The Addams Family – Archmere Academy

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The Addams Family by Archmere Academy in Claymont, DE

February 27, 2019

Review submitted by Lisa Green of Friends’ Central School

Full Disclosure: The Addams Family is back and better than ever, courtesy of Archmere Academy’s incredibly engaging, inventive, and comically dark production!

Based on the beloved Charles Addams cartoons and the famed TV show and movie, the musical flips the original story on its head: the extremely unconventional Addams Family invites their daughter Wednesday’s straight-laced boyfriend and his parents to dinner and hijinks ensue.

Creative touches and unforgettable performances took center stage this weekend. From transforming the typically ghostly looking ancestors into zombies to integrating their extremely talented Dancer Ensemble into nearly every number to including Cousin Itt and Thing and other Addams Family Easter eggs, Archmere Academy made their performance stand out at every turn.

Riley McAvinue (Gomez) immediately drew the audience in with his enthusiasm and ever-present signature accent, and conveyed genuine inner conflict in songs like “Two Things” and “Trapped.” Katherine Alberta (Morticia) displayed remarkable vocals and demonstrated her character’s growth by slowly employing more quirks and eccentricities over the course of the show.

In addition, Kyla McAvinue (Uncle Fester) encapsulated her character flawlessly and kept the audience in stitches through her consistent character voice and spot-on facial expressions. Elise Brady’s compelling portrayal of Alice paired with her impressive lower vocal range and comedic timing made “Waiting” a true showstopper. The backbone of the cast were the choruses, both the Ancestors and the Dancer Ensemble. They both went above and beyond, showcasing difficult and original choreography, and exhibiting an unprecedented amount of exuberance.

Technically speaking, this production had so much to offer. Each intricate scene change was seamless and while there were occasional microphone errors, they were quickly addressed every time. The specificity in each of Alexis Rendel’s costumes, particularly the way all of the Ancestors’ costumes correlated to causes of death, was brilliant. Furthermore, Zach Christie’s ability to balance designing a dynamic light design with playing a leading role was very admirable. The production concluded by projecting Uncle Fester’s face onto the moon, which provided a really unexpected and unique effect that ended the show on an exciting note.

Archmere Academy gave an amazing performance, filled with infectious energy and surprises along the way, and helped the audience “Live Before We Die.”

 

 

Review submitted by Molly Levine of Upper Merion Area High School

An eccentric family, a potion, a secret, the moon, and love? This recipe for all things disaster is a dangerous concoction known as The Addams Family Musical. Archmere Academy’s dynamic production of the kooky and the creepy brought the iconic Addams’ story from the screen to the stage!

Written by Andrew Lippa, Rick Elice, and Marshall Brickman, the Addams find themselves face-to- face with their most terrifying adversary yet: normalcy. Wednesday Addams is all grown up and has fallen for Lucas Beineke, a quirky boy from Ohio. With never-ending jokes and memorable numbers, the two families blur the definition of normal in this bizarre, heart-warming story of chaos, laughter, and love.

This rendition of dark comedy was brought to life by a powerful and engaged ensemble, apt lighting, and an intricate array of costumes. Challenged with elaborate harmonies and demanding dance breaks, the cast and crew never lost their somber, ghoulish portrayal of what it is like “When You’re an Addams”.

Riley McAvinue as Gomez had unstoppable comedic timing with his unfaltering Spanish accent and lively facial expressions always at the ready. McAvinue’s absolute silliness did not prevent him from exploring the depth of his character, revealing Gomez’s soft and loving nature in songs such as “Happy/Sad” and “Not Today”. His only daughter, Wednesday Addams (Bella Abbrescia) obviously inherited his powerhouse vocals, evident in her show-stopping “Pulled”.

Kyla McAvinue’s comic physicality and timely adlibs as Fester were spot on as her light-hearted hilarity drove the production forward. While his lines consisted of grumbles and groans, Lurch (David Demnicki) used his deadpan delivery to add unforgettable moments to the show, closing the production with his resonant bass solo in “Move Toward the Darkness.” The dedicated Dancer Ensemble moved in unison while also breaking out in solo features during “Tango Di Amor,” showing the talent of each individual dancer as their own respective ancestor.

Great timing was not only seen in the actors’ comedy; Ethan Ferriera and Zach Christie executed lighting seamlessly with their complex designs and infinite number of cues. Costuming by Alexis Rendel and Annalise Tonn brought the show to life with creative depictions of how each ancestor met their grisly end. Paired with highly detailed makeup, the characters of the Addams Family were given another dimension of authenticity.

