Hello Dolly! by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy

SCH 1Hello Dolly! – Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, PA

December 14, 2015

Review submitted by Eli Russell of Abington Friends School.

Put on your Sunday clothes and come see Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Hello, Dolly! The cast at SCH Academy brought the classic musical to life, recreating its old-timey aesthetic for a modern audience.

Set in New York City in the 1890s, Hello, Dolly! tells the story of a matchmaker who attempts to match herself to a “half-a-millionaire” and his fortune. The musical won a record ten Tony Awards when it premiered on Broadway in 1964. Half a century and three Broadway revivals later, Hello, Dolly! remains one of the most beloved shows in the American musical theatre canon.

SCH Academy’s production was notable for its slapstick humor, best seen during numbers like “Motherhood March,” and the old-timey feel that permeated the performance, especially the enthralling “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and the timeless “Hello, Dolly.” Hannah Lebowitz-Lockard starred as Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, the titular fast-talking and charismatic matchmaker. Lebowitz-Lockard filled the stage with personality at every entrance and demonstrated impressive acting skills during multiple monologues directed towards her late husband, Ephraim Levi.

In the supporting cast, Hudson Smith and Sean Terrey were easy audience favorites for their delightful portrayals of Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker. Terrey particularly nailed the physical energy of his character. The show was enlivened by comedic cameos from Betsy Sheppard (Mrs. Rose), Robert Hass (Rudolph Reisenweber), and the hilarious Maya Jones (Ernestina). Vocal precision and power were persistent issues throughout the show, for both individuals and ensembles, but the cast made up for this with abundant energy and a commitment to acting that exceeded expectations.

The show also succeeded in technical elements. An adept crew quickly transformed the versatile set into an upscale restaurant, a courtroom, and other New York locales. The production was bolstered by a diverse assortment of high-quality props and solid sound and lighting designs.

All in all, the capable cast and crew at SCH Academy put on a strong production of Hello, Dolly! “It Only Takes a Moment” to enjoy this fun, nostalgic, and, of course, elegant piece of theatre.

 

Review submitted by Carly Goldberg of Phoenixville Area High School

No musical fits the image of a splashy romantic-comedy better than Hello, Dolly!, and Springfield Chestnut Hill Academy’s enthusiastic and heartwarming production certainly did this classic show justice.

Based on a 1955 play titled The Matchmaker, Hello, Dolly! premiered on Broadway in 1964. The widely popular show starred theatre legend Carol Channing in the titular role, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart. It won ten Tony Awards and inspired a 1969 movie adaption and three Broadway revivals. The film starred Barbra Streisand and received three Academy Awards.

This witty musical details the adventures of Dolly Gallagher Levi, widow and professional meddler. A former New York socialite, Dolly has avoided the limelight after the passing of her husband, Ephraim. She realizes that she wants to remarry, and sets her sights on widower and “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder. Dolly devises a plan to win his affection, involving his niece, her fiancée, two store clerks, a millinery shop owner, and her assistant.

SCH Academy’s production was carried by Hannah Lebowitz-Lockard as the larger-than-life Dolly. Her stage presence was extremely strong, causing eruptions of applause with each entrance and exit. Lebowitz-Lockard’s charismatic portrayal of Mrs. Levi was complemented by Griffin Banks’ stoic Horace Vandergelder, providing a lovely contrast to the scheming Dolly.

The comedic duo of clerks Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker (Hudson Smith and Sean Terrey, respectively) absolutely stole the show. Their dynamic was well-balanced and thought-out, with each line funnier than the last. Terrey was especially skilled in the physicality of his awkward character, dancing across the stage with the perfect amounts of joy and lack of self-consciousness. Singley Risico as Irene Malloy and Riley Redpath as Minnie Fay were paired together as store owner and assistant, and had a balanced dynamic as well.

Robert Hass’ maitre d’ Rudolph Reisenweber and Betsy Sheppard’s Mrs. Rose both made the most of their limited time onstage, providing creative and original characters. The ensemble did an exceptional job filling out the stage in crowd scenes.

The production’s props contributed to the authenticity of the production, assembled by Props Crew Head Maya Jones, and their costuming was another highlight.

SCH Academy’s Hello, Dolly! did exactly what a musical should do. It was an energetic and charming production, and reinforced the idea that we should all love life and appreciate the opportunities it has to offer.

 

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx

 

 

 

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged] by Interboro High School

Interboro5The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged] – Interboro High School in Prospect Park, PA.

December 8, 2015

Review submitted by  Will Patterson of The Episcopal Academy

“Cut the crap Hamlet!” screams the audience at the behest of the actors clad in brightly colored tights, “my biological clock is ticking!” Tackling thirty-seven Shakespearean plays in ninety-seven (give or take) minutes, Interboro High School’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged] updated and “cut the crap” from all the bard’s famous works while maintaining the spirit of their irreverent humor.

The play, written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield, was first performed in 1987 with three actors. In it, the audience is taken on a comedic journey through Shakespeare’s plays, from Romeo and Juliet to Hamlet. Each performance of the show allows for a unique spin, with casts often drawing on local events and pop culture in their jokes.

A small cast of sixteen actors and actresses not only tackled the plethora of Shakespearean characters, but also played themselves, a herculean feat. They spoke to each other with their real names, and developed their own personas on stage.

