Les Miserables by Central Bucks West High School

CB West 5Les Miserables – Central Bucks West High School in Doylestown, PA

March 22, 2016

Review by: Hayley Derbyshire of Germantown Academy

Stronger than the barricade and more charged than the French revolution: it’s Central Bucks High School West’s production of Les Misérables!

Based on the Victor Hugo novel and set in 19th century France, Les Miserables chronicles the journey of bread-thief Jean Valjean as he strives for redemption.

As Jean Valjean, Ben Harris controlled the stage with a convicting portrayal of Valjean’s character growth and inner conflict. Harris commendably contrasted sweet vocals in gentle ballads such as “Bring Him Home” with solemnity and force in numbers like “The Confrontation”, in which he created an air of suspense alongside an intense Javert (David Loving). Loving’s brilliant portrayal of the obsessive and unrelenting Inspector gave chills. With powerful, unwavering vocals and a commanding presence, Loving’s performance was marvelous.

While these two powerhouse men made quite an impression, the female talent was also abundant. Brynn Parkin brought spunk to the stage as street-savvy Éponine, and broke hearts with a gorgeous rendition of “On My Own”. Emma Gogel serenaded with her beautiful soprano as innocent Cosette. Parkin and West’s voices complimented each other, especially when in harmonious trio with the lush vocals of Marius (Jayce Coleman).

Adding much needed levity to a morbid plot was the hysterical duo of Madame (Madeleine Ahr) and Monsieur Thernardier (Joey Recupero). Ahr’s fabulous vocals, paired with solid comedic skill, made her a perfect partner in pick-pocketing crime with the dynamic and amusing presence of Recupero. The two were truly engaging to watch, especially as they played off each other in the large ensemble number “Master of The House”. Also notable were the wonderful vocals of heroic Enjolras (John Calderaio) throughout the fight, and the dominating voice of a devastated Fantine (Annalee Tomanelli).

Although Les Miserables highlights many talented leading roles, it would be remiss to forget the equally incredible ensemble, who chillingly executed meaty numbers like “One Day More”. Their sheer might onstage made for a moving performance by each and every cast member, all of whom managed to maintain strong character and facial expression through each captivating number. Especially commendable smaller ensembles were the “Whores” in the saucy number “Lovely Ladies”, as well as the resolute rebel fighters at the barricade.

The voices of the cast were booming onstage, but so was the pit! Rarely in high school theatre does one witness such an excellent student orchestra as CB West’s in which musicians played through the score without falter. Despite a faulty sound system that frequently cut out during important moments, the cast did not allow this impediment to hold back their performance, though it certainly was a hindrance.

CB West phenomenally captured the essence of hope and the human will in a superb performance. We heard the people sing, and it was marvelous.



Review by Emily Hershgordon of Upper Dublin High School

A dim light illuminates an empty stage. Dilapidated men trudge in a syncopated rhythm down a diagonal. Suited officers patrol upstage, commanding viewers’ entrance into Central Bucks West’s production of Les Misérables.

Les Misérables tells the story of convict Jean Valjean’s journey from escaping parole (and policeman Javert) to raising the sweet Cosette, who cannot be cared for by her struggling mother Fantine. Originally an 1862 novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables first graced the stage in 1980 in France, before making its way to Broadway for several runs. In 2012, the story captured modern audiences in the film adaptation.

Central Bucks West’s performance of Les Misérables was honest and heart-wrenching. In “At the End of the Day,” the large cast was incredibly committed to their characters, and delivered a genuine performance that left audience members teary-eyed and inspired.

At the heart of the performance were male leads Ben Harris (Jean Valjean) and David Loving (Javert). Their deep baritones bellowed throughout the proscenium, and the clashing chemistry between the two was convincing and captivating. Equally talented were female stars Brynn Parkin (Éponine), Emma Gogel (Cosette), and Annalee Tomanelli (Fantine). The three ladies’ sweet, harmonious voices, coupled with truthful cries and whimpers, made the story seem ever more real.

Other highlights in the show included Joey Recupero (Thénardier) and Madeleine Ahr (Madame Thénardier). The pairs’ witty timing and flamboyant physicality was hilarious, adding levity to the otherwise somber tone. Also notable were the Barricade Boys; their weighted motions and pantomiming was quite phenomenal and set a high standard for the rest of the show.

Technically, the performance was quite formidable. Grace Gallagher, Cydney Bittner, and Peter Erickson (Stage Managers and Crew) must be commended, as the swift scene changes allowed the audience to remain immersed within the world of the French Revolution. Make-up, by Julia Nitschke, Maddy Ahr, and Sienna Coleman, was tasteful and complimentary. Unfortunately, it must be noted that the mics were quite faulty; throughout the show, particularly in solo songs, it was often difficult to hear actors’ voices. However, the overall sound was not compromised, thanks to the CB West Harlequin Club Pit. The musicians produced a tremendous sound that served an asset, rather than a backdrop, to the entire production.

Central Bucks West’s production of Les Misérables paid a wonderful tribute to a beloved story. I wish I could see the performance “One Day More.”




Seussical the Musical by Cardinal O’Hara High School

Cardinal O HS 2.png

Seussical the Musical – Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, PA

March 22, 2016

Review by: Cynthia Reynolds of Bordentown Regional High School

With colorful costumes, cartoon-like sets and a cheerful cast, Cardinal O’Hara High School’s production of Seussical the Musical brought Dr. Seuss’s classic tales from page to stage. Who knew that a musical could be this much fun?

