Big Fish – Central Bucks West High School

CB West 1Big Fish by Central Bucks West High School in Doylestown, PA

March 28, 2017

Review submitted by Lea Harlev of Archmere Academy

One fish, two fish, red fish, Big Fish! On Friday March 24th, the cast and crew of Central Bucks High School West touched and amused audiences with their whimsical performance of Big Fish.

Daniel Wallace wrote the novel Big Fish in 1998 before Tim Burton adapted the story into a movie in 2003. Big Fish eventually opened on Broadway in 2013. The musical explores the relationship between Edward Bloom and his son, Will, as he searches for the truth between his father’s outlandish tales and mysterious past.

Gianni Recupero, as Edward Bloom, demonstrated tremendous skill and control on stage. Recupero successfully developed a complex array of emotions as he handled his character’s intense trajectory throughout the show. Playing Edward Bloom’s wife, Taylor Mitchell displayed maturity and poise well beyond her years. Mitchell’s perfectly crafted southern accent and powerful vocals stood out in every scene she appeared. Recupero and Mitchell complimented each other beautifully, especially in the romantic numbers “Time Stops” and “Daffodils.”

Connor Hopkins, as Will Bloom, equally excelled in his performance. The emotional solo number “Stranger” specifically highlighted Hopkins’ vocal and acting abilities as he sang in his upper register. Other stellar performances included Evan Byrne as Amos Lee, the eccentric circus ringleader, Natalie Kim as Jenny Hill, Edward’s high school sweetheart, and Nicholas Ferrara as Karl the Giant. Ferrara’s performance was especially remarkable as he walked, ran, and danced all while wearing stilts.

The production’s ensemble brought another level of energy to the show. In every number the ensemble members appeared in, they all portrayed a uniquely autonomous persona while still maintaining clarity as a group. The Alabama Lamb ensemble, in particular, did an exceptional job; even though the number was fairly simple, the group sang and danced together in a lovely way.

Students designed and built all of the sets for this production. The sets consisted of a bedroom and a basement set on both ends of the apron respectively, as well as changing projections on a scrim upstage. The beautifully detailed projections enhanced each scene they were used in as they created more depth on stage. The student-made props definitely left something to be desired, but this did not hurt the overall production.

Ultimately, Central Bucks High School West’s production of Big Fish taught the audience that sometimes it is okay to indulge in the fanciful.

 

Review submitted by Namita Rao of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

Overflowing with love and humor, Central Bucks High School West’s production of Big Fish left the audience with an experience that was richer and “bigger than life” itself!

Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace, Big Fish centers on the life of the eccentric Edward Bloom, whose impossible adventurous stories of witches, giants, mermaids and werewolves frustrate his son, Will. Will, about to have a son of his own, is determined to find out the truth behind these stories.

Central Bucks West’s cast showed great enthusiasm on stage. The talented cast was filled with skillful dancers, especially in numbers like “Red, White, & True.” The Alabama Lambs presented great harmonies and eye-catching choreography in the number, “Little Lamb from Alabama.” Despite a lack of articulation in a few of the songs, the cast was packed with energy and passion.

Gianni Recupero’s rendition of Edward Bloom was splendid, as his confidence and animation throughout the show perfectly fit his character. Recupero portrayed a great father-and-son chemistry with Will, played by Connor Hopkins. Sandra Bloom, Will’s wife, played by Taylor Mitchell, lit up the stage with her smile and her believable country accent. Her sweet, yet powerful voice was showcased in her solo, “I Don’t Need a Roof,” which was not only inspirational and moving, but wonderfully sung. Also, Jenny Hill, Edward’s first girlfriend in high school, played by Natalie Kim, showed great emotion on stage, and was one of the most powerful actresses in the show.

The fairy tale characters, especially the Witch, played by Angela Gibbons, had dynamic body language that perfectly suited her mystical character. Nicholas Ferrara’s rendition of Karl the Giant, was an adept on the stilts, and added even more humor and lightness to the show.

Central Bucks West’s crew did an appreciable job with swift scene changes. A screen, with a projector used to change the background, immediately set the mood for the next scene, without any hassle. The crew showed that you can never have too much glitter in the song, “Daffodils.” The crew had great dedication with the show’s visual appeal, aiding the fluidity of the show very well.

Central Bucks High School West’s production of Big Fish was not only humorous and fun, it presented a deep emotional aspect which left the audience without a dry eye.

 

 

Little Shop of Horrors – Lindenwold High School

Lindenwold 2.jpgLittle Shop of Horrors by Lindenwold High School in Lindenwold, NJ

March 28, 2017

Review submitted by Trinity Pike of Upper Merion Area HS

Folks stuck in Skid Row would kill for something green, whether a four-leaf clover, a dollar bill, or a bloodthirsty exotic plant. When the latter arrives in the ramshackle flower shop, life promises to transform rags into riches for one small price: human lives. While exploring the macabre possibilities, Lindenwold excellently combined dark comedy and explosive energy in their production of Little Shop of Horrors.

In the iconic cult rock musical, one clumsy, soft-spoken employee named Seymour nervously offers to turn the tables for Mr. Mushnik’s bankrupt flower shop. The gawky amateur botanist breeds a unique flytrap species that begins to demand human blood. Originating as a 1960 black-comedy film, the morbid story became a musical thanks to the green thumbs of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

Lindenwold’s rendition added to the quirky charm of Little Shop with an innovative use of space and sharp characterization. Soloists strutted through the aisles, Mushnik’s flower shop rolled across the stage, and Skid Row’s crooked, grimy windows became picturesque suburban images for “Somewhere That’s Green.” The diverse ensemble featured impish urchins, curious bioscientists, and glamorous superstars. Stunning costumes added to the effect, changing rapidly with each character transition.