It was not “One Normal Night” at Archmere Academy, but it certainly was one of eerie humor, playful mischief, and unending laughter!

 

The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women – The Agnes Irwin School

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The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women by The Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, PA

February 13, 2019

Review submitted by Allegra Greenawalt of Harriton High School

In our modern day and age, feminist movements are bringing important messages of women’s rights to light as equality for all is still a distant reality. With their production of The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women, The Agnes Irwin School aimed to display a farcical, but profoundly engaging excursion into a plethora of ethics for females who are both survivors and unexpected perpetrators of abuse toward women.

Written in 2011 by Carolyn Gage, The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women tells the story of a small, all-female theater group on opening night as they try to come together to present a courtroom drama on the case of Anastasia Romanov. Combating personalities and heavy disagreement present themselves as the main obstacles for the group of women, and so they must try to overcome their differences before the curtain opens on their new production.

The Agnes Irwin School’s production featured many impressive elements both onstage and off, from talented actresses to ingenious audience interaction that had the ability to influence action within the play. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the performance was the nine actresses’ chemistry and incredible group dynamic onstage. Despite having apparent differences and unique quirks about their individual characters, the ensemble as a whole demonstrated a found understanding for one another, and played off of each other’s energy incredibly well to create an emotionally charged piece of theater.

Leading the performance was Lizzie Dixon as Diane/Prosecuting Attorney and Sophie Urban as Athena/Defense Attorney. Both actresses’ commanding stage presence and natural acting ability allowed them to both deliver the important messages their play-within-a-play aimed to tell and keep the story moving along at the same time.

Standouts among the rest of the cast included Wren Francis (Lisa/Zinaida Tolstoy), Meredith DeCarlo (Marie/Clara Peuthert), and Parker McQuaid (Betty/Bailiff). Francis’s refined German accent and DeCarlo’s drunken antics had the audience in stitches during their respective moments on trial, while McQuaid stole the show with her sarcastic humor and attention to detail in every scene.

Although the technical requirements of the performance did not appear too demanding, they largely contributed to the quality and smooth run of the show. Taylor Carter’s lighting design was simple yet effective, and Caroline Freiwald’s costumes captured the quirks of each of the characters very well.

The verdict is in: The Agnes Irwin School’s production of The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women is guilty of being a striking piece of theater, incorporating feminist perspectives, innovative audience interaction, and hysterical antics that left everyone in stitches.

 

Review submitted by Katrina Conklin of Baldwin School

Feminism. The word alone evokes a myriad of connotations, and yet not one clear definition— even among the feminists themselves. In the Agnes Irwin School’s production of The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women what starts as an indie play crumbles into chaos as the actresses begin to question everything they know about the female identity.

Written in 2003 by feminist playwright Carolyn Gage, The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women is an unconventional play-within-a-play packed with audience participation. A women’s theater group is performing a dramatized trial for Anastasia Romanov, the Duchess of Russia who died under mysterious circumstances following the February Revolution. There’s just one problem: the actresses can’t stand each other. Typical women’s theater, right?

The small cast maintained a large collective stage presence throughout the entire performance. Whether they were portraying the fictional performers, the characters of the Women’s Court, or an indistinguishable blur between the two, the real actresses navigated the play’s complexities with commendable ease.

Dominating the stage for the majority of the performance were the two attorneys: Diane, depicted by Lizzie Dixon, and Athena, portrayed by Sophie Urban. The two fictitious lawyers fought with a combination of poise and ferocity, both bouncing off the other’s energy effortlessly.

Another notable performance came from Betty (Parker McQuaid), whose shy character was chosen perform as the bailiff. Betty’s awkwardness and anxiety were executed with uncomfortable accuracy, down to the constant leg bouncing throughout the entire hour and a half performance. Other highlights included when Lisa, or ‘Zinaida Tolstoy’ (Wren Francis) and Marie, or ‘Clara Peuthert’ (Meredith DeCarlo) took the stand. Francis’s character’s thick accent elicited humored gasps from the crowd, while DeCarlo’s comedic delivery stuck out from the cast.

As for the show’s technical elements, The Anastasia Trials proved that less really is more. The simple costumes and lighting design enhanced the actresses’ performances making their lines all the more riveting. Worth mentioning was how the audience seats were a part of the set —on stage, inches from the actresses— making for a one of a kind performance.

