (Donna) who made a flawless mother daughter duo.  One of the potential fathers, Sam Carmichael portrayed by Gabriel Escobar, had a notable performance and was depicted quite well.

The supporting cast was also a very talented group of actors, most notably Rosie (Leila Rodriguez) who along with Bill Austin (Aaron Grossman) had the audience in stitches every time they appeared on stage.  Another crowd favorite was the scuba ensemble who appeared during “Lay All Your Love on Me” dressed in, you guessed it, scuba gear similar to how the number was performed in the movie adaption.

The stage crew did an amazing job with the set, and although there were only a few scene changes, the set was very versatile and gave the appearance of a real villa in Greece.  The costumes were also done by a team at Agnes Irwin and were very well suited to the essence of who each actor was portraying, whether it was a single mother running a villa or a world traveled reporter.

All in all, the entire cast, crew and director team did an exquisite job putting together this performance and put on a show well beyond the high school level.  Congratulations to everyone who participated in Agnes Irwin’s production of Mamma Mia! and a job well done!

Arsenic and Old Lace – Upper Merion Area High School

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Arsenic and Old Lace by Upper Merion Area High School in King of Prussia, PA

May 12, 2020

Review submitted by Katrina Conklin of Baldwin School

“Family— whether you like them or not, you’re stuck with them.” Upper Merion’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace put this age-old adage to the test, portraying the chaotically maniacal Brewster family’s antics in their engaging, comedic performance.

Written by Joseph Kesselring, Arsenic and Old Lace is a three-act play following Mortimer Brewster who wants nothing more than to introduce his fiancé to his family. The problem? The Brewster family is composed of eccentric, even sadistic deviants, including Mortimer’s homicidal aunts, Abby and Martha, who poison the men that visit the lodge they run. The play, set entirely in the Brewster sisters’ home, follows this abnormal cast of family members and outsiders and the chaos and hilarity that ensues when they clash.

Upper Merion’s cast gave a stellar performance, successfully delivering the dark humor while portraying their characters authentically. The portrayal of the Brewster family, along with the ensemble of officers and versatile cast of supporting roles, ensured an engaging, humorous production.

Cast highlights included Ryan Slusky’s depiction of protagonist Mortimer Brewster, which exhibited detailed character choices that brought the play’s hero to life. Additionally, Molly Levine and Ema Isajiw, who played Abby and Martha Mortimer, respectively, did a fantastic job of capturing the sisters’ complex, multi-faceted characters while maintaining excellent comedic timing.

Among the excellent myriad of supporting roles, standouts included Keagan Richard’s portrayal of Jonathan Brewster, a murderous plastic surgery-addict, executing the character’s maniacal nature and maintaining an impressive stage presence throughout the play. Jack Briggs, who played Jonathan’s alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein, stood out as a comedic presence, succeeding in consistent humorous delivery. Another notable role was that of Caitlin Cunnane, who portrayed Mortimer’s fiancé Elaine with clear, authentic delivery.

Additionally, the technical elements of Upper Merion’s performance were superb. The two-story, student-designed set, along with the play’s intricate props, were incredibly detailed and realistic, nearly of professional quality. Upper Merion’s stage crew ensured all these ornate details ran smoothly, further supplementing the production. The lighting and sound, run by Upper Merion’s tech crew and sound crew, respectively, were consistently executed as well.

Overall, Upper Merion’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace displayed tremendous dedication and effort from the cast and crew, resulting in an excellent, effortless production of a chaotically hilarious story.

 

 

Review submitted by Julia Boas of Upper Dublin High School

With a tablespoon of humor, a teaspoon of suspense and a pinch of murder, Upper Merion High School’s performance of Arsenic and Old Lace was the perfect recipe!

Arsenic and Old Lace was written by Joseph Kesselring in 1939 and ran on Broadway for three years starting in 1941. Set in Brooklyn, the play is about two seemingly innocent old ladies who have a bad habit of murdering the elderly with arsenic. Through this dark comedy, the Brewster family’s secrets are revealed as the suspenseful plot progresses.

The talented cast was able to tell this complicated story with ease as every actor committed to their character with true dedication. Through their own distinct accent and physicality, each actor had strong characterization, contributing to the success of this unique production.

