Peter and the Starcatcher – Harriton High School

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Peter and the Starcatcher by Harriton High School in Rosemont, PA

November 27, 2019

Review submitted by Lisa Green of Friends Central School

All aboard! Journey along with Harriton High School as they present the tale of Peter and the Starcatcher! Be prepared for stormy waters, severe winds, and a brilliant story.

Inspired by J. M. Barrie’s beloved novel Peter Pan, playwright Rick Elice further explored the fantastical world of Neverland. He provided explanations as to how a nameless orphan boy became a hero and a typical black-stashed pirate became the ever-feared tyrannical villain, Captain Hook. The two spend the duration of the story on pirate ships named The Wasp and The Neverland, each attempting to win sacred treasure and protect their respective crews.

Harriton took every measure to transform their regular high school auditorium into raging seas fit to host rival pirate ships. This production displayed significant commitment to the art of storytelling. Every technical department was entirely student run, and the dedication put forth shone through at every turn.

Henry McCullough (Black Stache) brought so much life and energy to every scene in which he was featured. Every line, joke, and quip was delivered with excellent comedic timing and no shortage of “starstuff.” Angelina DeMonte (Molly) led her shipmates (including title character Peter), as well as the rest of the cast, with grace, flair, and a very convincing English accent.

Audrey Sigler (Smee) kept the audience in stitches by fully delving into her character and utilizing hilarious physical comedy. In addition, Julia Green (Alf) and William Coleman (Mrs. Bumbrake) elevated their romantic story line with whimsy, beautiful harmonies in each of their songs, and plenty of playful chemistry.

This performance was filled with many impressive technical nuances. The Harriton Pit Orchestra enhanced each scene transition with professional caliber music. While there were occasional instances of the songs overpowering the actors, the cast quickly recovered each time. Propmasters Maren McDonnell and CJ Browser created and operated a life-size crocodile, complete with glowing red eyes and terrifying roar sound effects. Furthermore, the lighting successfully conveyed transitions and changes of location with style.

Harriton’s endlessly talented cast and skilled stage crew came together to create a funny, thought-provoking and outstanding performance.

 

Review submitted by Hope Odhner of Academy of the New Church

Stop by Harriton High School to catch the magic of childhood and the wonder of friendship in their latest production, Peter and the Starcatcher.

Peter and the Starcatcher tells the timeless story of Peter Pan. The script, adapted by Rick Elice, is based on the 2004 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and serves as a prequel to the classic tale of Peter Pan, offering origin stories for the central characters.

The story begins with a spectacular mix-up involving two identical trunks onboard two sea-faring vessels. Lord Aster, protecting the trunk filled with a powerful substance known as “starstuff”, travels on one, while his daughter, Molly, and a trio of unfortunate orphans are aboard the other. A few betrayals and trunk mix-ups by a devious captain and some undercover pirates result in utter chaos and one of the orphans going overboard, along with the trunk full of starstuff. Act Two picks up on a strange island filled with angry natives and a hungry crocodile. Starstuff from the trunk leaks out, turning fish into mermaids, a friendly bird into a sparkling fairy, and growing orphans into ageless boys.

Aiden Kaliner played the nameless orphan who later became Peter Pan, displaying his prickly pride and underlying desire for connection. Angelina DeMonte brought self-confidence, compassion, and charm to the role of Molly Aster. The wicked pirate Black Stache, played by Henry McCullough, filled the stage with his flamboyant character and dramatic monologues. Luckily, his chaotic charisma and hysterical malapropisms were faithfully kept in check by his right-hand man.

Audrey Sigler, as Smee, wore an energetic and effusive smile, despite the scorn and needy demands of her boss, Black Stache. Maddie Leftkowitz embodied a bitter and ferocious savage as the stern leader Fighting Prawn. Julia Hoeffner and Sammy Biglin created a dynamic duo as the orphans Prentiss and Ted, although Hoeffner’s bossy orders as the self-acclaimed leader did little to sway the food-obsessed Biglin.

The show took place in a student-built black box theater created directly on the mainstage. Noah Shelanski and Sam Gerike not only constructed the versatile central platform, but also the surrounding tiers of seating. The artistically simple sets were complemented by the elaborate lights which transported the audience from the stormy seas, to a tropical jungle, to a mysterious lagoon, using various colors and patterns. Maren McDonnell and CJ Bowser supplied thoughtful and fun props, including a fork-and-rolling-pin sword, as well as an enormous, leering crocodile.

An almost entirely student-run show, Peter and the Starcatcher was filled with energy, humor, heartbreak, and a little bit of magic. Harriton High School’s creativity and dedicated efforts brought to life a beloved tale that never gets old.

 

Boeing Boeing – Upper Dublin High School

Upper Dublin - Boeing 3 photo by John Jablonski

photo by John Jablonski

Boeing Boeing by Upper Dublin High School in Maple Glen, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Lisa Green of Friends Central School

Ladies and Gentleman, please take your seats. Sit back, relax, and prepare for takeoff, as Upper Dublin High School presents Boeing Boeing!

This three-act farce tells the story of Bernard, an American businessman living in Paris with a seemingly average life. When his old friend, Robert, arrives, it is revealed that his life is anything but average: Bernard has three fiancées who work as flight attendants for three different international airlines. The comments from Bernard’s maid, Berte, along with the three fiancées always coming and going, provide a healthy helping of turbulence.