Though each person in this talented cast brought their own unique humor and character to the play, there were a few standouts. Natalie Mancuso, who put a new twist on some of the female characters of Shakespeare, was notable for her high energy comedic performance. Her strong speaking voice and impeccable comedic timing commanded the audience’s attention. Another standout was Jeff Finley, who garnered uproarious laughter with his soft-spoken, lowbrow humor. Kevin Reeder shattered the fourth wall to great comic effect when he left the stage to sit on an audience member and eventually flee the show. Jack Crozier–abandoned by his castmates when they went to get Kevin–lit up the stage with his pre-intermission monologue, interacting with audience members and riffing off responses.

The cast kept their energy high and building throughout the entire show, never once losing the audience’s attention. From a cooking show of Titus Andronicus, to a group performance of an Othello rap, to Hamlet performed both sped up and backwards, each new play was performed in a humorous and lively way. Each cast member possessed strong comedic instincts, knowing how and when to break the fourth wall and keep the audience engaged.

In a play that was the polar opposite of subtle, the technical aspects of the show were very well done. Their costumes effectively allowed them to step into and out of character without drawing attention away from them. The props and set served to assist the actors, but did not go so far as to distract from their performance.

A strong chemistry between cast members, made jokes run smoothly and kept the audience both on their toes and in hysterical laughter the whole time. From Shakespeare fanatics to Shakespeare disparagers, this fantastic performance has laughs for everyone!

 

Review submitted by Sarah Barr of The Episcopal Academy

There was no “maybe…maybe not” about it – the ego, superego, and id of the audience was in agreement – Interboro High Schools production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) shined.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) undertakes the lofty goal of preforming all thirty-seven of William Shakespeare’s plays in ninety-seven minutes, and the talented cast and crew of Interboro admirably undertook the challenge. Asa Campbell and Morgan Smith started the show off with the colorful humor that would come to be expected throughout the show, and were joined quickly by the comedic talents of Sonia Relyea – a preeminent Shakespearian scholar – Kevin Reeder, and the rest of the cast as the walk through the realm of Shakespeare began.

The first play, Romeo and Juliet, began with a fast-paced scooter entrance by Jeff Finley, and the show only speed up as the actors became more attuned to their characters and found their energy. The banter between Jeff Finley and his Juliet, Alexis Tuohey, served to truly make the cast seem like a single unit. Titus Andronicus’s dark humor was excellently executed – literally – by the skills of Daniel Previti and Natalie Mancuso, who managed to speak as if she actually had no tongue. The tragic story of Othello was transformed into a catchy beat with a multitude of clever one-liners and an excellent display of hitting the whip by Wyatt McDevitt, Jack Crozier, and Demi Davis.

Along with getting to display their prowess through Shakespeare’s works, the play lended itself to opportunities for the actors’ personalities and dynamic interactions with each other to truly come to light. Banter between Kevin Reeder, Jack Crozier, and Jeff Finley, mingled with the audience participation that they initiated made the experience much more interesting for the audience as a whole.

The final play of the production was, of course, Hamlet, which was done impressively not once, not twice, but three times, and then completed backwards as well. The ever famous “To be or not to be” speech was given an admirable effort by Molly Evans, and the division of Ophelia into “layers” by Natalie Mancuso caused exceptional hilarity to ensue.

Technically, the show was simple. There was essentially no set, and every actor wore the same costume with different colored tights to set them apart. As a result, there was no real interaction with anything besides each other, allowing for more focus on the actual lines. While there were instances where actors spoke too quickly or didn’t enunciate enough, the majority of lines were given the delivery they deserved.

All in all, Interboro’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) was not a show to be missed.

 

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx

The Green Bird by Phoenixville Area High School

Phoenixville 3

The Green Bird – Phoenixville Area High School in Phoenixville, PA.

November 23, 2015

Review submitted by Molly Harnish from Delaware County Christian School

What do you get when you mix an evil witch plotting to take over the kingdom, a talking statue, and two bratty kids who feel they deserve the throne? As Phoenixville Area High School’s Theater Guild demonstrated in their performance of The Green Bird, you get a fresh, original fairytale that keeps you laughing, despite the many tragedies.

Phoenixville’s cast performed Hillary DePiano’s adaptation of The Green Bird, originally written by Carlo Gozzi as a sequel to his play, The Love of Three Oranges. The Green Bird is a play in the Commedia dell’Arte style, characterized by masked characters, improvisation, physical comedy, and recognizable character types. The characters are separated from their families, undergo curses, quests, and trials to arrive at the play’s final conclusion: your family and friends may be dysfunctional and crazy, but no matter what, they are “your people.”

The cast’s energy mounted with each scene, anchored by the chemistry between pairs of characters. One such pair was Renzo (Jake Gould) and Barbarina (Xandra Coleman), who riffed off of each other to build a realistic sibling relationship, complete with playful banter. Another notable pair was that of Truffaldino (Joshua Bush) and Franceschina (Kaleigh Hartson), who portrayed the unconventional love of an unlikely couple with aplomb, winning many laughs from the audience.

Other standouts included Pantalone (David D’Ardenne), who masterfully used body language and a memorable voice to give his character a strong stage presence. His sense of comedic timing added a dose of reality to some of the fairy tale scenes. Another notable performance was that of King Tartaglia (Mark Wisely), who added his own dramatic flair to the production as he tried to reclaim his kingdom.

Although the cast did encounter a few sound issues, and a few actors stumbled over lines, they overcame those obstacles to deliver a memorable performance. The lighting was simple but effective in highlighting the action onstage, and the stage management crew kept the production moving almost flawlessly.

