Annie – Academy of the New Church

Acad New Church Annie 3Annie by Academy of the New New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA

December 11, 2018

Review submitted by Julia Jennings of Upper Moreland High School

Brimming with optimism, energy, and the elegant charm of Christmastime in the city, the Academy of the New Church’s production of Annie left the audience “fully dressed” with smiles.

The classic, heartwarming holiday tale of Annie follows an enthusiastic young orphan girl who is given the chance of a lifetime to leave her dismal orphanage and spend Christmas with famous billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Things go awry when the spiteful Miss Hannigan and her brother Rooster scheme to win back Annie and the grand sum of money that comes with her. With the help of President Roosevelt, Oliver Warbucks, and his delightful assistant Grace Farrell, Annie must try to maintain her hope in “tomorrow” and find true happiness, just in time for Christmas.

Academy of the New Church brought this story to life with incredible glitz and glamour. The breathtaking set and sparkling costumes impeccably set the stage for the production’s talented and impressively well-cast actors.

Madison Zagorski brought to life the irrepressible Annie, perfectly capturing her classic youthful vigor and charm. As the somewhat gruff billionaire Oliver Warbucks, Bradley Robinson developed a heart-warming and compelling onstage chemistry with Zagorski as the performance progressed. Serena Boyeson absolutely stole the show as the conniving Miss Hannigan. Her rendition of “Easy Street” and her amazingly consistent and comedic drunken delivery were highlights of the performance.  With graceful professionalism, Camryn Buss fantastically portrayed Warbuck’s compassionate assistant, Grace Farrell. Goldendoodle Abby Nolan was also an instant audience favorite as Sandy, Annie’s loyal and lovable canine sidekick.

Hayden Hoffman displayed impressive comedic acting as the sleazy but charming Rooster. Isabelle Kline, Hanna Matsukawa, and Nicole McCurdy added to the performance their impressive vocal skill and beautiful harmonies as the Boylan sisters. Teagan Dewees seamlessly and amazingly took on the role of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt halfway through the performance. As Drake, the butler, James Gay brought incredible energy and sincerity to the production, with consistently spot-on delivery. Dance captains Aurelle and Hope Odhner wonderfully led the large ensemble through complex and challenging choreography.

But perhaps the most extraordinary element of the grand production was the magnificent set. The stage was incredibly transformed from the gloomy and simple orphanage to the glorious and shining marble halls of the Warbucks mansion to the bustling skyline of New York City, and even a remarkably accurate Oval Office, each set more amazing than the last. Likewise, the costuming was impeccable, the torn, dirty dresses of the orphans provided perfect contrast with the fantastically sparkling red bow ties and dresses of the NYC ensemble. Another excellent element of the production was the amazing array of props, including a beautiful old-fashioned wooden wheelchair and a massive and glittering Christmas tree.

ANC’s production of Annie marvelously brought to life the complexities of America during the Great Depression, both the rich splendor of the wealthy and the desolate and difficult existence of the impoverished. The optimistic, feel-good charm of the production ultimately reminded the audience that even in times of adversity and hardship, we can always have faith that the sun will come out tomorrow.

 

Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

Annie at the Academy of the New Church proves that with powerful music and heartfelt joy, the influence of optimism and positivity can be stronger than any bad day, for there always will be a better “Tomorrow.”

Annie, based on the comic strips Little Orphan Annie, tells the story of the redheaded, eleven- year-old orphan of the same name.  After having a “Hard Knock Life” in a New York City orphanage, owned by the villainous Miss Hannigan, Annie receives an offer to live a brand-new life with Mr. Warbucks and Grace Farrell.  Following its Broadway debut in 1977, it remains an immensely popular show, with many performances still produced today.

The opening scene in the show revealed the seven orphans who all collaborated to create a genuine family throughout the show.  The actors demonstrated true friendship and love for each other during the hard times.  The rest of the ensemble performed memorable, large, and flashy dance numbers throughout the show, but occasionally lacked energy during group numbers.

Leading the show, Madison Zagorski represented the childish and innocent Annie amusingly.  It was evident she spent the time to collaborate with Sandy, the dog who Annie befriends during the show.  Alongside Zazgorski, Bradley Robinson as Warbucks demonstrated the businessman with such ease.  He was able to contrast the youthful demeanor of Annie with a straightforward and serious attitude.

Most noticeably, Serena Boyesen’s portrayal of Miss Hannigan was superb.  Leaving the audience begging for more, Boyesen exemplified the malicious and greedy character perfectly.  When energy dipped, she was able to capture the audience’s attention quickly, especially during “Easy Street.”  Similarly, James Gay, as Drake, interpreted the role with a unique humor.  With such poise, he stole many scenes and dance numbers through his bright smile and obvious dedication to the role.