Upper Dublin went above and beyond to make this production unforgettable. The black box theater, coupled with a small ensemble cast of six, created an intentionally intimate and personal atmosphere. In addition, small touches like the actors’ consistent accents and ending the show with airplane-themed bows really showed the care and forethought that went into this show.

Brady Lincavage (Robert) filled his performance with brilliantly executed physical comedy, showed emotional authenticity, and never failed to generate uncontrollable laughter from the audience. Zoe Halperin (Berte) welcomed the audience in with sassy quips, total awareness of the crazy world around her, and masterfully playing off of her co-stars.

Benjamin Brown (Bernard) displayed a very genuine transition from being the calm, straight man with a plan to a deer in headlights toward the end of the performance. Furthermore, each of the three fiancées—Courtney Varallo (Gloria), Hana Yolacan (Gabriella) and Bailey Rifkin (Gretchen) made each of their characters distinct, and they engaged with the audience marvelously. While there were slight pacing issues at the beginning, the cast and crew consistently improved throughout the duration of the show.

Upper Dublin’s cast members did their own makeup, making sure to stay true to the early 1960s time period. Additionally, each of Sarah Joseph’s sound cues were consistent and made this production feel professional. Finally, prop masters Lizzy O’Connell and Katie Harton creatively managed a broad range of props, such as the rotating pictures and travel bags of each fiancée.

Get ready for the flight of a lifetime! Upper Dublin’s committed cast, thoughtful direction, and talented tech crew make this production of Boeing Boeing a must see event!

 

Review submitted by Grace O’Malley of Germantown Academy

Upper Dublin High School’s production Boeing Boeing took flight into a realm of chaos as the cast engrossed the audience into a hysterical tale of a man and his three foreign fiancées.

Boeing Boeing is a play focused on the life of Bernard, a bachelor who spends time organizing the flight schedules of his three flight attendant fiancées. Three women from different countries believe that they are the only woman in Bernard’s life, however, that is certainly not the case. Everything goes downhill when all three fiancées end up at Bernard’s apartment at the same time. Perplexed by the situation, Bernard and his friend Robert must devise a plan so that the fiancées don’t figure out the truth.

The small cast of Boeing Boeing filled the room with energy as well as brought the stage to life with their ravishing 1960’s inspired looks. There was never a dull moment in the production since the entire cast played their roles to their full potential. The cast was challenged by the difficulty of accents, but tackled it head on and delivered to the best of their ability.

Zoe Halperin’s appearances as Berthe left the audience star struck after her accurate portrayal of the hysterical maid. Her astonishing French accent combined with her body language fit the aggravated yet funny maid. The two male actors Benjamin Brown and Brady Lincavage approached their roles head on and delivered solid performances.

Gretchen, played by Bailey Rifkin, and Robert, played by Brady Lincavage, had the best onstage chemistry. The pair worked well to develop their characters’ relationship. Courtney Varallo and Hana Yolacan played the other two flight attendants Gloria and Gabriella and did a great job of making their characters their own. Hana Yolacan’s usage of an Italian accent gave an authentic performance of her Italian character.

The Upper Dublin High School tech crew was spot on with sound effect cues. Bravo to their one set which was detailed, creative, and really captured a plausible 1960’s French apartment. Makeup and hair was flawless:  giving the audience an authentic blast to the past to the 1960’s.

Overall, the cast of Boeing Boeing delivered a memorable performance with their talented cast.

Metamorphoses – Friends Select School

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Metamorphoses by Friends Select School in Philadelphia, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Hanna Matsukawa of Academy of the New Church

A single droplet can stir a sea, a single misstep can transform a life. Far too often we overlook the ripples we create and the tales we incite. Friends Select’s Metamorphoses is a beautiful reminder of human nature in the most human form, storytelling.

Written by Mary Zimmerman, Metamorphoses is composed of a series of vignettes based on the poems of Ovid. This unique work premiered in 1996 and opened on Broadway in 2002. Though each classical myth distinctly tells its own familiar tale, they seamlessly weave together with expert storytelling, compelling characters, and a mesmerizing pool of water.

A non-linear storyline seems difficult to pull off, but Friends Select’s Metamorphoses skillfully kept the audience engaged throughout the play. Though some lines were lost due to weak diction, the actors expertly displayed their versatility by portraying multiple characters and bringing emphatic emotion to every role. The heavy, contemplative aspects of the play were well-balanced with light comedic scenes and witty characterizations, leaving the audience both deep in melancholy thought and thoroughly amused.

Olivia Shuman’s portrayal of the greedy King Midas was perfectly self-affected and playfully humorous. Perhaps one of the most compelling and emotionally stirring performances was that of Sara Kelley. Kelley beautifully embodied the pure anguish and heartbroken denial of Alcyone and captured the strenuous labor turned to hopeful love of Psyche.

Every actor took on numerous roles and shined in various ways. Elena Milliken brought sweet sincerity to the stage as the daughter of Midas, Eurydice, and the inquisitive Q. Kaiyuan Chen crept across the stage sending shivers throughout the audience as the macabre Hunger and Claire McHarg delivered much-needed hilarity to the play as the petulant Phaeton.

The striking costumes were both designed and created by Isabella Iannozzi. Each piece of clothing brought the essence of the characters to life, from the skeletal suit of Hunger to Iris’ glowing skirt. Freeman Rabb impressively composed all of the music for the production. His accomplished work both polished the transitions and enhanced the emotion of the narrative. At the heart of the play was a pool of water built onto the stage. Not only was the pool integral to the telling of each myth, but the water on stage served to consolidate the stories with irresistible harmony.

