As You Like It – Abington Friends School

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As You Like It by Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA

April 15, 2019

Review submitted by Victoria Carcillo of Sun Valley High School

With romance, humor, and adventure, Abington Friends School’s production of As You Like It truly embodied Shakespeare’s classic play with a bit of modern flair.

This romantic comedy was written by Shakespeare in the late 16th century, and it tells the tale of Rosalind and Orlando as their love for each other grows with the many adventures they encounter along their journey. When Rosalind gets banished, she and her cousin, Celia, seek shelter in the Forest of Arden, but Rosalind decides to disguise herself as a young man named Ganymede, and Celia disguises herself as his sister, a shepherdess named Aliena. This adds some fun to their time in the forest as Ganymede decides to help Orlando “woo” Rosalind.

The musical direction incorporated into this production by Halle Jacobson and Noah Vinogradov added a fun and creative twist to this Shakespearean play. The song “Bottom of the River” created a unique but very enjoyable way to open the show and was performed beautifully by the cast as well as many of the other vocal performances throughout the show.

Devyn Costello-Henderson portrayed her character, Rosalind, exceptionally well and was able to make it very clear when she was shifting between Ganymede and Rosalind when this could have been easily confusing for the audience. Also, Clay Lewis wonderfully captured Orlando’s essence with fluid movements and facial expressions to portray his love-struck character.

Additionally, Ifeanyi Odita was outstanding as Celia, and with great chemistry between her and Rosalind, her performance was very believable as a loyal cousin. Cole Lewis (Touchstone) provided comical relief throughout the show and never ceased to impress with his comedic timing and his humorous facial expressions.

The amazing, but more importantly, functional set in this production allowed for easy shifts from scene to scene and interactions with the set itself. Not only this, but the musical tracks played during set changes as a simple household transformed into a lovely forest made these periods very entertaining for the audience. The lighting used in this show was another fantastic aspect of this production as it set the tone for each scene in an eye-catching way.

Though taking on this Shakespearean play was not an easy feat, Abington Friends School’s unique interpretation of As You Like It along with its talented cast and crew made this production a success.

Review submitted by Lionel McCulloch of PA Leadership Charter School’s Center for Performing and Fine Arts

Action, romance and tomfoolery abound in Abington Friends Upper School’s production of the classic As You Like It, where the stakes may be low but the poetry is pumpin’!

One of William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedies, As You Like It follows the banished Rosalind on her quest to find her father, the duke who was ousted before her. Disguised as a young boy, Ganymede, to avoid violence in the forest of Arden, Rosalind bumps into Orlando, a boy she had a crush on when she was at court. Orlando is pining for Rosalind, but since she is disguised, she decides to keep him on the hook by pretending she is a boy. While she teaches Orlando how to be a proper lover, Orlando struggles with fear that he is falling for a boy, a fool turns out to be full of wisdom and a happy ending is assured.

By updating Shakespeare with modern music to connect the audience to the language, the Abington Friends production conveyed the story with a complex understanding of the text. Confident physicality and precise comic timing combined with a mobile modular set and live music performed by the actors provided an organic and contemporary comprehension of the play.

Devyn Costello-Henderson’s gender bending heroine, Rosalind, performed the role with graceful whimsical physicality. She teased and joked, plotted and flirted, making Shakespeare’s language seem modern and meaningful. Matched in comfort and confidence was young roustabout Orlando, played by Clay Lewis. Their amazing chemistry revealed the discomfort Orlando feels falling for a young boy, and the wink and nudge that Rosalind gives knowing the truth.

Each small ensemble, the court, the household, the banished band in the forest of Arden and the country folk brought their own musical style to the play. When all of the ensembles combined, they harmonized beautifully. The fool, Touchstone, played by Cole Lewis, was equally powerful when speaking as in silence, showing himself to be the wisest man on stage.

Prajeev Robison’s warm lighting complimented by a well-used cyclorama and practical fire effects created an enchanting environment. A vagabond set by Josiah Perez moved around the stage easily, creating many worlds with a shift of the portable pieces.

The fool knows that all the world’s a stage but Abington Friend’s production of the lyrical As You Like It, conjures a natural world of whimsy, wit and wonder.

Marie Antoinette – The Baldwin School

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Marie Antoinette by The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, PA

April 15, 2019

Review submitted by Hope Odhner of Academy of the New Church

Whether loved, admired, or despised, the name Marie Antoinette has gone down in history. Now, in their latest production of the same name, the students at Baldwin Upper School present her side of the story.