Seussical first debuted on Broadway in November of 2000, and celebrates the power of imagination and friendship. With music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Aherns, this whimsical musical combines some of the classic children’s stories written by Dr. Seuss, such as “Horton Hears a Who” and “The Cat in the Hat”.  With catchy tunes and meaningful morals, Seussical is fun for young and old alike.

With a towering presence, signature hat and bowtie, and mischievous smile from ear to ear, Thomas Dempsey, as the trouble-making tabby, the Cat in the Hat, was everything one could expect from this familiar childhood icon. With animated characterizations ranging from a field reporter to a blues pianist, Dempsey was dynamic, comedic and quirky.

Straight out of Jungle of Nool, brimming with a multicolored menagerie, were standouts, Billy Issertell as the loveable and kind pachyderm Horton, Melissa Goldhorn as the sweet songbird Gertrude, and marsupial Kayla Ricker as the sassy Sour Kangaroo. Issertell made Horton both endearing and genuine pairing well with Goldhorn’s adorable singing and acting. Ricker displayed her impressive and powerful vocal prowess, strutting around the stage in numbers such as “Biggest Blame Fool”. Another vocal standout was Jacqueline Rooney, as the feathered and flirty Mayzie Labird. The ensemble of mayhem causing monkeys, the Wickersham Brothersm, also added to the antics.

A spectacle on a speck of dust, was the tiny town of Whoville, which was full of an energetic ensemble in entertaining numbers such as “It’s Possible” and “Here On Who”. Ryan Jewell and Meghan Eglington as the Mayor and his wife along with Isabella Pennock as their inventive son JoJo soundly rounded out the cast.

Also noteworthy was the predominantly student filled orchestra who kept the show lively and up-tempo never missing a beat.

Cardinal O’Hara High School certainly showed that they know a Thing One or a Thing Two about putting on quite the entertaining show.

Review by: Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area High School

A show with kind elephants, cats in hats and shy birds? Why no one has heard of a show so absurd! But wait! Cardinal O’Hara had a show just so fitting, their production of Seussical the Musical is where a lucky audience was sitting!

Seussical is a fun-filled extravaganza featuring some of Dr. Seuss’s most famous characters like The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, and Gertrude McFuzz! As all of their stories intertwine, the fun grows and the show culminates in the famous Dr. Seuss message: “A person’s a person, no matter how small!”

Ensemble energy and volume were strong in group numbers like “Oh The Things You Can Think,” and facial expressions throughout the show were fittingly animated for such a jovial production. The Wickersham Brothers stood out in the cast and brought playful energy to the production, most notably when they scrambled through the audience during a comical chase scene with Horton.

Thomas Dempsey (The Cat in the Hat) was a spectacular showman! His voice was as much of a character as his body throughout the production as he played multiple roles (all of which were The Cat in disguise) with great humor and skill! Dempsey’s singing was flawless and his warm tonality made the already exciting score all the more inviting! Kayla Ricker (Sour Kangaroo) was another fabulous vocalist. Her powerful voice and stage presence commanded the space and demanded attention. Her performance of “Biggest Blame Fool” received roaring applause and rightfully so, as her strong belt and riffing abilities were on full display.

Jacqueline Rooney (Mayzie LaBird) sparkled in her role, with clean, well-executed dance steps and soaring notes that rang throughout the auditorium. Adam Landolfi humorously played Judge Yertle the Turtle at the end of the show, waving his arms and dramatically singing his lines like a reality television star, while Sara Newman (Vlad Vladikoff) danced gracefully and visibly expressed her remissive feelings towards Horton through facial expressions and sassy posture.

While the microphones were sometimes too loud, taking the sheer number of them into consideration (over thirty!), the sound crew for Seussical did an “Amayzing” job handling them between the cast and orchestra.

It’s no wonder to think Cardinal O’Hara’s show shined – they worked hard for weeks with noses to the grindstone. Both the cast and the audience had a nest-full of fun, and there’s nothing to say but what a job well done!





Damn Yankees by Sun Valley High School

Sun Valley 2Damn Yankees – Sun Valley High School in Aston, PA

March 15, 2016

Review by: Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area High School

Super-fans are willing to do just about anything to help their favorite teams make it to the top…but would selling their soul make the list? Sun Valley High School’s recent production of Damn Yankees explores just what happens when Washington Senators fan Joe Boyd does just that.

Damn Yankees premiered on Broadway in 1955 and won seven of its nine Tony nominations the following year including Best Musical. The tale follows that of middle-aged Joe Boyd after he signs his soul to Mr. Applegate, a.k.a. the Devil, to play for his favorite baseball team and help them beat the “Damn Yankees.” What follows is the success of the now Joe Hardy and the rollercoaster of emotions that ensues after his game changing decision.

The ensemble, while sometimes underwhelming with their volume, had energy that lit the stage during dance numbers. Small groups, like the Baseball Girls dance ensemble, hit their moves cleanly and caught the audience’s eye while Ball Players grabbed our hearts with their witty lines and embodiment of perseverance and team spirit.

Gianni Palmarini (Joe Boyd/Hardy) opened the show with Sydney Lamoureux (Meg Boyd) and it was clear that their stage chemistry was that of a loving aged couple. Gianni Palmarini’s voice was a homerun with his soaring vibrato and impressive tonality. The duo’s duets flowed with emotion and the yearning Palmarini showed for Lamoureux’s character was evident in his longing glances across the stage and the couple’s adorable awkwardness upon meeting each other again.