With simple beauty, Friends Select’s Metamorphoses breathed life into timeless stories resonant with human frailty and understanding, reminding us that “wherever our love goes, there we find our soul.

 

Review submitted by Hope Odhner of Academy of the New Church

A timeless tale of transformations, Metamorphoses is the story of the human condition. At the Friends Select School, this collection of ancient myths was revived in a modern theatrical production.

The origins of Metamorphoses date back to Ovid, who wrote a narrative poem, comprised of over 250 Greek and Roman myths, chronicling the history of the world and the transformations of man. The stories have been told and retold for centuries, and are still beloved by readers today. The script was first written and directed by Mary Zimmerman and premiered in 1996.

The story meanders through nine different tales, unrelated to each other in plot, but connected by common themes such as love, hubris, and a central pool of water. The myths vary greatly in length and tone, together bringing humor, heartbreak, and philosophy to the stage. While the set was minimal, the student-built pool played a vital role as a symbolic and interactive space for each scene. The actors wove on and off, switching smoothly from one character to the next.

Olivia Shuman performed a more modern take on King Midas in the first myth, and reappeared again at the end of the show, when the king finally cleansed himself of his curse and embraced his daughter. Yannick Haynes played a regal Hermes in two separate myths, but he truly shone in his role as the headstrong Ceyx. Sara Kelley gave a captivating performance as the distraught Alcyone, then went on to become the sweet Psyche, whose chemistry with Eros (Freeman Rabb) was tangible. Each of them appeared as various other characters as well, while some actors followed a single archetype throughout the show. Elena Milliken played myriad different characters, but always embodied an innocent young girl.

The tales of Ovid are ancient, but they were kept entertaining and relevant by actors such as Claire McHarg, playing a resentful Phaeton, and Annalise Shuman as his father Apollo. Michaela Fineman’s lovable awkwardness brought a light-hearted air to the story of Pomona and Vertumnus. Many of the actors contributed to behind-the-scenes work as well. Kaiyuan Chen made an ethereal, chilling Hunger, and offstage he worked as a stage manager with Margo Latty. Freeman Rabb appeared as several different gods, and also composed and recorded a compelling score, while Claire McHarg arranged a vocal interlude. The costumes, created by Isabella Iannozzi, reflected the show’s simplistic story-telling and attention to detail, and they also adapted nicely to the added challenge of submersion in water.

The show as a whole was striking and thought-provoking in its imagery and symbolism, while remaining light-hearted and genuine. Stories that have been passed down for generations were beautifully depicted by the students at Friends Select School.

Newsies – Dock Mennonite Academy

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Newsies by Dock Mennonite Academy in Souderton, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! This weekend, a ragtag group of ragamuffins from Dock Mennonite Academy took on the kingmakers of New York!

If you haven’t already guessed, Dock Mennonite delivered their rendition of the classic characters and songs from Newsies, a 2012 musical based on the movie of the same name. Underneath the show’s catchy songs and witty banter runs a dark undercurrent of child exploitation as it chronicles the Newsboys Strike of 1899. Led by Jack Kelly, an orphaned dreamer turned revolutionary with an artistic streak, the Manhattan “Newsies” fight to improve the working conditions of all the newsboys in New York.

Early on in the show, Crutchie remarks to Jack “I don’t need folks, I got friends.” This remark perfectly captures what made Dock Mennonite’s production so entertaining. The Newsies’ energy and chemistry were palpable, forcing the audience to become invested in their cause.

Miguel Santiago starred as the tough yet secretly vulnerable Jack, tackling the role’s demanding vocal, dance, and dialect requirements with ease. His vocal prowess was especially apparent in the recurring song “Santa Fe.” Greta Schrag’s performance as the resourceful Katherine was also impressive. “Watch What Happens” is one of the most difficult songs for any actress to sing, and Schrag powered through it without stumbling over any of its fast-paced lyrics.

Ruth Michel was a standout among the supporting cast, perfectly portraying the character of the cerebral Davey. Her vocals were also consistently impressive despite the songs being below her normal register. Debi Boerner tugged at the audience’s heartstrings as the optimistic Crutchie, and stole the show with her heartfelt rendition of “Letter from the Refuge.” Although the cast’s vocals and characterizations sometimes faltered during big musical numbers, this is more than forgivable given the show’s difficult and unique style of dance.

The technical star of the show was the student-choreographed “Once and For All,” which created an intricate network of newspaper tossing. The lighting was simple but effective, drawing attention to scene changes and solos.

With infectious optimism, ambitious choreography, and enthusiastic vocals, Dock Mennonite Academy’s production of Newsies paid tribute to the bravery of the real newsboys that the show is based on, reminding the audience that if you keep your “eyes on the stars and feet on the ground,” there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

 

Review submitted by Lisa Green of Friends Central School

“Watch What Happens” when Dock Mennonite Academy brings the story of the New York Newsies to life onstage!

This tale of courage, camaraderie and heart, Newsies was inspired by the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 and composed by Alan Menken. “Newsies”, or Newspaper boys,  Jack Kelly and Davey Jacobs organize a strike to protest Joseph Pulitzer’s unjust rise in prices of newspapers for the newsboys to sell. With the assistance of up-and-coming reporter, Katherine, the Newsies face off against the all-powerful owners of the newspapers themselves. While the group faces obstacles, they never fail to stand up for one another and persevere!