Conner Basallote’s portrayal of Seymour was just as distinct. Between anxious fidgeting and horrified hyperventilating, Basallote rendered the geeky florist especially endearing. His co-worker and love interest, Audrey, was just as adorable. Brandi Flem played the timid, reluctant sweetheart, giving each of her songs an ethereal tone. “Suddenly Seymour” was a soft, loving duet combining the two shy voices.

Brazen characters such as Mr. Mushnik, Orin Scrivello, and Audrey II contrasted their bashful counterparts with deliciously dark, harsh delivery. As Mushnik, Sayf Mouhamed captured the character’s wild desperation with wide gestures and a consistent accent. The madness in Gaelyn Kelly’s lines made him a captivating Scrivello, putting his all into savoring the abusive privileges of a sadistic dentist. Kelvin Wilburn commanded the stage as Audrey II, boldly psychopathic through his powerhouse number “Mean Green Mother.”

Often accompanying the leads were The Ronettes, a versatile ensemble consisting of Kya Williams-Custis, Jiovani Arias, and Cirah Kay. As no-good ragamuffins in the first act, the girls confidently contributed beautiful three-part harmonies, crisp choreography, and sassy ad-libs to a number of songs.

The Ronettes were clad in an array of fabulous, multipurpose costumes. The Sudden Changes Crew led costuming with incredible sophistication and innovation. White coats turned into glittery prom dresses, and sultry red skirts into jean jackets. Set design lead by Lura Good was just as aesthetic. The flower shop looked a neglected children’s playhouse, and Skid Row was a graffitied garbage dump, which added dimension and context to the show. Puppeteering and stage transitions were swift and natural. Balancing fifteen mics was a challenge, but the sound board persevered to make line delivery and sound effects stable.

Overall, Lindenwold’s production was a marvelous treat. Creativity defined their production of Little Shop of Horrors, allowing the company to plant smiles throughout the audience.

 

Review submitted by Lizzie Stricklin of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

Despite the show’s horror movie roots, Lindenwold High School’s production of Little Shop of Horrors kept the audience laughing until the final curtain in an entertaining and innovative performance.

Based on a low-budget 1960 horror film of the same name, Little Shop of Horrors became a musical sensation after premiering off-Broadway in 1982. Featuring music by Alan Menken, the dark comedy tells the story of clumsy floral assistant Seymour Krelborn, who discovers he can achieve fame and fortune with the help of a man-eating plant.

Due to its eccentric nature, Little Shop of Horrors is a show known for its props, set, and dark humor. With a talented crew and amusing performers, Lindenwold High School’s production exceeded these expectations by also incorporating inventive costumes and sound effects.

The cast was led by Conner Basallote, who provided a pure-hearted innocence to the role of Seymour. Opposite him as the voice of Audrey II, Kelvin Wilburn displayed his stellar vocals and charisma in his unexpected onstage appearance.

Kyra Williams-Custis, Jiovani Arias, and Cirah Kay also kept the energy high as the Greek chorus of narrative urchins and had the audience rolling in their seats with their hilarious improvisations. Laudable acting was also found in Sayf Mouhamed as Mr. Mushnik and Gaelyn Kelley as Orin Scrivello, who energetically stayed true to their characters.

Perhaps the most impressive aspects of Lindenwold’s production were the technical elements. The well-constructed movable set, depicting Skid Row with a ‘90s grunge aesthetic, set the campy tone of this show. Although some of the leads were hard to hear, the sound management team proved commendable by not only controlling over a dozen microphones but also by managing numerous sound effects. The two small Audrey II puppets worked flawlessly and even surprised the audience by appearing to grow larger. Nevertheless, it was the quick change gowns worn by the street urchins that left the audience speechless. These handmade outfits, which appeared at both the beginning and end of the show, displayed the creative prowess of the Sudden Changes Crew to design both beautiful and pragmatic costumes.

Through the combination of an energetic cast and stunning technical visuals, the cast and crew of Lindenwold High School demonstrated their green thumb for cultivating a fun and entertaining performance.

Footloose – Upper Moreland High School

Upper Moreland 1Footloose by Upper Moreland High School in Willow Grove, PA

March 28, 2017

Review submitted by Anji Cooper of Academy of the New Church

It’s time to kick off the Sunday shoes because Upper Moreland is performing Footloose. Get ready to be immersed into the lives of several teenagers as they struggle to bring change to a place that is stuck in its ways. The show’s constantly enthusiastic cast and upbeat, catchy tunes are sure to make you want to get up and start dancing right alongside its characters.

Footloose was first brought to life in a 1984 film written by Dean Pitchford. Since then, the show was turned into a musical that has been presented on Broadway and London’s West End. The story follows city boy Ren McCormack as he moves to a small, conservative town. There he is appalled to learn that dancing is banned. So, armed with his love of dance and a rebellious spirit, Ren decides to fight back against the rules. Naturally, his actions stir the populace up.

Upper Moreland’s production of Footloose was lively and energetic, containing vocally talented actors, charismatic supporting actors, and an engaging ensemble.

Scotty Murphy won the audience’s heart with his affable portrayal of Ren, the awkward misfit. He impressed with his dance moves and eager voice. Jessica Stahl played Ariel, the defiant reverend’s daughter and Ren’s love interest. She held the audience with her capable voice on songs like “That Girl Gets Around.”

