Cappies Nominations for 2016-2017 Season!

Voting is over, the season is complete.  And, the Cappies nominations have been released.

Leading the way in nominations this year are the teams from Unionville High School and Upper Merion Area High School.  Unionville’s intriguing production of Antigone by Sophocles and Upper Merion’s hilarious musical The Addams Family, along with their critic teams, garnered an impressive thirteen nominations each.  Ridley High School’s production of Les Miserables: School Edition marched its way to twelve nominations.  Many schools received eleven nominations, including:  Conestoga High School (The Mystery of Edwin Drood),  Episcopal Academy (Peter and the Starcatcher), PALCS School for the Creative and Performing Arts (Sweeney Todd), and Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (Les Miserables:  School Edition).

The production nominations reflected the variety and the talent of the Greater Philadelphia Area schools!    The play nominations this year include classics such as The Crucible (Upper Darby High School),  Twelve Angry Jurors (The Baldwin School),  and Antigone by Sophocles (Unionville High School), as well as modern, amazing productions such as Peter and the Starcatcher (Episcopal Academy) and The Infinite Black Suitcase (Friends’ Central School).

Musical nominations include amazingly complex and intense productions such as The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Conestoga High School), two productions of the modern classic Les Miserables: School Edition (Eastern Regional High School and Ridley High School), the macabre Sweeney Todd (PALCS Center for Performing and Fine Arts) and another modern masterpiece RENT: School Edition (Plymouth Whitemarsh High School).

The complete list of nominations for all categories can be downloaded here.

Nominees List 2017

The Cappies Awards will be given out at the Twelfth Annual Cappies Gala at Unionville High School on Sunday May 21st at 4:30pm.

Twelve Angry Jurors – The Baldwin School

Baldwin 1

Twelve Angry Jurors by the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, PA

April 25th, 2017

Review submitted by Trinity Pike of Upper Merion Area High School

One man is dead. The life of another is at stake. When twelve individuals decide the verdict of a homicide case, can justice truly be served? In The Baldwin School’s production of Twelve Angry Jurors, simple affirmation evaporates into haunting doubt, making the deliberation evolve into something more nuanced than guilty or not guilty.

The alleged crime is that a young man killed his abusive father. At first, eleven jurors vote for the death sentence, leaving one to plead for a more thorough consideration. As the argument intensifies, the play illuminates the justice system’s multifaceted nature. While Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Jurors has occurred in numerous iterations, Baldwin’s dramaturgy team added a refreshing modern analysis that differentiated their performance from the 1954 teleplay, 1957 film, and Broadway version.

Creative additions including a stimulating quote board and introductory political video combined with cast excellence to deliver a fascinating social commentary. Within the unique theatre-in-the-round orientation, actors were placed in a claustrophobic circle that conveyed tension while leaving each actor exposed to the audience. Yet no fear or hesitation was perceptible in the uninterrupted ninty-minute span of the performance. Excellence in characterization imbued the show with an organic feel, detailed and consistent throughout.

Aloof but not indifferent, Sanjana Friedman’s portrayal of Juror 8 possessed an intriguing depth. Friedman began quietly detached, gazing out the window away from the others. Then, she revealed a powerful determination fueled by intellect, delivering loud, decisive words with a menacing glare an inch away from the face of Melia Hagino, Juror 3. Convinced in the guilt of the accused and angered by the opposition, Hagino responded with wild rants and visceral screams that were genuine rather than exaggerated.

While line delivery was excellent, body language was also expressive. From Hagino’s cross-armed smirks to Kit Conklin’s (Juror 2) indecisive trembling to Jane Bradley’s (Juror 10) incessant sniffling and pacing, the actors continued to develop their personas and setting even when the attention was not on them. Audrey Senior’s (Juror 7) perky, passive-aggressive quips added some humor to balance the drama. Katie Mostek’s (Juror 9) slow movements combined with wise remarks to portray old age. Ishana S. (Juror 4) and Jattu Fahnbulleh (Juror 11) also provided voices of reason, professional yet charged with emotion. As a whole, the cast interacted effectively to establish the distance and intimacy of the twelve strangers forced to integrate their most personal views into one decision.

The technical aspects retained the simplicity of an office setting, but the vision of the dramaturgy team, which included Carly McIntosh, Julia Maenza, Roya Alidjani, and Noor Bowman, rendered even basic elements more profound with their interpretation and revision of the original script. Actors developed their characters with mannerisms at the water cooler or refreshments table. White lighting flashed to red at ominous moments.

Overall, the innovative efforts of Baldwin’s cast and crew created a masterpiece. Their production delivered a compelling reminder of the importance of courage and integrity.

 

Review submitted by Anji Cooper of Academy of the New Church

Innocent until proven guilty. There is a boy on trial for the murder of his father, and he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt… Or is he? Baldwin High School presents this problem in a way that will put you on the edge of your seat, while also exploring what it really means to live in democracy.

