Oliver! by Academy of the New Church

Academy New Church 3Oliver! – Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA

April 26, 2016

Review by: Ashley Stauber of Germantown Academy

In their latest musical, Oliver!, the Academy of The New Church shimmers with alacrity and talent.

Charles Dickens’s story of the tumultuous life of an orphan was adapted into a musical in 1960 with music and lyrics written by Lionel Bart.

Nimble on his feet and adroit in action, Declan Durand (Oliver) also dazzled with his bell-like vocals. Tykah Echols (Fagin) wowed with her talented acting and chiming vocals in playing such a crafty character. She nailed her performance of the number, “Reviewing the Situation”. Ryan Synnestvedt (Artful Dodger) performed with a clear accent and stayed tuned in throughout the musical.

Exuding her character’s pain realistically, Brianna Salvatori (Nancy) gave an emotionally riveting performance fortified by her vocals that resonated with excellence. Cade Bau-Madsen (Mr. Bumble) gave a commendable performance aided by his comedic antics and bold vocal tone. Alongside him, Brielle Williams (Widow Corney) acted gleefully with her animated facial expressions. Brittany Gunther (Mrs. Sowerberry) also acted with a crackling feistiness and sang with a melodic tone. Her combination with Galen Stevens-King (Mr. Sowerberry), whose mischievous mannerisms and unique vocals aided his performance, was diabolical.

Vociferous and vibrant, the ensemble steadily performed with energy throughout the show. At times the actors’ diction was a bit murky due to the fact that they sometimes turned in towards the stage too much when reciting their lines. That said, they did a commendable job of navigating around the onstage props. There was an interesting variety of choreography that the cast tackled with skill. While sometimes their faces seemed a bit blank, they made use of all of the space on stage and danced dexterously. The makeup also was perfect for the time period and accentuated the actors’ faces nicely.

The lighting transitions were also beautiful, especially when shifting from night to day scenes. Additionally, in terms of scenery, the set was both aesthetically pleasing and profound. Faced with the challenge of maneuvering such an extensive set, the crew performed smoothly and professionally.

Academy of The New Church’s latest production of Oliver! leaves one boldly asking for more.



Review by: Gabriella Bloom of Upper Dublin High School

Consider yourself fortunate if you were able to catch Academy of the New Church’s production of Oliver! With its charismatic cast, heartwarming music, and dazzling scenery, this take on a classic tale proved to all that it is a fine life indeed.

Oliver! tells the story of the escapades of a young orphan boy named Oliver Twist, who constantly finds himself wrangling with trouble in the bustling streets of London. Throughout the story, Oliver finds himself entangled in the lives of suspicious figures, and adopts their lifestyle of thievery to survive. The musical is based on the novel by Charles Dickens, and found success in its premiere at the West End, and eventually on Broadway. Today, it is recognized as a classic in the hearts of musical lovers.

Academy of the New Church’s production showcased strong ensemble work, beautifully constructed sets, and admirable character work from all of its leads and supporting leads. Group numbers such as “Pick a Pocket or Two” and “Oom-Pah-Pah” exuded energy, and heartfelt solos including “Where Is Love?” and “As Long As He Needs Me” showcased strong vocal ability.

The production was led by Oliver, played by Declan Durand, who was equally as convincing as a young child as he was lovable. Brianna Salvatori gave a strong performance as Nancy, and Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry (played by Galen Stevens-King and Brittany Gunther, respectively) shared an entertaining comedic chemistry onstage. Fagin (Tykah Echols) carefully orchestrated the spectacle with consistent physicality.

Ensemble work included specific character work and well-coordinated choreography. Perhaps most enjoyable to watch was Fagin’s gang, led by the charming Artful Dodger (Rayna Synnestvedt), with their agile movements and good use of space. Further, the Street Vendor ensemble was able to create a placid, dream-like environment in one of the most notable moments of the show.

Technically, this show displayed impressively beautiful scenery. Each backdrop and set piece was appropriate to the setting of the story and very detail-oriented. The most useful and visually stunning piece was Fagin’s hideout; it was the perfect space for the actors to play around. At times, the sounds that were made during set changes distracted the audience from the actors. However, this was a minor issue that only occurred a couple of times.

