The Addams Family – Upper Moreland High School

Upper Moreland Addams Fam 1The Addams Family by Upper Moreland High School in Willow Grove, PA

March 28, 2018

Review submitted by Victoria Kline of Academy of the New Church

Upper Moreland High School’s production of The Addams Family is a classic family soap opera… that is, if you enjoy your sitcoms with a side of sadism, a dash of the diabolical, and a singing choir of ghostly ancestors.

Based on the comics, tv show, and movies of the same name, this marvelously morbid musical follows the strange and absurd lives of the beloved Addams family. Only this time little Wednesday Adams has grown up… and found a man. It is up to Wednesday, crazy Uncle Fester, and some musical ghosts to make sure the first dinner between the new couple’s two families goes well.  While at first it might seem a crazy thing to be an Addams, there is something in this wildly funny musical for everybody to relate to, whether it be mother-daughter drama, jealous siblings, or even marriage troubles.

Leading this kooky cast were the Addams parents, the hilarious Gomez (Barry Berglund), and his beloved wife Morticia (Jessica Stahl). This dynamic duo acted well together and apart, Gomez’s incredulous expressions and enthusiastic gesticulations pairing well with Morticia’s deadly sassy, smooth vocals. Morticia’s amazing voice shone in songs such as “Secrets”, unfaltering even in the face of difficult choreography.

Wednesday (Liz Jones) also stood out for her clear tone and drama, delivering her character’s development from a shy girl with one expression to an outgoing, expressive woman with refreshing clarity. Her fiancé, Lucas Beineke (Christian Tuffy), complemented her energy with just as much of his own, and the chemistry between the two was enjoyable to watch. But although these many dramatic performances were wonderful, the real star of the show was Uncle Fester (Nina Vitek), the crazy old uncle who fell in love with the moon. Throughout the play Vitek’s unfailing energy and impeccable comedic timing kept the audience’s eyes constantly on her character, while her wonderfully strange accent and dance stole the show and had the theater rolling with laughter.

Backing such dramatic talent was an equally talented crew behind the scenes. The student-built set was beautifully done, and made even more dynamic by ever-changing lighting: crimson, turquoise, and a haunting shade of blue to illuminate the pristine costumes of the ancestors. Although there were a couple of issues with sound imbalances, the crew did a great job fixing these as soon as they appeared, and the cast made up for it with their own vocal fortitude.

We all have our differences, our quirks, and sometimes we can let them get in the way of getting along. Upper Moreland’s production of The Addams Family is here to show us that instead of pretending to be normal, we should instead embrace our weirdness, and let the whole world know how crazy we are.

 

Review submitted by Trinity Pike of Upper Merion Area High School

From their magical grandmother to their growling butler, the Addams are far from normal. Add singing and dancing to the macabre classic, and a special, spooky musical appears. Crafting their own commentary on family, horror, and love, Upper Moreland High School brought life to the dead with their production of The Addams Family.

In this unusual show, Wednesday Addams is not a little girl anymore. Her teenage rebellion involves marrying her normal human boyfriend, Lucas Beineke. To help their polar opposite families reconcile their differences, they plan a dinner. Chaos ensues. The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice puts a new spin on the iconic Addams Family, bringing hilarity to the horrific with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.

Despite the challenge of this unique premise, the cast excellently portrayed the caricatures of the family. Effective characterization brought a punch to the show’s simple choreography. While cast energy was sometimes lacking, the ghosts and ghouls showed their spirit in group numbers “The Moon and Me” and “Tango De Amor.”

Jessica Stahl (Morticia Addams) elegantly embraced her strict, seductive persona. With classy mannerisms and powerful, velvety vocals, she gave an edge to “Secrets” and “Death is Just Around the Corner.” Stahl’s chic, cool nature delightfully contrasted the over-the-top behavior of her husband, Barry Berglund (Gomez Addams). Berglund’s consistent Latin accent and skillful comedic timing had audiences chuckling throughout the show.

Another comical character was whimsical Nina Vitek (Uncle Fester). Expressive dancing and body language allowed Vitek to command the stage. Her adorable character voice and strong vocals made “The Moon and Me” a delight. Liz Jones (Wednesday Addams) proved versatile. She fostered great chemistry, whether teasing her brother Ethan MacBain-Adornetto (Pugsley Addams), pursuing a fiery romance with Christian Tuffy (Lucas Beineke), or trying to kill both. MacBain-Adornetto and Tuffy each revealed their own vocal prowess in “What If” and “Crazier Than You.” Another standout singer was surprise vocalist Brian Miller (Lurch). When he wasn’t contributing his rich bass to “Move Toward the Darkness,” he was perfectly slow and stiff, growling and groaning comedically.

From Fester’s magical purple to Pugsley’s urgent red, vibrant colors framed the story. Lighting by Josh Lusen, Robert Jones, Shailin Choski, Juliet Raginsky, and Chris Mason brightened the tale with precise timing. Adding to the aesthetic impact, Elena McMullan’s two-story set lavishly captured the Addams’ haunted mansion. While there were distracting sound issues, the sound crew persevered to deliver most of the actors’ funny lines. Stage managers Kirsten Denardo and Tabitha Schmer led the crew to create smooth scene transitions.

Upper Moreland’s The Addams Family was deliciously dark, but also surprisingly tender. Painting a bittersweet portrait, the cast and crew provided a heartfelt sentiment on growing up.

The Little Mermaid – Lindenwold High School

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The Little Mermaid by Lindenwold High School in Lindenwold, NJ

March 28, 2018

Review submitted by C’Mone Smith of Upper Darby High School

Disney musicals are known for their sense of magic and wonder, and the happiness they bring to their audiences. Lindenwold School District brought all that to the table and more with their production of The Little Mermaid!

Based on the 1989 Disney film of the same name, the musical The Little Mermaid tells the story of a young mermaid named Ariel who falls in love with a human despite her father’s strict rules against it. The plot thickens as she puts everything on the line to follow her heart.