Twelve Angry Jurors was first seen as a television show called Twelve Angry Men, written by Reginald Rose. It follows a jury, after a long, hot trial, deciding whether or not a ninteen-year-old boy is guilty. Tempers flare as eleven jurors attempt to convince the one dissenter of the boy’s guilt, for American law states that the vote must be unanimous. After a reexamination, new uncertainties come to light, causing some of the eleven to rethink the situation.

Baldwin’s production combined two scripts, Twelve Angry Men and Twelve Angry Women, to create a unique, contemporary adaptation of the play. Performing the show in the round, the enthralling, impassioned cast brought new life to the courtroom thriller.

Sanjana Friedman portrayed the ever stoic Juror 8, the only one to doubt the boy’s guilt. Her impassioned, yet calmly delivered lines were enough to convince both the audience and the other jurors that there was sufficient reasonable doubt to keep the boy from being condemned. She kept the audience enraptured with her strong stage presence.

The cast impressed by staying completely in character for the duration of the show, even when they did not have dialogue. Juror 7 (Audrey Senior) especially stood out. She delivered her lines with quick animation and provided entertainment through her cheerfully condescending conduct. Juror 4 (Ishana S.) presented the logical argument against Juror 8 as to why the boy must be guilty. While others reached points of high emotion, Juror 4 maintained her composure. Jane Bradley proved her dedication to the role of the sick Juror 10 by constantly sniffling and fanning herself.

The production’s costumes aided particularly well in setting up each individual juror’s character before the show even began. Positioning the audience around the actors established a varying perspective, although at times it became difficult to hear some lines from certain angles. Still, the quality of the show was hardly impacted because the actors’ enriched performances filled the gaps.

With its talented cast, the Baldwin School created a new and riveting take on the play, Twelve Angry Jurors, that left its audience with a renewed sense of democracy in action.

The Drowsy Chaperone – Abington Friends School

Abington Friends 1

The Drowsy Chaperone by Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA

April 25th, 2017

Review submitted by Karishma Singh of Friends’ Central School

 The Drowsy Chaperone is a lighthearted, comedic musical within a musical, in which “the man in a chair,” an agoraphobic, theatre fanatic, takes the audience away to the world of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” one of his favorite shows.

The show is about the wedding day of a businessman, Robert Martin, and his bride-to-be, Janet Van De Graaff, a Broadway star on the verge of giving up her career for wedlock. The guests include the hostess, Mrs. Tottendale; her employee, Underling; George, the best man; a Broadway producer wanting to stop the wedding to save his show, Feldzeig; the eccentric Adolpho, enlisted by Feldzeig to seduce Janet and ruin the wedding; Kitty, a flapper who wants to replace Janet on Broadway; four gangsters disguised as chefs who have also been hired to stop the wedding; an Aviatrix, Trix; and, of course, Janet’s drunken chaperone, appointed to keep the bride and groom away from each other.

With Abington Friends School’s energetic ensemble, revolving set, precise lighting, and exceptionally talented cast, they certainly did justice to this complicated, fast-paced show.

The Man in the Chair, played by Michael Carpenter, carried the production from his opening monologue in the dark, to the very last moments of the reprise of “As We Stumble Along”. His character was one that could have easily been played as a one-note role, but he portrayed it with a complexity and development that captivated the audience.

Saria Rosenhaj’s interpretation of Janet was also multifaceted, and her evolution from a flashy star to a compassionate bride never felt forced or trite. Alongside her, Drew Jacobson brought Robert to life and wowed the audience with his skilled tap dancing and ability to successfully rollerblade on stage while wearing a blindfold. Their rapport felt natural and was very reminiscent of a 1920’s engaged couple.

Another pair that bowled over the audience, was Adolpho and Drowsy, played by Brian Wang and Rebecca Macey. They each had perfect comedic timing, and embodied both the serious and whimsical aspects of their characters.

Kaiya Case as Mrs. Tottendale also added an air of upbeat humor, and her spit takes on Garrett Weinstock, proved their dedication to the show, and had audience members doubled over in laughter.

Cameron Hodges perfectly executed the voice of a Broadway mogul in his depiction of Feldzeig. Everything from his stance to his voice transformed him into a typical producer that furthered the plot every minute.

Overall, the cast and crew effortlessly came together to put on a show that, as a man in a chair once said, “does what a show is supposed to do. It takes you away.”

 

 

Review submitted by Harleigh Myerovich of Harriton High School

Put on your favorite record, sit back in your chair and enjoy Abington Friends School’s performance of The Drowsy Chaperone! This award-winning musical invites us into the home of the Man in the Chair, a cynical homebody with a love of musical theatre. The show begins as he puts on a record of his favorite show and continues as it comes to life in his living room. A witty parody of musical theatre in the 1920s, The Drowsy Chaperone is also a heartwarming reminder of the power of theatre as a whole.