Leading the cast and playing the peculiar Brewster sisters was Molly Levine (Abby Brewster) and Ema Isajiw (Martha Brewster). With her shrill voice and genuine physicality, Levine portrayed the gentle old lady with a lot of humor and one-line jokes. Completing the duo as her partner in crime, Isajiw truly embodied the spirit of the Martha with her sweet and dazed mannerisms. As their conflicted and confused nephew Mortimer, Ryan Slusky did a great job using his facial expressions to draw laughter from the audience.

Another standout was the lovable and hilarious Teddy Brewster (Jack Briggs). With his charges up the stairs and the blow of his bugle, Briggs provided constant lighthearted humor. Also adding to the humor of the production was Luke Preston as the oddball Dr. Einstein. Keagan Richard did a chilling job as the evil Jonathon. While exposing his family’s secrets and having a few of his own too, his true sinister nature was revealed.  Caitlin Cunnane played the spunky and sassy Elaine with an impressive emotional depth as she changed from happiness to confusion quite often.

The technical aspects were just as strong as the performance. The realistic two-story set was complete with furniture and magnificent detail and was able to immerse audiences into the 1940s. Tackling the many sound effects of doorbell dings and phone rings, the UM Sound crew did a great job setting the mood for this story. Lastly, the UM stage crew was able to manage a broad range of props that had authentic detail.

Overall, Upper Merion High School killed with their professional and comedic performance of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Sense and Sensibility – Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School

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Photo by Evan Apostolico

Sense and Sensibility by the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School (PALCS) in West Chester, PA

May 7, 2020

Review submitted by Oakley Blinman of Harriton High School.

Love is a topic long explored by humanity. It is often felt, but seldom understood – yet, the audience of Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School’s (PALCS) performance of Sense and Sensibility certainly grasped the meaning of love as they fell head-over-heels for the beautiful performance.

Sense and Sensibility is based on the classic Jane Austen novel. It tells the tale of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor, Margaret, and Marianne, as they come of age in the wake of their late father’s death. With the help of Colonel Brandon, John Willoughby, and Edward Ferrars, the girls discover love, joy, and heartbreak in this charming piece about the beauty of relationships.

PALCS put on a hilarious, heartwarming, and classic show. Featuring many strong actors and a formidable technical team, the cozy English countryside was brought to life on stage. The language of Jane Austen is challenging, but the cast tackled it head-on and made it easy for the audience to understand. No one left the theatre scratching their head – in fact, it’s safe to say everyone left much wiser than before.

This show was led by the dynamic duo of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, played by Roni Endres and Lauryn Swavely, respectively. The two played off each other brilliantly, Swavely as the more sensible Elinor and Endres as the fiery and passionate Marianne. Swavely’s air of wisdom was incredibly powerful, and it swept the stage the moment she stepped into the spotlight. Endres’ bold comedy and vulnerable character were the perfect intersection in the creation of a very memorable performance.

Talent is evidently ubiquitous at PALCS, as the show also featured an impressive supporting cast. Xander Dake played the charming Colonel Brandon with elegance and esteem. Mrs. Dashwood, the girls’ mother, was played by Rebecca Stehle, who portrayed her with grace and charming reliability. Caitlin Boone had the audience rolling with laughter as the memorable Mrs. Jennings. A dynamic ensemble, the Gossips, tied it all together, bringing life to transitions and immersing the audience in the world of the play.

The small space in which the performance took place presented a unique challenge for the technical teams, which they took in stride. The props team, lead by Sophie Wickes, provided a litany of enhancing and period-appropriate props. Angelina Capp, the student choreographer, did an incredible job with the classical dances. The lighting team, lead by Felicia Berrier, and the sound team, lead by Kennedy Gab and Brianna Mullin, worked harmoniously to make sure the actors were consistently seen and heard.

 

Review submitted by Lulu Pettit of Jenkintown High School.

A scandal. A secret engagement. A deadly illness. Welcome to the world of Sense and Sensibility, brought to life by the students of Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School Center for Performing and Fine Arts in fall 2019.

This drama was originally written for the stage by Kate Hamill in 2014, based on the 1811 Jane Austin novel of the same name. The classic story follows two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, as they struggle to find love and happiness in early-nineteenth-century high society. As they go, they learn a lesson that still rings true today: we must find a balance between letting our emotions dictate and living entirely sensibly.

This production was outstanding, keeping the audience hooked through the lively acting of not only the main cast but also the supporting and featured characters. Throughout the show, the minimalist props approach was both interesting and well-covered.  The consistent reinforcement from the talented actors showing a carriage or table’s presence in the scene made for funny and creative scenes.