Marie Antoinette, by David Adjmi, was commissioned by the Yale Repertory Theatre in 2012, and later premiered in New York at Soho Rep. The play follows the title character as she struggles to survive in a new country that seems intent on ripping apart her reputation. With a modern take, the show subtly parallels Marie’s challenges with those of celebrities today, as rumors and hateful lies run rampant. Although her inevitable death comes as no surprise at the end, the story presents her side of the French Revolution, drawing the audience in as it depicts the insecurities, anxieties, and secret desires of the most famous queen of France.

The cast and crew at Baldwin School took on a challenging task, but performed admirably. The team of students, who managed almost all aspects of the show, brought attention to detail and hard work to their research and creations. Whether the thoughtful placement of a beauty mark or the insightful connections between 18th century France and modern times, the students did their best to create a worthwhile show.

Skylar Zachian had a difficult role as Marie, but she managed to capture the regal haughtiness and naive confusion of the queen of France. Emily Seltzer, as her husband Louis XVI, played an endearingly pathetic king with her petulant pouting and timid authority.

Axel Fersen, played by Sam Cappel, brought a charismatic, but slightly mysterious presence as he both courted and consoled the distraught queen. Nahla Yankowy looked every bit the innocent Dauphin, whether happily playing or tragically complaining. Asia Blocker, as Marie’s friend Therese de Lamballe, provided a gentle voice of reason and a warm smile to the confused queen.

Aya Ibikunle took on the role of Assistant Director, coordinating the movements and actions of the ensemble with care. Estella Stein, heading the lighting, artistically painted the mood of each scene with bright colors and startling contrasts. Publicity for the show, provided by Grace Halak and Sydney Zilch, included websites, T-shirts, posters, and an elegant, hand-designed program with thoughtful notes on politics in France today and at the time.

Despite the difficulty of the material, the students at Baldwin School stepped up to the plate and presented a thought-provoking show about Marie Antoinette and her timeless tale.

Review submitted by Anna Bobok of Upper Merion Area High School

“Let them eat cake!” infamously proclaimed the queen, but the Baldwin School gave audiences a lot more to chew on with their production of Marie Antoinette!

David Adjmi’s acclaimed play follows the titular tyrant from the height of her rule to her downfall at the hands of her own people. Adjmi’s contemporary rendering of Marie allows for moments of humor and whimsy in Act I, but the mood quickly shifts to a harrowing glimpse at utter madness. Unlike most retellings of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette offers the queen’s perspective, suggesting she might just be a victim after all.

Baldwin’s cast was full of dedicated performers, from the dynamic Marie to the statue-esque guards. The actors utilized facial expression and body language effectively to create over-the-top characters and comedic moments. The entire cast had crisp diction and strong projection as well, which really helped the audience understand the complex material in the show.

Skylar Zachian commanded the stage as the sarcastic and frivolous Marie Antoinette. Zachian’s impressive memorization of lines, endless quick changes, and her appearance in every scene of the show were difficult alone, but Zachian took the character to the next level with her convincing progression of insanity through the show. By her side was husband Louis XVI, portrayed by Emily Seltzer. Seltzer’s characterization of the king as childish and timid countered Zachian’s forceful queen flawlessly, making their scenes together especially humorous.

The minor characters of the show were just as powerful, making their limited time on stage count. Jattu Fahnbulleh’s portrayal of Marie’s brother, Joseph, was incredibly impactful, as her steadfast intensity drove her single scene. Katrina Conklin and Asia Blocker were perfectly sophisticated and snobby as Yolande de Polignac and Therese de Lamballe, respectively, highlighting Marie’s isolation with their clear establishment of fraudulent friendships. Caroline Lingle was a crowd favorite as the mysterious talking Sheep, with blunt remarks and a nonchalance that were very comical.

The space was very intimate, allowing audience members to see everything technical up close and personal. The set was very minimal but full of little details, like broken mirrors and a green turf area. Costumes, hair and make-up captured both the 18th Century and modern society well, from extravagant wigs to ripped jeans. The program for the show was full of painstaking love from the marketing team, each picture included being edited or created by the students themselves.

Baldwin’s Marie Antoinette was certainly one for the history books!

Radium Girls – Springside Chestnut Hill Academy

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Radium Girls by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Willow Grove, PA

April 15, 2019

Review submitted by Sarah Eckstein Indik of Barrack Hebrew Academy

Seemingly a miracle, radium could cure all sorts of ailments, and it was deemed a great discovery… until it started to kill people. With a solid performance, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Radium Girls investigated the horrors of radium, science, business, and human greed.