In all, Academy of the New Church put forth a praiseworthy production of a true classic. If anything is to be learned from their efforts, it is that love can be found anywhere at all, even on a stage.

Into the Woods by The Baldwin School

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Into the Woods – The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, PA

April 19, 2016

Review by:  Lea Harlev of Archmere Academy

Almost every child grows up hearing whimsical fairy tales where the heroes end up happy and the villains are punished in the end, but this is not how real life works. The Baldwin School demonstrated a more comprehensive view of reality through fairy tales as they presented the tantalizing musical, Into the Woods.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods premiered on Broadway in 1987 and dazzled audiences. This musical utilizes well-known fairy tales, such as Cinderella and Rapunzel, to tell a new story of a baker and his wife’s shared quest to have a child. The different stories become interwoven as the characters interact with one another and challenge hackneyed tropes within fairy tales.

This production was especially unique as it was performed by a completely female cast. The actresses who played the traditionally male roles did an excellent job and the unconventional casting choices within this production did not disrupt the overall story. The cast as a whole embraced their version of Into the Woods and sold it to the audience.

A standout number was “Agony” performed by Ishana S and Sarai Brown-Alexander, who played Cinderella and Rapunzel’s princes, respectively. This song was comical and lovely to listen to as the two actresses sang and harmonized soulfully in their lower registers. Additionally, Alexa Kent, playing the Wolf, showed a great devotion to her creepy character in the chilling number “Hello, Little Girl.”

The Baker and the Baker’s Wife, played by Emily Thompson and Mariana Leone were a dynamic duo as they displayed great chemistry throughout the production. Leone’s performance, in particular, was stunning; her gorgeous vocal abilities, combined with the commitment to her character throughout the show, was impressive. Lauren Fosnocht, portraying the Witch, also performed wonderfully; her passion throughout the musical was extraordinary and her vocals were powerful and expressive.

The crew within this production should be commended. The set was an intricate space resembling an attic and the actresses were able to interact with most of the set pieces. There were many quick lighting changes that the crew almost always made on time, as well as many fast microphone changes taking place as actresses constantly entered and left the stage.

Overall, this refreshing production of the classic musical Into the Woods, performed by The Baldwin School, gave audience members their own “Happy Ever After.”


Review by:  Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area High School

Go into the woods to find the thing that makes it worth the journeying . . . and The Baldwin School definitely qualifies! Their recent rendition of this theater favorite was a spectacle of imagination and creativity!

Into the Woods came to Broadway in 1987 and received multiple Tony Awards, including Best Book and Best Score. This Stephen Sondheim production follows a Baker and his wife as their lives become entangled with classic fairy tale characters like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (from “Jack and the Beanstalk”), and Cinderella.

The entire ensemble was comprised of females, making The Baldwin School’s interpretation of the show especially unique. The energy on stage was consistent from all, and vocal talent was abundant. Stand out ensemble member Roya Alidjani (Jack’s Mother) carried herself with a comical, over-dramatic air throughout the show, and her outstretched arms and enlarged eyes made her hilarious, even in death.

Lauren Fosnocht (The Witch) had the powerhouse voice of the show. From singing “Witch’s Lament” through tears to ferociously belting out “The Last Midnight,” Fosnocht brought her A-game and portrayed both sides of the witch, both the old woman and the young enchantress, with enviable ease. Mariana Leone (The Baker’s Wife) contrasted Fosnocht’s voice with a sweet, warm tonality. Leone’s ability to stay in character while not at the forefront of a scene was admirable.

While the show has heavy themes, Ishana S (Cinderella’s Prince) and Sarai Brown-Alexander (Rapunzal’s Prince) handed the audience comedy on a silver platter. Ishana’s first moments on stage included dramatic hair flips and suggestively removing her sunglasses, while Brown-Alexander strutted across the stage with swinging arms ablaze. Their delivery of “Agony” came with equal parts yearning for love and hilarious arm gestures, hip motions included.