The main cast was excellent, always staying entirely in character and moving past any small misspeaks easily and naturally. Lauren Swavely as Elinor Dashwood and Roni Endres as Marianne Dashwood were both exceptional. They remained in character even while the lights were down or lowered where they were on stage, always playing off of each other’s lines and actions comfortably.

Other notably strong performers include Xander Dake as Colonel Brandon, Rebecca Stehle as Mrs. Dashwood, and Gabriel Rottman as John Willoughby. All three had clear, understandable portrayals of their characters, roping in the viewer with their skillful acting. Caitlin Boone as Mrs. Jennings and Joey Colasante as Sir John Middleton were both a delight to see on stage, especially shining in their scenes together, when they built on each other’s jokes as if second nature, bringing laughter into all the scenes. The Gossips were always charming to watch, lightening up even the most serious scenes. They laughed openly and easily while talking, always making the audience feel comfortable.

Stage manager Kari Ramoth and the PALCS Stage Crew moved quickly when moving props between scenes, never drawing the audience’s attention away from the scene at hand. Sophie Wickes’s prop choices were smart and interesting, taking an original minimalist approach while always getting across where the characters were or what they were doing. Felicia Berrier’s sound was consistently through the entire show, keeping the actors loud enough to hear comfortably with the music and effects as secondary sounds.

Overall, Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School Center for Performing and Fine Arts gave an exceptional show with an outstanding cast and crew, keeping the audience hooked, laughing, and comfortable through their entire performance of Sense and Sensibility.

9 to 5 – Haverford High School

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9 to 5 by Haverford High School in Havertown, PA

May 7, 2020

Review submitted by Fiona Moser of Agnes Irwin School

The cast and crew of Haverford High School’s musical production of 9 to 5 certainly did “shine like the sun”! Haverford High School took its viewers back to the ‘70s in this musical tale of female empowerment.

9 to 5 follows the unlikely friendship of three women working at Consolidated Incorporated. One thing bonds them together: their contempt for their boss. In an impulse decision, the women kidnap him and run the office in his stead, making positive changes that improve the office environment. But will their crime go undetected? Inspired by the 1980 film, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, 9 to 5 opened on Broadway in 2009. It received four Tony nominations.

Overall, Haverford’s professionalism, passion, and boldness made 9 to 5 a rousing success.

Georgia Evans as Violet Newstead, Pammie Cobaugh as Doralee Rhodes, and Grazia LaRosa as Judy Bernly led the cast. Exuding professionalism, all three actresses showcased impressive vocals, excellent comic timing, and distinctive acting choices. Evans’s strong onstage presence drew the audience in, and she depicted a tough persona while showing vulnerability. Her versatility was evident in “Potion Notion”, where she shifted from sweet to deranged. Not only did Cobaugh show off her smooth voice, she also showcased a realistic character. She portrayed Doralee with strength and calm positivity. LaRosa showed Judy’s emotions through her face and body language, and she made sound acting choices which made her even more endearing. It was inspiring to watch her character gain confidence throughout the production. However extraordinary these actresses were on their own, they were even greater together. Their apparent chemistry and tangible support for one another elevated the performance. To round off the leads, Jack O’Leary as Franklin Hart, Jr. exemplified a role that the audience loved to hate! His suave vocals and comic expressions were polished to a tee, and his scenes often had the audience howling with laughter.

Aidan Curry as Joe showcased sweet sincerity in his scenes with Evans. Annajean Gionta as Roz Keith caused some of the loudest laughter in the show. Her strong vocals and excellent comic timing made her a standout among the cast. The energy and commitment of the large ensemble stood out in all of their scenes. They showed off polished choreography, whether it was the complex dances performed by the Featured Dancers or simpler movements. In particular, “One of the Boys” was an exuberant and impressive number, due both to Evans’s powerful presence and the male ensemble’s high energy. Notable was assistant director Shane Leinhauser’s work on the complex hospital scene, which he directed to maximize comedic timing and to showcase ensemble members.

Student Tommy Barnes conducted the HHS Pit Orchestra, which gave a flawless performance and boosted the production’s level of professionalism. Georgia Evans’s costumes included subtle details and impressive quick changes which further grounded the show in the time period.

