Legally Blonde – by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy

SCH 3.pngLegally Blonde by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, PA

December 13, 2016

Review submitted by Jahnavi Rao of Conestoga High School

The hallowed halls of Harvard Law School turn into a captivating stage at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s performance of Legally Blonde. This high energy performance followed a strikingly-blonde sorority girl leave her home in California for the Ivy Leagues in order to find herself, with a couple pink outfits and musical numbers thrown in.

Amanda Brown’s novel Legally Blonde, published in 2001, follows former-sorority president-now-Harvard-law-student Elle Woods on a quest to win back her old boyfriend, pass law school, and find something she did not expect to. The book was adapted into a highly successful movie in 2001, culminating into its Broadway debut in 2007, with lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe & Neil Benjamin, and book by Heather Hach.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s lively and humorous production delivered new life to this classic show. A variety of aspects of the show, including the lighting, staging, set, and actors, created a cohesive production. Moreover, the ensemble maintained a high energy and commitment to their individual characters, transporting the audience to Elle Woods’ struggle with school, boys, and teachers.

The lead actors executed their parts captivatingly, with Sean Terrey (Emmett) truly stealing the show with his lovable character and mesmerizing voice. Maggie King (Elle Woods) consistently kept the show moving with her engaging attitude, impressive belt and bright pink costumes. Also, Alicia Vilari (Paulette) was anticipated each time she appeared for her scenes, delighting the audience with her enchanting voice and hilarious accent. Each of the lead characters went above and beyond in their interpretations of their characters and directed the show in a fast paced fashion, no pun intended.

The token appearances from the UPS man, Jack Walker (Kyle) had the audience on their feet with his commanding strut and seductively delivered lines, along with Riley Redpath (Margot) energetically leading the Delta Nu girls each memorable time they came on stage.

The actors were accompanied on stage with a constant, minimalistic set that routinely seemed to transform into another setting entirely, with the aid of lights and choice brick walls rolled in. Delightful costumes and high-energy choreography engaged the audience and told the story through green and blue flashes of light.

A humorous and invigorating performance, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy directed the audience through the department store that is Elle Woods’ life, a place for learning, fashion, and love.

 

 

Review submitted by Nina Gold of Harriton High School

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a saying that never loses its relevance, as was demonstrated by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Legally Blonde, which told the familiar story of a girl who proved to others – and more importantly, herself – that there was more to her than her looks.

Based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde follows the path of sorority girl Elle Woods, who exchanges her sun-kissed home for the cutthroat world of law in order to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner. Although the musical received mostly positive reviews and was nominated for several Tony Awards, it closed after a year-long run and subsequently toured the country for several years. It also opened on the West End in London, garnering more mixed reviews than it received on Broadway.

Maggie King’s portrayal of Elle Woods was commendable, and her powerful voice was well-suited to the role. She successfully emphasized the determination and strong morals of Elle, while still holding true to the bubbly sorority girl that began the show. King was well-contrasted by the character Emmett, played by Sean Terrey. Terrey’s stage presence, quirky vibes, and comedic timing created a strong dynamic between the two, and he continually drew the focus of the audience with his impressive voice and natural charisma.

Other standouts included Alivia Villari playing Paulette – Elle’s newfound friend with an affinity for the Irish – and Jack Walker as the irresistible Kyle. Villari played the part of the comedic sidekick well, and Walker was able to make his relatively small part a highlight of the show through his delivery and physical humor. The leading roles were supported by an ensemble of spirited sorority girls in the form of a Greek chorus, whose frequent musical interjections (which were admittedly difficult to hear on occasion) left the audience with catchy tunes ringing in their ears.

The simplistic set, which at times seemed to limit the creativity of the staging and the ease with which the actors moved about the stage, was well-constructed and fit the tone of the show. Rather than relying on scenery to set the mood, the crew made much use of the lighting. The continually changing lights on a plain white background, while effective in setting a clear tone and directing the focus of the audience, had the tendency to be slightly overwhelming. This, along with some technical issues with sound, sometimes distracted the audience from the main action. However, the determination and unshakable confidence of the cast kept the show flowing smoothly with no remarkable mishaps.

The lessons and morals of Legally Blonde never cease to be important, and if one looks closely enough, can be found in a multitude of situations in every-day life.