Dock Mennonite crafted a performance that radiated so much hard work and care from all of the cast and crew, but the cohesion of the ensemble really made it stand out! Every large group number was accompanied by understated choreography, performed perfectly in sync, and outstanding harmonies. In addition, “Once and for All” was choreographed completely by students and the forethought and creativity they put into this number paid off in spades!

Miguel Santiago (Jack) showcased his classic ballet training at every opportunity, led the cast with enormous success, and displayed a very wide and impressive vocal range throughout each challenging song. In addition, Greta Schrag (Katherine) made every scene she was in memorable with her lovely voice and passionate stage presence.

Ruth Michel (Davey) “Seized the Day” by delivering a very convincing and genuine performance, as well as being the vocal highlight of each song she was featured in. Furthermore, Carlie Cocco (Medda) made the show come alive with a very heartfelt and energetic rendition of “That’s Rich.” Finally, the Newsies Featured Dancers elevated each dance break into a lively and fun experience!

Stage Manager Dalton Moore tackled a very ambitious show with skill and talent. For the most part, the vocal power was amplified very well by Sound Mixer Maggie Dowell. While there were instances of the music overpowering the vocals, the actors always recovered quickly thereafter.

All in all, this performance was consistently “Something to Believe In.” Electric choreography, beautiful vocals, and a wonderful story came together to produce an extraordinary performance.

 

The Curious Savage – Interboro High School

Curious Savage - John Saddic

Photo by John Saddic

The Curious Savage by Interboro High School in Prospect Park, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Senta Johnson of Sun Valley High School

Interboro High School left audiences enraptured with their production of The Curious Savage.

This John Patrick comedy follows the widowed Mrs. Savage, whose noble intentions to donate her husband’s fortune are resented by her stepchildren. They commit her to a sanitorium called “The Cloisters,” where Mrs. Savage finds a true family bond from the hospitality of the guests. The Curious Savage captures the virtues of kindness in a world motivated by greed.

Talent was evident from every member of the cast and crew. With each scene overflowing with expertise and authenticity, there was never a dull moment. The commitment and energy from the company brought this 1950’s story to life.

It is the characters that make this comedy work, and this cast excelled at creating ones that were humorous and endearing. Center stage as the brutally honest Mrs. Savage was Bailey Rose Collington, who portrayed this character with comedic expertise. Accompanying her, the peculiar residents of the sanatorium were played remarkably by a group of fine thespians. Franchesca Parker as the animated Fairy May and Conner Shaffer as the quirky Hannibal were especially captivating. As an ensemble, the guests were a crowd favorite.

As the antagonistic Savage family, Ryan McGinley, Connor Wiseley, and Charlotte Relyea did a superb job creating despicable characters and admirable performances. Other standouts include Sarah Frank and Daniel McDougald as the neutral, hospitable staff. Each line and mannerism from the entire cast was executed flawlessly and effortlessly.

Drawing in their audience was The Curious Publicity Crew. Their program designs and promotional displays were more than exceptional. While their work was not on stage, it is still worth much applause.

The Curious Savage is a timeless comedy with an indispensable message that is sure to warm the hearts of every audience member. Don’t miss your opportunity to enjoy this excellent performance at Interboro High School.

 

Review submitted by Jolie Jaffe of Agnes Irwin School

Though greed can often overpower feelings of contentment, there is no doubt that love can drive a person to make difficult decisions. Interboro High School brought these problems to life in their production of The Curious Savage.

John Patrick’s play tells the story of an elderly widow put in a sanitorium by her family after she is left ten million dollars by her husband. The patients at The Cloisters become Mrs. Savage’s true family when she realizes her children are only motivated by their greed. As she sends her family on a wild goose chase, she realizes that the most important families don’t have to be biologically related. This 1950s play chronicles themes of love, greed, and friendship.

The cast and crew did a fantastic job of creating a charming environment of The Cloisters and captivating the audience. Throughout the three-act play, there was not a single dull moment. The show ran very smoothly without any technical problems or awkward pauses. This show was fast-paced, witty, and thought-provoking.

Bailey Rose Collington brought a complex portrayal of Mrs. Savage, the clever woman who would do anything to protect her friends. Collington was able to be brutally honest, and still portray a lovable character. She commanded the stage and led the show without overpowering any other actors.

Collington was joined by the guests of The Cloisters, a dynamic and comedic group of actors. Franchesca Parker perfected her comedic timing for a curious and loveable portrayal of Fairy May. Thomas Bosch represented one of the more normal characters of The Cloisters, without being overshadowed by the other actors. The audience easily empathized with Bosch’s portrayal of Jeffrey. The astonishing Aaliyah Michael took on the demanding task of conveying feelings without communicating in the role of Mrs. Paddy. The audience felt moved by her performance, and she never stopped acting.

The cast was supported by a set that created a tight-knit atmosphere of The Cloisters, and costumes that reflected the 1950s aesthetic. The marketing and publicity team did a great job of designing a logo that fit the charming theme and time of the play.

Interboro High School’s production of The Curious Savage was impressive and entertaining. Although these actors have never lived through the 1950s, they managed to make the issues and sentiments of the time just as relevant as if they had.

Chicago: High School Edition – Springside Chestnut Hill Academy

SCH Chicago (3) - Photo by Daria Maidenbaum

Photo by Daria Maidenbaum

Chicago: High School Edition by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

Not that the truth really matters, but I’m gonna tell you anyway: the Springside Chestnut Hill Players’ production of Chicago: High School Edition transported the audience back to the Jazz Age as its cast of “scintillating sinners” treated the audience to a vaudevillian night of both “unrelenting determination and unmitigated ego.”