Kaitlin McCombs (Lola) may not have been introduced to the plot right off the bat, but her presence throughout the show became a key to the show’s success. McComb’s consistency not only in the use of a convincing Latin accent and strong vocal prowess, but also her witty timing and facial expressions, allowed her to help push scenes along that were otherwise lacking in pacing. Collin Gillies (Mr. Applegate) was another devilishly good performer. His bouts of snarky line deliveries during his rendition of “Those Were the Good Old Days” left the audience in stitches.

Scenic transitions throughout the production were well done with minor strike outs by the stage crew. The agility of the crew was an asset to the production and rarely took attention away from soloists.

The fun numbers, divine sets, and vocal talent at Sun Valley High School surely made their production of Damn Yankees a grand slam!




Review by: Kira Clements of Upper Merion Area High School

Cracker Jacks, hotdogs, and… the devil? In the musical Damn Yankees, written by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, Joe Boyd is on the wrong side of forty and struggling due to his dedication to the failing Washington Senators baseball team. Mr. Applegate, a smooth-talking salesman (who is actually the devil), gives him an opportunity to redeem his favorite team – by giving up his soul and becoming Joe Hardy, a spirited and agile baseball player. This leads to hilarious shenanigans and the realization that people don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone – the moral of this comedy.

Sun Valley High School’s production of Damn Yankees was an exciting one, featuring great comedic timing and some pretty high kicks amongst the dancers. Marissa Massini, part of the impressive dance ensemble, shone bright with her effortless display of the challenging choreography. Tommy Christaldi, playing Rocky, stole the show every time the ensemble of baseball players came on stage with his quirky delivery of his lines. All of the ensembles worked together to make the numbers entertaining and had the audience members bobbing in their seats.

Gianni Palmarini, playing leading man Joe Boyd/Hardy, showcased a gorgeous singing voice in his song “Goodbye, Old Girl” while also moving the audience with his great acting ability. His chemistry with Connor Gillies (Applegate) was funny and exciting to watch. Sydney Lamoureux, playing Joe’s wife Meg, pushed through challenging lines just as a professional would. In fact, the whole cast acted as professionals as they powered through some microphone and lighting issues. Costuming choices were remarkable with the exception of Lola’s, which slightly deviated from the time period.

Overall, Sun Valley’s production of Damn Yankees was an exciting show to watch with the spectacular choreography and impressive vocals from the group of leading men. The show had the audience roaring with laughter in multiple scenes. This is certainly a show for the whole family to enjoy together.



Aida by Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

Plym White 3Aida – Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, PA

March 15, 2016

Review by: Clarisse Cofrancesco of Unionville High School

A story of star-crossed lovers torn apart by two countries at war, Aida is the sort of tragic story that haunts you for its realistic demonstration of a grand, yet savage time period. However, with a score by Elton John and Time Rice, the story also takes on a distinct, modern twist that thrills audiences of all kinds. All of these aspects and more proved a spectacular success on the Plymouth Whitemarsh High School stage.

Originally written in the late nineteenth century as an opera by Guiseppe Verdi, Aida found new light when Disney decided to take it to Broadway. Here, the tale of the betrothed Egyptian Captain Radames fallen for the Nubian princess Aida, won four Tony awards. Since, Aida has been a classic to the stage, but has proved a challenge for its vanishing scenery and dynamic voice parts, which is exactly why all applause go to the Colonial Players for tackling such a difficult production.

From Ameris’s opening number “Every Story is a Love Story” to the resounding “The Gods Love Nubia” to the heartbreaking “Written in the Stars,” the Plymouth Whitemarsh cast and crew marched in and conquered. Delivering a fantastic performance, the Colonial Players brought to life a pure devotion to one’s country, a lively chemistry between characters, and the humor necessary to entertain.

In particular, the main cast was highly successful in providing these aspects. Federica Andino-Vega as Aida, Robert Gervasi as Radames, and Lauren Quigley as Amneris all effortlessly portrayed their characters and kept the interest high throughout large group numbers and spotlight solos. Federica Andino-Vega’s powerful and spirited voice was especially noteworthy in her duet “Written in the Stars” and solo “Easy as Life”; In both respects, it helped to develop her character into superb stage presence.

However, the supporting cast cannot be disregarded because they, as well, exceeded expectations and filled the stage with their energy. Jack Travis as Mereb was, in all essence, the loyal and dutiful subject his character demanded and consistently proved a foil to Aida. Another standout was Rachel Butcher as Nehebka for her angelic voice which was clearly heard in all the group numbers.

Lighting in this show was, above all, one of the most beautiful and captivating aspects of the show. The screens in the background and the spotlight angles in “Easy as Life” masterfully transitioned the mood and set the scenes.

Aida‘s tragic nature is a difficult show for a high school to perform not only from a costuming and set standpoint, but, purely for its intense nature. Yet, the Colonial Players showed no hindrance due to these challenges and quite simply performed the show down to its core. Bravo!

Review by: Jane Mentzinger of Westtown School

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s production of Aida was a stunning theatrical achievement.

Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, based on the Italian opera, tells the story of an enslaved princess who reluctantly becomes her people’s martyr and savior. Originally intended to be an animated feature film, the show feels Disney-esque, but with darker overtones.

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s production of Aida was beyond brilliant. It had everything: flawless leads, an ensemble with incredible talent, and beautiful tech work.