The Abington Friends School did an excellent job in tackling this demanding one-act production. As Man in Chair, Michael Carpenter commanded the stage as a constant narratorial presence. With sharp comedic timing and commitment to his character, Carpenter kept the audience grinning through each pause of the record and turn of the plot. As the hapless groom-to-be Robert, Drew Jacobson also garnered plenty of laughs from the audience, roller-skating, singing and tap dancing across the stage with equal aplomb. In “Cold Feets”, a lively tap duet with the Robert’s best man, George (Zachary Ford), Jacobson impressively executed each step and brought the comedy of his character into his movements.

As Drowsy, the tipsy chaperone after which the show is named, Rebecca Macey also brought her character to life in each of her scenes. In her solo, “As We Stumble Along”, Macey fully embodied Drowsy’s drunken, dramatic flair. Alongside her, Brian Wang embraced the outlandish Aldolpho, a swaggering Latin heartthrob. At times, the cast had issues with diction but overall delivered a sharply comedic and energetic performance.

Another strength of Abington’s production was the spectacular set constructed by the Abington Build Crew. At the center of the set was a spinning platform, painted to look like a record, which served as both the apartment for the Man in Chair and as the estate for his imagined production. The thoughtful decoration of the apartment by the Abington Props department, including black and white Broadway headshots and posters from classic musicals, served to aptly characterize the Man in Chair and provide a vibrant backdrop for the production.

Overall, it’s no “Toledo Surprise” that Abington Friends School delighted the audience with their production of The Drowsy Chaperone.

 

 

RENT: School Edition – Upper Dublin High School

Upper Dublin 1RENT:  School Edition by Upper Dublin High School in Maple Glen, PA

April 11, 2017

Review submitted by Zoe Walker of Friends’ Central School

Glitter, graffiti, and angsty guitar solos: Upper Dublin High School’s production of RENT: School Edition transported audience members to the artistic, rough-and-tumble New York City of the 1980’s during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The musical, now an American staple, first graced the Broadway stage in 1996. It follows a group of friends, including a drag queen, a struggling filmmaker, a stripper, and many other interesting personalities, who navigate a very uncertain era in American history. The bonds of love and friendship are strained, however RENT is far from depressing: it is life-affirming.

Among the main characters, Charlie Rudalavage (Angel Schunard) and Shane Gardner (Tom Collins) shined as a dynamic duo of lovers committed to each other through the depths of disease. Angel’s fiery, fierce, and fabulous personality was nicely balanced by the sensitivity and groundedness of his partner, Collins. Sophie Gustafson (Mimi Marquez) offered strong vocals and an emotionally complex rendition of her character.

The supporting cast lacked no talent, however. Sam Spirt crafted an intellectually mature yet emotionally naïve Joanne Jefferson, the Ivy-league educated lesbian who can’t help but indulge her performance artist girlfriend, Maureen. Featured roles such as Mrs. Cohen (played by Syd Quan) and Alexi Darling (Anastasia Weggel) added bright insights into the layers of New York life.

A major highlight of the show was the beautiful and intricate set, constructed by the Upper Dublin Crew, which included multiple stories of scaffolding to resemble apartments. Sound Technician Justin Zitelli succeeded in seamlessly blending thirty-four individual microphones to produce a unified choral sound. Finally, hair and makeup by Amelia Camilo were streamlined and professional.

In conclusion, Upper Dublin’s performance of RENT: School Edition was impressive and inspiring. The cast showed stamina and maturity through the two and a half hour production and difficult subject matter. Upper Dublin’s high-schoolers encouraged us to live for today, and brought to life a musical about people “living, with not dying from, disease.”

 

Review submitted by Trinity Pike of Upper Merion Area High School

Give in to love or live in fear? In their production of Rent: School Edition, Upper Dublin High School unapologetically urged audiences to measure their lives in love.

In RENT, seven individuals endure the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Each grapple with human questions and heartbreaking answers, giving the show a poignant yet powerful resonance. Based on the Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème, the story became iconic after its popular premiere and Broadway run. Having received a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, and film adaptation, the musical remains a challenge for performers due to both its fame and its complexity.

Upper Dublin approached these demands with a unique sense of creativity and dedication. The UD Crew constructed a two-story set of interlocking metal bars, lined the audience space with dynamic graffiti, and projected live footage during the show. Accompanying the efforts of the crew was a strong cast. A versatile ensemble provided the backbone of the performance with vocal prowess and emotive presence.

In particular, Shane Gardner excelled in his portrayal of anarchist professor Tom Collins. Gardner gifted his soft, rich voice and gorgeous vibrato to numbers such as “I’ll Cover You,” complementing the spirited vocals of his partner, Charlie Rudalavage (Angel Schunard). As a couple, both maintained energy and awareness throughout the show with an organic intimacy.