The set of the show was incredible! Based on an old attic, the space was filled with aged suitcases, boxes, clocks, and instruments. The show was even opened by Melia Hagino (Narrator/Mysterious Man), who, in the darkness of the theater, swung an old flashlight around the set, showing the audience just how eerie the inviting set could become. The lighting of the show was cleverly done and, while the timing was sometimes abrupt, the execution enhanced the overall quality of the show.

The Baldwin School cast of Into the Woods was extraordinary! Their production made ordinary fairy tales teachers of life lessons and distinguished their rendition as more than just an ordinary “Moment in the Woods.”

The Music Man by The Philadelphia School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA)

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The Music Man – The Philadelphia School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) in Philadelphia, PA

April 19, 2016

Review by: Jane Mentzinger of Westtown School

Seventy-six trombones led the big parade with a hundred and ten CAPA performers on the stage. The rows and rows of the finest virtuosos certainly filled The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts’ production of The Music Man.

Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical, The Music Man tells the story of con-man Harold Hill, who poses as a boys’ band organizer so that he can sell instruments to the people of River City, Iowa. He plans to skip town without teaching a single lesson; but all that changes when he falls for the librarian, Marian.

With fun dancing, great voices, and well-executed backstage work, CAPA’s production of The Music Man was a joy to see. The room was filled with talent and energy. Starting the show off strong, the entire cast beautifully came together to show off their headstrong ways in “Iowa Stubborn.” Kicking off the second act, “Shipoopi” radiated enthusiasm. CAPA took a classic musical and filled it with young vivacious energy.

Shafiq Hicks, who played Harold Hill, drew all eyes towards him. His fast-talking, con-man characterization paired with his strong voice, both shown in his performance of “Ya Got Trouble”, made him a force to be reckoned with. Brittney Sedgwick, as Marian, had the voice of an angel and it was displayed with her charming rendition of “Goodnight My Someone.”

The supporting cast’s talent matched that of the leads. The clever dancing in “Marian the Librarian” delighted the audience, and the vocal strength of “Wells Fargo Wagon” stunned. The Quartet was simply phenomenal, harmonizing perfectly with each other. The combination of the Quartet and the Ladies of the Town in “Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little” and “Goodnight Ladies” were beautifully executed.

The orchestra sounded near professional, wonderfully accompanying the singers without overshadowing them. Harold Hill certainly did not teach this orchestra!

CAPA’s production of The Music Man was skillful and lively. It was not only filled with expertise, but also flair, making for a wonderful evening for the audience.


Review by: Bridgette Burton of Eastern Regional High School

Whaddya talk? It’s the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts’s of The Music Man! This classic musical became a hit Broadway sensation in 1957 and has gone on to become films, revivals, and a regional theater favorite. The show tells the tale of a con man called Harold Hill as he travels to River City, Iowa for his latest scam: selling instruments and uniforms to form a band, then skipping town. Nevertheless, when he meets Marian Paroo, the librarian, his whole world changes.

Shafiq Hicks, the music man himself, played Harold Hill, charming the audiences with his suaveness and beautiful strong voice. His immense stage presence made it known that when appearing on stage, it was his time and he was happy to tell you that “You’ve Got Trouble”. As audiences were introduced to quirky characters, like Eulalle MacKecknie Shinn, played by Haley Trainor, and the quartet of the school board, the true talent of the school shined through. The school board, consisting of Jonnel Outen, Cameren Sullivan, Dotan Yardan, and Desi Flowers, were a particularly bright spot of the show, providing beautiful a cappella music that was charming to watch and divine to listen to.

The most titillating aspect of CAPA’s The Music Man was the choreography and dance ensemble. Their jumps were grand, and their pirouettes were on point. In unexpected songs, like the very tame “Marian the Librarian”, and usually forgettable “Shapoopi”, the dancers commanded the stage and executed their choreography effortlessly, bringing a new dimension to such a matured piece of theater.

The charm of The Music Man rang true with the spectacular vocals, interesting characters, and remarkable dancing. The music accompanying the cast, which is arguably the most important aspect of a musical, was exquisite, from the pit orchestra, to the actual marching band that invaded the aisles at the finale of the production. CAPA has proved once again that they are the cream of the crop, breathing new life into the colorful world of The Music Man.