The cast displayed high enthusiasm and energy throughout the show. Willard (Christian Tuffy) became a crowd favorite, constantly drawing laughter by delivering humor with an exaggerated flair. Kira Connell, who played Urleen, especially stood out with her powerful voice in songs like “Holding Out For A Hero” and “Somebody’s Eyes.” Reverend Shaw (Gabriel Stacy) possessed a strong stage presence and a warm, melodic voice. Stacy portrayed Shaw’s torn emotions with compelling and sympathetic character.

The set gave a good feel of where the show took place, and was used effectively to bring the small town to life. The production took a risk by using many individual microphones, which, for the most part, worked out by enhancing the projection of the actors’ voices throughout the large auditorium. Though there were a few sound issues, the cast performed through the obstacles to maintain continuity.

Upper Moreland’s production of Footloose showcased talented singers and dancers, bringing the beloved story to life with exuberance, and entertaining the audience with seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm.

 

Review submitted by Sam Spirt of Upper Dublin High School

As the snappy overture begins, dazzling smiles and dancing feet appear across the stage. The dancing teens encourage the audience to “cut loose” and bob their heads along to the beat. Upper Moreland High School practically brought audiences to their feet with their exciting production of the popular musical Footloose!

Based off of the 1984 film of the same name, Footloose follows teen Ren McCormack, as he is forced to move from the bustling city of Chicago to boring hick town Bomont. As Ren attempts to dance his way through Bomont, he finds himself in trouble with Reverend Shaw, who outlawed dancing a few years back. Ren decides to rally his fellow classmates and take a stand against the Reverend because he simply “can’t stand still.”

Scotty Murphy led the cast in the role of new kid Ren. Murphy maintained a strong energy throughout, and impressed audiences with his high belt. Opposite Murphy as the rebellious preacher’s daughter, Ariel Moore, was Jessica Stahl. Stahl had a convincing bad girl attitude and outstanding vocals. The two leads had solid chemistry, making their relationship very believable.

The cast’s biggest standout, though, was Christian Tuffy in his portrayal of the hilarious and lovable Willard Hewitt. Tuffy’s spot on comedic timing and specific physicality took his performance to the next level. In addition, Ariel’s trio of girls, Rusty (Liz Jones), Urleen (Kira Connell), and Wendy Jo (Colleen Davis), were sassy and entertaining, especially in “I Need a Hero” and “Somebody’s Eyes.”

Upper Moreland’s large ensemble supported the leading actors well, but most notable were Willard’s friends, Bickle (Ethan MacBain-Adornetto), Garvin (Nina Vitek), and Jeter (Aidan Hyman), who made “Mama Says” one of the most memorable moments. In addition, Nina Vitek also stood out in her featured role of Cowboy Bob Lead Vocalist in “Still Rockin,'” opening Act Two on a spectacular note.

The talent onstage was highlighted well with various technical elements. While the set was minimal, this was made up for in lighting, which properly captured the mood of the various settings of the show. In addition, technicians took on the challenge of controlling over twenty body microphones. Although sound was occasionally spotty, this did not hinder the quality of the performance, as actors were able to overcome these difficulties.

With exciting dance numbers and impressive talent, Upper Moreland’s Footloose was enjoyed by all. By the end of the performance, audience members had the desire to “kick off their Sunday shoes” along with the cast!

 

Les Miserables – Ridley High School

Ridley 1Les Miserables by Ridley High School in Folsom, PA

March 21, 2017

Review submitted by Lizzie Stricklin of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

Despite what the title may imply, Ridley High School’s performance of Les Miserables: School Edition was anything but tragic as the audience was blown away when they “heard the people sing.”

Les Miserables became a smash hit when it premiered in London in 1985 with music by Claude-Michel Schönberg. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables depicts the odyssey of ex-convict Jean Valjean, who breaks his parole to seek a better life after nineteen years in prison. While being relentlessly pursued by Inspector Javert, Valjean adopts a dying woman’s daughter and becomes intertwined with revolutionary chaos in 1830s Paris.

Due to its formidable singing and acting requirements, Les Miserables is a feat to perform skillfully at the high school level, but the cast of Ridley High School surpassed all challenges in their revolutionary performance.

The cast was led by the amazing Jake Mergott (Jean Valjean) whose near professional vocals and adept acting skill grew to remarkable heights as the show progressed. Equally stunning vocals were presented by Ben Mergott as Javert and James Clark as Marius. The male actors were supported by the delightful performances of Blake Eckert and Sarah Messina as Fantine and Cosette, respectively, whose beautiful ballads tied the show together.

Nevertheless, the sensational ensembles were the lifeblood of the performance. The Barricade Boys, led by Meese Tobey as Enjolras, all displayed their individual vocal prowess through featured solos. The liveliness and passion they exhibited made their inevitable demise all the more emotional. The same is true for the female ensembles of the Lovely Ladies and the Factory Women, who became a dynamic backdrop in vocally rigorous group numbers.

Perhaps the most impressive off-stage element of this production proved to be the Ridley Drama Group Pit Orchestra. Entirely made up of student musicians, the pit performed the challenging score flawlessly, never pausing once throughout the two acts. The pit was supported by the talented sound management, through which a large number of microphones were handled with few mishaps. This production also featured notable publicity, as social media and lobby decorations were taken into account when marketing the show.

With an incredibly well-rounded cast and crew, Ridley’s production of Les Miserables: School Edition was a high-caliber performance any high school would “dream a dream” of matching.

 

Review submitted by Sanya Kunicki of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

Ridley High School’s production of Les Miserables: School Edition was a far cry from miserable. Originally opened in London, Les Miserables came to Broadway in 1987 and became increasingly popular over time. Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Miserables tells the story of several characters during the French rebellions of 1832. Within this story are several complex subplots revolving a police captain trying the hunt down an ex-convict, the ex-convict’s adopted daughter who falls in love with a student, and the students’ desperate desire for a better life for all.