Sophie Gustafson portrayed stripper Mimi Marquez with just as much attention to detail. In “Out Tonight,” Gustafson sensuously danced across the stage while maintaining impressive, smoky vocals. Her chemistry with rocker Charlie Griffin (Roger Davis) was a compelling aspect of the show, revealing the vulnerability of both in the face of disease.

Another dynamic duo was Sam Spirt (Joanne Jefferson) and Morgan MacNaughton (Maureen Johnson), a lesbian couple with a volatile dynamic. Their stable vocals and excellent characterization added to the intensity of “Take Me or Leave Me,” a duet exploring romantic frustrations.

The technical aspects of the production were masterfully executed. Loquacious Forbidden Noodling, the orchestra, embodied musical precision, staying in sync with actors they could not see from within the stage. Lighting by Chris Long, Ben Fischer, and Mack Confer added a layer of nuance to the story with rotating triangles and spirals for celebrations, a bold red for conflicts, and an aesthetic orange-blue combination for large ensemble numbers.

Overall, cast energy and crew innovation rendered Upper Dublin’s RENT : School Edition an impactful production. Together, they reminded audiences to forget regret, for there is no day but today.

RENT: School Edition – The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA)

CAPA 1.jpgRENT: School Edition by The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) in Philadelphia, PA

April 4, 2017

Review submitted by Victoria Kline of Academy of the New Church

“How do you measure a year in the life?” This is the question the students of the Philadelphia School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) asked, and answered in their moving production of RENT: School Edition last week.

RENT is a musical created by Jonathan Larson, based loosely off of the opera La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini. It follows a year in the lives of a group of poor artists living in New York City as they struggle through problems such as AIDS, poverty, and navigating relationships. Over the course of the musical these friends become family, and realize that only through coming together can they survive.

At the heart of the production was a tireless ensemble that brought every large number to life. There were no small parts or actors, as every member of the production acted even in the background. Beautifully executed choreography and vocals gave the streets of New York city a vibrant and raw vibe in songs like “La Vie Boheme” and the poignant “Seasons of Love”.

The plotline revolves primarily around seven friends, all struggling through a life of poverty and love. It begins with two roommates, Mark Cohen (Desi Flowers) and Roger Davis (Emmanuel Martinez-Zuviria), livening up their cold apartment with some music. These two led the production, capturing their characters’ quirks even in their vocal solos.

Mimi Marquez (Zami Buggs-King), the flamboyant neighbor of Roger and Mark, stood out for her incredible vocal talent and raw emotion. Angel Schunard (Cameren Sullivan) and Tom Collins (Murphy Applin, Jr.), two of their friends, acted as a dynamic duo on a rollercoaster of emotion and expression, from comedic moments such as Angel’s drag queen dancing to sad ones such as Collins’ moving solo in “I’ll Cover You”. Also notable was Maureen Johnson (Marissa Garcia), whose over-the-top antics in “Over the Moon” and powerhouse voice lent her character just the right amount of drama.

Perfectly picked costumes outfitted the talented cast, bringing to life the cold Bohemian Streets, and a strong, consistent band backed the upbeat music. Although there was some trouble with balance and microphone consistency, the cast worked through it admirably with energy through the roof.

So how do you measure a year in the life? The students of CAPA answered this question with their portrayal of these artists’ search for friendship in a time of struggle: it’s not in daylights, or sunsets, or cups of coffee, but in love.

 

Review submitted by Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area HS

With a thousand sweet kisses, the cast of The Creative and Performing Arts High School’s (CAPA) production of RENT: School Edition graced audiences.

With a story loosely based on the Opera by Giacomo Puccini, La Boheme, RENT tells the story of eight friends living in New York during the 1980’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Reaching a fame at its premiere equivalent to today’s Hamilton, RENT’s toe-tapping rock score was written by the late Jonathan Larson, who also wrote its compelling script.

Starting the show with a bang, CAPA’s ensemble opened the floodgates, releasing a wave of sound placed somewhere tastefully between musical prowess and energetic shouting. Though diction frequently suffered, the energy when the full ensemble was on stage was infectious nonetheless.

Murphy Applin Jr. (Tom Collins) and Cameren Sullivan (Angel) played off of each other with a flirtatious charm and certainty notable to anyone with a pulse! “Today for You” featured Sullivan’s multitasking talents as he confidently vogued, strutted, and cart-wheeled across the stage in heels most women would have nightmares about attempting. Moving audience members to tears, Applin Jr.’s touching rendition of “I’ll Carry You (reprise)” featured the ensemble’s gospel sound, as he performed the song with a luscious vocal tone and indescribable emotional weight. With a crescendo building throughout the entire song, his artist choice to end the piece, instead, on a light, sweet falsetto note was the perfect choice; the neatly placed bow on any well-wrapped gift.