Based on the experiences of 1926 reporter Maurice Dallas Walkins, Chicago is both a love-letter to the conventions of vaudeville and a satire of so-called “celebrity criminals.” It tells the story of vaudeville-wannabes Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly as they enlist the help of the cynical Billy Flynn in hopes of securing their moment in the fleeting public spotlight.

The cast’s commitment to the over-the-top physicality Chicago requires was evident in their incredibly ambitious choreography. Whether they were executing sensual Fosse-inspired moves in “All That Jazz” or performing circus tricks in “Razzle Dazzle,” the show’s dancers never failed to impress.

Katie Walker skillfully managed to portray the immature and narcissistic aspects of Roxie without veering into full-blown un-likeability. She also showed off her mastery of physical comedy during “Courtroom,” leaving the audience in stitches with her hysterically exaggerated walking, crying, and knitting. Erin Jolly’s sultry performance as Velma provided the perfect contrast to Walker’s flightiness, and her voice never failed to impress. Yofi Guy commanded the stage as the suave Billy, masterfully delivering his rendition of the show-stopping “We Both Reached for the Gun” without stumbling over its fast-paced lyrics.

Michael Jarema’s portrayal of the lovable Amos elicited both cries of laughter and sighs of sympathy from the audience. Other standouts among the supporting cast included Whimsy Mark-Ockerbloom, who effortlessly sang Mary Sunshine’s difficult vocal part while in full drag, and Julia Lieberman, whose tough portrayal of Mama Morton helped balance out the eccentricities of the rest of the cast. Although several dances were performed out-of-sync and the cast sometimes struggled with diction during songs, these small errors are entirely forgivable given the extreme difficulty of the show’s choreography.

Throughout the performance, actors entered the auditorium in sets of small groups through unorthodox entrances like the doors to the lobby. Fortunately, these cues all ran smoothly thanks to the impressive stage management by Riley Farbstein, Max Scheuermann, Trevor Meyer, and Chandler Fattah.

With ambitious choreography, powerful vocals, and effortless physicality, the SCH Players’ production of Chicago: High School Edition reminded the audience that murder isn’t just a crime; it’s an art.

 

Review submitted by Julia Dani of Friends Central School

Start the car and get down to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for their dazzling performance of Chicago: High School Edition!

Set in the Windy City, Chicago follows two of the merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail. Nightclub star Velma Kelly is serving time for killing her husband and sister after finding the two “performing” behind her back. Hungry for fame, Roxie Hart has been tossed in the slammer for “silencing” the lover she’s been cheating on her husband with. Lookin’ for a little sympathy, Velma enlists the help of prison matron Mama Morton and quick talking lawyer Billy Flynn, who turn Velma into a ‘murder-of-the-week’ star in the eye of the press, preparing everybody in Illinois for her comeback. But Roxie, still bent on achieving her dream, has got some of tricks up her sleeve, also wanting to be seen and heard by the public.

Erin Jolly, who was tasked with portraying the starlet Velma Kelly held her own. She proved herself to be a vocal powerhouse in the production and blended well with the ensemble in dance numbers. Roxie Hart, played by Katie Walker was a stand out. With her strong vocals and impeccable acting, she truly brought a special something to the stage and really made the audience love her. Even when momentarily losing her wig, she kept that sweet smile on her face and trekked through not missing a beat, a very professional move that she should be very proud of! Walker and Jolly portrayed the love hate relationship we know so well, and kept the audience wanting more after every number.

Yofi Guy made the audience fall in love with the silver-tongued prince of the courtroom Billy Flynn. His charisma was unmatched on stage and his convincing nature proves not only to be effective on the players, but also on the audience. He worked well with his female counterparts, especially Roxie. They brought a special sparkle to the stage, and left me wanting more stage time for both of them. Guy showed off his vocal chops in numbers like ‘All I Care About’ and proved he has pizzaz in ‘Razzle Dazzle’. Great job!

Although it was hard to pick, my favorite number of the night had to have been ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’. Even as a puppet, Walker’s marionette moves and doll face kept me in stitches, and paired with Guy’s ventriloquism and the ensemble’s silly questioning, how could the audience not smile!

Taking on a demanding show like ChicagoHigh School Edition takes a lot of talent, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy delivered!

Ronia the Robber’s Daughter – Phoenixville Area High School

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Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Phoenixville Area High School in Phoenixville, PA

November 20, 2019

Review submitted by Clara Steege of Conestoga High School

Phoenixville Area High School’s family friendly production of Ronia the Robber’s Daughter truly engaged its audience. It actively invited participation by asking audience members to simulate the sounds of rain, but its vivid storytelling ensured that the audience was always fully enveloped in the plot.

Ronia the Robber’s Daughter is based on a book by Astrid Lindgren, which was originally published in 1981. After appearing as both a film and musical, it was brought to the stage as a play in 1993. The story follows a young girl, Ronia, in her experience growing up with her father’s clan of thieves. When Ronia meets Birk, the son of a rival robber, she begins to question everything she knows about the life she leads.

In order to better adapt the play for high school theater, the cast and director worked with the playwright to develop additional roles and extra content. Many cast members read the original book for inspiration in character-building. Such dedication culminated in a very successful show.

Ocean Swomley, who played Ronia, skillfully portrayed the emotions of a young kid. With an innocent manner of speaking and constant inquisition, she was able to show her character’s curiosity and naivete. She and Benjamin Pratte (Birk) worked well together and relayed varying emotions, from joy to fear to anger, throughout their scenes. Pratte emanated Birk’s childlike mannerisms through movements like stomping his feet and crossing his arms.  He always remained in character, even when the focus wasn’t on him.