Taming of the Shrew – by Phoenixville High School

phoenixville-1Taming of the Shrew by Phoenixville High School in Phoenixville, PA

December 13, 2016

Review submitted by Ellen Powers of West Chester East High School

Excitement filled the auditorium as the audience awaited Phoenixville Area High School’s interpretation of William Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew.

The Taming of the Shrew contains two major plot lines. Petruchio, a gentleman from Verona, hopes to marry the wealthy Katherina Minola for her money, but he must “tame” her fiery personality first. At the same time, several suitors are vying for Katherina’s sister Bianca’s hand in marriage, resorting to disguises and other tricks to win her heart and her parents’ approval.

The production’s ensemble frequently served as background characters to each scene, and they really enhanced the production. Each of the actors and actresses in the ensemble were consistently in character, and they did a great job setting the atmosphere of each scene. One particular ensemble that really added to the production was the Widows, portrayed by Michele McCaleb, Xandra Coleman, and Rachael Hesse. Their original interludes were humorous and made Shakespeare’s complicated language much easier for the audience to understand.

As Petruchio, Dominic Nattle consistently displayed strong acting in his portrayal of his character throughout the production. Willetta Wisely did a fantastic job in her role of Katherina Minola, bringing admirable energy and emotions, in addition to a commanding stage presence, into her performance. Shay Comiskey (Lucentio) and India Knight (Bianca Minola) both gave terrific performances, developing their characters and their romance very well throughout the show.

Julianita Vlad (Biondella) gave a delightful performance, making her character endearing and entertaining to watch. As Signora Minola, Lauren Hoffman personified class in her impressive stage presence, and she did a fantastic job embodying her character. Chris Schlosman (Gremio) did a great job in his role, adding humor to the play both through his expressions and his hilarious character voice, which stayed spot-on throughout the entire show.

The sound crew had a difficult time working with the large number of microphones in the show, as microphones frequently cut out throughout the show. However, the actors did their best to work through the difficulties. The stage crew did a great job making the transitions between scenes smooth and quick.

Phoenixville Area High School had the difficult task of putting on one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and they did a fine job in their production of The Taming of the Shrew.

 

 

Review submitted by Noelle Mercer of Friends’ Central School

Lights, camera, action! On Saturday evening, Phoenixville Area High School gave a “televised” performance of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in front of a live studio audience. With wit, silly antics, and a dedicated cast, Phoenixville tackled this difficult production.

The Taming of the Shrew tells the story of a young scholar, Lucentio, who falls in love with Bianca, the beautiful daughter of the Minola family. Due to her beauty, Bianca has many suitors, however she cannot wed until her older, more ornery, sister, Katherina, is wed. Petruchio, a man looking for a wealthy wife, marries Katherina for her fortune, and through a series of ridiculous shenanigans, attempts to “tame” her impertinent nature. Though their production was not actually televised, Phoenixville’s play was staged on the set of a live television show, with TV producers and cameramen roaming on the sidelines. Along with this change, many of the roles were split and created to fit the large cast.

Lead actress, Willetta Wisely, played a scorned and fiery Katherina Minola. She expertly commanded the stage, and handled the witty, fast paced dialogue with Petruchio gracefully. Dominic Nattle (Petruchio), also brought his character to life, and garnered chuckles from the audience with a humorous costume change. Despite many of her lines being lost due to difficulties with the mics, India Knight portrayed the petulant and spoiled Bianca with energy and charisma. Her hilarious make out scene with Lucentio (Shay Comiskey) began the second act with uproarious laughter from the live studio audience.

The supporting actors also brought energy to the stage and meshed very well with one another. Noah Horton (Tranio) and Julianita Vlad (Biondella) were perfect partners in crime, and livened up every scene they were in with their comical physicality. Chris Schlosman played the old and grizzled Gremio with an impressive character voice that he maintained throughout the show. Originally a singular role, the three Widows (Michele McCaleb, Xandra Coleman, and Rachael Hesse), doled out helpful information between scenes with lines they wrote themselves. With their unison and snappy, “Widow-out,” the Widows kept the audience grounded in the world of the play. The ensemble as a whole worked very hard, and although they sometimes pulled focus from the main action, the cast stayed in character throughout the production.

All in all, Phoenixville Area High School put on an inventive and original production of Taming of the Shrew, and humorously encouraged the audience to, “brush up your Shakespeare, and start quoting him now.”