A highlight of this production was their astounding musical strength. Not only were the stage performers excellent, but the Ridley Drama Group Pit Orchestra consisted of high school students. Les Miserables is a demanding show when it comes to the orchestra, and these student players handled the challenge exceptionally well.

There were a couple difficulties among the actors. At times, their diction was not articulated clearly enough. In addition, the acting was not always at the caliber of the vocals. Considering that the vocals were excellent, this did not diminish the overall quality of the show too much. However, when a given song had a greater focus on the sound than the story, it occasionally felt like a concert.

These few issues aside, the performers demonstrated great skill. The brothers Jake (Jean Valjean) and Ben Mergott (Javert) exuded marvelous emotion in their roles. MacKenzie Cannon (Eponine) exhibited a strong grasp of character, particularly in her response to Marius’s love of Cosette in “A Heart Full of Love.”

It is impossible to address all the talent of the other leads and supporting cast. A particular highlight was the comic characters of Madame Thenardier (Courtney Linus) and her husband, Thenardier (Abdul Kamara) because they entertained with such exuberance. The ensembles also displayed fantastic energy and understanding of character. The masculine ensembles of the Students and Convicts were particularly impressive, as large amounts of boys with strong vocals can be difficult to find at the high school level.

Les Miserables is difficult for sound because it has the challenge of several voices layered on top of each other, each with its own melody, each needing to be heard. The sound crew at Ridley, led by Jenna Brady, did very well with this balance. The stage crew, also, was incredibly efficient. The makeup team, led by Blake Eckert, did a good job creating bruises and scrapes to visually demonstrate characters’ misery.

Les Miserables: School Edition is a challenging show, and the Ridley Drama Group approached it with monstrous amounts of talent, resulting in a stand out show.

 

 

Rent: School Edition – Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

Plymouth White 2

Rent: School Edition by Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, PA

March 21, 2017

Review submitted by Harleigh Myerovich of Harriton High School

How does one measure the legacy of love? This past Saturday, the Colonial Players of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School offered an answer to this most human of questions in their production of Rent: School Edition.

Rent, with book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, follows a group of struggling artists of New York City’s East Village. The Colonial Players did a phenomenal job in tackling this challenging production. A talented cast anchored this poignant musical, navigating difficult subject matter with utmost poise and sincerity.

Cole Walther, as narrator and filmmaker Mark Cohen, tactfully embodied his character with strong vocals, providing smooth transitions from scene to scene. Alongside him, Jack Travis earnestly belted his emotional rock ballads as Roger Davis, a former rock frontman grappling with his HIV-positive status. In the role of Mimi Marquez, Federica Andino-Vega impressed the audience with her powerful vocals and physical embodiment of the seductive club dancer.

As the boisterous activist Maureen Johnson, Lauren Quigley belted her songs of defiance with aplomb, embracing both the comedy and indignation of “Over The Moon” with equal deference. In the role of anarchist and NYU professor, Tom Collins, Colin Mash commanded the stage in each of his scenes with a heartfelt performance. As the ever-generous Angel Schunard, Collins’ partner, Robert Gervasi captured the effervescent spirit of his beloved character. Together, Mash and Gervasi had unparalleled chemistry which was palpable in songs and scenes alike. In the tender duet “I’ll Cover You,” the two assuredly portrayed the loving couple, leaving tears in the eyes of the audience.

The PWHS Scenic Design Team did a remarkable job in crafting an abstract Alphabet City from pallets, ladders, fences and scrap metal. The PWHS Stage Crew executed each set change smoothly and efficiently, rolling platforms and set pieces frequently throughout the show. Though, at times, there were issues with microphones and sound levels, the PWHS Sound Team impressively handled twenty-three microphones altogether throughout the production.

Perhaps most impressive, however, was the PWHS Marketing Team’s efforts to ground their production in community outreach and education. In partnering with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, distributing guitar picks to the middle school and local music schools in order to advertise the show, and educating the school community about the issues presented in Rent, Plymouth Whitemarsh demonstrated a sustained effort to engage the community in empathetic consideration of the musical’s cultural context.

With heart, energy and a spirit of philanthropy, the Colonial Players left the audience “over the moon” as they ended their 2016-2017 season with this successful production.

 

Review submitted by Lea Harlev of Archmere Academy

“Rent, rent, rent, rent, rent, we’re not gonna pay rent!” thundered through Plymouth Whitemarsh High School’s theater as the Colonial Players performed Rent: School Edition.

With book, music, and lyrics created by the late Jonathan Larson and based on the opera La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini, Rent details a year in the lives of seven struggling artists in New York City’s Alphabet City in the midst of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Despite some minor changes to language and the omission of the song “Contact,” Rent: School Edition possessed the same complex characters and powerful message as the original musical.

Cole Walther perfectly embodied the awkward, but lovable filmmaker that is Mark Cohen. Walther’s timing and character choices were both impeccable. As the other male lead, Jack Travis (Roger Davis) conveyed great passion with his commanding presence and powerful vocals. Federica Andino-Vega as Mimi Marquez owned the stage with her stunning voice and impressive acting skills. Together, Travis and Andino-Vega touched the audience with their intense onstage chemistry, which was especially evident during the intimate “Light My Candle” and “Without You.”

Tom Collins (Colin Mash) and Angel Schunard (Robert Gervasi) stood out as another dynamic duo. The two actors beautifully executed both tender and heartbreaking moments of their characters’ relationship onstage. Mash’s soulful vocals, in particular, brought a new level of warmth to every scene in which he appeared. Kamiah Gray and Lauren Quigley as Joanne Jefferson and Maureen Johnson both demonstrated immense dedication to their characters as they beautifully belted the fiery duet “Take Me Or Leave Me.”