Sophie Sullivan, as Lovis, Ronia’s mother, was able to portray sincere emotion. Her body language, such as smoothing Ronia’s hair as she sung a lullaby, communicated the tender love a mother feels for her daughter. She also created depth of character by showing Lovis’s feisty attitude towards Matt. Alongside Sullivan, William Stotler (Matt) used volume and large gestures to expand on his character’s emotional overreactions in a hilarious way. Jack Kramer, as Noddle Pete, was another witty character.  Kramer’s excellent comedic timing and attention to detail, such as his bent posture, made his humorous character even funnier.

The addition of music, by Benjamin Pratte, was a key element. With an energetic cast to sing them, his robber songs imbued the play with liveliness. Mikayla DePompeo’s makeup was also impressive; her aging techniques and application of fake tattoos gave the characters even more personality.  The lighting, by Zach Rosenfield and Sullivan Nowak, conveyed key elements of the story with flashes for lightning and green light for the transition to night.

Phoenixville’s cast clearly had fun performing. Their excitement and dedication, paired with sound execution of performance elements, allowed them to put forward a well-received show.

 

Review submitted by Layla Siahatgar of Baldwin School

A fun, exciting adventure with lovable characters (and a few harpies), Phoenixville Area High School’s production of Ronia the Robber’s Daughter was a delight to see.

Ronia the Robber’s Daughter is the story of Ronia, a young girl growing up in a clan of robbers in medieval Scandinavia. The story follows Ronia as she goes on various adventures, going into the forest, meeting creatures, and even making a new friend.

The ensemble had a lively energy throughout the show. Whenever they were on stage, they helped to create a vibrant band of robbers that made the show more realistic.

Ocean Swomley portrayed Ronia, the title character of the show, with a childlike innocence that captured the character nicely. Benjamin Pratte, who played Ronia’s friend Birk, also gave a notable performance, bringing the character to life with his spirited portrayal of the young boy.

Another standout performance was Jack Kramer in his portrayal of Noddle Pete. His spot-on interpretation of the old man, complete with the stereotypical old man voice, had the audience laughing all throughout the show. Morgan Bieler was also noteworthy in her portrayal of Undis, Birk’s mother. Although her stage time was limited, she delivered a compelling performance as a bold but concerned mother.

The stage crew of the show did an excellent job under the management of Lexi Vazquez, creating seamless transitions between scenes. The lighting, done by Zachary Rosenfeld and Sullivan Nowak, helped to set the scene for the show, and it was accomplished with few to no errors. Although the actors were a little dimly lit at times, the use of lighting for special effects, especially the lightning, was engaging and fun to watch.

Phoenixville’s performance of Ronia the Robber’s Daughter was a fun and energetic experience that gave the audience a night to remember.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui – Unionville High School

Unionville - Resistable Rise 2 picture by Kelsie Margolin

Photo by Kelsie Margolin

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Unionville High School in Kennett Square, PA

November 12, 2019

Review submitted by Oliver Blinman of Harriton High School

A show full of murder, crime, dirty dealings, and cauliflower? Unionville High School’s The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui was a bold new take on Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 allegory.

The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui reveals the vegetable market’s underground dealings with the mobsters who swear to offer strong protection. Arturo Ui, inspired by Adolf Hitler, is a rough mob leader who does not shy away from the use of brute force in the elimination of her enemies and her friends in her rise to power as the sole protector of vegetable vendors.

This production was a challenging endeavor that Unionville took in stride. The layers of satire and allegorical ideas, coupled with the complicated language, created a truly difficult piece of theatre, which was well handled by the small cast and crew. Though there were some stumbles, the message of the show pulled through, and with it came some truly outstanding performances and riveting artistic risks.

While most of the actors played many roles, only one remained the same throughout the entire show. Rachel Tierney was absolutely striking as Arturo Ui. Mysterious, terrifying, charismatic, and eerily likable, she delivered a fantastic and powerful performance. Her command of the space made her a convincing dictator. Tierney’s role was a challenge, funny and tragic, and while she often leaned further into the dramatic side than the comedic, she offered a strong and memorable show.

Soren Sheckells was another dynamic player.  He is a very talented actor with a wide range: from the delusional and hilarious witness, Fish, to the intimidating and passionate mobster, Roma, Sheckells had to do it all, and do it all he did. One particular highlight was Arturo Ui’s dream, in which Roma returns from the dead to threaten Ui. The emotion and tension emanating from Sheckells was breathtaking and overwhelmingly compelling. He was just one of many talented actors who handled their various roles incredibly well, including Jaden Wrabley, who seamlessly transitioned from aristocratic vegetable dealer to snobby Shakespearean actor.

The set was designed well for the space and reflected the mixture of 20’s and 90’s cultural styles well. The lighting was practical and well done, if sometimes underused. A great addition to the show was a projection of quotes that appeared after every scene at the front of the stage, adding clarity and thought to what had just played out. The costumes added to the timeless aura that engulfed the production. There were some sound mishaps and an echo to all of the mics, but the sound quality was otherwise good.

Unionville High School’s The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui was a thought-provoking, introspective, and courageous production.

 

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

In the past decade, the world has experienced a surge in populist rhetoric that has upended the global political landscape. The Unionville High School Players’ production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui spoke to this as it reminded that audience that “power isn’t a means, it’s an end.”