Kyra Williams-Custis (Ariel) lead the show from start to finish with her melodious singing voice. By her side was Gaelyn Kelly (Prince Eric) with his charming and charismatic stage presence. Together they displayed love and intimacy that carried through the show.

Sayf Mouhamed, as Sebastian, added comedy to the performance with his extremely theatrical stage presence and captivating facial expressions. Mouhamed made this character his own and it showed.

On the more villainous side, Erin Nevin (Ursula) and her henchmen Michaela Day (Flotsam) and Marquez Haywood (Jetsam) did a wonderful job portraying the antagonists of the production. Nevin’s confidence and strong vocals made her perfect to play the role of Ursula, a strong and vengeful sea witch, along with Day and Haywood who added a playful but sinister twist to her songs.

One of the most note-worthy parts of the production were the costumes done by the LHS Costume Crew. They helped to add a sense of fun and color that comes with a Disney musical. Along with costumes, the set also highlighted the glitz and glam of life under the sea. Complete with streamers, ramps, and a multitude of set pieces, the set as a whole was nothing short of spectacular. The LHS Sound Crew did an admirable job of handling over twenty-four microphones, and while some distracting errors did occur, the team made up for it with very well placed reverb on Ursula’s microphone during the intense and nail biting scenes in the show.

All in all, Lindenwold School District did a magical job at portraying the childhood classic, The Little Mermaid.

 

Review submitted by June Sanchez of Upper Merion Area High School

From under the sea to the world up above, Lindenwold School District’s performance of The Little Mermaid proved to be just as delectable as the delicacies of Chef Louis himself!

Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale and the 1989 Disney film of the same name, the stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid tells the familiar love story of a sailor and a charmingly curious mermaid with added musical flair and fun.

Lindenwold took their audience into the clear blue waters of King Triton’s kingdom and beyond with a plethora of beautifully intricate student-made costumes and a vibrant, detail-oriented set. The perfectly coordinated onstage color palette and unbelievably quick set and costume changes lent a professional air to the production and was complemented by the equally lively performances of the cast.

Kyra Williams-Custis’s uniquely sweet yet resolute portrayal of Ariel anchored the cast. Her melodic vocals in numbers like “Part of Your World” and “Beyond my Wildest Dreams” made her the perfect undersea princess. Opposite of Williams-Custis, Gaelyn Kelly put a new twist on the easily made mundane Prince Eric with refreshing enthusiasm and depth.

Other notable performances included that of Michaela Day, Marquez Haywood, and Erin Nevin, who portrayed the villainous trio of Flotsam, Jetsam, and Ursula respectively. Day especially gave a standout performance, portraying the evil eel with ease through her fluid movements and smooth vocals in “Sweet Child.”

The costume crew as well as the prop team spearheaded by Rosie Bonilla expertly incorporated lights into numerous costumes and props to further add to the undersea ambiance. The use of black lights in Ursula’s lair added an evil, mysterious feel, and nicely contrasted the clear, ethereal atmosphere of King Triton’s kingdom. The LHS Run Crew balanced an impressive twenty-four body microphones, and while there were occasional sound issues, they were generally solved in a timely matter.

Lindenwold School District’s performance of the beloved tale of The Little Mermaid brought the audience “One Step Closer” to the undersea magic of Ariel and her friends.

Rock of Ages: High School Edition – Eastern Regional High School

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Rock of Ages: High School Edition by Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees, NJ

March 28, 2018

Review submitted by Varun Andrews of Bordentown Regional High School

Rock n’ Roll glorified, strengthened, and revolutionized music with some of its greatest hits coming out in the 1980’s. Luckily, those beloved hits were brought back to the forefront in Eastern Regional High School’s spectacular production of Rock of Ages.

With music from world-renowned bands like Bon Jovi, Journey, and Whitesnake, Rock of Ages: High School Edition transports audiences to the journey of a community’s struggle to save rock n’ roll while balancing the inevitable love story between a wannabe rock star and an aspiring actress. This jukebox musical ran on Broadway for over 2,300 performances, became a five -ime Tony nominee and a hit in the hearts and minds of its audiences.

From start to finish, Eastern Regional High School managed to keep the energy high and never skipped a beat. Especially with a fast-paced musical like Rock of Ages, the cast as a whole should be given tremendous credit for making a difficult feat look simple.

Leading the production as Sherrie Christian, Lauren Cianfrani showcased her incredible vocals and amazing acting skills. Transitioning from a small-town girl to an exotic dancer, Cianfrani tapped into the hardships of such a large shift, adding to her character’s complexity and naivety. Narrating the story and providing comic relief throughout the show, Lonny Barnett, played by Vincent Melara, owned the stage by displaying a certain charisma only seen in professional theater.

A performance that cannot go unmentioned was the one displayed by Jake Fritz in his role of charismatic rock star, Stacee Jaxx. Fritz’s masterful vocals coupled with his priceless sense of humor allowed him to be a favorite among audience members. Franz Klinemann who was played by Primo Davis, stole the show with his excellent comedic timing and masterful stage presence, especially in the song, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. It was clear that Davis was comfortable in his character through his excellent physical presence.

The technical aspects of the production were the hidden stars though, as their fascinating set built by Chris Childs, Cyrena Kokolis,and Aaron Forsman took audiences back to the 80’s and provided a classic concert feel. This was supported by the fact that the hair and makeup of every single character was executed with attention to detail and a desire to be authentic. To add, the lighting throughout the show was exceptional, complementing all if not most scenes perfectly, and taking the production to greater heights.

With an energetic ensemble, vibrant vocals, and exceptional chemistry, Eastern Regional High School’s production of Rock of Ages: High School Edition produced zeal that would only be matched at a rock concert.

 

Review submitted by Emily Thompson of Baldwin School

“Don’t stop believing” in the power of rock and roll and its influences on people and love. Eastern Regional High School proved just that in their performance this past weekend of Rock of Ages: High School Edition, written by Chris D’Arienzo.