Phoenixville’s production of The Green Bird was rife with creativity, from the onstage sound effects to the use of instruments, and the dramatic flair of its cast carried the audience smoothly from the opening of the curtain to the final bow.

 

Review submitted by Emily Thompson from The Baldwin School

And they all lived happily ever after–that is, until the king goes off to war, the queen is locked in a dungeon, the twin prince and princess are left unidentified on the doorstep of peasants, leaving a wicked, fortune-hungry witch to take the throne.

The Green Bird, adapted by Hillary DePiano and originally written by Carlo Gozzi’s was a world premiere performed right at the Phoenixville Area High School. It is the sequel to the play, The Love for Three Oranges, performed by Phoenixville a few years ago. The performance uses recognizable characters types, masks, and improvisation to bring the audience to laughter in this Commedia dell’Arte style.

Phoenixville’s production was anchored by its humorous narrator, Calmon, the King of Statues (Nick Degen), as well as its strong opposing characters, the noble King Tartaglia (Mark Wisely) and the evil Smeraldina (Cali Mulzet).

Lead actors Xandra Coleman (playing Barbarina) and Jake Gould (Renzo) played well as a pair of siblings, using witty banter and vainglorious jokes, skillfully adding to their characters’ satire. Meanwhile, the moral compass of the show, Calmon, the King of Statues (Nick Degen), spoke with a clear and humorous voice. He used facial expressions and tone inflection to display intentions that were difficult to act out, due to his immobility. In addition, the wickedly sarcastic Smeraldina (Cali Mulzet) commanded each scene with authority and a distinct sense of purpose in her character.

The good intentioned, but cowardly Pantalone was portrayed well by David D’Ardenne, who used comedic character walks and motions to add to his purpose. Although she had minimal stage time, the tough Pompea, portrayed by Julianita Vlad, captivated the audience with her wit and strength. The ensemble of masked Zannis were hysterical, particularly through their movements in scenes such as the “Swan Fake” dancing scene in the twins’ palace and when the Tree Zanni was chopped for firewood.

The costumes of the show were appropriate and beautiful, such as the sparkling slinky gold dress of the Fata Serpentina (Mary Zeleski), and the Queen of Hearts-esque outfit of Smeraldina (Cali Mulzet). The lighting was impressive, going from full-stage lighting to individual spotlights seamlessly. Although there were occasional difficulties with microphones and sound, the actors were able to rise above these obstacles.

This new, but intricately plotted, play uses both physical and vocal humor to transport the audience to a fascinating land of potions, various curses, and true love that triumphs over all.

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx

Midsummer / Jersey by Lindenwold High School

Lindenwold 2Midsummer / Jersey – Lindenwold High School in Lindenwold, NJ

November 23, 2015

Review submitted by Nina Saligman of Friends Central School

The Jersey Shore – A rambunctious home of reality tv, cheap spray tans, and no corner more than ten minutes from a mall. Shakespeare’s depiction of Athens – The quintessence of sophistication, history and erudition. What happens when the two of these settings cross? Lindenwold High School attempted to show us this Saturday in their production of Midsummer/Jersey.

Midsummer/Jersey is a frisky, ambitious production. Successfully pulling off a Jersey Shore adaptation of classic Shakespeare is a tall order, but Lindenwold did it charmingly.

The plot shows four scrambled lovers guided by a band of mischievous fairies. Think – Jersey chic meets fairy wings to serve up an amusing tale of confused love.

With a bubbly cast and cheerful audience there was no shortage of positive energy radiating throughout this production. Admittedly, there were times in which this energy seemed to come at the cost of mild blur and disorganization, but the blending of many things is how Lindenwold made the production their own.

The cast is to be acclaimed for more than just consistent maintenance of the Jersey accent and an obscene amount of running in heels. Bustling energy is what defined the production. The central protagonists were portrayed by Jiovani Arias and Shannon Gaskill, both of whom did a charming job. Arias’s flavorful aroma in conjunction with Gaskill’s comedic energy provided endless amusement.

A surefire strong suit was Lindenwold’s ensemble of salon employees. Including notable performances from Khadijah Teel and Ahnyah Pinckeny, the Hair Salon Posse’s comedic act carried the show. Another casting highlight was the dynamic fairy duo of Titania and Oberon, portrayed by Adriana Morales and Kelvin Wilburn. All in all, Lindenwold held together a successful troupe with much charisma.

The production’s aura was solid. At the hand of an excellent set, distinctly pleasing costume and makeup, and lively energy all around, Midsummer/Jersey was nothing but easy to watch. From opening sequence to curtain call, it was apparent that the majority of the audience was certainly feeling the show’s excitement.

Lindenwold’s adaptation of Midsummer/Jersey was a charming production. The energetic cast, jubilant spirit, and comedic presentation made it a fine investment of time.

 

Review submitted by Gianni Cocchella from Upper Dublin High School

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

You’d be foolish to miss out on Lindenwold High School’s production of a Midsummer/Jersey. This comedic adaptation of the classic tale of A Midsummer’s Night Dream by William Shakespeare is set along the boardwalk in a local town near the shore of modern-day New Jersey. The story centers around four young lovers, a lively entourage of beauty salonists, and a group of mythic fairies led by a stubborn King and his dauntless Queen. The night takes a magical turn when Oberon, King of the fairies, wishes to conduct mischief in the mortal realm with the assistance of his right hand man, Puck.