Zami Buggs-King (Mimi Marquez) flattered with her stunning vocal tonality and sensual stride. When pacing seemed to falter, Marissa Garcia (Maureen Johnson) was always one step ahead, raising energy levels with each audacious acting choice. While the hilarity of her solo number, “Over the Moon,” was the focal point, Garcia showed off her flexibility and stamina with each high kick and back bend. Showing depth, Garcia’s monologue in “Halloween,” utilized well-placed pauses, showing a thoughtfulness and understanding to its heavy content.

Marketing posters for the show were student designed and captured the 80’s urban essence of the show with its rough edged photographs and pops of color. Costumes created by students were also stylish and chic for the time period.

Offering a treat, The Philadelphia Creative and Performing Arts High School’s production of RENT: School Edition moved audiences with their well voiced performance, leaving one reflective question hanging in the air as audiences left: How will you spend your 525,600 minutes?

 

 

Bye, Bye Birdie – Haverford High School

Bye, Bye Birdie by Haverford High School in Havertown, PA

April 4, 2017

Review submitted by Grace Willey of Unionville High School

It is a timeless story with a universal theme: a teenager coming into her own, a rock star with millions of adoring fans, and a girlfriend dissatisfied with an eight-year love affair. The cast and crew of Haverford High School’s Bye Bye Birdie charmed the audience with high energy and commitment to the production.

Debuting on Broadway in 1960, Bye Bye Birdie, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, is one of the most enduring musicals of our time. The show portrays the perpetual divide between teenagers and their parents in a humorous way that every generation can appreciate.

Each element of the show came together to create a striking performance. The high energy of the cast was met with a quick and organized stage crew, a vibrant orchestra, and professional looking costumes and sets. The ensemble was fully committed to their parts as their energy and power increased with each scene. With choreography that showed off each ensemble member’s specific skills, the ensemble was a cohesive unit.

Playing the iconic couple, Albert and Rosie, were Josh Angell and Ingrid Slater, whose energy and chemistry enthralled the audience and kept their attention for the entire duration of the show. A different story line contrasted with that of Albert and Rosie; Kim MacAfee, the fifteen-year-old girl who was chosen to get kissed by Conrad Birdie on national television. Grace Potter portrayed Kim beautifully, with a youthful presence and impeccable comedic timing.

Other noteworthy performances included those of Caroline Sessa (Ursula Merkle), Caroline Roberts (Mrs. Mae Peterson) and Harry McKinlay (Hugo Peabody). Each one brought an enormous amount of energy and humor to the show. Similarly, the entire MacAfee family, including Georgia Sminkey as Mrs. MacAfee, Jack Denman as Mr. MacAfee, and Tommy Barnes as Randolph MacAfee, filled the show with witty banter and delivered their hilarious dialogue impeccably. Each actor, no matter the size of his or her role, added to the production value as a whole.

With a considerable amount of people on stage during any given scene the sound crew had their work cut out for them and executed with minimal errors. Equivalently, the orchestra did a commendable job balancing their sound without overpowering the actors. The costumes, along with the sets and props, were simplistic but impressive.

Bye Bye Birdie at Haverford High School whisked the audience back to the simpler times of the 1950s and left them feeling light and hopeful.

 

Review submitted by Lizzie Stricklin of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

Through colorful lighting, thrilling choreography, and “honestly sincere” performances, the cast and crew of Haverford High School’s Bye Bye Birdie rocked the audience and made new fans of this classic musical.

Inspired by the draft notice of Elvis Presley, Bye Bye Birdie tells the story of rock star Conrad Birdie and the mania that ensues when he is drafted. With music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams respectively, Bye Bye Birdie has been a musical theater standard since its Broadway premiere in 1960, and is a popular choice for high school theater.

With a talented cast of featured performers and dazzling work behind the scenes, Haverford High School’s production of Bye Bye Birdie gave new life and color to this well-known tale.

Leading this production, Josh Angell and Ingrid Slater brought maturity to the roles of Albert and Rosie, respectively. Slater’s characterization and vocals proved particularly impressive as she displayed her confidence onstage in songs such as “Spanish Rose.” Other notable vocal highlights were found in Grace Potter as Kim MacAfee and Matthew Monteleone as Conrad Birdie.

The true standouts in this performance, however, were the energetic ensembles and brilliant featured actors. The ceaseless energy of the teen ensemble enlivened large group numbers and maintained the show’s quick pacing. Select teens such as Caroline Sessa as Ursula Merkle and Tommy Barnes as Randolph MacAfee displayed impressive characterization in their relatively small roles. With every onstage appearance as the overbearing Mrs. Peterson, Caroline Roberts also stole the show through her humorously snide remarks.