The story follows the love lives of Sherrie Christian (Lauren Cianfrani), a wide-eyed actress from Kansas, and Drew Boley (Jordan Edmondson), an employee at the Bourbon Room and rock artist. With distractions from their narrator, Lonny Barnett (Vincent Melara), and a player who breaks Sherrie’s heart, Stacee Jaxx (Jake Fritz), the two lovers spend both acts making their way towards each other in the midst of the chaos of the Sunset Strip.

Overall, the show was supported by the high energy of the female members of the ensemble and the narrator, Lonny Barnett. With the added element of the detail-oriented set of the Bourbon Room, the show certainly carried the caricature of the 80s from beginning to end.

From the moment he literally jumped on stage, Vincent Melara possessed an unparalleled energy, providing extreme comedy in his physicality, facial expressions, and tone, particularly in “I Can’t Fight This Feeling.” Meanwhile, Sherrie Christian (Lauren Cianfrani) brought a beautifully powerful voice to the stage, adding a country twang to the rock-and-roll sounds to showcase her Kansas roots in songs like “Harden My Heart/Shadows of the Night” and “Hate Myself for Lovin’ You.”

Stacee Jaxx (Jake Fritz) captured the essence of a stereotypical rock artist in everything from his physicality to his tone. Meanwhile, Anita Bath (Lindsay Cohen) executed a powerful and comedic performance of a Berkley-educated protestor.

The set of the Bourbon Room was practically professional in its details, aesthetic, and functions. It expressed the identity of the 80s while providing levels and spaces for actors to use in original ways.

Carried on a wave of energy, Rock of Ages: High School Edition demonstrated the power of rock and roll and, more importantly, the power of the committed and energetic cast from Eastern Regional High School.

Little Shop of Horrors – PA Leadership Charter School

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Photo credit Julianna Chen

Little Shop of Horrors by the PA Leadership Charter School in West Chester, PA

March 21, 2018

Review submitted by Anji Cooper of Academy of the New Church

It’s not easy to live downtown in “Skid Row.” Downtown is where the folks are broke, and where they’ll do just about anything to escape to “Somewhere That’s Green.” They’ll even go as far as committing murder. Blossoming with energy and dark humor, PA Leadership Charter School’s Little Shop of Horrors was maliciously and hilariously entertaining.

Written by Howard Ashman with music by Alan Menken, Little Shop of Horrors is a horror comedy rock musical that premiered Off-Broadway in 1982. Set in a flower shop in the slums, the story follows a hapless florist as he finds an opportunity for both success and romance with the help of a giant plant that has an insatiable hunger for human blood.

PA Leadership Charter School’s production of Little Shop of Horrors was impressive because exceptionally talented actors delivered captivating energy and stunning harmonies to the packed theater.

John Viggiano, who played the lovably awkward Seymour, stole the show and the hearts of the audience with his boyish charm and melodic voice. His emotive style had the audience sympathizing for his plight. Viggiano’s on-stage chemistry with Seymour’s love interest was magnetic, adding even more realism to an already gripping production. Audrey (Amanda Clark), the timid, yet sweet target of Seymour’s affection, consistently demonstrated impressive vocals throughout the show, especially during her performance of “Somewhere That’s Green.”

The rest of the cast was equally as engaging and energetic. Ronnette (Grace Slear), Chiffon (Becky Advena) and Crystal (Hannah Cohen) quickly became crowd favorites with their sassy attitudes and powerful voices. The trio was able to seamlessly change costumes between scenes, always arriving on time to blow the audience away with spine-tingling harmonies. Zachary Powell used his place on stage to add more personality to the character of Audrey II, the man-eating plant, through expression and small movements. His velvety voice was enthralling on songs like “Feed Me (Git It)” and “Suppertime,” convincing even the queasiest of spectators to consider murdering for the malevolent plant. Neil Devlin constantly drew laughter from the crowd with his portrayal of Orin, the sadistic dentist.

The technical support for the show combined innovative marketing with capable stage production. To generate excitement, John Viggiano posted a small series of videos onto the Little Shop of Horrors’ Facebook page. This was a unique publicity move that paid off with insights into the creation of the show. The lightning, orchestrated by Julianna Chen, helped to dramatize intense moments, such as when Seymour attempts to shoot Audrey II. While the stage crew encountered some difficulties with moving the set, their impassive, calm handling of such issues hardly caused a distraction.

PA Leadership Charter’s production of Little Shop of Horrors was engrossing and fun, showcasing a notably talented cast that left the audience with one vital, resounding lesson: don’t feed the plants.

 

Review submitted by Allegra Greenawalt of Harriton High School

With sunrays of horror, showers of humor, and the nourishment of pure passion, PA Leadership Charter School’s production of Little Shop of Horrors grew the seed of a popular show into a blooming piece of musical theater that was to die for.

Based on the 1960 cult film of the same name, Little Shop of Horrors tells the story of amateur florist Seymour as he struggles to achieve anything successful out of his mediocre life –  something he finds in a mysterious breed of flytrap plant. However, when the plant begins to develop a thirst for human blood, Seymour realizes his success has come at the cost of a total catastrophe. Featuring a killer script by Howard Ashman and rock ‘n’ roll songs composed by Alan Menken, the show received great critical acclaim and a reputation as one of the most popular musicals to date.

Although many productions of this musical are often played with exaggerated characters and comical accents, PALCS’s production took a more natural approach to the archetypes. Rather than embracing the zaniness of their roles, each actor played their characters more realistically. While it was a unique and innovative approach, the added drama of certain scenes occasionally distracted from the much-needed comic relief in the dialogue.

John Viggiano was endearing in his portrayal of the quirky Seymour. His vocals were outstanding, showing impressive technique as he belted the notably demanding score. Viggiano also displayed broad emotional range, consistently portraying both the comedic and dramatic moments of the show with ease. He had undeniable chemistry with Amanda Clark as fellow florist Audrey, whose fine voice and natural acting ability beautifully conveyed her character’s heartbreaking story.