Sweet Charity by Bordentown Regional High School

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Sweet Charity – Bordentown Regional High School in Bordentown, NJ

April 19, 2016

Review by: Aditi Biswas of Phoenixville Area High School

For a girl so sweet, who wears her heart (tattoo) literally on her sleeve (well, shoulder), Charity Hope Valentine never seems to catch a break when it comes to romance. Bordentown Regional High School’s Sweet Charity explores Charity’s ups and downs as she tries to juggle men, love, and a big ol’ heart.

Based on an Italian film, the book for the musical was written by Neil Simon, and opened on Broadway in 1966. It follows Charity, a dancer-for-hire at a dance hall called the Fandango Ballroom, through several misadventures around New York City as she tries to find a love deserving of her passion.

Cynthia Reynolds played Charity with an off-beat sense of humor and a genuine need for love that never left the show. She portrayed Charity as naive but never dumb, and brought out subtle quirks in the character, such as her penchant for making up phrases to get through the day. She brought energy to every number, pushing the ensembles to do the same, and her voice always rang loud and clear. Liam McCormack played Oscar Lindquist, Charity’s rather nervous love interest, with a quirky humor that balanced Charity’s own oddness.

The different ensembles brought energy to the show, even though they occasionally struggled to keep it up by the end. Though, their off-handed and quirky humor often shadowed these lapses. For example, Charity and Oscar go to a hippie church, and the church ensemble perfectly encapsulated the very confusing 60s ideals that mashed eastern and western ideals, and yet brought an extraordinary amount of joy to all involved. They wore outrageous clothing and jumped around the stage, exaggerating every move and emotion. This type of humor gained big laughs in the audience throughout the show.

While lighting did not play a significant part in the show, it was used precisely. During scenes in the dance hall, dim lighting was used to bring out the seedy nature of the place. In contrast, when Charity ventures to the outside world, free from the world of dancing for pay, the stage was bright. There were issues with the microphones, but they were resolved as the musical progressed.

Sweet Charity is a musical that does not have the most joyful of beginnings or endings, but focuses on an utterly joyful optimist when it comes to love and caring. Bittersweet and filled with colorful characters, the musical bared its heart to the audience in the same way Charity does to the world.


Review by Eden Halterman of Academy of the New Church

Not even being pushed into a lake, spending the night in a closet, or being trapped in an elevator can get sweet Charity down in her quest for love, as she remains ever optimistic and hopelessly romantic. Bordentown Regional High School brought Charity’s dramatic search for love to the stage in their performance of the musical Sweet Charity.

Sweet Charity premiered on Broadway in 1966, choreographed and directed by Bob Fosse. This production and its many subsequent reproductions won several Tony Awards, most notably for its choreography. Sweet Charity follows the story of unlucky-in-love Charity Hope Valentine, as she searches for a romance that will finally bring her out of her dead-end job as a New York City dance hall hostess.

Bordentown Regional High School’s production of Sweet Charity was energetic and engaging, driven by an exceptional lead, a captivating chorus, and lively comedy.

The show was led by Cynthia Reynolds in her outstanding portrayal of dance hall hostess and hopeless romantic Charity Hope Valentine. Reynolds commanded the spotlight, and brought cheerfulness, charm, passion, and an incredible vocal and acting range to the performance. Reynolds’s ever-present energy never once waivered, and the contagiousness of her enthusiasm constantly encouraged the other performers, driving the show to success.

Reynolds was supported by the talents of Daria Briggs and Abigayle Harnum, playing Charity’s best friends at the dance hall, Nickie and Helene. Both girls impressed with their own vocal and dancing abilities. The talents of two ensemble members also stood out throughout the show; Evan Braasch caught the audience’s eye with his constant earnestness and energy, and Erin Ryan’s exceptional dancing ability stole the spotlight in any dancing number.

The bright world of 1960s New York City was brought to the stage through sparkling costumes, bright make-up, and bold music. The inclusion of realistic props, including a working cigarette lighter and a live dog, helped bring the show to life. Though sometimes singers were hard to hear, technical crews encountered some complications, and some cast members appeared to be out of sync, the entire cast was lively, humorous, and full of love for their show.

Bordentown Regional High School’s production of Sweet Charity had the audience laughing aloud throughout the show, impressed them with the incredible talent of the lead, and captured their hearts with the spirit and enthusiasm of the cast as a whole.