The ensemble as a whole carried out an exceptional performance. The full, robust sound in group numbers such as “Rent” and “Finale B” resonated throughout the entire theater. In particular, the Support Group ensemble skillfully acted as a cohesive unit and generated a balanced sound complete with tight harmonies.

With student-created sets and lighting, the actors had a very fitting backdrop for their performance. The intricate set contained many levels and interesting elements such as ladders and fences that each fit with the energy of the show quite well. The dramatic application of the lights throughout the production enhanced the performance; the lighting especially assisted the storytelling when spotlights highlighted individual moments amidst a crowded stage.

With their poignantly relevant performance of Rent: School Edition, the Colonial Players empowered audience members to measure their lives “in love.”

 

 

Les Miserables: School Edition – Eastern Regional High School

Easter Regional 3Les Miserables:  School Edition by Eastern Regional High School in Vorhees, NJ

March 21, 2017

Review submitted by Victoria Kline of Academy of the New Church

Do you hear the people sing? They are the students of Eastern Regional High School, whose recent production of Les Misérables: School Edition proved a powerful testament to a turbulent time.

Originally a French novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables has taken many forms. It premiered as a musical in French in 1980, and in English five years later. Since then it has become a classic, translated into twenty-one languages and re-adapted into a film in 2012. This masterful musical of intricate plot-lines and complex themes tells the story of a time full of hardship and revolution, through the lives of the people of Paris.

The story begins and ends with Jean Valjean, an escaped convict, played phenomenally by Gary Bowman. Bowman’s emotive acting combined with incredible vocal talent captured the internal journey to redemption Valjean must ultimately make. His rich tone and pure falsetto moved the audience to tears. Robert Sundstrom provided a perfect foil as Javert, a police officer obsessed with finding Valjean. His robust and merciless voice lent itself not only to the harsh rhythmic melodies of the officer, but also to his tragic and beautiful soliloquy.

Notable among the rest of the incredibly talented cast were Marius and Cosette, two young lovers played by Vincent Melara and Chelsea Chaet who complemented each other with clear vibrato and youthful energy. Kayla Kantakusin looked on as Eponine, proclaiming her unrequited love for Marius with passionate vocals in “On My Own”. Also memorable were Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, played by Caleb Schneider and Lindsay Cohen, who provided constant, conniving comic relief with catchy tunes such as “Master of the House”.

The chorus brought a revolutionary energy to the performance, transforming a high school stage into early 19th century France. Their desperate and defiant voices blended to capture the upheaval and unrest of the era in a powerful way, backed by a marvelous pit orchestra.

Fortifying the stellar cast were brilliant technological aspects. Colors reflected characters’ moods, and the spotlight stayed ever true. A newly built turntable added dimension to haunting scenes on the barricade, and a student designed set perfectly portrayed the toughened Paris streets. Although a few microphone issues occurred, the cast forged through without hesitation.

A compelling tale of passion and justice that is extremely difficult to pull off, Eastern Regional’s Les Misérables was a beautifully executed call to action: a call to fight, to live, and to love.

 

Review submitted by Abigayle Harnum of Bordentown Regional High School

During the 19th century, France was faced with social and political upheavals in which many lives were lost and many others lived in impoverished conditions. Eastern Regional High School’s production of Les Misérables: School Edition not only successfully depicted this time of despair, but delivered an uplifting and passionate portrayal of one of the most iconic musicals of all time.

Based on the novel by French author, Victor Hugo, Les Misérables by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg first graced the Broadway stage in 1987, winning eight Tony Awards. Les Misérables tells the tale of a convict during the French Revolution who is sentenced to nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread and then trying to escape the penitentiary. The story then follows the release of “prisoner 24601” on parole, his confrontations with the police, and those he encounters on his journey of redemption.

The students of Eastern Regional High School brought forth not only spectacular vocal ability, but incredible stage presence which made the performance seem close to professional quality. Each and every cast member put their heart and soul into show-stopping numbers such as “One Day More” and “The People’s Song,” underscoring the idealism in France during the 1800s.

Jean Valjean, played effortlessly by Gary Bowman, is the former convict who begins a new life after his years in prison with his transformation from a petty thief to a selfless man of his word. Bowman’s breathtaking voice and poignant storytelling brought the character to life, most notably in his phenomenal rendition of the classic, “Bring Him Home”. Robert Sundstrom as Javert, the policeman relentlessly pursuing Valjean, was extremely convincing as a dark, obsessive character with his beautiful voice and mysterious presence.

Vincent Melara and Chelsea Chaet, as Marius and Cosette, were bright spots against the somber story line, with their angelic duets and heartwarming depiction of young love. Other memorable performances included Bridgette Burton, who brought an honest and raw portrayal with stunning vocals to her role as Fantine, and Kayla Kantakusin, whose great stage presence and vocals effectively displayed her undying love for Marius in her character, Eponine.

Eastern Regional High School’s hardworking students also assembled a revolving stage that was used seamlessly to enhance the production. The Sound and Lighting Club’s efforts were especially notable with the perfectly timed gunshots and the white lighting to show Fantine from the afterlife.

Eastern Regional High School’s production of Les Misérables: School Edition was an inspiring performance of strength and sacrifice, and ultimately resulted in a well-deserved standing ovation.

Peter Pan – Marple Newtown High School

Marple Newtown 4

Peter Pan – Marple Newtown High School in Newtown Square, PA

March 21, 2017

Review submitted by Colleen Williams of Interboro High School

Want to see Marple Newtown High School’s latest theatrical production? Just go to the second star on the right! Peter Pan gains a musical twist that is bound to invoke nostalgic childhood memories.