Shannon Gaskill (Mia DiCarlo) stole the show with her amusing performance of a stereotypical, ill-tempered, Jersey-shore girl. Her distinct Jersey accent and capricious attitude throughout the show were, without a doubt, memorable. Jiovani Arias (Lyle Fagioli), on the other hand, effectively portrayed the character of a hot-headed, ruthless, Italian boy seeking to marry his beloved girlfriend. Together, both characters depicted a youthful and struggling couple in the current day reality of young love.

Danielle McCarthy (Robin Goodfellow/Puck) played the role of the impulsive and endearing fairy messenger. Her performance was delightful and playful with the help of her powerful master, Oberon, King of the fairies (Kelvin Wilburn). Together, they pursue a journey tampering with the lives of mortals with their enchanting love potion.

Furthermore, Brandi Flem (Francie Flute) captivated the audience with her incredibly entertaining performance as one of the beauty salonists who is assigned the role of Juliet in a small play for the Governor. Her obnoxious gum-chewing, big hair, and jumpy feet served as effective tools within her portrayal of this disreputable character.

The technical aspects of the production, which included lights, sound, and set, were particularly remarkable. The use of strobe lights and different lighting effectively swayed the setting of each scene. Likewise, the inclusion of pop-hit songs gave the production a more upbeat and positive flare. The overall set was breathtaking and visually appealing. The impressive boardwalk and the tactful shops worked hand in hand to deliver a convincing setting. As a whole, the stage crew worked effectively without complications under stage manager Melissa Rocha.

Overall, Lindenwold High School’s captivating production of Midsummer/Jersey managed to deliver a sensible and engaging re-telling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

 

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx

Amadeus by Eastern Regional High School

Eastern Regional 2Amadeus – Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees, NJ

November 23, 2015

Review submitted by Victoria Kline of Academy of the New Church

A life, full of unsuccess, yet destined to become immortal through the works he produced. A death, shrouded in mystery and eerie circumstances. This is the story of Amadeus, about Mozart, yet from another’s point of view, a point of view that was brought to thrilling life on the stage of Eastern Regional High School.

The play follows the life story of a man named Antonio Salieri, told from his point of view in a series of flashbacks. While based off of fact, it is still considered a work of fiction, and the circumstances surrounding Mozart’s mysterious death are given a greater connection with Salieri. The spiteful and jealous man declares war on a god he believes is uncaring and selfish. He thinks it unfair that Mozart, an immature and sinful man, has the power to write magnificent and moving music, while he, Salieri, a chaste and good man, can only create the mediocre.

Gary Bowman portrayed the complex character of Salieri spectacularly, the anger, fear, and twisted joy shown through his facial expressions, gesticulations and greatly varying tone of voice. Bowman’s monologues were moving, and he provided an exceptional foil to the childish Mozart. Mozart himself was played by Caleb Schneider, with an indefatigable energy that brought life to his over-the-top character as he rattled off long strings of rapid Italian or French. However, he also provided seriousness and weariness when needed.

Another highlight was the two “Winds”, or “Venticelli”.  Played by Kayla Kantakusin and Dominique Iannettoni, these were Salieri’s two gossipers and source of information. They often spoke in unison, or alternating every other word, and did so with amazing coordination. Constanze Weber, the feisty wife of Mozart, was portrayed extremely well by Samantha Youse, who spoke with clarity and sweetness, and laughed with seemingly genuine joy.

The cast on a whole acted with wonderful expressions, and with a variety of walks, from a drunken swagger to a proper and pompous step, making the show extremely entertaining even from the background.

Greatly adding to the show’s success was the extremely well done lighting and tech. Bright colors from fuchsia to golden orange highlighted and complemented the moods of the characters, while a white spotlight drew attention to the focal point of the scene. The music was coordinated perfectly with the actors’ motions, fading in and out as Salieri gazed upon Mozart’s work. Despite a few microphone glitches, the sound was clear and the volume perfect.

Although an extremely difficult play to pull off, Amadeus was executed beautifully by the students of Eastern Regional High School, and was a different sort of tribute to the people of the past, one full of intrigue, suspense, and drama.

 

Review submitted by Billy Issertell from Cardinal O’Hara High School

As the lights first illuminated the stage of Easter Regional High School’s production of Amadeus little was revealed. One of the greatest composers in history, Antonio Salieri, sat alone surrounded by only darkness and silence. As Salieri began to speak, however, he commenced a tale of jealousy, lost faith, and an insatiable hunger for fame.

Amadeus tells the story of the rivalry between great composers Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salieri, a man of devout faith, finds himself betrayed by God when he recognizes that the music of Mozart, a young man of loose ethics, far surpasses the quality of his own. Salieri shatters the fourth wall as he takes the audience on his journey of vengeance, waging war on God through God’s instrument, Mozart.

The cast of Amadeus brought the story to life in compelling fashion. The ensemble was intensely engaging and carried themselves with a meticulous precision that seemed effortless. They added an impressive layer of professionalism to the show’s overall success.

The role of Salieri was portrayed admirably by Gary Bowman. Bowman commanded the stage with an exceptional presence and had an energy unparalleled by any other performer. He played his character with impressive authenticity and though mostly serious, added a comic flare to his role that cannot go unrecognized. Caleb Schneider who played Mozart displayed superb comedic timing in illustrating Mozart’s childlike immaturity. Schneider also showed extraordinary ability in contrasting Mozart’s jovial emotions in the beginning of the play with his dark thoughts at the end, playing both with brilliant dexterity.