How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying by Harriton High School

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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – Harriton High School in Bryn Mawr, PA

April 12, 2016

Review by: Noelle Mercer of Friends’ Central School

How does a clever window washer scramble his way to the top of a multi-million dollar company and find true love along the way? Well, the Harriton Theater Company of Harriton High School will surely be able to show you how through their rendition of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Based off the best selling self-help book by Shepherd Mead, the upbeat musical, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, premiered on Broadway in 1961. With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, the musical was an instant hit and won seven Tony Awards. The story follows the rise in ranks of witty and ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch, with the aid of a self-help book, in the World Wide Wicket Company.

On Friday, the mostly student led Harriton Theater Company gave us an excellent show. From costumes and makeup to lighting and sound, the students of Harriton High School took charge and made this musical their own. Although there were a few technical glitches with the mics and lighting, the actors and crew were not deterred and kept the show on the road.

One actor in particular, Jon Duska (Finch), especially embodied this sentiment with his unceasing high energy and impressive stage presence. Duska sang every song beautifully with a certain dedication and intensity, and had great chemistry with Aurora Murray (Rosemary) and Coby Levit (J.B. Bigley). In fact, Duska and Levit’s amusing duet, “Old Ivy,” was spectacular and earned a lot of laughter from the audience. Another standout performance was that of Jon Zamsky (Bud Frump) who played his comically whiny and conniving character with zeal.

As an ensemble, the cast of How to Succeed did a commendable job. Although a bit low energy in the first act, the cast brought much more life to the second act, especially with the dynamic number “The Brotherhood of Man.”

Funny and heartwarming, the Harriton Theater Company gave us a wonderful performance of a classic musical, and reminded all of us that the Brotherhood of Man is much more important than all the success (and Coffee Breaks) in the world– unless you’re asked to be Chairman of the Board. That’s another story.

Review by: Eden Halterman of Academy of the New Church

From window washer to Chairman of the Board: what if one simple book could teach you how to achieve this, without ever really trying? Such is the life of J. Pierrepont Finch, the star of Harriton High School’s production of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is based on a satirical self-help of the same name, published by Shepherd Mead in 1952. The musical, adapted by Frank Loesser, first premiered on Broadway in 1961 and went on to win seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. This show, set in the cutthroat world of 1960s business tycoons, follows J. Pierrepont Finch as he works his way to the top of the business world, and finds love along the way.

Harriton High School’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was energetic and engaging, driven by charismatic leads, a captivating chorus, and lively comedy.

Jon Duska led the show with his impressive portrayal of J. Pierrepont Finch. Throughout the show, Duska kept up the endless energy required to lead the show, and his strong singing voice was impressive. Duska’s charisma and enthusiasm complemented Aurora Murray’s bold voice and charm in her portrayal of Finch’s secretary and love-interest Rosemary Pilkington.

The show would not have been complete without the impressive supporting cast. Jon Zamsky stood out in his humorous portrayal of pompous and power-hungry Bud Frump. Coby Levit also impressed with his comedic role as company president J.B. Biggley. Levit’s dynamic performance had the audience laughing throughout the show, especially in the song “Old Ivy”, in which Duska and Levit’s comedic energy and lively playfulness were perfect complements.

With much of the technical direction run by students, Harriton High School impressed with their creative costuming, artistic sets, and original choreography. Though the technical crews encountered a few complications, and at time chorus members were difficult to hear, the show held strong with its cast of talented, energetic, and comedic performers.

Harriton High School energetic, engaging, and humorous performance of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was a true success.


The Little Mermaid by Upper Dublin High School

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The Little Mermaid – Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, PA

April 12, 2016

Review by: Abbie Presti of Central Bucks High School West

Waves of color, splashes of sparkles, and soft, sweet voices filled Upper Dublin High School’s auditorium during their production of The Little Mermaid.

This classic Disney tale spins the story of Ariel, a mermaid living under the sea, whose only wish is to experience the life of a human. When she rescues a mysterious prince thrown overboard during a storm, Ariel discovers love, opportunity, and the limits her father imposes upon her.