The story of Peter Pan begins in the nursery of the Darling household. Once abed, Wendy, John, and Michael are swiftly roused from slumber by a magical young boy named Peter Pan, and are amazed by his powers of flight. Enticed by his tales of Never Never Land, they are sprinkled with Tinkerbell’s fairy dust and join Peter and his Lost Boys. Upon arrival, Wendy finds herself pressed into being the mother of a horde of unruly boys. Meanwhile, the threat of the murderous Captain Hook is omnipresent.

An enthusiastic band of thespians revitalized the fairy-tale’s beloved characters. Sarah Hendricks embodied the impudence of Peter, and Owen Mannion’s comedic pomp as Captain Hook resulted in a memorable performance. Also noteworthy were the various ensembles and their antics; the Brave Indians, Captain Hook’s Crew, and the Lost Boys all brought a certain flair to the show.

Marple Newtown’s student orchestra put notable effort into controlling its volume. Throughout the show, the instrumentalists maintained a reasonable volume. The cast could easily be heard, and important musical elements were not drowned out by the vocals. The orchestra also played a key role in the acting; the voice of Tinkerbell was a series of notes played by the vibraphonist.

Another praiseworthy facet was the cast’s costumes and makeup. These parts of the show were entirely student created, though at times this was hard to believe. Hook was dressed as a regal rapscallion with his plumed pirate hat, thin mustache, and red velvet coat, and The Lost Boys’ raggedness was emphasized by their torn clothes and smudged faces. The outfits and makeup designed by Vinnie Cavallero, Belle Galante, and Abby Pancoast were suitably eclectic.

Though the overall sound quality of the production was tolerable, the breathing of the cast was frequently heard; this could be observed mainly in large numbers. Also, the cast was powerful when grouped together, but when the number of actors dwindled, such as in dialogue scenes, the energy slacked off. However, the jauntiness of the ensembles allowed the show to run smoothly.

Marple Newtown High School’s performance of Peter Pan was an energetic recreation of the famous fairy-tale that made the audience never want to grow up.

 

Review submitted by Maureen Tibbetts of Archmere Academy

Marple Newtown High School transformed into Marple Neverland High School Thursday night with its production of Peter Pan.

Most people know the story of Peter Pan from the Disney movie of the same name. First appearing on Broadway in 1954, Peter Pan the musical has been delighting audiences for decades. The musical tells the tale of Wendy Darling and her friend Peter Pan, a young boy who is determined to never grow up.

Marple Newtown High School’s production was anchored by its enormous cast, made up primarily of three main groups: the Lost Boys, the Pirates, and the Indians. The large cast brought lots of energy—and fairy dust—to the stage. One of the most prominent elements of the production was the impressive use of harnesses for flying.

Marple Newtown carried on the tradition of Peter Pan being played by a female. Sarah Hendricks captured Peter’s mischievous nature and committed herself fully to her character. Sarah Hendricks and Katie Rice, who played Wendy, made a lovely pair, playing off of each other’s energy and harmonizing nicely in several duets. Owen Mannion also gave a noteworthy performance as Captain Hook; he brought humor and charm to his villainous character.

Mira Sadeghi showed off her dancing abilities both as a dance captain and as Tiger Lily, the leader of the Brave Indians. Another noteworthy dancing performance came from Vinnie Cavallero, who played Nibs and headed the costume committee as well. Ryan Naughton, who played both Nana the dog and the Crocodile, spoke no lines but captivated the audience whenever he appeared.

Many of the musicians in the pit orchestra were students; they provided a strong musical foundation throughout the show. Hair, makeup, costumes, and props were all authentic and well done.

Full of large, high-energy numbers and childlike charm, Marple Newtown High School’s production of Peter Pan left its audience feeling reluctant to grow up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Cardinal O’Hara High School

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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, PA

March 21, 2017

Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area HS

With a stage as colorful as the infamous coat itself, Cardinal O’Hara’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat put their talented cast on a fantastical, rainbow display as they told the tale of Joseph, a man with an incredible gift.

Joseph’s treacherous travels are kick started by his eleven brothers’ attempted fratricide and further rancorous betrayal, selling him into slavery in Egypt. The brothers’ hatred stems from jealousy, as Joseph not only has brilliant dreams, but the ability to interpret them as well. Based on the Biblical book of Genesis, this operetta has a powerhouse score indebted to one of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s first joint attempts at producing a musical.

From the first notes, the ensemble’s innocent tonality and strong projection, reminiscent of a heavenly choir, pleased ears, presenting tight harmonies, crisp diction, and clean cut offs. Stand outs Ryan Jewell (Reuben) and Robert Griswold (Levi) lead numbers “Those Canaan Days” and “One More Angel in Heaven” respectively with an over-the-top theatricality that showed off the immaturity of their characters. From flailing arms to wailing voices to ridiculous poses, the Brothers ensemble snatched laughs with their natural comedic cadence and stage presence.

Playing titular hero Joseph was senior Thomas Dempsey. Clad in his technicolor coat, Dempsey wowed with his tender, honest vocals and purity in both his tonality and character work. “Close Every Door to Me” featured Dempsey’s clear voice delicately supported by the pitch-perfect open chord harmony provided by the ensemble. But the talents of this leading man didn’t cease there. Dempsey’s chest heaved as his heartbreaking story unfurled before bedazzled eyes. His total investment in the role made each emotion he projected capture his body and paint pictures from joy to strife across his face.