Federica Andino-Vega was Aida, and she inhabited the role with a ferocity and charm that empowered her amazing vocals. Under Aida’s spell, Radames, played by the equally talented Robert Gervasi, was transformed from the egomaniacal, misogynous tyrant of the bath scene to the courageous, honorable prince ready to give his life for love and country. The shift was believable given the chemistry between the two leads, which was palpable enough to make the youngest audience members squirm.

Lauren Quigley’s portrayal of Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter betrothed to Radames, was so mesmerizing that we didn’t even question her character’s rather abrupt transformation from ditzy fashionista to beneficent political leader. Her rendition of “My Strongest Suit,” the pinnacle of her self-absorbed phase, was a show-stopping, hysterical romp. Jack Travis, as Nubian slave Mereb stunned the audience with his amazing vocals, shown by his beautiful rendition of “How I Know You.” Cole Walther, as Zoser, embodied the classic Disney villain- evil, scheming and sassy. Walther’s flamboyance filled the stage in his performance of  “Another Pyramid.” The production also showcased some major ensemble talent, from the belly dancers, who were perfectly in step, to the Women of the Palace, whose fun dancing in “My Strongest Suit” delighted the audience. Rachel Butcher, as Nehebka, only had a few solos but wowed the audience with her voice. The entire cast came together to make “The Gods Love Nubia” a show-stopper.

The set design was brilliant and innovative. It featured color changing LED light panels that were swiftly and quietly moved around by the stage crew to create different settings and moods. Their marketing and publicity was extensive, with everything from T-shirts and stickers to Instagram and Facebook.

Aida checked the box in every category, from talent to energy to polish. Were you ever to see a high school show, this should be the one.

Guys and Dolls by the Haverford School

Haverford School 2Guys and Dolls – The Haverford School in Haverford, PA

March 15, 2016

Review by: Melina Walling of The Episcopal Academy

It was The Haverford School’s lucky night at their upbeat production of Guys and Dolls! It’s certainly no crapshoot to say that their talented leading actors, standout supporting roles, and endurance over a nearly three-hour show brought as much “action” as the illegal gambling scene of New York.
Guys and Dolls first made its debut on Broadway in 1950, but has since remained a classic. The show’s timeless tunes follow a few fearless characters from the shadier side of Times Square to a reckless bet at a mission, a wild night in Havana, and many a run-in with the “dolls” they love. But it’s unsure whether these dangerous players will beat the odds or wind up with more than they bargained for!

Haverford was largely successful due to the effortless characterization of the musical’s larger-than-life personalities. The musicality of the show was mesmerizing, creating an immersive experience. The efficient stage crew was also essential; the swift transitions effectively prevented the play’s length from overshadowing the talent of its storytellers.

Four strong leads gave the show its anchor. Ryan Conway (Sky Masterson) had outstanding vocals and excellent chemistry with the equally talented Olivia Friewald (Sarah Brown). Alex Sanfilippo (Nathan Detroit) stayed with an incredibly convincing accent for the entire performance, while his costar Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi (Adelaide) simultaneously maintained her “stuffy nose” while belting out showstoppers like “Adelaide’s Lament”.

Haverford went all-in with some key supporting roles, and these performances were where the production excelled. Drew Weiss brought down the house with his hilarious and effortless portrayal of Nicely-Nicely Johnson, especially in his rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”. Weiss’s sidekick, J.R. Pender, gave Benny Southstreet a kind of loveable zest that worked seamlessly with Nicely-Nicely’s good humor. Although the ensemble as a whole occasionally lacked this same intense energy, each individual actor was still able to positively contribute to the mood of the show.

Despite using only minimal technical elements, the precise work on this front paid off extremely well. The simple set allowed for a better use of the stage by the large cast. The costumes, though simple, established the wearers’ roles and reinforced the period of the piece. Despite a few wardrobe and microphone malfunctions, the tech never took away from the show and kept the audience engaged and entertained.

It isn’t a roll of the dice-Haverford’s Guys and Dolls was definitely a big win!


Review by: Natalie Stevens of Harriton High School

People always say “if there’s a will, there’s a way,” and never have truer words been spoken about the group of gangsters in The Haverford School’s production of Guys and Dolls.

In need of some money to host a crap game, gambler Nathan Detroit makes a bet with Sky Masterson that he could not convince the determined missionary Sarah Brown to Havana with him the following day. Through the twists and turns of gambling and love, this pack of sinners stumble their way to Broadway, learn that love conquers all, and prove that saints and sinners alike are just normal people.

This composed production was brought to life by the fluidity of the cast members. Their determination and excitement kept this lengthy show at an upbeat tempo. The timing of both the leads and the ensemble never let the show drag, always keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.

The comedic couple of Nathan Detroit, played by Alex Sanfilippo, and Adelaide, played by Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi, were both incredibly powerful through their chemistry and ability to work off one another with impeccable comedic timing. Lacoste-Azizi additionally showed the audience a truly passionate rendition through her dedication and stunning vocals. A stellar performance was also performed by Olivia Friewald, who showed a complete understanding of her character, the purposeful and conservative Sarah Brown. Her attitude and impressive vocal abilities were well executed during her revealing number “If I Were a Bell.”

The energy of the show was upheld by the entire cast all the way through even one of the final numbers. During the song “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” the movements were incredibly compelling due to the excitement of the cast members. This song was lead by the talented Drew Weiss, playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson, whose strong vocals brought a new level of enthusiasm to this piece.

While there were some occasional difficulties when it came to sound, this skilled cast was able to push right on through them. A key aspect to the show was certainly the costumes. Both appropriate to the show and well created, these costumes certainly added to the viewer’s understanding of the show and time period.