Upper Dublin’s performance of The Little Mermaid showcased an enthusiastic and energized ensemble with an obvious desire to bring smiles to the audience. Every character lit up on stage, sometimes even literally with bright and dazzling costumes. The whole cast maintained a high level of energy throughout the performance and never missed an opportunity to showcase their original and enthusiastic expressions.

The show was carried by the sweet and romantic voice of the innocent and clumsy Ariel, played by Jessica Anninos. Prince Eric, played by Michael Reed Price, matched this talent with his rich and powerful baritone and charming demeanor. Steven Aronow’s performance of the comical and anxious Sebastian was complete with his perfectly maintained Jamaican accent and crab-like physicality.

Other notable performers include Ursula, played by Gabriella Bloom, who stunned audiences with her powerful and spine-chilling rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls”. Caroline Juelke portrayed Ariel’s friendly Flounder with a perfectly fishy physicality and jaw-dropping vocals in the song “She’s In Love”. The supporting characters of The Little Mermaid strengthened the “under the sea” immersion through their consistent flowing and fishy movements. Every actor had a certain physicality central to his or her character whether it was scuttling or swimming.

The marketing and publicity of the production cannot go unnoticed. The show’s promotion and advertisement was evident through social media, posters, pins, and t-shirts. With eye-catching makeup that captured the underwater qualities of different sea creatures perfectly and a pit orchestra that backed the actors with a whimsical and joyful tone, this was a show not to be missed. While there were some minor sound issues throughout the production, overall, the sound was very easily understood and balanced well.

Upper Dublin High School’s production of The Little Mermaid was thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting. It definitely is better “under the sea”!


Review by: Cynthia Reynolds of Bordentown Regional High School

Overflowing with colorful sea creatures, mermaids, music and a mélange of melodious voices, Upper Dublin High School brought the magic of Disney’s The Little Mermaid to sea life.

With book by Doug Wright, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, The Little Mermaid opened on Broadway in January of 2008, running for 685 performances. The musical is based off of the 1989 beloved childhood animated film of the same name and the famous fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson and includes all the classic songs like, “Kiss the Girl” and “Under the Sea”.

Jessica Anninos brought beauty and innocence to the role of Ariel. She lured the audience to be a part of her world and her journey to find true love with a voice as clear and sparkling as water. Michael Reed Price as Eric perfectly complimented Anninos with his princely pitch and handsome harmonies.  He exuded charm and charisma in numbers like “Her Voice” and “One Step Closer”.

Gabriella Bloom was magnificently menacing as the sea witch Ursula. Bloom convincingly cast a spell over the audience with her verbose vocals, imposing movements and impeccable acting. The crowd’s favorite crustacean, Sebastian, was wonderfully portrayed by Steven Aronow. While saddled with the most difficult prop, Aronow’s accent, presence, energy and comedic skills never faltered.

The vocals by the entire cast were wonderfully uniform and as seamless as a school of fish, every vocal a keeper and not one bad catch in the net.  Particularly noteworthy was Luda Gordynskiy as the silly seagull, Scuttle, and Caroline Juelke as the goofy guppy, Flounder.   Also, giving fine ensemble performances were the Mersisters, the Gulls and electric eels, Flotsam and Jetsam, played by Cynthia Wambua and Riley Tollen.

The only shortcoming to this very vocally strong show was the sparse set.  However, good makeup, pit orchestra and sound, which was all student produced, made up for any shortcomings.

It was smooth seas for Upper Dublin’s cast of The Little Mermaid with leagues of fun for sailors and land-lubbers alike!




Into the Woods by Ridley High School

Ridley 2Into the Woods – Ridley High School in Folsom, PA

April 12, 2016

Review by: Zoe Grossinger of Barrack Hebrew Academy

The Ridley High School drama group took the audience on an unforgettable trip Into the Woods in a lively and magical performance of Sondheim’s classic musical. The fairytale medley was studded with sharp humor, large personalities and resonating vocals. The entire auditorium was filled with sounds and visuals that made it feel as though we were in an interactive storybook.