Narrators Brittany Clifton, Grace Grassi, Kristina Goldhorn, and Melissa Goldhorn elucidated plot points with fluttering falsettos and brassy belts. In a role originally written for a man, this fierce foursome tackled every note with a sense of confidence only found in seasoned, well-rehearsed performers.

The sound crew’s work balancing actors’ microphones with the pit was well done. Lines lost in the show’s excitement were still well portrayed through actor physicality.

A glittering success, Cardinal O’Hara’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was a spectacular showcase of some of the best high school talent in the area!

 

Grace Willey of Unionville High School

What do you get when you combine eleven angry brothers, a millionaire named Potiphar and a Pharaoh who enjoys Elvis impersonations? Why, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, of course. Cardinal O’Hara High School embraced this comical and uplifting musical and wowed the audience with their precision and energy.

The musical, which premiered in 1970, is based on the story of Joseph’s coat of many colors from the Bible’s book of Genesis. It follows Joseph, the dreamer, and his adventures. The Andrew Lloyd Webber classic has entertained audiences for decades, and captivates audiences of all ages with its universal themes and catchy songs.

While most productions experience a slight dip in energy following intermission, it seemed the cast doubled their already high level of energy in the second act. From the costumes to the sets to the cast, everything was spot on. Even the smallest details of the show were thought through and seamlessly executed.

At the core of the show was Joseph, beautifully portrayed by Thomas Dempsey, who swept the audience off their feet from the moment they entered the theater. Other standout performances included the narrators, Brittney Clifton, Grace Grassi, Kristina Goldhorn and Melissa Goldhorn. The girls had a particularly difficult task given that the narrator was played by a man in original productions. Furthermore, the director split one part between three actors. The four narrators melded and played off each other perfectly. Their dynamic was genuine and it was a refreshing take on a well-known character.

The very large ensemble kept their energy up throughout the entire show; they supported the leads without detracting from them. Additionally, Joseph’s eleven brothers were a hilarious bunch who worked very well together. Specifically Reuben (Ryan Jewell), Levi (Robert Griswold) and Judah (Dylan Rooney) each had impeccable comedic timing with their featured songs. Lastly, although she was only in one scene, Mrs. Potiphar (Bryanna McEvoy) was hilarious in her solo dance number.

The sets, although static and minimal, were fitting to the show and added to the colorful, bright nature of the story. Similarly, the costumes were well made and added to the production value immensely. Lastly, stage manager, Victoria Pappas, did her job well, with no mishaps or errors on the part of stage crew.

Overall Cardinal O’Hara’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was memorable and left the audience energized and excited, as all musical theatre should.

Oliver! – The Haverford School

Haverford 1.jpgOliver! by The Haverford School in Haverford, PA

March 14, 2017

Review submitted by Emily Thompson of The Baldwin School

“Where is love?” is a question everyone wonders throughout life, but in Oliver!, the adorable orphaned boy Oliver Twist searches for and discovers the answer to that question at the end of a tumultuous journey through London.

Oliver! (based on Charles Dicken’s 1837 novel Oliver Twist) follows the story of an orphaned boy named Oliver (Austan Hengst) in Industrial-Revolution-Era London, who travels from an orphanage run by the dysfunctional couple Mrs. Corney (Katie Phillips) and Mr. Bumble (P. Spencer Davis). Oliver then ends up at a funeral home owned by Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry (William Russell and Olivia Freiwald), followed by a life on the streets with the pickpockets Fagin and Dodger (Drew Weiss and Pearse Glavin) and his band of orphaned children and eventually the home of his wealthy grandfather, Mr. Brownlow (Shea Dennis). Meanwhile, Nancy (Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi) attempts to save the boy from the clutches of the villainous Bill Sikes (Andrew Lengel).

Haverford’s production of Oliver! certainly brought energy and life to an otherwise dismal plot of a poor orphaned boy, while attempting to add authenticity to the English show with cockney accents.

Drew Weiss embodied the eccentric Fagin with Johnny Depp-esque physicality and facial expressions along with his control of vocals in songs like “Reviewing the Situation” and simply laughing hysterically. Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi also brought strong presence to the stage as a vocal powerhouse with broad vocal and emotional range varying from the upbeat song “Oom Pah Pah” to the melancholy “As Long as He Needs Me.”

Mrs. Sowerberry, the wife of a funeral home-owner, was portrayed by Olivia Freiwald, whose energetic dancing, distinctive facial expressions, and powerful voice ironically brought life to the funeral home in “That’s Your Funeral.” Meanwhile, the adorable-turned-dysfunctional couple of Mrs. Corney (Katie Phillips) and Mr. Bumble (P. Spencer Davis) demonstrated comic chemistry both through line-delivery and physicality.

Stage crew executed flawless scene changes swiftly, silently, and efficiently. In addition, actress Olivia Freiwald doubled as a makeup artist, executing realistic cosmetics, particularly by adorning Fagin’s face with frown-lines.

“Reviewing the situation”, The Haverford School successfully executed an endearing, energy-driven production of Oliver!

 

Review submitted by Lizzie Stricklin of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

Just like Oliver Twist himself, the Haverford School’s production of Oliver!, featuring an impressive cast and crew, left the audience asking to “have some more” of this beloved Victorian tale.

Based on the classic novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, the musical Oliver! premiered in London in 1960 with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. On his journey to find home and family, the titular character travels from a workhouse to the streets of London, encountering memorable characters along the way. Due to its large cast and use of children, Oliver! is a popular choice for high schools across the world.

The Haverford School’s production proved unique in that it featured a large child ensemble and several adults in cameo roles in addition to the student performers. Nevertheless, it was the high school actors who held the show together and brought it to life. With a devoted set of featured performers and a skillful shift crew, this production of Oliver! was both lively and sincere.