Incredible work done behind the scenes carried the show to its full potential. With flawless lighting and sound design, in addition to timely costumes, the performance was a delight to watch and hear. Nevertheless, the most notable figure in this production was student music director Jack Denman. Denman not only directed the cast to produce the beautiful harmonies heard in “Hymn for a Sunday Evening,” but also performed onstage as the hilarious Mr. MacAfee, fulfilling a large production role rarely seen in high school theater.

With heartfelt performances and impressive technical elements, the cast and crew of Haverford High School’s Bye Bye Birdie demonstrated laudable theatrical ability in a production that would make anyone “put on a happy face.”

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown – Harriton High School

Harriton 3

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown – Harriton High School in Rosemont, PA

April 4, 2017

Review submitted by Lauren Quigley of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

We all have moments when it feels like we are going to go insane. However, we normally don’t date terrorists, spike our gazpacho with sedatives, or coincidentally visit the house of our father’s mistress. This perfect balance of whimsicality and relatability is exactly what makes Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown endearing, and the Harriton Theater Company did a great job of bringing this story to life.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown tells the story of four women in Madrid and their struggles with romance. Each woman is driven to the brink of insanity, and over a two-day span we see their lives fall apart and back together through the trials of love.

There couldn’t have been a better person to open the show than Josh Gold as Taxi Driver. Bursting with energy and beaming an award-winning smile, Gold had the audience smiling and excited for the story he was about to narrate. Once the focus was turned over to Allegra Greenawalt as Pepa, she did not disappoint. Greenawalt had a mature way about her; her poised stance and powerful vocals combined to make a very strong leading lady.

A major standout performance was Nina Gold as Candela. Between her hilarious comedic timing, consistent accent, stamina, and larger than life stage presence, Gold gave a performance to remember. A particularly strong moment was her incredibly funny solo “Model Behavior”. Max Flora was extremely lovable as Carlos, Aurora Murray (Lucia) had the audience captivated during her solo “Invisible”, and Ben Newman (Ivan) was swoon-worthy with his crooner vocals. Although the ensemble sometimes had trouble projecting, their variety of character and energy on stage made them enjoyable to watch.

Auggie Gerike and Mandy DiJacklin should be proud of their set design. Everything on stage looked both time and location appropriate while still being very visually appealing. The lighting by Emma Danz was overall strong, despite the occasional moments of a cast member being briefly out of light. Microphones were a bit problematic at times, but it was made up for by the various sound effects (doors ringing, voice mail beeps, etc.) having perfect timing.

The Harriton Theater Company had a challenge ahead of them bringing audiences into such an obscure musical, then keeping that audience engaged. However, they faced that challenge head on and put on a production that I thoroughly enjoyed. Bravo to all involved!

 

Review submitted by Brendan Carr of Germantown Academy

With impressive voices and a blender-full of homemade gazpacho, Harriton High School’s production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown charmed audiences with its take on Madrid in the ‘80s. The original production of the musical, with a book and lyrics by David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane, premiered on Broadway in 2010.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown follows Pepa, a young actress who is suddenly dumped by her lover, Ivan. As Pepa searches for answers, she, along with her best friend, Candela, learns that Ivan is not who he claims to be, discovering that he has an ex-wife (Lucia), a son (Carlos), and another mistress (Paulina). When these storylines converge, comedic chaos floods the streets of Madrid.

Harriton High School’s production was grounded by the impressive student-run orchestra. Each pit member kept the show alive by energetically performing the show’s score, while adding a touch of fun that the musical’s Spanish inspired soundtrack calls for.

Allegra Greenawalt tackled the role of Pepa with a melodramatic attitude, authentic Spanish accent, and shimmering vocals. Through her facial expressions and physical reactions, Greenawalt made her character’s story feel real. She soared during “Lovesick” and, along with Ben Newman (Ivan), created the beautifully heart-wrenching “Lie to Me”. Max Flora (Carlos) and Nina Gold (Candela) maintained great stage presence and chemistry throughout the show. In addition, Gold stole the show during “Model Behavior”, where she ran around the entire stage while singing on pitch and maintaining her thick Spanish accent. All four leading women (Allegra Greenawalt, Nina Gold, Aurora Murray, Rachel Bershad) surprised the audience at the end of the show with their solid four-part harmonies in “Finale”.

Additionally, Harriton High School’s production featured many supporting roles, all of whom added bouts of punch lines and humorous musings to their scenes. In particular, Analyn Sil (Christina), Melanie Metz (Pepa’s Concierge), and Josh Gold (Taxi Driver) gave robust performances.

In terms of technical elements, the set design (Auggie Gerike, Mandy DiJacklin) and costume (Lily Strailey, Jamie Epstein, Miranda Brennan) crews truly embodied the ‘80s by incorporating bright pops of color, including neon reds and blues, into their designs. While there were some sound errors, the sound designer (Kate Seltzer) and the entire cast handled the situation like professionals by innovating clever and quick fixes to keep the show moving.