Into the Woods is a musical written by Stephen Sondheim that is based around the stories of “Little Red Ridinghood”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Rapunzel”, “Cinderella”, and other age-old fairytales. A baker and his wife interact with storybook characters through the woods on a witch-administered quest to begin their family. Due to its unique storyline and variety of beloved songs and characters, Into the Woods won several Tony Awards and went on multiple tours on and off Broadway. Recently, the musical has been adapted into an Academy Award nominated film.

Played by Josh Butler, Jack had talent as great as his towering beanstalk. He brought the house down with his take on the renowned song, “Giants in the Sky”. The emotion he brought to his character was palpable. Jake Mergott perfectly channeled the suave and confident persona of Cinderella’s “charming but not sincere” Prince. He brought the same notable gusto and underlying evil inclinations to his second role as the Wolf. The witch, Mikyah Mott, took command of the stage with perfect comedic timing, piercing screeches and a voice that shook the trees on stage.

The show could not have gone on without the enchanted performances of the supporting actors and actresses. Whether PJ Williams (The Mysterious Man) was comically dawdling and jumping across the stage or spewing his hackneyed and repetitive lines, he never failed to bring life and comedic relief to the forest. Sarah Messina both sounded and looked the part of a melodic and beautiful damsel in distress. Her sonorous riffs from atop her tower were enough to make both her prince and the audience swoon.

Ridley High School magically brought the misty and deep woods onstage with believable props, painted trees and lighting that resembled natural sunlight. An atmosphere of the dark and mysterious woods was created with enchanting winds, chimes and strings from the orchestra.

Thank you to Ridley High School for taking us on a magical journey into “Your Little World”!


Review by: Georgette Avrigian of Haverford High School

A thrilling adventure through the dangerous woods, filled with spells, temptations, fairy tales, and romance is presented on the stage of Ridley High School’s production of Into the Woods.

Into the Woods is the story of a baker and his wife who, when put under a spell by their witch neighbor, are forced to adventure off into the woods to break this spell. They are given specific tasks as they are to collect materials else the baker’s wife will not be able to bare children. As they set off to find these items, leaving their village, they meet various fairy tale characters who have wishes of their own and who grow individually from their actions as well as fellow acquaintances while in the woods. They each experience struggle, doubt, danger, and love along the woods, but ultimately work together in order to not only grant the baker and his wife’s wish but find the deepest desires of their heart.

Ridley High School’s cast did a notably good job in presenting this story intertwined with fairytale characters, through the very detailed costumes, vibrant energy of the ensemble, and enchanted set designs which portrayed the mystically filled metaphorical term of “the woods.”

The Baker, played by James Clark, was strong vocally and his wife, played by Colleen Mahoney, displayed a nice balance vocally as they harmonized well especially in the song, “It Takes Two.” Cinderella, played by Lauren Myers brought her innocence and a desire for true love to the performance while Jack, played by Josh Butler, truly shined in his musical number “Giants in the Sky” as his powerful vocals and presence on stage was debuted.

The ensemble was focused and lively, displaying an abundance of energy on stage. Cinderella’s Prince, played by Jake Mergott was outstanding vocally and added a comedic presence to the production through his charming demeanor and remarks. The Wolf, also played by Jake Mergott, immediately stole the stage upon his entrance. Rapunzel’s Prince, played by Ben Mergott displayed his character quite well filling the musical number “Agony” with great meaning and creating a dynamic duo with Cinderella’s Prince. The Witch, played by Mikyah Mott was a very powerful character convincing the audience of her witch-like behavior with her tone of voice and gestures. Rapunzel, played by Sarah Messina, although a minor role in the production, had a beautiful voice executing her role fairly well.

The colorful lighting was phenomenal, helping to display the drastic mood changes in relation with the events occurring on the journey into the woods. The Stage Crew worked quickly and were hardly noticeable adding no distraction or delay to the overall performance. Although the microphones experienced some difficulties, the actors were able to continue their performance fluidly. The different sets, intricately designed, beginning with the villager’s homes then later to the dangerous woods, captured the beauty and magical tone of the performance.

Ridley High School’s production of Into the Woods, although being a difficult production for a high school to perform, was an adventurous experience leaving the audience captivated by the enchanted setting and mesmerized by the memorable musical numbers.