Arguably the most dynamic and driven performance was by Drew Weiss as the gang leader Fagin. Weiss displayed his versatility as both a comic relief and a driving lead actor by commanding the stage – and the many child actors – in large group numbers. He was supported by the powerful vocals and charisma of Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi as Nancy, whose rendition of “As Long as He Needs Me” was an audience favorite.

The cast was rounded out by several praiseworthy comedic performers. As the youthful Artful Dodger, Pearse Glavin led Fagin’s gang with a boisterous and vivacious magnetism. The humorous Act I duet “That’s Your Funeral” was an unexpected delight, featuring William Russell and Olivia Freiwald as Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry. Vocal highlights were also found in P. Spencer Davis and Katie Phillips as Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney, respectively. Although the thick accents sometimes made the dialogue hard to understand, the crisp choreography and dedication of the cast made each song entertaining.

The talent of the cast was supported by commendable stage management by Nick Chimicles, as the shift crew completed shifts quickly and silently. With a well-rehearsed cast and efficient stage management, the Haverford School’s production of Oliver! was a laudable take on the classic Dickens’ tale.

 

 

Footloose! – Sun Valley High School

Sun Valley 2Footloose! by Sun Valley High School in Aston, PA

March 14, 2017

Review submitted by Lauren Oaster of Interboro High School

Ren McCormack can’t stand still, and neither could the audience after Sun Valley High School Theater’s kickin’ performance of the hit musical, Footloose!

Footloose is an upbeat show written in 1998 and based off of a 1984 movie also entitled Footloose. This show chronicles the story of Ren McCormack, a vibrant, rebellious teenager, as he and his mother relocate to a small, tight-knit rural town called Bomont. There, Ren quickly realizes that Bomont is nothing like the bustling metropolis of Chicago. After hearing of a local ordinance that outlaws any activities that constitute “fun”, Ren makes it his priority to convince the town’s prominent authoritative figure, Reverend Shaw Moore, to abolish the law and throw a dance that will “knock Bomont right off its tractor”. Along the way, he befriends a group of teenagers that includes the reverend’s defiant daughter, Ariel.

Sun Valley’s production showcased a variety of its many very talented thespians. Outstanding performances included the stage presence and nearly flawless vocal talent of Ren (Gianni Palmarini). His energy and dedication to his character was infectious and he never faltered or hit a sour note. Ariel Moore (Molly Thorpe) also performed quite nicely, and her chemistry with not only Ren but the other characters too made for a show that did not disappoint.

Another fantastic performance was that of Rusty (Elizabeth Powell), Wendy Jo (Senta Johnson), and Urleen (Jacqueline Scheck). These three girls graced the audience with their wonderfully executed harmonies and their constant precision. In addition to the entertaining trio, Willard Hewitt (David Valentine) had the audience in stitches with his quirky accent and perfectly delivered comedic lines, and was especially outstanding in his number “Mama Says (You Can’t Back Down)”.

As a unit, Sun Valley’s cast performed excellently. Full cast numbers such as “Footloose/On Any Sunday” and “I’m Free/Heaven Help Me” were very well executed, and ensemble members were clearly engaged and smiling, which left the audience wanting more.

The stage crew also did a respectable job with smooth set changes that involved little distraction. In addition to the commendable stage management, Kyle Thorpe’s execution of all sound elements with minimal hiccups was noteworthy overall.

Sun Valley High School certainly proved that “Dancing Is Not a Crime” in their splendid performance of Footloose! Now who could argue with that?

 

Review submitted by Emma Danz of Harriton High School

If you just “Can’t Stand Still,” come and ‘cut loose’ with Sun Valley High School and their fabulous production of Footloose!

The musical adaptation of Footloose was released on Broadway in 1998, following the popular Kevin Bacon film in 1984. The famed story follows new student, Ren McCormack, who has just moved to the small town of Bomont, where dancing has been outlawed. Set to a toe tapping score, Ren and his new friends find a way to fight the town council and hold a dance.

A myriad of talent took to the Sun Valley stage complete with energy, dynamic harmonies, and their dancing shoes. On stage and off, the company worked together to bring smooth transitions and believable theatre. The cohesive ensemble featured fun choreography and enhanced large group numbers like “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” and the title favorite “Footloose.”

Standing center stage was Gianni Palmarini as the defiant, quick-witted Ren McCormack. Alternating deftly between emotionally charged dialogue and biting one-liners, Palmarini displayed an extensive range of talent. His impressive vocals shone in solo numbers like “I Can’t Stand Still” and enhanced the strength of group numbers.

Standing opposite Palmarini was Molly Thorpe as the beautiful, trapped, reverend’s daughter, Ariel Moore. Thorpe effectively handled Ariel’s complicated nature and dynamically moved moments of the show. Thorpe and Palmarini demonstrated heartwarming chemistry as they fell for each other during the show’s progression.

Joining Thorpe were Elizabeth Powell (Rusty), Jacqueline Scheck (Urleen), and Senta Johnson (Wendy Jo) as Ariel’s energetic, caring friend group. The three were a powerhouse ensemble, harmonizing beautifully during “Somebody’s Eyes,” and creating comedy together. Joining this group of the unsung, supporting heroes was David Valentine, who played Willard: the quintessential small town, southern boy. Valentine won hearts throughout his charming performance but especially during his tribute to his mother, “Mama Says (You Can’t Back Down).”

There are few things that feel as wonderful as sitting down to a well-loved show. Sun Valley High School brought that magic with this sweet classic. Let’s hear it for, not just the boy, but everyone that lent a hand it producing this show!