Overall the performance was endlessly hilarious and entertaining for all audience members. The great success of this show proved that for The Haverford School, there was no luck necessary!

Seussical the Musical by Upper Darby High School

Upper Darby 4Seussical the Musical – Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, PA

March 15, 2016

Review by: Marisol Smith of Lindenwold High School

Within minutes after taking my seat in the expansive auditorium of Upper Darby High School, I was transported back to my younger years as an innocent kindergartner reading my first Dr.Seuss book. Bright lights, an extravagant set, and a vibrant cast came together to illustrate a world where, “a person is a person no matter how small,” in their production of Seussical, The Musical.
This exceptionally creative musical centers around the famous stories of Horton Hears A Who!, Horton Hatches An Egg, and Miss Gertrude McFuzz. After discovering Whoville, a tiny world beyond the hearing reach of most characters in the jungle of Nool, Horton the Elephant vows to protect the creatures from those who cannot hear them. In the meantime, Mayzie La Bird abandons her egg, leaving him to Horton’s care while Gertrude McFuzz struggles to gain Horton’s attention and affections.

The cast of this production can only be described as extraordinary. Their energy carried out throughout the performance as each individual character was introduced. The dynamic duo of Thing 1 and Thing 2, played by Annie Loeliger and Kenny Turner, stole the stage as they mischievously pranced around the stage playing out each scenario. Their animated leader, none other than The Cat in the Hat, played by Rylee Curry, led the way as they ran throughout the audience, interacting with the crowd and drawing several laughs. Although they struggled to enunciate clearly, they continued to pursue every high note and nail each dance move.

Other memorable parts of the production consisted of the comical gang of Wickersham Brothers (Dean Galiffa, Colin Jones, Will Daniels, and Rain Diaz) who persistently tormented Horton as he attempted to watch over the clover that held Whoville and the performance of “It’s Possible” by Jojo, played by Cory Fitzpatrick. The song was lively and touching to all.

Undoubtedly, the jaw-dropping vocals of the Sour Kangaroo, enacted by Courtney Schultz, was unforgettable. At the same time, the sassy Mayzie La Bird, portrayed by Natalie Bruce, held her own as she flaunted around with her fabulous feathers.

Additionally, the Upper Darby High School Pit Orchestra picked up every cue from behind the scenes as the show went through each song. The smoke machine went off without a hitch and the lighting crew illuminated the room, emphasizing every dramatic scene. The sound effects also helped highlight key points in the dialogue.

In final consideration, Upper Darby High School’s production of Seussical was a success. From the setting to the singing, the cast and crew brought their all. They became one with their characters and took the audience back to their childhoods. Oh, the thinks you can think when you think about this show!

Review by: Aditi Biswas of Phoenixville Area High School

Around the world, people relate to the joy of Dr. Seuss books, and who wouldn’t? Filled with wacky characters, strange lands, and serious yet heartwarming morals, it is hard not to be swept away by the magic of the stories. Upper Darby High School explored the serious morals and silly fun that Dr. Seuss is known for in their production of Seussical, The Musical.

First debuting in Broadway in 2000, the musical became a favorite for theater-goers of all ages. Using multiple stories from the Dr. Seuss series, the show tries to shed light on issues of self-love and self-sufficiency. The story centers around Horton, a lonely elephant in need of a friend, who stumbles upon a speck of dust that holds an entire world of creatures called Whos. What follows is a crazy adventure for Horton and his Who friend, Jojo, and a variety of characters, as Horton tries to protect the Whos from disaster.

Avery Leach plays Horton with dual sensitivity and bravery, showing that big doesn’t always mean scary. He portrays earnestly the kind nature of Horton, someone who believes that every creature no matter how small, deserves love and respect. There is never a moment when Horton seems preachy rather than genuine in his tenderness, and that can be attributed to Leach’s attention to making Horton seem like an everyday do-gooder. Jojo’s gradual change from confusion of who he is to his defiance of following the evil General Schmitz into war was portrayed succinctly by Cory Fitzpatrick.

The multiple ensembles retained their energy throughout the play. Colorful in their characterization and humorous melodrama, they were the ones adding humor to the musical, while main characters led the more serious storyline. The ensemble of Thing 1 and Thing 2 (Annie Loeliger and Kenny Turner) led by the wacky Cat in the Hat (Rylee Curry), often interacted with the audience, receiving laughs just from the weirdness of the situation.

The use of light and audio was extensive in this musical. As the story changed moods, so did the light of the “sky” in the background, and spotlights were often thrown across the stage to portray chaos.

Seussical is a show that melds life-lessons with extreme silliness, as a variety of strange creatures and animals find their inner strength, love, and kindness through song and crazy dance.

Mary Poppins by Delaware County Christian School

Delaware Co Christian 1Mary Poppins – Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square, PA

March 15, 2016

Review by: Jack D’Emilio of Conestoga High School

“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” but it still isn’t sweeter than Delaware County Christian School’s production of Mary Poppins, with music and lyrics by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman.

The musical is based on both the books originally written by P.L. Travers and 1964 Disney film. Premiering in 2004 on West End, the musical found its way to Broadway in 2006, earning seven Tony Award nominations, including a Best Musical nomination, and winning for Best Scenic Design. Mary Poppins was loved by audiences, becoming the 30th longest running show in Broadway history.

The ensemble cast kept up their energy throughout the entire show, never once losing the attention of the audience. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was an especially super-fun number, as well as “Step In Time.” The cast proved to be talented performers, as well as entertaining ones, as they truly brought out and shared with the audience all the wondrous fun that can be had in Mary Poppins.