The drama was buttressed by a notable gathering of skilled supporting roles. Constanze Mozart (Samantha Youse) and Emperor Joseph II (Dante Bruzzese), among others, strengthened the foundation of the drama.

The technical aspects only added to the shows professional caliber. The lighting worked in almost perfect harmony with the mood of the show and the set, though simple, was effective in setting the scene of the play. Though there were a few sound errors in the beginning of the performance, the sound quality improved after only a few minutes, a testament to the efforts of the sound technicians.

Overall, Eastern Regional High School’s production of Amadeus was an impressive triumph that was executed with near professional quality.

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx

In Harmony by Agnes Irwin

Agnes Irwin 2.jpgIn Harmony – Agnes Irwin in Rosemont, PA.

November 23, 2015

Review submitted by Emily Thompson from The Baldwin School

In 1962, the place to be is WKRC-TV Studios in Cincinnati, Ohio. Three singing groups of sisters compete for fame and fortune, all while dealing with their own struggles of racism, group dynamics, and one particularly ruthless competitor. Written by the director of the show, William Esher, and the music director, Jerry Kapral, the show In Harmony manages to address issues that affect everyone in an entertaining and bright light.

In the beginning of the show, three groups of sisters are introduced, the very religious Irish Catholic O’Donnell sisters, the pretentious and self-entitled Wright sisters, and the bold but caring Moore sisters, who struggle with racism and prejudice even with their success. Meanwhile, the television host, Kip Kiley (Andrew Lengel), is off in his own world, letting his under-appreciated assistant, Gladys Brown (Charlotte Alexander), do all of his work for him.

The production’s great harmonies and group dynamics held the story together beautifully. “Blue Moon”, sung by the O’Donnell sisters, was particularly well-received. In addition, the dynamics between the individual sister groups (such as the supportive Moore sisters) made the characters relatable and easy to empathize with. The connections between the actors, both vocally and mentally, really carried the show.

Linda, played by Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi, was a ruthless competitor in the competition, and was played just so. Her solo song, “No Stops to the Top”, was hysterical, and her facial expressions and tone inflection greatly reinforced her character. Every part of the sassy but lovable Jennifer, played by Dejah Bradshaw, was adored by the audience, from her character, full of determination and self-respect, to her beautiful voice and collaboration with her fellow Moore Sisters (Acacia Pressley and Sanaiyah Watts) and Mary Frances (Connie Thompson).

Throughout the show, the adorably-dressed ensemble popped out for “Sing Your Song”, and their high energy and perkiness added to the television-show contest atmosphere. While their black leggings in the final scene and shorter skirts in the first act weren’t necessarily from that time period, the girls’ perky ponytails and behavior carried the energy of the show.

This show truly brought the audience back to the sixties, particularly with their use of costumes for the main characters. The sister-groups had particularly beautiful costumes that complemented each other and expressed the group well. While the set was minimal, a screen hung above the stage, with a black-and-white video live broadcasting the action on stage. It was a cute and creative addition to the show. However, it became difficult to hear the singers at times, due to technical difficulties, but the actresses persevered.

Agnes Irwins’ cute, mainly-female show took beautiful harmonies and important lessons and created an entertaining and unique show.

 

Review submitted by Emma Gogol from Central Bucks High School West

An enthusiastic cast, exciting musical numbers, beautiful costumes, mesmerizing sets, and wonderful voices. All of these components came together in The Agnes Irwin School’s fall production of their original show, In Harmony.

Based at a radio show in 1960’s Cincinnati, In Harmony is the story of three groups of self-proclaimed “Singing Sisters” who compete in a contest sponsored by Hucklebury Industries. The competition heats up when Linda Wright, one of the contestants, decides that she is going to win the contest by any means necessary.

The Agnes Irwin School’s production was full of very talented student actors, all of whom brought a unique energy to their characters. Stand-out performances included Dejah Bradshaw who brought a great sassy component and comedic energy to her character, Jennifer Moore. Also exceptional was Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi, whose musical number entitled “No Stops to the Top” made her character,Linda Wright, very memorable, and Connie Thompson whose innocence and grace added to her already strong performance as Mary Frances O’Donnell.

Other highlights of the show included student Charlotte Alexander’s performance as the comedic stage manager, Gladys Brown. Another memorable performer was Andrew Lengel, who brought a wonderfully corny aspect to his character, contest host Kip Kiley.

In Harmony, as a whole, was strengthened by its enthusiastic and talented ensemble, who portrayed the studio’s dancers. Although not all choreography was always in unison, all ensemble members were exciting to watch and brought a great energy to the stage, which in turn, made the audience more enthusiastic.

Agnes Irwin’s stage crew did tremendously, although at times, it was difficult to hear what the performers were saying. A wonderful component to the show was the fake television which hung above the stage. When the studio was supposedly “recording” something for television, a live feed of the stage was played in black and white on the television above. Also, whenever there was a commercial break during the live broadcast of the studio’s competition, real commercials from the time period were played on the television. Overall, the technical components to the show added to the already enjoyable experience.

The Agnes Irwin School’s production of In Harmony was an enjoyable and fun experience, which left the audience laughing and feeling good.

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx

You Can’t Take It With You by Unionville High School

Unionville 3You Can’t Take It With You – Unionville High School in Kennett Square, PA.