The terrifying flytrap, Audrey II, was brought to life by the dynamic duo of Amelia Rottman and Zachary Powell. Rottman’s skillfull manipulation of the large puppet was impressive, as she perfectly timed her movements with Powell’s sultry vocals. As Ronnette, triple-threat Grace Slear dominated the performance with confident poise and incredible stage presence. Along with Becky Advena (Chiffon) and Hannah Cohen (Crystal), the trio of urchins stole the show with their razor-sharp harmonies and groovy dance moves. Their presence alone in numbers such as “Skid Row” and “Feed Me (Git It)” made them all the more memorable.

The talent was not only found in the actors but was abundant behind the scenes as well. Julianna Chen’s lighting design was simple, yet very effective. Each cue was fluid, well-executed, and did not distract from the onstage action.

While the ending was far from happy, PALCS’s production of Little Shop of Horrors was thoroughly entertaining and left everyone with an important reminder: don’t feed the plants!

Mary Poppins – Ridley High School

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photo credit Doug Rawley and Emily Geddes

Mary Poppins by Ridley High School in Folsom, PA

March 21, 2018

Review submitted by Trinity Pike of Upper Merion Area High School

Ridley High School’s production of Mary Poppins was a musical full of “Twists and Turns.” Armed with a “Practically Perfect” cast and crew, talented performers and technical expertise, Ridley High School brought marvelous magic to the iconic classic.

Though Walt Disney brought the musical to fame with his legendary 1964 film, a series of children’s books by P.L. Travers originated the tale. As a combination of the two, Mary Poppins the musical features young siblings Jane and Michael Banks. The pair is a spoonful of adorable, but an armful of mayhem, eliminating dozens of nannies with their misbehavior until their parents discover the most exemplary caretaker: magical Mary Poppins.

Whimsically merging fantasy with reality, the lengthy musical demands incredible cast energy and complicated technical effects. While this often poses a challenge to high school renditions, Ridley’s cast and crew surpassed expectations. From picturesque, animated projections to the brisk swapping of gigantic set pieces, an array of technical elements distinguished the production. An ensemble full of enthusiastic, sharply executed, rapid choreography in over-the-top numbers “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Step In Time” earned roaring cheers from the audience.

Leading the lively cast of quirky characters was Victoria Heppard (Mary Poppins). Playfully poised and compassionately cross, Heppard showcased her wide vocal range with gorgeous, sky-high notes in “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Anything Can Happen (Part 2).” Alongside the magnificent nanny was jack-of-all-trades Benjamin Mergott (Bert). With a precise accent, strong vocals, and natural charm, Mergott brought life to each of his numbers. From his haunting melody in “Prologue” to his show-stopping mid-air spins in “Step in Time,” Mergott masterfully demonstrated his versatility and skill.

Powerful and courageous, motherly Mackenzie Cannon (Winifred Banks) protested the coldness of husband Phillip Impriano (George Banks) with compelling passion. As Impriano evolved, Cannon melodically celebrated his kinder side with nostalgic, lyrical “Being Mrs. Banks.” Harsh holy terror Grace Ireland (Miss Andrew) and Carlee Ingelido (Bird Woman) were other superb singers. On the more comical side, sarcastic maid Mikayla Cook (Mrs. Brill) and clumsy butler Joey Grugan (Robertson Ay) elicited many giggles.

Defying reality, superior special effects by Ethan McKellar included kitchen objects that could move by themselves and a world of ticking clocks, smokestacks, and shooting stars projected onto the curtains. Adding to the magic was hair and makeup by Caroline Harris and Mikayla Cook. Each cast member had their own set of complex features, from mossy gray statues to creepy pale clowns. Marketing and publicity by PJ Williams and RDG Marketing Team was prolific and professional, promoting the show with Instagram, a press release, and a YouTube channel featuring character profiles.

With flying actors, sentient objects, and most importantly, the magic of love, Ridley High School’s Mary Poppins showed the audience that “Anything Can Happen.”

 

Review submitted by June Sanchez of Upper Merion Area High School

With tales of chimney sweeps and uncanny nannies, Mary Poppins chronicles the stay of Cherry Tree Lane’s peculiar new resident, who requires nothing more than a “Spoonful of Sugar” to alter the lives of the Banks’ family as they know it. Ridley High School’s performance of this time-honored story-turned-show proved to be as captivating as the magical caretaker herself.

Beginning with P. L. Travers’ literary success of the same title, Mary Poppins was initially converted to a musical film in 1964 before making its on stage debut forty years later. It recounts the story of a meticulous and self-assured nanny who responds to a plea from the Banks children, Jane and Michael, who have their own plans surrounding what sort of caretaker they need. They soon find Mary and the magical adventures she accompanies them on to be the answer to their prayers. However, Jane and Michael are not the only ones whom the new nanny has a profound effect on, as even the adults in their lives can learn a lesson or two from the woman who advises “anything can happen if you let it.”

Ridley High School’s rendition of this classic tale was brought to life by an energetic ensemble. Even with the enormous choreographic demands of the show, the entire cast maintained the utmost composure with not a missed step to speak of.

Victoria Heppard (Mary Poppins) proved to be a “Practically Perfect” triple threat from the moment she stepped on stage. Even the highest notes failed to inhibit her from the flawless articulation one would expect from the prim and proper London Nanny. Heppard’s voice was complemented by her authoritative acting and sublime tap dancing. Benjamin Mergott (Bert) swept the audience off their feet with his charming cockney accent, can-do chimney sweep attitude, and a number of aerial acrobatic tricks. His stark contrast to the tidy, lady-like persona of Mary Poppins served to illustrate another side of life in London, while reminding young Jane and Michael to be thankful for their lives on Cherry Tree Lane.

Mackenzie Cannon’s (Winifred Banks) melodic voice and superb acting reflected the nuance of uncertainty possessed by her character. Additionally, both Grace Ireland (Miss Andrew) and Carlee Ingelido (Bird Woman) delivered strong vocal performances, singing notes higher than the chimney tops with ease.