In the title role, Maya Neal dazzled audiences with her crystal clear vocals and a delightful stage presence that was worthy of such an iconic character. Josh Van Meerbeke (Bert) also charmed audiences off their feet, even when he was covered in soot. Their cheeky interactions combined with the actors’ fantastic chemistry had audiences grinning with every quip.

Speaking of chemistry, George and Winifred Banks (Charles Cobourn and Natalie Marziani) held the audience’s hearts in their hands with every up and down in their relationship. Each of the actors did a great job at accurately portraying the seriousness of the characters, while still keeping up the light, upbeat tone of the show overall.

The set was utterly captivating from the very first reveal of the two-story house structure. The stage crew ran into a few problems early on, but handled them all with poise. Despite those few minor setbacks, the stage crew ran a fantastic show, especially considering the difficulty of the set they had to manipulate. The flying harnesses used as well were truly magical. Seeing Mary Poppins fly across the stage in her iconic umbrella-wielding pose was enough to make audiences cheer with glee every single time.

Overall, Mary Poppins at Delaware County Christian School was certainly quite a “Jolly Holiday!”

Review by: Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area High School

With high-flying nannies and mischievous chimney sweeps, Mary Poppins flew into Delaware County Christian School’s theater and dazzled audiences!

The beloved tale of Mary Poppins was written by Pamela Lyndon Travers and published in 1934. An interesting note is the storyline is not entirely the same between the novel and the Disney movie. The stage production (written by playwright Julian Fellowes) hit the Great White Way in 2004, earning seven Tony nominations and winning for Best Scenic Design.

The ensemble cast filled the auditorium with strong vocal sound during group numbers. Their great energy made them fun to watch, and it sometimes appeared that maybe the cast was having more fun than their audience! Well-done group numbers like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” had those in attendance singing along in their seats and tapping their feet.

The role of Mary Poppins is no small undertaking, but Maya Neal did the role immeasurable justice. With vocals sweeter than a spoonful of sugar and fabulously witty line delivery, Neal carried the show through multiple musical numbers and well-paced scenes. Her interactions with Jane and Michael Banks (sixth graders Emma Carington and Benjamin Favino) were natural and showed just how well-rehearsed the cast was. Josh Van Meerbeke (Bert) was another strong performer. He had a marvelous, swanky charm to him, and spoke with a convincing Cockney accent throughout the show. His animated expressions and whimsical vocals were delightful.

Charles Cobourn and Natalie Marziani (Mr. and Mrs. Banks) complemented each other divinely. Their onstage relationship expertly displayed the turbulent effects stress can have on a marriage and the perseverance it takes from both parties to pick up the pieces and make a family whole again. Marziani’s song “Being Mrs. Banks” was a well-done piece, featuring notes in her higher register simply floating through the air, effortlessly.

While scene changes took more time than anticipated, the grandeur of the sets arguably made up for it. Locations in the production ranged from the fabulous multi-leveled house to a sleek white screen backdrop capable of transporting the audience anywhere the cast desired (like a lush park or the steps of a bank) using projected images. Moving chimney tops were featured in a tap dancing number and were impressively versatile in both their quick mobility and stability.

Hat’s off to Delaware County Christian School’s production of Mary Poppins! It was nothing short of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

Seussical the Musical by Germantown Academy

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Seussical, The Musical – Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA

March 8, 2016

Review by: Gabrielle Ford of Abington Friends School

“Oh The Thinks You Can Think” as you are taken into the world of Dr. Seuss in Germantown Academy’s performance of the Seussical the Musical.

Seussical the Musical is narrated by one of the most famous Dr. Seuss characters, The Cat in the Hat. Written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, based on the books of Dr. Seuss, the infamous Cat in the Hat tells the audience of the story of Horton the Elephant who finds the little town of Whoville on a speck of dust and vows to protect them. While watching over this small town, the whole jungle makes fun of him, while one bird with one small feather admires him. Even with all the chaos in the larger world, there was some trouble brewing in the small town of Whoville.

The musical was done well. There were many different dance moves and the performers managed to get the moves down pat. Having a new sound system can be difficult, but the cast of Seussical the Musical worked through it with their strong acting and equally strong singing.

Vinit Joshi (The Cat in the Hat), pulled us right into the musical with his great narration. Paired with Andrew Piszek (Horton the Elephant), a strong singer and an even stronger elephant, really showed the audience that a person is a person, no matter how small. Playing the very small JoJo, Naomi Friedman, captured the audience’s attention as she saved the tiny town of Whoville with her big imagination.

The song “Amayzing Mayzie” describes actress Ashley Revness as she took on the role of Mayzie LaBird, with her steady vocals, she took the musical to new heights. Hayley Derbyshire (playing the Sour Kangaroo), took the audience by storm with her sass and great vocals. Let’s not “Monkey Around”, the Wickersham Brothers (played by Quinton Ritchie, Danny Ritz, and Isaac Wilkins) added a great comedic element to an already funny play with their dance moves and monkey business.

The set was simple, with some light changes to set the scenes, and the twinkling stars backdrop was nicely done. The truffula tree puffs were a great addition to the musical. While there seemed to be some times where the actors were hard to hear, the actors pulled through and kept up the energy of the play.

Overall, “It’s Possible” to say that Germantown Academy’s performance of the Seussical the Musical was well done.