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is a heavily satirical allegory of the emergence of Hitler and the Nazi party. Written in 1941 by Bertolt Brecht, it tells the story of the washed-up but ambitious gangster Arturo Ui, who ruthlessly attempts to dominate the Chicago cauliflower racket. The play contains references to many famously corrupt leaders, everything from Nixon’s Watergate Scandal to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Unionville’s production was incredibly ambitious, with striking costumes and a set that fused the Roaring 20s with 1970s punk rock. The cast also did a great job of straddling the difficult fine line between comedy and drama that a satire about Fascism requires.

Rachel Tierney commanded the stage as the magnetic Arturo Ui. Maintaining a thick Chicago accent and a characteristic mobster saunter throughout a whole show is no easy feat, but Tierney made it seem effortless. She skillfully captured Ui’s unhinged mental state without losing his captivating amount of charisma.

Meghan McClosky was a standout among the supporting cast with her portrayal of the straight-shooting Dogsborough. Her growing guilt throughout the show was palpable, and her descent into despair at the hands of Ui was heart-wrenchingly believable. Comedic highlights of the show included Soren Sheckells as the hysterically incoherent Fish and Jaden Wrabley as the flamboyant Actor. Although several clear jokes fell flat, the cast always managed to convey the play’s more important dramatic undertones.

The technical star of the show was the incredible stage management team of Haley Crawford and Lauren Landolt. They created deeply comprehensive guides of the play’s light and sound cues while also ensuring an impressive amount of coordination between the set, costumes, and props that gave the whole production a cohesive look. Another technical highlight was the set, which fused Art Deco with graffiti to create a unique and unforgettable sight.

With its bold technical choices and performances raw with emotion, Unionville’s production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui created a timeless portrayal of the dangers of a totalitarian government reminding the audience that even though Hitler is gone, “the ooze that spawned him is as rich as ever.”

Table for Two – The Baldwin School

Baldwin - Tea for Two 3jpg

Tea for Two by the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, PA

November 12, 2019

Review submitted by Charlotte Smith of Shipley School

Unification, division and comedy: most would think that these are three completely different descriptors. However, in The Baldwin School’s show Table for Two, they described one entertaining show.

Table for Two portrays the concept of the table as both a unifying symbol but also a barrier throughout five separate scenes. Each scene evoked starkly different emotions through several distinct settings: a dinner date, a DMV office, an audition room, a diner and a studio. They each followed a similar arch with the table in front of them physically bringing them closer yet pushing them further and further away.

The cast tackled this difficult project admirably. The separation of each scene was followed by a good amount of liveliness. While the energy started rather low, most likely due to first night jitters, it picked up tremendously throughout the show.

A talented group of students made this show a good performance to witness. Notably, Julie Brose’s performance as Elizabeth, struggling to please the casting director during her audition, was both stunning and comedic. Her blocking mixed with her undeniable sense of comedic timing made for a very memorable performance. Additionally, Jattu Fahnbulleh stood out with her rendition of a TV producer named Rodger. Everyone in the audience truly got a sense of her character; she did not say her lines, she lived them.

The supporting characters in this piece did a nice job with the task they were given. They did not shy away from the challenges of their roles. However, Emily Seltzer stood out in her performance of the final scene, “The Spot,” with her witty humor.

The set for the play was minimalistic, yet chic. However, it was oftentimes hard to focus on the actors on stage due to the broad lighting, especially during intimate scenes. The costumes themselves were simple but effective, using everyday wear for each and every character.

The Baldwin School’s performance of Table for Two was an entertaining experience, employing amusement and talent in every scene.

 

Review submitted by Keagan Richard of Upper Merion Area High School

Have you ever had a bad day at your local DMV?  Or have you ever had to break up a long-term friendship but were too scared of the messy aftermath? Well, The Baldwin School’s production of Table for Two certainly depicts the most absurd and hilarious outcomes for these everyday situations and more.

Compiled by The Baldwin School, Table for Two features a series of vignettes adapted from several short one-act comedies. While all the sketches center on the table, the amusing vignettes depict a variety of moments:  an awkward blind date, an infuriating license renewal, a captivating and hectic audition, a formal and diplomatic break-up, as well as a ruthless shooting session for a political campaign television advertisement. What ensues is a series of laughs and twists leaving the audience asking for more.

With great developing energy and liveliness, the cast as a whole was able to effectively craft unique characterizations and successfully display their share of talent to produce a wonderful and entertaining show with many memorable moments.

Julie Brose gave an impressive and outstanding performance of Elizabeth in the vignette, “The Role of Della”. Her broad and versatile acting arsenal in conjunction with her raw energy allowed for her talent to shine through in an effortless switch between accents, languages, and interpretive movements in one of her character’s monologues.

Ruthless and dominant, Jattu Fahnbulleh’s Rodger was delightful to witness. Her commanding and assertive onstage presence kept the audience knowing who was in charge. Equally as impressive were Selina Wu and Sam Manogue’s performances as Hannah and Lindsey. Despite a couple discordant instances, their harmonious onstage relationship effectively gave the impression that they had been very close friends for several years. Several blocking decisions made it difficult to relay a couple performances, and a handful of instances felt drawn-out, but the performers did a nice job elevating the energy throughout the night.

The overall technical elements crafted an intimate and enjoyable experience for the audience. Swift and polished, the quick scene changes under Lucy Bonin’s management allowed for near seamless transitions between each of the stories. Ellie Delaney’s basic sets effectively reflected the various environments each vignette required. Integral lighting by Estella Stein shaped the atmosphere of the distinct settings, successfully placing the audience in the restaurant, DMV, and audition room with the characters on stage.