The set, props, and special effects, while quite impressive, didn’t distract from the action onstage, and heightened the quality of the production. The scenes which involved flying effects were executed flawlessly and emphasized the magic within both Mary and Bert.

Ridley High School’s cast and crew captured the magical world of Mary Poppins with a performance that was nothing short of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Seussical the Musical – Springfield High School

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Seussical the Musical by Springfield High School in Springfield, PA

March 21, 2018

Review submitted by Kristin Ciampitti of Cardinal O’Hara High School

Magical, fantastical, whimsical, hysterical – it’s Seussical: the Musical! The excitement and wonder of the world’s favorite Dr. Seuss stories were brought to the colorful stage of Springfield High School. Join the talented cast and crew as they tell an artfully reimagined tale of a young boy who gets thrown into the crazy ‘Seussian’ world.

The musical is based on the works of Dr. Seuss that debuted on Broadway in 2000. A little boy with a big imagination discovers a curious striped hat and, as he wonders who it belongs to, none other than the Cat in the Hat appears! Inspired by this wondrous character, the boy imagines a wacky world where creatures such as the Whos and talking animals exist. The Whos are minuscule people who live on a speck of dust that is blowing in the wind. While walking through the jungle, Horton the Elephant hears their cries for help, catches the speck on a clover and begins talking to them. The young boy is then thrown into the story, transformed into JoJo, the Mayor’s son, just as all the other animals begin mocking Horton for talking to a clover.

From the very beginning of their performance to the last note of the show, the entire cast was confident and energetic. Every character was animated, making their performances memorable.

Leading the musical was Victoria Sillo as the Cat in the Hat. Through expressive body language and emotive facial expressions, she breathed life into her character. Her high energy was perfect for the zany Cat in the Hat, and she was able to maintain that level of energy throughout the entire performance. Toni Huegel who played the Sour Kangaroo had powerful vocals and an attitude that fit her sassy character. Horton the Elephant, played by Matt Storti, was also quite talented and stole the show in numbers such as “Alone in the Universe.”

Steven Miller who played the Grinch was one of the performers that stood out with his impressive vocals featured in songs such as “Here on Who.” The Hunches ensemble were expressive and added excitement into numbers like “Havin’ a Hunch” and “Solla Sollew.”

The cast and crew were able to move their colorful sets around the stage smoothly and kept scene changes short. There were also a number of students in the orchestra who played wonderfully. In spite of a few minor issues with syncing the orchestra and sound track, they were able to play through it successfully.

Overall, Springfield High School’s performance of Seussical: the Musical was an amazing success and showcased the students’ beautiful voices and talents.

 

Review submitted by Victoria Kline of Academy of the New Church

Who’s the biggest blame fool in the Jungle of Nool? You, if you did not go to see Springfield High School’s charming and wildly funny production of Seussical the Musical this past weekend!

Based on the works of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss, Seussical: the Musical follows the story of Horton the Elephant in his quest to save a tiny world on a floating speck of dust. This is the world of Who, inhabited by tiny people who cry out to Horton for help. He answers, saying that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” Horton faces a sour kangaroo, a rowdy gang of monkeys, a lazy bird who recruits him to sit on her nest, and more in this crazy, rhyming adventure led by the Cat in the Hat.

The first character to appear is a young boy with a huge imagination, played by Julia Dath. When the Cat in the Hat appears this boy is pushed into the story and becomes Jojo, the Mayor of Whoville’s son. Dath’s powerful vocals brought the story to life, coupled with great expression and imagination in songs such as “It’s Possible”. Victoria Sillo played the Cat in the Hat, a quirky character who appears and helps Jojo, and the audience, realize the power of imagination. Sillo’s theatrical gesticulations kept the audience laughing, as her faithful Things 1 and 2, played by Sam Padilla and Sera Russo, amplified this hilarity. Horton the Elephant was played by Matt Storti, with heartwarming sweetness in his dynamic singing and acting.

The female supporting cast dominated vocally with a wide range of powerful and expressive styles. Gertrude McFuzz, a lonely bird with a one feathered tail, was played by Michaela Henry, whose ever-changing facial expressions and Broadway-quality voice were showcased in songs like “All for You.” Zoe Hunchak played Gertrude’s foil Mayzie La Bird, a lazy and vain character who leaves Horton to sit on her nest while she goes on vacation. Her sassy singing and dramatic presence in songs such as “Amazing Mayzie” left the audience hungry for more. Completing this triad of terrific performances was Toni Huegel as the Sour Kangaroo with impressive vocal runs and a spunky attitude.

The whole cast had inexhaustible energy in a show with almost non-stop singing and dancing, and in big numbers sang cohesively. Students were also featured in the orchestra and stage management and crew, making sure everything ran smoothly. Although occasionally the orchestra overwhelmed, the cast overcame this obstacle through good expression and powerful volume.

Filled with heartwarming themes of imagination, gratitude, and acceptance, Springfield’s production of Seussical: the Musical will make you think, and “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think” with the help of a little Seuss.

Shrek: the Musical – Sun Valley High School

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Shrek: the Musical by Sun Valley High School in Aston, PA

March 21, 2018

Review submitted by Trinity Pike of Upper Merion Area High School

Familiar fairy tale tropes fill the stage – a beautiful maiden in a tower, a ferocious fire-breathing dragon, and a king with an army of knights. But with a sarcastic green ogre and sassy donkey as its heroes, Shrek: the Musical at Sun Valley High School is nowhere near typical.

Whether recognized for the 2001 Dreamworks film or the 2008 Broadway musical, this famous story is adored by many. On his seventh birthday, Shrek was sent away to live alone on a miserable swamp. But fairy tale creatures interrupt his quiet, isolated life. Desperately, they beg for the protection from a giant, ugly beast Shrek against the egotistical cruelty of Lord Farquaad. Shrek’s adventure begins when he hesitantly agrees.

Despite the challenge of recreating a cast of well-known characters, Sun Valley won the hearts of the audience with their lovable fairytale world. While cast energy was occasionally low, they came alive to make group numbers like “Freak Flag” shine. Comedy, engagement, and perseverance beyond technical challenges defined Sun Valley’s production as a wonderful, endearing one.