Review by:  Eden Halterman of Academy of the New Church

Anything is possible in the world of Dr. Seuss, even a giant elephant befriending a tiny Who, a bird bemoaning her one feather tail, and a cat causing mischief, dressed in his red and white striped hat. Germantown Academy brought the beloved world of Dr. Seuss to the stage in their production of Seussical the Musical.

Seussical the Musical, written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, first debuted on Broadway in 2000. The musical is comprised of an amalgamation of Dr. Seuss’s most famous books, with characters and lyrics from Seuss’s writings, as well as original compositions. The story follows Horton the Elephant, from Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, as he attempts to protect a dust speck that holds the tiny planet of the Whos.

Germantown Academy’s production of Seussical the Musical was energetic and playful, driven by charismatic leads, exceptionally talented supporting characters, and a captivating ensemble of jungle creatures.

Vinit Joshi, who portrayed the iconic Cat in the Hat, led the show with his ceaseless energy and unremitting enthusiasm. Joshi’s dynamic movement, animated facial expressions, and effortless playfulness brought the well-loved character of The Cat in the Hat to life.

The entire cast impressed with their ability to keep up their energy and fun-loving spirit throughout the show, as well as with their exceptional vocal talents. Horton the Elephant (Andrew Piszek) and JoJo’s (Naomi Friedman) earnestness, innocence, and powerful voices complemented each other in songs like “Alone in the Universe”, and Horton the Elephant and Gertrude McFuzz (Sara Dakin) showed impressive chemistry and beautiful harmonies in their performance of “Notice Me Horton” and the reprise of “Alone in the Universe”. Mayzie LaBird (Ashley Revness) also impressed with her sass and strong vocals, as well as the Sour Kangaroo (Hayley Derbyshire) with her dramatics and belting solos.

The bright colors, whimsical characters, and contagious energy of the ensemble brought life to the outrageous world of Dr. Seuss. The crew creatively integrated their vividly colorful lighting with the simplistic set. Though the production suffered a few technical difficulties, the cast impressively performed through any obstacle and the quality of the show held strong.

Germantown Academy’s production of Seussical the Musical brought to life the beloved world and characters of Dr. Seuss, and captured the heart of the audience with the cast’s playful energy, fun-loving enthusiasm, and impressive vocal talents.


Beauty and the Beast by Haverford High School

Haverford HS 3Beauty and the Beast – Haverford High School in Haverford, PA

March 8, 2016

Review by: Cassie Bolinger of Bordentown Regional High School

This weekend, the Haverford Drama Club brought the alluring beauty and mysticism of 18th century France to their auditorium in suburban Pennsylvania through their production of Beauty and the Beast.

This musical, based on the Disney film, first premiered on Broadway in 1994 with music by Alan Menken and book by Linda Woolverton. The “tale as old as time” follows a beautiful woman and terrifying Beast who both learn that appearances can be deceiving as they fall in love.

Starring as the beautiful Belle, Issy Swantak enchanted the audience with her melodious voice and endearing character. She had undeniable chemistry with Dylan Winoski who masterfully belted passionate songs as the misunderstood Beast.

Every fairytale needs an evil villain, the role of which was delightfully filled by Colin McCrossan as Gaston. McCrossan’s smooth bravado and killer vocals showed a dedication to character that made him a true stand out. Although the audience hated his character for his misogynistic tendencies and brute actions, they could not help but cheer on McCrossan’s stunning performance.

Essential to the beloved magical element of the show were the servants turned household objects of the Beast’s castle. Mrs. Potts (Tess Mallon) proved to be a showstopper, taking away the audience’s breath in her romantic song “Beauty and the Beast”. Her son Chip, (Julie Fosco) utilized perfect comedic timing in an adorable performance. Cogsworth (Jack Denman) elicited more than a few laughs as the “tightly wound” carriage clock, and Lumiere (Josh Angell) impressed with his unwavering accent and amusing dynamic with the charming Babette (Chloe Datner).

Additional stand outs included Danny Murphy as Belle’s eccentric father Maurice, Jack Feder as Gaston’s hilarious sidekick  Lefou, and Gaston’s female groupies, The Silly Girls, played by Leanne McGroary, Jenna Miele, and Audrey Trajano.

With a cast of ninety-five, the Haverford Drama Club faced both a blessing and a challenge. Blocking so many people on stage is a precarious venture, yet Haverford completed it with success, ensuring that every enthusiastic cast member could shine. Student Molly Thornton created extraordinary choreography that catered to the large cast and flowed dynamically with expression of the story. The dancers and singers alike have the student pit orchestra and their student conductor Cindy Hosan to thank for masterfully playing the show’s spell binding score.

Although the hours of hard work that went into this production from all involved probably felt beastly, the final product was purely beauty!


Review by: Jamie Cohen of West Chester East High School

The musical fantasy, Beauty and the Beast, is a childhood favorite for many. Haverford High School’s Drama Club brought this memory back to life in their recent production of this timeless tale with music written by Alan Menken and book by Linda Woolverton.

When an arrogant prince becomes the victim of an enchantress’ spell, he is turned into a beast and all of his servants become household objects. In order to break this spell, the beast is told he must learn to love and be loved. However, considering he now looks as unpleasant as he acts, this is not an easy task. When all hope seems lost, Belle, an outcast in her own way, falls into the Beast’s life and changes both their lives forever.

The cast was filled with powerful lead actors. Both Belle (Issy Swantak) and the Beast (Dylan Winoski) displayed commanding vocals in their ballads, “A Change in Me”, sung by Swantak and “If I Can’t Love Her” sung by Winoski.