Overall, Haverford High School’s 9 to 5 was a masterful, larger-than-life production which left its audience feeling empowered and ready to change their own lives.

 

Review submitted by Oakley Blinman of Harriton High School

Pour yourself a cup of ambition and get ready for an extraordinary day at the office, because Haverford High School’s production of 9 to 5 is a show certainly worth tumbling out of bed for!

9 to 5, based on the movie of the same name, tells the story of three women: Violet Newstead, Judy Bernly, and Doralee Rhodes. Working under misogynistic CEO Franklin Hart, each woman develops her own conflict with the boss, whether it be a lack of reward, recognition, or respect. When each of them finally come together and accidentally kidnap Hart, the world spins on its head in a hilarious tale that speaks volumes for women’s equality.

Haverford High School’s production was packed with talented players – strong vocalists, incredible comedic talent, and moving performances. The cast and crew worked harmoniously and brought Consolidated Industries to life on the stage with a gorgeous and functional set, brilliant costumes, and stunning technical elements. Featuring a student directed scene as well as a student-lead orchestra, this show came together seamlessly and shone like the sun.

The female-lead cast was packed with powerful players, like Georgia Evans, who portrayed the headstrong Violet Newstead. With rich vocals, brilliant acting, and a glaring aptitude for dance, there’s no question of whether or not this girl deserves a promotion.  Alongside her was Pammie Cobaugh as Doralee Rhodes, who delivered power-packed vocals (with a little Southern twist). Playing the girls’ sworn enemy, Franklin Hart, was Jack O’Leary, who found a way to make the audience despise him just enough that he was impossible not to adore. It’s a challenging balance, achieved with the help of his side-splitting delivery and potent vocal talent.

Alongside the formidable leading team, a number of talented players took to the stage. One of them was Annajean Gionta, playing Roz Keith, the nosy office assistant with a soft spot for her boss. Gionta’s performance was fantastic, especially in the song “Hart to Heart,” which perfectly displayed her immense vocal talent. Aidan Curry played another love-struck worker: he fell for Violet as the audience fell for his stunning performance as Joe. A strong ensemble brought the show together, featuring many proficient vocalists as well as a dazzling dance ensemble.

This production also showcased a talented technical team. The set was practical and attractive, the lighting was meticulously done, and the costumes were perfectly period-appropriate. Although there were a few hiccups with the sound, they recovered quickly and did a great job of solving issues on the fly.

Breaking free from the dormancy of the daily grind, Haverford High School’s 9 to 5 was pure joy (to the girls)!

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella – Sun Valley High School

Sun Valley - Cinderella 3

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella by Sun Valley High School in Aston, PA

May 7, 2020

Review submitted by Keagan Richard of Upper Merion Area High School

Sun Valley High School certainly transformed itself into a fairytale during their production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella!

Originally written for television in 1957, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella has reinvented this classic tale. The rags to riches story was first performed on stage in 1985 in London, and since, has had runs in several countries worldwide. In 2013, the charming musical debuted on Broadway, sporting a new book written by Douglas Carter Beane. Receiving praise and nominations from its birth, this show has proven to be a favorite for everyone, young and old.

Overall the show brought the audience into the childhood storybook as soon as the curtains opened. Beautifully constructed sets and backdrops complimented the contagious and dynamic energy of the ensemble, perfectly capturing the fantastical essence the show highly demands.

Chiara Robinson, starring as the show’s namesake, notably wooed audiences with her clear voice and chillingly beautiful vibrato. Conveying Ella’s hope and optimism, Robinson embodied the spirit of the show. Alongside Robinson was Dom Marano as the noble Prince Topher, the caring ruler and eligible bachelor for whom Ella falls for. Marano captured a beguiling quality as a more-than-storybook prince willing to make a difference in his kingdom. With Robinson’s stunning vocals and Marano’s delightful and humorous nature, the pair captivated the audience from the beginning of the show to its happily ever after.

Ella’s stepmother and stepsisters seamlessly added flairs of comedy. Evil through and through, Kerra Johnson’s performance as Madame was characterized by physicality and facial expressions. From sinister pride to flagrant disgust, Johnson’s body language left the audience in stitches with exaggerated movements and memorable reactions. Gabrielle (Ella Peterson) and Charlotte (Victoria Carcillo), Ella’s stepsisters, bolstered Johnson well. Their overall family dynamic brought a new level of enjoyment to the production, especially in their performances in “A Lovely Night” and “Stepsister’s Lament.” The ensemble actively engaged in many of the show’s numbers, pulling the audience deeper into the magic of Sun Valley’s production.