 

 

 

 

Plaza Suite – by Interboro High School

Interboro 1.jpgPlaza Suite by Interboro High School in Prospect Park, PA

December 6, 2016

Review submitted by Lexi Lugowski of Upper Darby High School

From failing marriages and faltering feelings to rekindled romance, Interboro High School’s Plaza Suite does a stellar job of covering a range of relationship mishaps with unparalleled emotion.

Originally written by Neil Simon, Plaza Suite is a comedic play composed of three acts, all of which revolve around the topic of marriage in the booming 1960s. The play is set in suite 719 in the luxurious Plaza Hotel with differing vignettes in each act. Within the stories, a wife and husband make a futile attempt to fix their loveless marriage, a wildly successful Hollywood producer tries to wow his old girlfriend, and a mother and father try to lure their daughter out of the bathroom on her wedding day.

Interboro High School’s main success was rooted in the impressive ability of each character to maintain the stage for lengthy periods. Each character, even the blunt and simplistic Bordon Eisler, displayed their intended emotions with ease, which helped fuel the three differing plots and create the desired comedic tone.

Wyatt McDevitt, who played the ladies’ man Jesse Kiplinger, helped to identify the play as to what it is – a comedy. His advances upon the indecisive yet intrigued Muriel Tate (Bailey Collington) were well thought out and expertly performed, as were Bailey Collington’s several rejections. Natalie Mancusso and Kevin Reeder, who hilariously brought to life Norma and Roy Hubley, stole the show, as they went through hysterical trials and tribulations to bring their distressed daughter out of the Suite 719 bathroom. From Kevin Reeder’s ripped jacket to Natalie Mancusso’s torn stocking, their acted out sequence of events certainly stunned the audience with laughter.

Aryonna Orth and Brian Stewart, who played alongside each other as Karen and Sam Nash, established the mood of the play very nicely, each of them portraying their scatter-brained characters in interestingly complex ways. At times, though, the pacing of their scene seemed a bit rushed. Bordon Eisler (Amir Herradi) received a well-deserved round of applause for his shocking advice to his soon-to-be-wife, as did the wife herself, Mimsey Hubley (Rachel Suga.)

With a simple set up, the sound, ran by Neil Hews, Brenna Malloy and Sam Collington, had no faults, with the exception of the minor mic pops that occurred throughout the third act. The tech crew themselves, ran by Taylor Neher and Courtney Floyd, went out on stage with ease.

Interboro High School’s Plaza Suite certainly did not disappoint, from their talented and comical cast to their notable tech crew.

 

Review submitted by Shelby Lenhart of Upper Merion Area HS

One room. Three acts. Three couples. Upon an inviting, cozy stage, these ingredients come together at Interboro High School in Neil Simon’s classic play, The Plaza Suite.

Originally premiering in 1968, Neil Simon’s play centers around suite 719 of New York’s luxury Plaza Hotel. The show provides an intimate, brief glance into the lives of three couples – the troubled anniversary of Karen and Sam Nash, the reunion of past-lovers Muriel Tate and Jesse Kiplinger, and the woes of soon-to-be in-laws Roy and Norma Hubley. Each act devotes the sole attention on the characters, often featuring only the pair as the focal point of the scene.

Act One began strongly with the exuberant, deluded performance by Aryonna Orth as Karen Nash, a woman blissfully ignorant to the strife of the world and the cracks in her twenty-three year marriage. Her fruitless attempts to revitalize a decayed marriage were highlighted by her unwavering commitment to a chipper demeanor.

Later in Act Two, Muriel Tate, played with no want for a dutiful, maternal sentiment by Bailey Collington, battles the attempts at seduction by ex-lover Jesse Kiplinger, played by Wyatt McDevitt. McDevitt embodied the bold allure of a 60’s Hollywood producer, a stark, tense contrast to Collington’s demure housewife who begins to lose herself after a few too many drinks.

The final act, a comedic triumph, was a glimpse into wedding day of the Hubley’s daughter, Mimsey, to young Bordon Eisler. As the bride-to-be suffers from cold feet and sequesters herself in the bathroom, Norma (Natalie Mancusso) and Roy (Kevin Reeder) must fight both their daughter and each other to salvage the costly wedding day. Mancusso and Reeder exhibited natural, flawless chemistry, as would a couple married for as long as the Hubleys. Their comedic timing was sharp, their characters vibrant and real.