Lead actors Gianni Palmarini (Shrek) and Elizabeth Powell (Princess Fiona) elicited giggles from the crowd. Palmarini’s fabulous vocals, consistent accent, and lively acting brightened the production. Powell had great personality and body language, switching from graceful royal to aggressive boss within seconds. Their strong chemistry gave a punch to “I Think I Got You Beat” as they rocked out across the stage.

Despite Shrek’s quips, David Valentine (Lord Farquaad) never fell short. Combining skilled regal vocals with hilarious melodrama, Valentine ensured that even though plenty would make fun of him, no one would forget him. Matching his energy was funny, over-the-top Zack Volturo (Donkey), accompanied by melodic Jacqueline Scheck (Dragon). Tommy Christaldi (Pinocchio) led the freaks in their rebellion with passion, perfectly reproducing the character’s iconic high-pitched voice. While the ensemble was sometimes lacking expression, volume, and movement, their large stage presence in “What’s Up, Duloc?” and “Morning Person” revealed their true potential.

The sound crew struggled with the challenge of balancing the quiet cast with the loud pit, but they persevered beyond a few distracting mistakes to make many of the actors’ lines crisp and clear. The marketing team successfully transported guests into Shrek’s world – as soon as audience members entered the school, they were surrounded by colorful cutouts of the characters begging for a photo-op. Smooth set changes by the stage crew fluidly pushed the storyline along.

With spirited efforts, the cast and crew of Sun Valley’s Shrek defined morals with heart. Together, they showed that friendship and acceptance can give anyone a happy ending.

 

Review submitted by Bailey Collington of Interboro High School

“It’s a bright, big, beautiful world– but not for you” is a tenet accepted by the titular character in Shrek: the Musical at Sun Valley High School. From when the curtains open, Sun Valley stunned the audience with its self-aware humor, enticing vocalists, and more than a few heartfelt moments expertly captured by the actors as they sing their catchy, more often than not humorous, songs.

Shrek: the Musical originally opened in 2008 on Broadway and was written by David Lindsay-Abaire. Based off the 2001 film, the musical captures the feel of the movie and the lovable characters perfectly and with intent as even the youngest of fans who only knew the show from the movie were invested in the performance.

The show was packed to the brim with talented student actors who were very aware of their own characterizations and developed multi-dimensional, hysterical characters. Standouts include the talented Gianni Palmarini as Shrek, who possessed a magnitude of charisma, impressive vocals and had audience members attentively watching his every move with his comedic timing and uncanny ability to deliver sincere, heartfelt moments. The memorable accent from the film is captured by Palmarini and consistently maintained throughout. The adorable powerhouse that is Elizabeth Powell as Fiona also gained laughs as well as admiration from the audience as she was a triple threat of acting, dancing, and singing excellence. Perhaps the most memorable performance of the show was that of David Valentine as the imposing Lord Farquaad. From his first entrance, Valentine seized the audience’s attention and held it. His comedic timing was masterful and the mannerisms he developed as he embodied his character were a treat for everyone to watch.  Valentine left the audience laughing in his standout number, ‘What’s Up Duloc?’

Backing the leads was an equally talented ensemble and supporting cast. The first ensemble number ‘Story of my life’ was a catchy standout number that showed that the cast would be a joy to watch in themselves, sharing the leads’ charisma.

Stage and tech crews did their jobs effectively and without any detectable hitch. The stage changes and set switches were simple enough and they executed them consistently well.

Shrek: the Musical at Sun Valley truly leaves the audience invested in the cast as they show off their vocalization and brilliant comedic timing. From heartfelt numbers like ‘When Words Fail’ to hilarious ones like ‘Don’t Let Me Go,’ the cast of Shrek: the Musical should be commended for their ability to keep audiences connected with their overarching message of ‘what makes us different, makes us strong.’ The stellar cast provided an enjoyable night of theater with this memorable performance.

Shrek: the Musical – Haverford High School

Haverford - Shrek 3

Shrek: the Musical by Haverford High School in Havertown, PA

March 21, 2018

Review submitted by Allegra Greenawalt of Harriton High School

Everybody loves a classic fairytale, with elegant princesses, enchanting godmothers, and perfectly happy endings. But what kind of beloved fairytale features a slimy green ogre, a belching princess, and a talking donkey? It’s none other than Haverford High School’s shrek-tacular production of Shrek: The Musical!

Based on the 2001 Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature, Shrek: The Musical tells the tale of an outcast ogre named Shrek who wants nothing more than a life of isolation in his swamp. When he discovers his land has been infiltrated by rejected fairytale creatures, he sets out on a quest to rescue his home, even if it means striking a deal with a vertically challenged overlord to save a princess from a dragon-guarded tower. With a book by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, this critically acclaimed musical is thoroughly entertaining for people of all ages.

Haverford’s production was filled with important messages, displaying themes that were extremely relevant to political and social issues of today. While the musical calls for a mostly male-lead cast, Haverford featured strong female actresses in nearly all of these roles. It was a unique and innovative approach to the casting, alluding to current movements of female empowerment throughout the modern world.]

As the title character, Isabella Borgesi embodied Shrek with an intimidating stance and dominating stage presence. Her alto vocals soared through her solo songs, most notably the adorable “When Words Fail” and political allegory “Build a Wall”. She shared great chemistry with the energetic Caroline Sessa (Donkey) and the elegant Krystyna Barr (Fiona), who showed off her tap dancing skills in the act two opener, “Morning Person”.

Standouts among the supporting cast included Nikki Moscony (Lord Farquaad) and Jack O’Leary (Papa Ogre/Big Bad Wolf). Moscony’s menacing laugh and booming voice made her the perfect villain, and O’Leary’s comedic timing stole the show whenever he graced the stage. Also notable was the powerhouse Dragon ensemble of Ingrid Slater, Cecily Schultz, Maddie Snell, Pammie Cobaugh, Grazia LaRosa, and Annajean Gionta. Their powerful vocals in the song “Forever” made it one of the most memorable numbers of the show.