With impressive, energetic performances, and well-executed tech, Baldwin School’s production of Table for Two was entertaining, lively, and hysterical which is nothing short of what you would expect to find at the dinner table during the upcoming holidays.

Walk Two Moons by Episcopal Academy

Episcopal - Walk Two Moons 2 photo by Michael Lesliephoto by Michael Leslie

Walk Two Moons – Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA

November 4, 2019

Review submitted by Molly Levine of Upper Merion Area High School

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” This Native American proverb of empathy and growth reflects the powerful production of Walk Two Moons performed by Episcopal Academy.

Based off of Sharon Creech’s Newberry winning novel, Walk Two Moons tells the story of a young girl on a cross-country road trip with her grandparents as she recounts her exploits with her eccentric friend, Phoebe Winterbottom, while reflecting on life in Kentucky with her parents. Sal learns valuable lessons of life, love, and family in this emotional yet heart-warming tale.

Episcopal Academy’s production expertly handled the difficulty of the ever-changing settings throughout the show with fluid scene changes, a dynamic set, and the dedication of the actors to their complex roles. All characters, Sal (Katie Locke) in particular, were able to portray scenes of deep sadness with maturity and gravity, while also establishing light-hearted moments throughout.

Sal (Katie Locke) demonstrated the joys and the pains of growing up in her loving yet tragic family. Locke’s ability to play the silly, uplifting moments of her innocent character and immediately transition to devastating realizations about her family was incredibly impressive. Grace Frazier skillfully performed the whimsical role of Phoebe with an adventurous attitude that quickly grew paranoid once her world fell apart. The relationship between Sal and Phoebe was enjoyable to watch as the two shared great chemistry as Sal’s uncertainty and thoughtfulness balanced out Phoebe’s outlandish ideas.

Arnav Shiva was a standout performer as he portrayed his role of Gramps with an impeccable Southern accent and well-timed one-liners, while being able to highlight the pain his character endures in an unforgettable monologue. Mrs. Partridge (Madison Belo) had her own hilarious moments with her spot-on comedic timing. Belo also sang beautifully during transitions with Adam Mauch on the guitar, creating smooth transitions between the different scenes. The ensemble served many roles in this production, as travelers, students, and even trees. The cast handled these varied roles with great energy and characterization on stage.

The EA Tech Crew designed and built a minimalistic yet highly detailed set. With a tree for Sal to climb, a car that could move around the stage, and the glowing moon in the background, this fully functioning set brought this story to life. Lighting by Laura Patterson created intimate moments with Sal as she processed her mother’s disappearance.

Episcopal Academy told the story of Walk Two Moons with a deep understanding of love and loss, evoking empathy from the audience. The cast and crew illustrated the importance of journeys, teaching us that “you can’t cage a person,” but they will always be with you.

 

Review submitted by Kristiana Filipov of Harriton High School

Have you ever heard a singing tree? Or plucked blackberries from verdant foliage, careful to save some at the bottom and top of the bush for the mice and the birds? Well, Salamanca Tree Hiddle, the protagonist in Episcopal Academy’s recent production of Walk Two Moons, certainly has.

Based on Sharon Creech’s novel of the same name, Walk Two Moons follows the pre-pubescent Salamanca, referred to as Sal, on the road trip she takes from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents to visit her mother, who has mysteriously disappeared. Along the way, she relays the tale of her friend Phoebe Winterbottom, whose mother also disappeared, and whose conviction that her neighbor is a kidnapping murderer is unshakeable. What follows is a heart-warming, bittersweet journey that allows Sal to come to terms with losing her mother.

The cast as a whole was vivacious and diverse, with unique characterization in even the ensemble, which grounded the shifting nature of the narrative as the plot switches between Sal’s journey and Phoebe’s story, and allowed the flow of the play to lead the audience down different paths without confusing them. Despite the somber nature of the second act, the ensemble and entire cast maintained genuine and impressive energy.

Central to the play, however, was Katie Locke’s heartfelt performance of Sal, whose mannerisms and expressions revealed an earnest character. Present onstage for the majority of the show, Locke’s emotive force never faltered, and built to a poignant climax in the second act. Additionally, her characterization contrasted nicely with the vivacious Grace Frazier, whose body language and inflection conveyed her character’s paranoia.

Throughout the show, various supporting actors supplemented Locke and Frazier’s performances. Notably, Arnav Shiva and Madison Belo as Gramps and Mrs. Partridge brought levity to an otherwise emotionally heavy play, and used accents to enhance their characterization. Belo and Adam Mauch also expertly wove haunting music throughout the play, which grounded the narrative and fit its mood. Finally, the ensemble, marching on and off stage frequently, was vibrant without being distracting and versatile in switching between their various roles.

Despite the engaging performances of the actors, Walk Two Moons would be incomplete without Laura Patterson’s impeccable lighting and Anjali Bose’s creative stage management. Set changes rarely interrupted the flow of the play, occurring in the background of most scenes. Most of all, Patterson’s lighting took the show from good to great, enhancing the narrative and making it clear at all times. The lighting mimicked the mood of most scenes, while remaining simple with little variation beyond blue and amber.

With high energy, heartfelt performances, and skillfully-executed tech, Episcopal Academy’s Walk Two Moons was poignant, refreshing, and delightful, like a freshly-plucked blackberry from the human-height section of a bush.