Harriton High School’s production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown truly showcased one woman’s comedic and “tangled” journey with love.

The Addams Family – Upper Merion Area High School

Upper Merion 2.JPG

The Addams Family by Upper Merion Area High School in King of Prussia, PA

April 4, 2017

Review submitted by Gabby Ford of Abington Friends School

“They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky,” The Addams Family, performed by the Underground Players of Upper Merion Area High School was just delightful, I mean frightful.

The Addams Family depicts a ghoulish family of six with a family butler which makes seven, but their lives of tortuous fun are altered when Wednesday Addams has found love in a normal boy, Lucas Beineke. Now he has to meet the family – what could possibly go wrong?

The Underground Players started strong with the number “When You’re An Addams,” with the entire company. The dances were crisp and well executed. The special effects lighting was on cue. Apart from a few moments where it was hard to hear the cast, the sound was good throughout the show.

Ricky Christman (Gomez Addams) embodied his character with ease as he sang of his feelings of being torn between two people he loved in “Trapped,” and had the audience in tears with his acting and great comedic timing. Shelby Lenhart (Morticia Addams) also made her character come to life with her acting and singing as well (especially in the musical number “Secrets”). But Lenhart also added to the production with makeup as she also created the makeup look of the entire cast with excellent detail. Ema Isajiw (Wednesday Addams) and Ryan Slusky (Pugsley Addams) were a great duo in the song “Pulled” but individually were strong in their acting and in their vocals as well.

The Beineke Family – David Marques (Lucas), Anna Bobok (Alice) and Justin Halpern (Mal) did well with their embodiment of their characters. Bobok wowed the audience in her solo “Waiting” and added another great comedic element to an already funny show. Marques and Halpern had great father and son chemistry throughout the show. Chris Perez (Lurch), Lily Isajiw (Grandma), and Luke Preston (Fester Addams) were also crowd favorites with their amusing gestures in Perez’s case, in their mannerism in the case of Isajiw’s character, and in the way they moved the storyline along as the character Fester (Preston) did with a few solos about helping Wednesday and Lucas find love.

The set showed the skill of the students, with the intricate background and the making of the entrance to the Addams with a door that opened and closed and the trees in the park. There were also a few props made by the students such as the torture chamber with the lever, Fester’s jet pack and the Gomez’s chair.

Overall, the musical was a fright to see and a round of applause to the cast and crew of Upper Merion Area High School for putting on The Addams Family.

 

Review submitted by Cole Walther of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

In Upper Merion High School’s deliciously daring production of The Addams Family, a brilliant cast and crew pulled the audience in a new direction – one of hilarious black comedy and fantastic high school theater.

The Addams Family chronicles everyone’s favorite deadpan clan when the daughter, Wednesday, finds love in Lucas Beineke, a man of just a tad too much sunny disposition for their taste.

As the curtain rises upon an ominously intricate set, one that makes the absolute most of Upper Merion’s enormous stage, the actors introduce the audience with ideal vocals and sharp rhythm. What made The Addams Family such a treat was that barely any members of the cast stood out above the rest, as the entire ensemble lifted the show with strong performances and passionate engagement. Ricky Christman as Gomez, a commanding force onstage, grasped his character with delightful charm. His superb vocal quality played off of Shelby Lenhart’s Morticia with fiery chemistry, and the duo proved to be the ultimate power couple of the show. Luke Preston enchanted the audience, narrating the tale as the lovable Uncle Fester, his comedic timing omnipresent and natural. Wednesday Addams, fiercely portrayed by Ema Isajiw, brought energy and wit to her role, her chemistry with the undeniably fantastic Ryan Slusky as Pugsley refusing to go unnoticed. Other fantastic performances include Lily Isajiw, uproariously depicting the Grandma, and Anna Bobok as Alice Beineke, a part played with nearly professional acting quality and elegance. Leveling out the onstage vigor impressively, the ancestor ensemble, showcasing insane dancing skills, found a thorough balance of dark humor and committed spirit, genuinely tying together the whole story.

None of the production could have been possible without those lending hands backstage. Aaron Groff’s marvelous lighting design, an essential to such a wild show as this, shone flawlessly, and Elise Spedding and Concetta Gilligan handled any blips in the consistent sound immediately, expressing expertise in the demur of live theatre. Perhaps the most impressive of the backstage participation was makeup and costume design. Led by Shelby Lenhart, who held workshops for her artists on top of playing a main role, the makeup team definitely delivered in ghostly their ghostly demeanor. Costumes, helmed by Juliana Denick, Lissa Sweeney, Chichi Amaefuna and Lenhart once more, captured each specific period of ancestors in all their variations from simplicity to complex, ghoulish design, painting a wondrous, sinister picture.