From the opening of the curtains, the sets never disappointed.  With many intricate designs, each set piece was built and designed impeccably.  By using the fly space, the scene changes were completed relatively quickly, allowing for a spectacular reveal of each new set piece.  Also notable was the publicity and marketing team.  They used new and innovative ways to market their show with the surrounding community.

Academy of the New Church’s production of the classic musical, Annie, proves that positivity can be found even when you’re stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely.

Godspell – Archbishop John Carroll High School

Archbishop Godspell 1Godspell by Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor, PA

December 3, 2018

Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

“Prepare Ye” for a rock n’ rolling good time as Archbishop John Carroll High School lights up their stage for Godspell.

Godspell was first produced in 1970 with music by Stephen Schwartz and written by John-Michael Tebelak. Since then, there were many productions of Godspell, including the most recent Broadway revival in 2011 which featured an innovative and modern adaption of the story.  Godspell made its world debut Off-Broadway, telling the story of many famous parables from the Gospel of Matthew through Jesus Christ and his disciples.  The story follows Jesus and his followers to his last days and ending with the crucifixion.

On stage for a majority of the show, the Godspell Community created an enchanting atmosphere through the constant energy, even during heartbreak.  Each interaction between the cast members allowed for the drastic mood changes throughout the performance.  They continued to depict the theme of community even through the curtain call.

Leading the cast was Alex Brown as Jesus, who showed off all aspects of a triple threat while effectively progressing the story.  With each backflip, Brown captivated the audience until his very last breath, portraying the role impeccably.  His range of acting abilities supported the significant mood changes from the first to second act. Brown had a difficult task to lead the show with challenging vocals and acting demands, and he ultimately surpassed expectations and over-achieved excellence.

Kate Maginnis as Judas was a perfect contrast to Jesus.  Her facial expressions let the audiences inside her mind which illustrated the reasoning behind Judas’ decision.  Driven by Brandon Abiuso’s solo in “Light of the World”, the end of Act I had perfect energy and professionalism.  Beginning Act II, Christiana Flores, who also played Socrates, belted the sultry “Turn Back O Man” which set the tone for the rest of the show.

The intense lighting choices and designs supplemented the actors and the story, helping to comprehend the parables within the show.  Alongside the lighting, the unique stage formation allowed the actors to interact with the audience, enhancing the experience of being an audience member.  The similar style of costumes and modern take on fashion increased the viewing experience.

Building a beautiful show and community, brick by brick, and heart by heart, Archbishop John Carroll High School certainly lets their light shine through their production of Godspell.

 

Review submitted by Nina Gold of Harriton High School

“Love thy neighbor as thyself” is a timeless adage that applies to everyone, regardless of religion, race, or gender. It was this message that the students of Archbishop John Carroll High School chose to celebrate in their production of Godspell, along with the universal themes of forgiveness, friendship, and community.

Rather than following a traditional plotline, Godspell takes the audience through a series of short parables, primarily based on the Gospel of Matthew. It preaches humility, honesty, mercy, and love throughout, and concludes by depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. The musical opened on Broadway in 1971 to great critical acclaim, and has received numerous tours, adaptations, and revivals since then.

With a difficult score and exhausting physical demands, Godspell is a rigorous test of endurance (both vocally and mentally) for any school to tackle. Nevertheless, Archbishop John Carroll High School dove in with unshakable determination and thrilling enthusiasm to produce a truly delightful experience.

Alex Brown as Jesus handled the challenge of leading the cast with impressive emotional depth and remarkable stage presence. He brought a certain tenderness and warmth to the stage in songs like “Beautiful City,” and his superb vocals were matched only by his unbounded energy.  Kate Maginnis’ portrayal of Judas provided a sarcastic foil to Brown’s kinder character, and her variability shone in the honest and heartbreaking betrayal of Jesus.

The show would have been incomplete without a strong cast of supporting characters, most notably Brendon Abiuso and Christina Flores. Abiuso astounded the audience with his rock-and-roll-esque vocals and nonstop zeal in “Light of the World,” and Flores’ sultry, saucy, Fosse-inspired rendition of “Turn Back, O Man” was nothing short of electrifying. Although admittedly difficult to hear at times, the huge ensemble maintained a truly outstanding level of energy and enthusiasm, and stayed engaged from start to finish, a difficult feat for such a large number of actors.

The cast maneuvered well around a minimal set, and the technical aspects of the show served them well in their endeavor to tell their story. Everyone onstage handled minor technical difficulties in lighting and sound with professionalism and grace.

In a day and age where hate seems to be emerging from every crevice and crack in society, Archbishop John Carroll High School’s production of Godspell was a heartfelt reminder of the beauty and importance of love, forgiveness, and kindness to all.