Reinforcing the quality of the show was the remarkable crew work. Led by Ryane Cornog and Evelyn Spayd, the Sun Valley Stage Crew made swift and precise transitions between each scene. Modestly designed set pieces and notable props contributed to the production’s immersive quality. Furthermore, the costumes were all beautiful and unique. Throughout the Prince’s ball, gowns were individualized and tailored in vibrant, luscious fabrics.

Giving new life to a well-known story, Sun Valley High School’s interpretation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a delight for theater-goers of all ages.

 

 

Review submitted by Claire Jenkins of Conestoga High School

Sun Valley High School’s fun and vibrant production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella did not need any fairy godmother to make this show as magical as it was! Sun Valley’s cast and crew brought on all the magic themselves to create a pleasurable take on the well-known tale.

Originally a musical written for television in 1957, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a show based on the classic French fairy tale. The story follows Ella, a young woman who dreams of a life free from the callous authority of her evil stepmother and egocentric stepsisters. When the royal palace announces a ball for the prince, Ella’s stepmother cruelly refuses to let Ella go. However, with the help of a fairy godmother, Ella attends the ball as a princess, leading her to find her prince, opening his eyes to the inequities within the kingdom, and eventually living happily ever after.

The cast as a whole had a great amount of energy, as each ensemble member was present and enthusiastic throughout the show. Each song performed in this production was full of passion; the cast’s interpretations of the songs immersed viewers into the fairy tale atmosphere. The cast and crew worked extremely hard to create a joyful result.

The title character Cinderella (also known as Ella), portrayed by Chiara Robinson, had a lovely and soothing voice that further contributed to the light-hearted theme of the production. Her kind tone and facial expressions demonstrated a complex understanding of character. Another commendable performance came from Dom Marano as Topher, as he did a fine job portraying the determined prince. The connection between Robinson and Marano was very admirable; their duets were delightful moments in the production, and their voices complimented each other well.

Alexa Rode also had a bright performance as the encouraging fairy godmother Marie. Rode incredibly maintained energy throughout the show while her powerful vocals further developed her uplifting character. Billy Fisher was another lively performer on stage, as he enjoyably played the rebellious Jean-Michele. Madame, played by Kerra Johnson, used hilarious body language to express disgust and anger while interestingly bringing out a comical side of the evil stepmother.

The Sun Valley Stage Crew, under the excellent stage management of Ryane Cornog and Evelyn Spayd, did a great job effortlessly moving set pieces across the stage. Though there were moments when the set changes took some focus away from the story, most of them were executed quietly and flawlessly. There were some sound issues present as well, yet the cast continued to stay in character and project through the complications.

Overall, it was “A Lovely Night” experiencing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella as Sun Valley High School’s talented students brought the fairy tale to life.

The Shows Must Go On – Cappies goes Virtual!

The Cappies program, along with the rest of the country, has been put on hold for the past few weeks.  But, the Steering Committee has found a way to not only finish the season, but allow schools to finish their interrupted participation in the program.

Welcome to Cappies:  Virtual Edition!   Seven schools (out of the ten remaining) who had their spring shows either cancelled or postponed, have submitted videos of their productions that were cancelled or shows that were performed in the fall that were not originally their selected Cappies show.  Student critics will watch the shows online, and review the shows from the safety of their homes.

So the reviews from this week were the first entries in the Cappies Virtual Edition.

On behalf of the Cappies Steering Committee, we are incredibly appreciative of the schools that have participated in this program, the critics who have decided to take on this unique form of the program, and for everyone’s patience and enthusiasm overall.

Our best wishes go out to the schools who had their programs halted by this pandemic.  Don’t worry, there will be more shows, there will be another stage, the audiences will return.  And we all can not wait for that curtain call!!

With these postponements and implementations of the virtual program, voting for the 2019-2020 season has been moved to Sunday May 17th.   Critics will be receiving instructions in the coming week or so.  Nominees for this year’s awards will be announced the week after voting.

The date of the Virtual Gala will be announced shortly.  The Gala will announce the  Cappies Awards recipients will give us an opportunity to celebrate this special, but no less spectacular, year of high school theatre.

The show will go on!!