November 16, 2015

Review submitted by Marisol Smith of Lindenwold High School

The Bunkers, the Conners, and the Addams aren’t the only unconventional families to grace audiences with their peculiar lifestyles. Unionville High School did a great job this weekend reminding us all of the Sycamores, who also tend to demonstrate dysfunctional methods in problem solving, in their production of You Can’t Take it With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.

Similar to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, minus the forbidden love, violence, and deadly ending, this drama tells of two families, one slightly eccentric while the other wealthy and conservative, joining in marriage. However, before Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby can wed, they must first have their families meet. Meanwhile, the grandfather, Martin Vanderhof, refuses to pay income tax and is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service. Can the couple accept each other’s families and make the commitment? You’ll have to see the show to find out!

When the cast and crew of the production weren’t dazzling the crowd with striking student-produced sets and impressive lighting, they were charming them with their fluent accents and upbeat personalities. Although there were moments that lost the audience’s attention, it was quickly regained with outrageous wrestling reenactments and explosive rocket sound effects.

Annie Ward as Henderson, Clarisse Cofrancesco as Penelope Sycamore, and Joe Siehl as Boris Kolenkhov were prominent comedic characters who kept the stage alive and the patrons on the edge of their seats. Simran Jain playing Gay Wellington, Ashley Lennick playing Essie, and Mark Jankowski playing Donald also added to the show with their individuality and key influences. Some would argue the costumes and makeup could have been enhanced, but it was made up for by the efficient scene changes and the detailed set.

There is much to be said about Alex Kallis’ performance as Martin Vanderhof, the all-knowing grandfather of Alice and Essie. The actor truly grasped the character and delivered the final scene beautifully. Trevor Seidel, Tony Kirby, and Suchi Jain, Alice Sycamore, added to the show with their believable love connection.

Overall, Unionville High School constructed a wonderful production of You Can’t Take it With You. Together, the cast and crew put on an amusing performance portraying the families. The hard work put into sound, lighting, and sets, that were all run and supported by students, was evident. The show was a delightful experience and I look forward to hearing about Unionville High School’s spring production.

 

Review submitted by Maureen Tibbetts from Archmere Academy

A lot of people have crazy, embarrassing families, but no family is wackier than the family in You Can’t Take It With You. The students of Unionville High School brought each one of the show’s eccentric, quirky characters to life onstage.

Originally appearing on Broadway in 1936, this show certainly is not the most contemporary, but it contains themes of family and love that are relevant in today’s world. You Can’t Take It With You was written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman and has had several Broadway revivals through the decades. The story takes place in New York in the 1930s and follows the lives of several quirky family members.

Unionville High School’s production of the unique show was highly entertaining. Each member of the roughly 20-person cast was clearly dedicated to his or her character and passionate about the show’s story. With a beautiful student-designed set, lovely costumes, and complex characters, the show was visually pleasing as well as mentally stimulating.

Several lead actors put on impressive performances. Alex Kallis had the difficult task of playing the family’s grandpa, Martin Vanderhof, and did so flawlessly through his voice, his walk, and his overall portrayal of the significant character. Clarisse Cofrancesco, who played Mrs. Penelope Sycamore, utilized an authentic 1930s accent and made her humorous character completely authentic.

Each member of the cast was energetic and maintained his or her energy throughout the show. Lovebirds Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby, played by Suchi Jain and Trevor Seidel, had believable chemistry and put on great performances. Ashley Lennick charmed the audience with her wonderfully awful dance moves as the childlike character Essie. Joe Siehl, who played Russian dance teacher Boris Kolenkov, used a consistent Russian accent and elicited many laughs from the audience.

The show’s detailed and grand set included a chandelier and elegant red walls strewn with paintings. Designed and built by students, the set was incredible and was the perfect setting for the show. Stage crew did a great job making subtle changes during blackouts, and lighting and sound cues were both well executed.

Overall, You Can’t Take It With You was a fun, quirky show with many comedic moments. No matter how big or small a character’s part was, each cast member gave his or her all to the show, and that certainly showed through in Unionville High School’s production.

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by Friends Select School

Friends Select 125th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by Friends Select School in Philadelphia, PA.

November 16, 2015

Review submitted by Gina Prince of Upper Darby High School

Tensions were high in the gymnasium of the 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, for the best speller doesn’t always win.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, book by Rachel Sheinkin and music and lyrics by William Finn, tells a story of the adventures of spelling and the ongoing struggles in the lives of quirky elementary and middle school scholars, guided by outrageous and vibrant adults and the assistance of the lucky chosen audience members. This outlandishly comedic musical had a 2005 Tony Nomination for Best Book of a musical and a 2005 Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding New Musical.

Friends Select School’s cast was very spirited as they displayed their hard work and efforts. A highlight of the production was “Pandemonium,” which presented the cast’s best energy and most entertaining musical number.

Alex Giganti (Chip Tolentino) carried the entire performance with his astounding vocals ultimately filling the complete house. He was captivating to watch due to his natural stage presence and comedic timing. His voice stood out even in ensemble driven numbers due to the strength and technique behind it. Additionally, he was a very responsible and prepared actor throughout each scene and musical number even when the spotlight wasn’t on him.