The play-ception of The Anastasia Trials makes it a production like no other— and Agnes Irwin tackled it with aplomb. Though no play can fully encapsulate the true, elusive essence of feminism, the Agnes Irwin actresses exemplified female excellence in its rawest form.

Clue: On Stage – Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy

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Clue: On Stage by Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, PA

February 5, 2019

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

Six murders, six suspects, and one plot twist that no one saw coming! Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy wasn’t playing any games with their production of Clue: On Stage. They had audiences hooked from the first moments to the shocking finale!

Clue: On Stage is based on the popular Hasbro board game made into a Paramount Pictures movie. The nefarious lives of Miss Scarlett, Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, and Mr. Green are about to be exposed by their blackmailer, Mr. Boddy. Things take a turn once Mr. Boddy is murdered. Everyone is a suspect and, with the help of Wadsworth, they must navigate the house in search of clues that lead them to Mr. Boddy’s killer.

Max Weinstein (Wadsworth) commanded the audience’s attention and drove the energy of every scene. Max’s masterful comedic skill helped him craft a memorable Wadsworth with an impeccable accent, the “regalness of a butler” and informative asides. Dori Hoffman (Miss Scarlett) was a standout among the dinner guests. Her facial expressions, cigarette smoking, and flirtatious interludes with Professor Plum brilliantly depicted the sultry Miss Scarlett.

Noah Hamermesh flawlessly portrayed the clueless Colonel Mustard. Noah managed to play dumb without overdoing it and was a crowd favorite. Rebecca Weinstein perfectly embodied Mrs. White from her dry, witty delivery of one-liners to her dark, brooding monotone. She showed a glimmer of emotion when she cried out about her rage with the iconic line, “Flames, flames.”

The dinner guests and Wadsworth had undeniable chemistry. They worked very well off each other’s energy and ad-libs in order to make the story authentic. The ensemble stayed in character from the first line through the final bows.

Senior Daniel Nahamo, the director and producer of Clue: on Stage, successfully executed a difficult show. To quote Wadsworth, “Can you keep a secret?” Well, this was Daniel Nahamo’s first show, but the audience would never know it! The stage direction and scene transitions were cleverly thought out, and the use of a small space was maximized. The stage gave the illusion of a massive, historic mansion with a myriad of doors through which Wadsworth led the suspects.

The real mystery has been solved: Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy did it with their fabulous production of Clue: On Stage in their theater.

 

Review submitted by Aurelle Odhner of Academy of the New Church

Was it Peacock in the library with the knife? Or Colonel Mustard in the study with the wrench? It must have been none other than the twenty-two cast and crew members at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy with the script of Clue: On Stage.

Clue: On Stage is one of many reincarnations of the classic board game Cluedo. Originally designed by Anthony E. Pratt in 1949, this murder mystery game made its way from Birmingham, England to the United states where it was rebranded as Clue. It has since inspired similar homicidal whodunits in every medium from mini-series to theatrical productions. A recent addition to the franchise, Clue: On Stage first premiered in May of 2017 at the Bucks County Playhouse. The puzzling plot weaves together suspense and comedy as the classic characters navigate the sinister games of their host, Mr. Boddy. As the night wears on, cadavers and accusations pile up leaving the audience guessing at every turn.

Leading the invested group of students involved in this production was the student director and producer, Daniel Nahamo, assisted by Noah Feinberg. His dramatic decisions highlighted the script’s ridiculous humor, while the actors brought a chilling reality to their impersonations of corpses. The cast’s energetic antics accompanied by well-timed technical cues left the audience laughing and screaming in equal measure.

The play’s six central suspects cooperated well as an ensemble and demonstrated an ironically vivacious energy throughout the show. Dori Hoffman, as the infamously flirtatious Miss Scarlett, stood out with her spirited performance and attention to detail, while Rivkah Wyner lent remarkable depth and expression to the more complex character of Mrs. Peacock. Eli Beaubien’s portrayal of Mr. Green added a reliable deadpan and authentic acting to an exaggeratedly comedic show.

Several dedicated actors, including Deborah Mizrachi as the Cook and Michael Grant Warshowsky as the mysterious Mr. Boddy, made amusing cameos and stayed remarkable in character in both life and death.

The production team made the most of a small stage through simple, mobile sets. Although lengthy scene changes left the audience in the dark in more ways than one, the light and sound crews executed cues with excellent timing.

Barrack Hebrew Academy’s Clue: On Stage was a thrillingly twisted tale full of laughter and horror alike.