With an ensemble of over one hundred people, costuming everyone could have been problematic. However, the Haverford Costume Team rose to the challenge and designed a large array of beautiful costumes which not only characterized the lead actors, but gave each individual ensemble member their own identity.

In a day and age where discrimination and injustice are prominent issues worldwide, it is essential that we remember “what makes us special makes us strong.” Haverford’s production of Shrek: The Musical inspired everyone with the message: never be afraid to let your freak flag fly!

Review submitted by Evan Braasch of Bordentown Regional High School

Once upon a stage at Haverford High School, there lived an awful, ugly ogre — or at least that’s how it looked on the outside.

Shrek: The Musical, a fresh new fairy tale based on the Dreamworks film of the same name, opened on Broadway in 2008, featuring Broadway “all-stars” Sutton Foster and Brian d’Arcy James.  Its story, while cartoonish and crude, teaches the invaluable life lesson that people are more than what they seem to be on the outside.  In other words, it teaches to not “judge a book by its cover.”

Coincidentally, Haverford High School’s production was a perfect example of this oft-repeated advice: first, most principal roles traditionally played by males were instead played by females. From the start, these performers were different from what was expected, and yet they brought beautiful new character elements to the stage.  Second, almost every aspect of the show, from costume creation to music direction, was student-run, meaning that the show’s level of difficulty was significantly higher.  While on the surface the performance was not entirely spotless, it was all the more impressive when this was considered.

Isabella Borgesi and Krystyna Barr (Shrek and Fiona), each with less-than-fortunate character backgrounds, tugged at heartstrings in both their solo songs and duets.  Meanwhile, their “trusty steed” Caroline Sessa (Donkey), offered comic relief as love doctor and wingman in “Make A Move”.  Last and least — in stature, that is — was Nikki Moscony (the vertically challenged Lord Farquad), whose perfectly timed jokes were in no… short supply.

Every member of Haverford’s sizeable ensemble was a fairy tale character, which allowed for several side-splitting one-liners.  Led by Tommy Barnes (Pinocchio), Mable Peach (Gingy), and Jack O’Leary (the Big Bad Wolf), the fun of these “freaks” shone particularly in their songs “Story of My Life” and “Freak Flag”.

Students imagined convenient but considerably clever solutions for Shrek’s technical elements.  To create scaly dragon makeup, Candice Sammartino painted onto performers’ faces using fishnet as a stencil.  To simplify scene changes, students painted a double-sided set, one side with trees and the other a castle.  To illustrate more challenging elements of the story, they suspended a large white sheet and projected shadows behind it with an overhead projector.

After learning the importance of inner beauty and skillfully surviving one “beast” of a show, the cast of Haverford High School can now truly live happily ever after.

 

West Side Story – Upper Darby High School

Upper Darby West Side 3

West Side Story by Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, PA

March 14, 2018

Review submitted by Katelyn Tuberosa of Cardinal O’Hara High School

“Tonight, tonight it all began tonight. I saw you and the world went away.” The Upper Darby Performing Arts Center was transformed into New York’s West Side for more than two hours, and the outside world disappeared. The immaculate sound, talented orchestra, and the masterful choreography of the production West Side Story proved that Upper Darby is a dominant force in high school theater.

West Side Story is a musical spin on the story of Romeo and Juliet. The Sharks and the Jets, two intimidating gangs in New York City, have been at “war” with each other over turf they believe belongs to them. Tony, a member of the Jets, meets Maria, the rival gang leader’s sister, at a dance, and falls in love with her instantly. This situation proves to be disastrous for both the Sharks and the Jets. When tragedy struck, the audience could not help but be drawn into the spellbinding tale of love and hate.

Tom Geiger (Tony) and Sofia Vizzarri (Maria) had undeniable chemistry. Their voices were not only melodic as soloists, but also blended together perfectly. Their passion for performing is clearly shown when they delivered lines—emoting joy, hope, infatuation, and agony. Rain Diaz (Bernardo) kept a consistent accent throughout the show and perfectly portrayed the overprotective brother who takes pride in his heritage.

Genevieve Bruce (Anybodys) was perfectly cast in a role that demonstrated that she is a triple threat. Her lines were timed perfectly; her voice in “Somewhere” was haunting, which left the audience in tears; and her ballet skills were graceful and elegant. Mike Weir (Riff), Mark La Vecchio (Action), Jayson Brown (Baby John), and the rest of the Jets showed off their impeccable choreography in songs such as “Cool” and “Gee, Officer Krupke.”

Other standouts included the Shark girls in their performance of “America.” Rylee Curry (Anita) and Emma Speck (Rosalia) played off each other’s energy in this show-stopping number. The other Shark Girls supported them with soulful vocals and swift dance moves in this breathtaking number.

The Upper Darby High School Pit Orchestra worked well with the performers on stage, especially since the orchestra was in the band room behind the stage. The sound, managed by C’mone Smith, was fluid, consistent, and filled the theater. The stage crew moved sets and props with seamless precision.

Upper Darby’s production of West Side Story was certainly wild, bright, riveting, and memorable, all the while sending the message that there is no room for hate in our world.

 

Review submitted by Phoebe Barr of Episcopal Academy

The iconic tale of West Side Story, based on the even more iconic Romeo and Juliet, is an extraordinarily difficult production for any group to put on. It includes many different styles of dancing, stage combat, sweeping musical numbers, comedy, tragedy, and depictions of prejudice. Upper Darby High School met the challenge of such an ambitious musical head-on, and it delivered magnificently.