This show was such an enjoyable, demanding treat, every part played with an empowering sense of professionalism and glee. Although a majority of the cast played ghosts of ancestors long gone, it is impossible to say that Upper Merion High School’s The Addams Family did not breathe life into a challenging, fantastic musical!

 

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – The Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School (PALCS)

PALCS 2.jpg

Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by The Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School in West Chester, PA

April 4, 2017

Review submitted by Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area High School

With a sinister story as satisfying as a fresh meat pie, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street struck again at PA Leadership Charter School.

Boasting a Tony Award for Best Musical, Sweeney Todd jolts audiences with its tale of a revenge-crazed barber in 19th century London. Seeking to kill the judge who wrongfully sent him to prison, Sweeney Todd partners with Mrs. Lovett, a local pie shop owner in need of a meat supplier. With a score by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, this show is no small undertaking for any theater, let alone a high school troupe with two rehearsals a week!

With hollowed faces painted with shadows, the ensemble haunted audiences with their commanding sound. Though their occasional lack of diction left lyrics lost, the cast’s impeccable volume and razor sharp harmonies sliced the air in a most impressive fashion. Truly shining in “City on Fire,” the ensemble fearlessly played hair pulling and face twisting insane asylum patients.

Benjamin Powell took on the role of the ungodly barber himself with robust vocals and a confident posture. By his side was Grace Slear as Mrs. Lovett. With a performance that was as savory as the meat pies she baked, Slear served everything from jocose, bit-size puns in “A Little Priest” to delectably smooth vocals in “By the Sea.” Slear’s accent and inflection paired with her expressive face and fluid body language made her an excellent storyteller with a true future in professional theatre should she choose it.

Neil Devlin (Anthony Hope) and Ashley Lennick (Johanna Barker) played infatuated lovers in unfortunate circumstances with excellence. The pair played off of each other well as Lennick’s pleasant tone and wanderlust smile created a lovely chemistry with Devlin’s warm vibrato and charming, kind eyes. Standout Taylor Ruffo (Beggar Woman) showed off her vocal prowess and impressive duality in psyche while the lovable Shane Troxell (Tobias Ragg) played up an innocent, curious nature in the most endearing way.

Opening the show with fog, a train horn, and the cast bathed in red light, the tech team outdid themselves in setting the tone. The set was simplistic yet versatile, serving as a platform on which cast members did heart-stopping trust falls after being slain by the infamous barber.

Strongly cast and masterfully performed, PA Leadership Charter School’s production of Sweeney Todd was a delightfully death defying display of the dramatic arts.

 

Review submitted by Sam Spirt of Upper Dublin High School

“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd,” actors demand of us, as they creep onto the dimly lit stage. Any musical lover would recognize the eerie graveyard scene at the start of PA Leadership Charter School’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Set in 19th century London, the musical tells the story of evil barber Sweeney Todd and his quest for revenge against Judge Turpin, who banished Todd to prison for fifteen years and kidnapped his daughter. Upon return to London, Todd teams up with pie maker, Mrs. Lovett, and together they make delicious meat pies using their secret ingredient: the flesh of Todd’s murdered customers.

The actors were convincing in their performance of the disturbing musical, sending chills up audience members’ spines. A delicious mixture of realistic technical effects and dedicated performers allowed for a thrilling production.

With strong vocal technique and commitment to his layered character, Benjamin Powell led the cast as title character Sweeney Todd. Alongside Powell was the hilariously charming Mrs. Lovett (Grace Slear), whose vocals shined in the particularly difficult role. The two complimented each other beautifully, creating an entertaining duo, especially in numbers such as “A Little Priest.”

Neil Devlin and Ashley Lennick were also standouts in their portrayals of Anthony Hope and his love interest, Johanna. Both had extremely impressive singing voices, and added depth to the plot. Another memorable supporting character was Tobias Ragg, played by Shane Troxell. Troxell’s acting abilities were exceptional for a high school performer. Lastly, Taylor Ruffo gave a passionate performance in the featured role of Beggar Woman with her top-notch voice and notable character development.

The talent among the lead actors was supported by a spectacular ensemble. PALCS’s large cast created pleasant harmony, which was especially impressive in such a vocally difficult musical. Each actor had clear individual character, while still managing to be a part of a larger group, taking the production to the next level.

The actors onstage were properly accentuated by various technical elements. Lighting design by actor John Viggiano properly captured the chilling mood of the show, adding to the quality of the production. In addition, Tirzah Badders’ efforts in makeup and hair were admired, as the show requires difficult looks for several characters.

Sweeney Todd is a demanding musical, but PALCS’s production proved that young actors and technicians can tackle and deliver even the seemingly impossible challenge of a Sondheim score.