Isaac Riley-Wasserman (Leaf Coneybear), Drew Kaplan (William Barfee), and Ben Vlam (Vice Principle Douglas Panch) had their fair share of laughs and quirkiness that was nicely portrayed with good timing. Emily Augenbraun (Rona Lisa Perretti/Olive’s Mom) was consistently energetic and really shined with Alex Giganti (Chip/Olive’s Dad) in “The I Love You Song.” Some actors and musical numbers needed some fine tuning with harmonies, and actor projection could have been improved so that all jokes could be heard. Nevertheless, the cast did a great job of brightening up the stage with their love of theatre and heart behind it.

The Friends Select Orchestra did a commendable job of accompanying the actors in difficult and challenging music and never failed to liven up the production. They were most definitely essential to success of the musical as a whole.

Friends Select School’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee certainly displayed the cast and pit’s hard work and passion until “The Last Goodbye.”

 

Review by: Anna Deeg of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a show of endearing quirks, eloquent articulation, and countless laughs. Friend Select School’s production of this comical show was an endearing mélange of pandemonium, goodbyes, and sophisticated words.

The musical follows the spelling bee at Putnam Valley Middle School – specifically featuring the backstories, spelling techniques, and amusing antics of six adolescent contestants. William Barfee (Drew Kaplan) flaunted his fascinating spelling feet, along with boundless enthusiasm and adept acting. Logainne Schwarzengrubenniere (Lydia Shaw) was a doe-eyed spelling machine. Marcy Park (Nola Latty) competently captured an over-achieving perfectionist.

Olive Ostrovsky (Madeline Vlam) perfectly encapsulated the idiosyncrasies of a timid, dictionary-loving teenager. Leaf Coneybear (Isaac Riley-Wasserman) lacked confidence in his spelling abilities, but radiated with confidence in his singing and body language. Chip Tolentino (Alex Giganti) captivated the stage with his endless energy and strong vocal presence, maintaining his dynamic character for every moment of the show.

Rona Lisa Perretti (Emily Augenbraun) presided over the group of misfit spelling masters, dominating the stage with her physicality and vocal ability. Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Ben Vlam) and Mitch Mahoney (Paige Allison Bethel-Purnell) both added humor to the cut-throat spelling competition. The hilarity increased with featured moments – such as the dance moves of Logainne’s two dads and the bickering of the entire Coneybear family.

The dynamic interaction between all members of the spelling bee ensemble brought an unparalleled animation to the entire show. They worked as one unit, showcased in the beautiful harmonies of “The I Love You Song” and in the synchronized choreography of “Magic Foot.” The technical aspects of the show mirrored this synchronization with expert mood lighting and a set reminiscent of middle school auditoriums nationwide.

Though they bid adieu with a “Last Goodbye”, Friend Select School’s charming performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee left the audience wanting even more hilarious mayhem and advanced spellings.

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx

The Jungle Book by Upper Merion High School

Upper Merion 1The Jungle Book – Upper Merion Area High School in King of Prussia, PA.

November 16, 2015

Review by Emma Christensen of Ridley School District

Wolf-cub? Man-cub? The Upper Merion Underground Players prove that you can be both as they blur the lines between reality and fantasy in their rendition of The Jungle Book!

The Jungle Book has been adapted into diverse versions of plays over the years, however they all originate from Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name. The play shows Kipling as a boy in boarding school writing this famous work that centers around a human child being raised by wolves and bears in the jungles of India. His vivid stories come to life as colorful animal characters help this little boy learn and grow into the man he will become.

The students at Upper Merion displayed tremendous effort in taking on this difficult show. The majority of the actors portrayed wild animals; all developed their animals mannerisms with breathtaking ease ranging from swagger to disguised speech. Overall it was clear that the performers had fun on stage. This gave us, as the audience, permission to have fun along with them.

Katelyn Barr took control of the stage as she stepped into the male double role of Rudyard and Mowgli, the subject of Rudyard’s writings. She embodied an immense amount of confidence in her speech and movement that shined on stage. Caitlin Dwinnell also earned laughs in her evil role of Shere Kahn. Dwinnell transformed into a tiger and skillfully played the over-the-top character with high energy and fortitude.

The ensemble helped create the energy on the stage with their shrieks and howls. The supporting cast as a whole did their best to mimic animal traits with every step on stage.

The majority of technical aspects of the show were done by students and were superbly creative. The make up was animal-like and interesting to look at up close as well as far away. The stage crew had some minor difficulties in maneuvering the large set pieces, but nothing was incredibly blatant to the audience and overall they made clean and quick scene changes.

This silly play was fun and clearly enjoyable for audience members of all ages! The Jungle Book at Upper Merion was a wonderful, heart warming family show!

 

Review submitted by Blake Eckert of Ridley School District

When brightly painted faces, fierce costumes, lots of howling and the love of storytelling come together, you know you’re at Upper Merion’s production of The Jungle Book.

The Jungle Book tells the story of a young boy, Rudyard Kipling, from India who is sent to England to attend boarding school. When the writing competition commences, young Rudyard decides to take the challenge. He writes about a baby boy, Mowgli, who is taken in by wolves and raised in the exotic jungles of India.

Caitlin Dwinnell played Shere Khan, the evil tiger who is trying to steal Mowgli from the wolves. Dwinnell’s character voice and body language stood out, as she completely transformed into the king of the jungle who was determined to get what he wanted. Another notable performance was Bagheera, played by Marissa Emerson. Emerson played the role of a panther who taught little Mowgli his way about the jungle. She captured the role of the mother figure well with her genuinely warm tone of voice and her natural stage presence. Katelyn Barr also did well, playing both Rudyard Kipling and Mowgli. She tackled the task of having to develop two different characters and she did so graciously.