Few ensemble members were featured, yet each managed to stand out. Their dedication to lines and creating real characters was evident, even despite the comedic nature of the play.

Sound cues were managed well, none falling out of place, and each effect felt organic to the scene. Actors, through the work of a meticulous sound crew, were heard with no issue.

One room with three different stories came alive on one stage at one high school with a true passion. Interboro’s production of The Plaza Suite is certainly one to “check out.”

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas – by the Academy of the New Church

academy-new-church-2A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA

December 6, 2016

Review submitted by Max Weinstein of Barrack Hebrew Academy

Academy of the New Church’s A Charlie Brown Christmas is a refreshing reimagining of the Peanuts cartoon as a play. In addition to taking the script of the original It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas film, Academy of the New Church’s play incorporates multiple scenes from the cartoon series, making it an original, fast-paced collection of funny vignettes.

All these small stories, which were grouped together to form the show, create a cohesive plot as Christmas draws nearer for Charlie Brown and his friends. The characters start thinking about what they should get for their friends, whether or not they should ask to be in the school Christmas play, and how they should write their letters to Santa Claus. Throughout the play, one theme keeps rising up: commercialism. Charlie and Linus have to find meaning in Christmas when all around them people are only focusing on money and presents. The play ends with the kids all singing a Christmas carol; Charlie and Linus succeed in bringing Christmas cheer to their neighborhood.

The production was original not only because of how it was formed, but also because in every performance, there were two Charlie Browns, two Linuses, two Lucies, two Patties, two Sallies, and two Marcies. This really opened up a lot of opportunities for blocking, and they took advantage of this. This decision allowed for very fast and smooth scene transitions.

The show had a very strong technical aspect, especially with lighting and set design. Because of the nature of the show, there were many set pieces, and the school’s stagecraft class put them all together very well. The set pieces were very cartoonish, which really helped make the audience feel as though they were actually watching the Peanuts cartoon strips. The lighting for this show was also more difficult, as there were many different things happening in different places in some scenes, and the lighting crew, composed of Cat Fuller, Kevin Buss, Haley Hollsworth, and Alexis Nakos, performed the transitions in between these parts very quickly and efficiently. The lighting crew also shone in one scene where Sally, Charlie, Linus, and Lucy were writing letters to Santa, and there were projections of letters being written that were timed with the actors’ lines.

A Charlie Brown Christmas took the Peanuts which we know well and portrayed it on stage through a mixture of original ideas and a good crew. The show was, all things considered, very good.

 

 

Review submitted by Nick Sutton of Phoenixville Area High School

A Charlie Brown Christmas, performed by Academy of the New Church, was a truly exquisite production. With a large and talented cast, excellent tech crews, and inventive ideas, this show was able to incorporate the Christmas theme in with many laughs.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a television special that came out in the 1960s based off the very popular Peanuts comics and takes aim at the over-commercialization of Christmas. Charlie Brown is depressed over several aspects of his life that are not going right. In an attempt to help offset his poor mood, he volunteers to direct a local play which only results in bullying by his peers. However, the play ends with a true coming together, a trait that resounds in Christmastime.

In an interesting twist on double casting, most of the major roles had two actors performing the roles, which allowed the show to have very quick transitions, just like a cartoon. So Galen Stevens-King (Charlie Brown) was able to present the more optimistic and childish aspects of his character while Zach Lambertus (Charlie Brown) put forth a more cynical view of his. Both of which were fantastic and felt like one was watching the Christmas special in front of their TV instead of on a stage.

The ensemble also did an impressive job in that they personified their characters perfectly. In the dancing scene when all the children were goofing off instead of rehearsing, all the actors did the same dances as their characters in the cartoon, and did them amazingly. If one were to line up the cartoon against the play, they would have seen an exact copy.

The tech team was exceptionally strong. The stage crew met the demands of the fast scene changes and made them very fluid, wasting almost no time. Lighting and sound did an excellent job of highlighting the focus points in scenes. But their special effects were to die for. They had snow machines that left the feel of a winter wonderland and they were able to project the writing of characters on the screen.

This show was supposed to be funny since it was a cartoon for kids, but Ava Elder (Snoopy) went above and beyond that. In every scene, one had to watch her because even when she wasn’t the main focus, she was still interacting with something or someone in a hilarious way.

All in all, A Charlie Brown Christmas by Academy of the New Church is definitely a show anyone would want to watch because of their amazing cast and tech crew.