However, most praiseworthy was the show-stopping supporting characters. Mrs. Potts (Tess Mallon) graced the stage with a heartwarming, motherly charm and truly brought the magic in her lovely performance of “Beauty and The Beast.” The show was enhanced with two outstanding comedic duos. The egotistical Gaston (Colin McCrossan) and his foolish sidekick LeFou (Jack Feder) had the audience laughing every time they interacted. The vibrant Lumiere (Josh Angell) and uptight Cogsworth (Jack Denman) perfectly contrasted one another and provided humorous banter throughout the show. Cogsworth especially is to be applauded for his ability to transform an often overlooked character into a crowd favorite.

Haverford must be commended for its abundance of student direction. Music director Jack Denman, choreographer Molly Thornton, and conductor Cindy Hosan were all students, as was the entire pit orchestra which was spot on from the Prologue to the Finale. Also impressive was the student designed and built set which expertly captured the Beast’s extravagant castle.

With an enormous cast, the volume in group numbers was at times underwhelming, with the exception of a strong finale. They truly excelled in the battle scene, in which Gaston’s mobsters attempted an attack on the castle and the servants successfully outwitted them. Other ensemble highlights included the complex Prologue and the lively “Gaston.”

Haverford Drama Club effectively honored the timeless story and demonstrated the importance of being fearless, accepting, and most of all, being yourself.


Guys and Dolls by Conestoga High School

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Guys and Dolls – Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA

March 8, 2016

Review by: Gabriella Bloom of Upper Dublin High School

Welcome to bustling 1920s New York City, a world as back-alley as it is seemingly transparent. Meet the Guys, the gangsters who are eager to indulge and quick to evade trouble. Watch them fall for the Dolls, the good girls who they’d gamble it all away for. Conestoga High School presents Guys and Dolls, a sincere musical about a few good lies.

Guys and Dolls tells the story of a group of gamblers living under the shadow of Prohibition-era New York, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1950 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. A notable film adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine was released in 1955.

Conestoga’s polished production brought new life to this beloved story. Several notable elements of the show – the actors, the pit orchestra, the set, and the lighting – were overwhelmingly detail-oriented, while still remaining cohesive. Further, the performance showcased a strong ensemble, with memorable personalities, storylines, and character relationships of their own.

The leading actors were equally as talented in portraying their roles. Julia Scribano (Sarah Brown) and Jack D’Emilio (Sky Masterson) brought a powerful presence to the stage, and approached their character’s romance with poise. Meanwhile, Deanna Drennen (Miss Adelaide) and Max Mooney (Nathan Detroit) commanded the space with comedy and matched each other’s levels of exaggerated personality. All of the leading actors proved themselves to be exceedingly capable vocalists, and each of the couples’ duets took on a pleasant balance.

Supporting and featured actors provided a lovable addition to the stage. Namely, Nathan’s companions, including Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Benny Southstreet, and Rusty Charlie, played by Bryce Bundens, Christian Godfrey, and Zack Kathol respectively, displayed intricate alliances and a clear connection between actors. A highlight of the show was “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”, a number that truly showcased Bundens’ vocal abilities and commitment to character.

Technical elements of the performance were just as refined as the show itself. A dazzling set and well-utilized lighting created the tone of the show. Perhaps the most impressive component was a smoking manhole that actors were able to enter. At times, the ensemble was difficult to hear; however, this was a minute fault when compared to other accomplishments.

In all, Conestoga put forth an admirable production, and transported audience members to a world as shabby as it is shimmering.


Review by: Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area High School

The hustle and bustle of New York might be hectic for some, but the bright lights of Times Square just might help you see something you haven’t before. Conestoga High School opened eyes to the magical wonders of theater with their musical production, Guys and Dolls.

So what happens when you have an incredible score with timeless hits, but a less desirable script? Frank Loesser, writer of the score for Guys and Dolls, knew the feeling, but after Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling were brought in, Broadway’s golden child was born. The show went on to win four Tony Awards in 1950, including Best Musical!

The energy of the entire Conestoga cast was fabulous, as each member of the ensemble told their own story. In the Overture, cast members silently acted out scenes that could take place on the New York pavement, including a street thief, a performing street couple evading the police, and a pair of local celebrities.

Julia Scribano’s portrayal of mission worker Sarah Brown was beautiful. In many of her duets, she sang upper harmonies, but rather than punch the notes like many singers might, she sang them and just let them be – soft and sweet. Her chemistry with cast mate Jack D’Emilio (Sky Masterson) was genuinely romantic. D’Emilio captured suave nuances of a professional 1920’s gambler used to making big money. His posture, smooth voice, and witty timing made him a pleasure to watch.

The vocal inflections of Max Mooney, playing the role of craps game tycoon Nathan Detroit, along with his over-dramatic energy (typically involving him throughout the show) made him an utter joy to watch!  Deanna Drennen (Miss Adelaide) was his frequent scene partner and their strained relationship came across impeccably, from flailing arms, to shrill voices, to loving glances and sweet embraces. Drennen shined in her solo “Adelaide’s Lament,” in which she skillfully balanced bouts of coughing and sneezing with a convincing character voice.

Lighting techniques used throughout the show were inventive and fresh. Times Square was charming, while the anticipation of the plot line was heightened by the bright, white lights ominously protruding from the open pothole on stage left during the second Act. Multiple passageways to enter on both sides of the stage were lined with storefronts, colorful signs, and newspaper stands.

It’s no gamble to say that Conestoga High School’s production of Guys and Dolls was a “boat-rocking” success!