Hello, Dolly! by Upper Moreland High School

Upper Moreland 2Hello, Dolly! – Upper Moreland High School in Willow Grove, PA

April 5, 2016


Review by: Mary Liz White of Bordentown Regional High School

Upper Moreland High School’s production of Hello, Dolly! will have you wishing you were an 1890s New York socialite. Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman’s Golden-Age musical, based on a play by Thornton Wilder, is an American standard packed with memorable characters. Highlights of Upper Moreland’s rendition include a committed ensemble, a pretty set, and a capable tech crew—plus, of course, a very formidable leading lady.

Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi is a busybody—and she’s good at it. The musical follows this clever, charismatic widow as she meddles in others’ affairs and averts chaos—and, just maybe, finds love along the way.

As Dolly herself, Maura O’Leary absolutely dominates the stage. She inhabits her character from head to toe with impressive physicality and smooth delivery, and she is perfectly suited to the mature role. In terms of vocals, Hannah Rau turns in a great performance as sweet, nervous Irene Malloy. The male leads are earnest and believable, with Patrick Murt as wealthy stick-in-the-mud Horace Vandergelder, and Scotty Murphy as the adorable, bumbling clerk Cornelius. Some smaller comic roles also stand out—Jessica Stahl, for instance, as the hilarious and unsophisticated Ernestina.

The strongest musical numbers include “Motherhood March”—a rollicking earworm blocked with precision and crammed with great physical comedy—and “It Takes A Woman”—a laughably sexist all-male anthem complete with a broom-wielding kick-line. Though in other scenes the ensemble sometimes feels low-energy, they have a real grip on the choreography and move well as a unit. The cast makes good use of the space on the very wide stage. The slightly sparse but otherwise lovely student-designed set looks its best during the scenes in the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant.

If the ensemble at times feels over-rehearsed, the run crew had a few hiccups but still gets the job done effectively. The sound quality is good, with very few issues, and the same goes for the lighting, which has some nice moments. The show uses a terrific color palette, cultivating a general cohesion between costumes, sets, and lighting.

They’ve got strong comedic timing, thorough knowledge of the show, overall unity, and a darn good Dolly. When you see Upper Moreland’s Hello, Dolly!, you may not want to say goodbye.


Review by: Jack D’Emilio of Conestoga High School

But do we have to say goodbye, Dolly? Upper Moreland High School’s production of Hello, Dolly! truly had audiences never wanting to leave the theater!

With a book by Michael Stewart and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, Hello, Dolly! is based on Thornton Wilder’s 1955 play, The Matchmaker. In its original 1964 Broadway production, the show won a record-setting ten Tony Awards, including a Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for the legendary Carol Channing. The show itself was an unprecedented success, enjoying three Broadway revivals and a 1969 feature film starring Barbra Streisand. Hello, Dolly! is also expecting another Broadway revival next year, with Bette Midler in the titular role.

The Upper Moreland ensemble cast engaged the audience with the brightest of smiles, never once losing the energy they had from the moment the curtain opened. “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” was a standout number for the ensemble, as they truly rose to the occasion and brought out the best of the classic that is Hello, Dolly! The entire cast proved to be truly accomplished performers, as well as entertaining ones to watch.

In the title role, Maura O’Leary lived up to the greats that have performed the role before her. With every lightning fast quip, O’Leary had the audience wrapped around her finger. Patrick Murt (Horace Vandergelder) also had the audience laughing with every line, deftly handling the softer side of the character toward the end, playing opposite O’Leary in a most wonderful way.

The supporting cast was also definitely wonderful in every way, from the side-splitting Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker (Scotty Murphy and Brian Herrmann) to the elegant Irene Malloy and Minnie Fay (Hannah Rau and Maddy Rafferty). These four showcased the best parts of their characters with well-timed humor, and a beautiful aspect of love as well, like when Murphy’s rendition of “It Only Takes A Moment” had the audience head over heels.

The set was wonderfully colorful, and the stage management crew handled the transitions with ease. The professionalism displayed by the crew overall is certainly worthy of praise, as every scenery change went off without a single hitch.

There’s nothing I’d like to do more than say hello again to Hello, Dolly! at Upper Moreland High School one more time.