The ensemble had a big task, attempting to mimic the body language and accents of a range of different animals. They took to the task admirably, though in certain scenes there tended to be a lack of enthusiasm among these animal packs. The ensemble had certain humorous, realistic animal moments that added to the effect that Rudyard’s story took place in a vivid, lively animal kingdom. The leads were easy to hear and understand, although the ensemble members without microphone were harder to hear.

The technical crew must have been very busy, since the sound, lighting, marketing, makeup and costumes were all student designed! The sound and lighting were simple and incredibly efficient. They helped the show run smoothly. The costumes were simple and seemed comfortable to perform in, though some seemed not to completely encompass the animals that the actors were trying to portray. This, however was not the case for the snake and tiger. These two costumes stood out in particular. The makeup was also effective and colorful, appropriately denoting the different species of animals.

The cast of The Jungle Book took on the difficult task of telling the story of a world unlike their own and completed it wholeheartedly.

 

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx

The Secret in the Wings by Abington Friends School

Abington Friends 3The Secret in the Wings – Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA.

November 16, 2015

Review submitted by Lily Cunicelli of Westtown School

With the bang of a basement door, the audience is led into the whimsical, mysterious world of some of Grimm’s lesser-known fairytales. Complete with storytelling ogres, unamused princesses, and a startlingly frequent theme of cannibalism, there is never a dull moment in The Secret in the Wings, written by Mary Zimmerman.

The show takes its viewers on an exciting journey through numerous interconnected fables, all told to a young girl named Heidi (Saria Rosenhaj) by a solemn ogre (Matthew Norden). The characters materialize onstage to bring the tales to life, each one ending just before the characters’ fates are revealed.

The cast of Abington Friends did an excellent job of bringing each story to life with energetic and expressive movements, always keeping the audience at the edge of their seat. Their interactions with the set and props were especially impressive, using everyday household items to liven otherwise slower scenes. The ensemble’s use of bold repetition of lines and gestures made the fairytales stick with the viewers long after the show had ended. Although the song sung in the middle of the show was difficult to hear at times, the cast kept the audience informed of the story through the cast’s gestures and actions.

Some particular standouts in the cast were Cameron Hodges (Andrew), whose bold and zestful movements onstage created a strong connection between the audience and the actors which was held throughout the entirety of the show. Nicole Morris (the Princess Who Couldn’t Laugh) made the audience roar with laughter by doing just the opposite, using her snappy, dry humor very effectively. Danny Rothberg (Alleleira’s Father) kept the show going in a wide range of emotions, from laughter to sadness to disgust within minutes, and Drew Jacobson (Ambassador) kept the viewers informed through his clear narration during memorable scenes. The show as a whole was incredibly ensemble-oriented, yet each and every member of the cast upheld the energy throughout without ever letting it drop.

The eye-popping set and colorful use of lighting greatly complemented the ethereal, dreamlike stories. Even better was the use of many different elements- such as fake snow, voiceover, song, or interactive props- to make the show so memorable. The sound and lighting cues were fairly tight, and the simple yet effective costumes helped to illustrate the show’s fairytale qualities.

All in all, the dark and eccentric world of The Secret in the Wings is a roller coaster of laughs, surprise, and even fright, and most definitely a show worth while.

 

Review submitted by Jane Mentzinger of Westtown School

Abington Friends School’s production of The Secret in the Wings reminds us that the original Grimm’s fairly tales are hardly kids stuff. Unlike the sanitized versions presented to today’s children, the seven tales presented in this bold, captivating, and oddly humorous show reflect the dark side of human nature, complete with incest, infanticide, and cannibalism.

The Secret in the Wings, a one act play written by Mary Zimmerman and first produced in 1991, presents a central Beauty and the Beast inspired story and six Brothers Grimm/European folk tales. The first half of the six shorter stories are told, each interrupted at the point of maximum despair. The second half of each is then picked up and told in reverse order. This structure is both inspired and intentionally confusing: in an interview, Ms. Zimmerman said, “It is good to get a little lost sometimes, to lose the trail of breadcrumbs in the forest” (mccarter.org).

Abington Friends School masterfully transported their audience back to the time children learned that love and wit could protect them from a world full of danger.

Matthew Norden, as the narrator/tail-trailing ogre, was able to brilliantly connect very disjointed stories and soon the tail became a tale. Saria Rosenhaj, as Heidi, perfectly captured the qualities of a child, particularly, in this production, fear. Eli Russell and Rebecca Macey, as Heidi’s parents, were hilarious, chattering back and forth about the traffic they might encounter on the way to a dinner party rather than the ogre babysitter

With no clear leads, the show required a huge number of talented performers. Fortunately Abington Friends had just that. Cameron Hodges, as a suitor whose life depended on making the princess laugh, dexterously jumped around like a frog; he failed with the princess, but certainly cracked up the audience. The three princes in-sync jabbering about carefree royal life was clever and fun.

While the entire show took place in a basement, the set proved to be more complicated than it first looked. Whether the actors were grabbing props from who-knows-where or popping out in random places, the set design brilliantly complemented the acting. Children’s props, so simple and appropriate for the subject matter, were used to create amazing illusions, like beheadings using rubber balls and cones.

Abington Friends presented a fabulous evening of fairy tales way too scary for children.

 

To read more reviews from this and other Cappies shows, visit the Greater Philadelphia Cappies website:  http://www.cappies.com/gpc/Reviews.aspx