On the streets of 1950s New York City, the two rival gangs – the Jets and the Sharks – fight over territory. Riff (Mike Weir), the confident and charismatic leader of the Jets, decides to challenge the Puerto Rican Sharks to a “rumble,” determining which gang is the best once and for all. But Riff’s best friend, Tony (Tom Geiger), falls in love with Maria (Sofia Vizzarri), the sister of the Sharks’ leader Bernardo (Rain Diaz). As the two of them struggle to stop the rumble from taking place and make peace between the Jets and the Sharks, tensions mount on both sides, careening toward the story’s inevitable tragic conclusion. Tom Geiger and Sofia Vizzarri present a beautifully believable romance, emphasizing the wonder and confusion of two teenagers in love for the first time. Meanwhile, the secondary couple, Bernardo and Anita (Rylee Curry), provide social commentary, as well as some much-needed comic relief.

The show’s music was its most impressive feature, from the solos and duets sung by the principal characters to the long stretches of orchestration done by the show’s student orchestra. It was an impressive feat to fill such a large theater with sound, but everything was clearly audible throughout. Even during large and difficult dance numbers, the performers were always singing out, a particularly spectacular example being Rylee Curry as Anita during her song “America.” The sets, costumes, and lighting were also very well done, at a tier which resembled professional work.

West Side Story is an ambitious musical, and Upper Darby High School was ambitious in its performance. It is a credit to all involved that they were able to display such polished and masterly work. The show was funny, tragic, musical, and beautiful.

Little Women – Delaware County Christian School

Del County Chr Sch Little Women 2

Little Women by Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square, PA

March 14, 2018

Review submitted by Anna Sherman of Cardinal O’Hara High School

“I too would like to change the world.” This is what the thespians of Delaware County Christian School set out to achieve in their exceptional production of Little Women.

Little Women is a musical created by Allan Knee, based on the timeless 1869 novel by Louisa May Alcott. It follows the lives of the inseparable March sisters in their journey from childhood to womanhood in Civil War times. Through the course of the show, the sisters experience personal discovery, loss, and love, and discover the only thing that is forever are the memories they hold in their hearts.

Delaware County Christian School’s production of Little Women was heartwarming and powerful, featuring raw vocal talent and captivating choreography. Although diction and projection lacked at times, the cast was able to recover and regain momentum.

The plot revolves around strong-minded tomboy Jo March (Lauren Hackett) attempting to break into the male-dominated writing industry with her daring blood-and-guts stories. Hackett embodied her character’s personality with ease as she won over the audience with “The Fire Within Me.” Her dynamic stage presence was a pleasure to watch. Chemistry between Hackett and love interest Cole Serfass (Professor Bhaer) was pleasingly natural in duet “Small Umbrella In The Rain”.

Notably, Jordan Thompson (Marmee March) moved the audience to tears with her breathtaking vocals and raw emotion in “Here Alone” and “Days of Plenty.” Thompson’s maternal aura was captivating, and her deliverance of lines was impeccable. The other March sisters each shone in their own ways. Beth, Amy, and Meg March, played by Lilly Fischer, Johanna FitzGerald, and Hannah Oh respectively, exhibited a discernible sisterly connection every time they graced the stage.

Magnificent period costumes provided refined 18th century charm. Admirably, each of the four sisters had numerous dresses, which indicated the passing of time. The orchestra provided exquisite, professional-grade accompaniment. The DC Stage Crew executed flawlessly, with impressively expeditious scene changes. Unfortunately, they were oftentimes more visible than not due to their proximity to the orchestra.

So how do you change the world? Delaware County Christian School answered this through their depiction of female empowerment, reminding the audience that nothing is more powerful than the finding of your voice, and nothing is everlasting as sisterly love.

 

Review submitted by Evan Braasch of Bordentown Regional High School

Let Delaware County Christian School take you back to the American Civil War, a time when girls were busy dancing at the ball and fanning themselves in armchairs, wondering who they would marry.  This was the life of every girl, in every household (or so it would seem).  Enter Jo, the “unique” one.  A hopeful famed author of violence and seduction, she, her mother, and her three sisters must make ends meet while their father is away at war.  Little Women tells a story of female strength and companionship, reminding us that any dream can become a reality if we are willing to persevere.

Leading the production, of course, was Lauren Hackett as the unstoppable Jo March.  Hackett demonstrated much experience as both a singer and an actress, delivering all of her lines in a brash, yet beautiful, fashion.  Her three sisters, Amy, Meg, and Beth, played by Johanna Fitzgerald, Hannah Oh, and Lilly Fischer (respectively), each had their own charming personality.  Amy, the baby of the family, was subject to temper tantrums but also moments of childlike innocence.  Meg, the eldest, was most interested in romance and starting a family.  Finally Beth whose piano talents and shy, yet ever-so-sweet singing voice warmed everyone’s heart in her lullaby, “Off to Massachusetts”.

The sisters were by no means the only stars, however.  Jordan Thompson, who played Mother March, or “Marmee”, showed us in her songs exactly what a show-stopping performance looks like.  In “Here Alone” and “Days of Plenty”, her subtle, soulful dynamic shifts and vibrato were enough to bring some audience members to tears.  Equally as impressive (but perhaps in a different way) was Abigail Simbri, who played the civilized model of femininity Aunt March.  Her pontifical yet polished remarks offered a hilariously entertaining foil between her and the outspoken, mannerless Jo.  Little Women is a very tough show to tackle vocally, and Jake Halladay and Cole Serfass, who played Laurie and Professor Bhaer, made a valiant effort when hitting the high notes.

Usually this show is performed without an ensemble, but given the fact that this specific production was by a high school, the director chose to include one.  While unexpected, the ensemble greatly enhanced the visual experience by portraying characters in Jo’s imagination and in her stories.

Last, but not at all least, was the tech.  This crew created multiple rooms and buildings with a very close attention to detail, using glass windows, rafters, and even trees on a backdrop which could only be seen at the very top of the set.  On top of this, they managed to switch between them so efficiently that they actually had extra time, as the orchestra continued to play a couple more measures before the lights went up.  Finally, blue and amber light choices allowed for seamless transitions into winter and summer scenes, while a center spot highlighted particularly emotional moments.

Despite what the title of Delaware County Christian School’s production may have suggested, there was nothing “little” about it!