A historical fiction drama, set in the 1920s, Radium Girls, written by D.W Gregory, inspired by real-life events, illustrates the story of Grace Fryer who fights for a court case because of the radium-caused fatal illness which she and others contracted while working for the U.S Radium Corporation.

The vibrant portrayals of the characters anchored this production; all making bold choices, the cast stuck to the period and the American obsession with health and consumerism.

Katie Walker (Grace Fryer) generated an admirable performance, gracefully portraying her character’s shift from physical strength and emotional naivety to physical weakness and stubbornness, beginning with a high-pitched voice and finishing a frail body.   A praiseworthy job, Luke Percy (Arthur Roeder) characterized the morally-challenged businessman and chief of the U.S Radium Corporation with ease, unafraid to be stern or to be commanding when confronted by others yet quick to be thoughtful and distressed by his actions when alone.

With great chemistry, the other factory girls, Riley Redpath (Irene Rudolph) and Whimsy Mark-Ockerbloom (Kathryn Schaub) triggered laughter and sympathy from the audience, whether telling funny gossip from the factory or slowly suffering from their ailments. Accurately portraying the role of a powerful man’s wife in the 1920s, Gracie Lubisky (Diane Roeder) depicted her character’s need for a favorable public opinion. Although the pacing was slow at times, and the scenes laden with dramatic pauses, each moment demanded the audience’s attention.

Since the set was ever-changing, frequent scene changes challenged this performance, but the SCH crew trekked on. The special-effects makeup designed and applied by Giulia Giordano and Caden Traversari for those harmed by radium poisoning was graphic and actualized the horrors.

Even when the lights went dark on all the performers, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Radium Girls remained bright and painful in the hearts of the audience, much like the glow of radium.

Review submitted by Benna Trachtenberg of Harriton High School

Terrifying working conditions, ignorance, and deathly illness all came together to make Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Radium Girls an unforgettable experience.

Radium Girls follows three women working in a watch factory who are exposed to excessive amounts of radium. They consume this deathly metal because they are required to paint watch faces with poisonous paint by licking the end of the brush. Since there is a lack of knowledge surrounding radium, many factory workers fall ill. The remainder of the plot surrounds the women’s fight for justice. Written by D.W. Gregory, the play is strongly based around historical events. Overall, the play tells a story of a total obsession with wealth, and complete disregard of the harmful effects of commercialized science.

The committed cast of Radium Girls was extremely mature while handling depressing and startling topics. Despite a lengthy production, the performers were able to remain passionate throughout.

Leading the cast triumphantly was Katie Walker as Grace Fryer. Walker did a marvelous job transforming from an enthusiastic, peppy girl into a sullen, disappointed woman. Her determination was impressive as she fought for her life. Luke Percy as Arthur Roeder perfectly captured the complete lack of knowledge during the time period. His serious demeanor was well executed along with his complete denial of facts in search of success

Playing the sickly Kathryn Schaub was Whimsy Mark-Ockerbloom. Mark-Ockerbloom was able to tackle her intense character with poise. Yofi Guy (Edward Markley) portrayed the classic slimy lawyer quite well. His devotion was great along with his overall stage presence.

Giulia Giordano and Caden Traversari were able to, through hair and makeup, make the slow death of the actors feel real. The dark grey contours added to the show immensely. Moreover, the neon lights, although being somewhat distracting, added to the factory setting. Despite slow-paced set changes, the SCH Run Crew admirably maneuvered delicate set pieces.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Radium Girls was a necessary piece in completing the puzzle of empowerment and the labor rights movement.

Young Frankenstein – Harriton High School

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Young Frankenstein by Harriton High School in Rosemont, PA

April 8, 2019

Review submitted by Lionel McCulloch of PA Leadership Charter School’s Center for Performing and Fine Arts

“It’s alive!” But not to worry, because Harriton Theater Company’s relevant, revenant production of Young Frankenstein has everything under control.

Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein based on his popular film of the same title is a raunchy comedy, making fun of the horror genre and the clichés that came with it. The musical tells the story of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, grandson of infamously acclaimed mad-scientist Victor Frankenstein, who is so offended by his family name that in order to avoid the connection, pronounces it as “Fronk-en-steen”. However, when the news of his grandfather’s death reaches him in New York, he must leave his fiancé to claim the family’s Transylvania estate. While there, Frederick ends up receiving much more than he bargained for.

HTC’s production was a monster of a show, with ghostly lighting effects, supernaturally splendid characterization, and freakishly fantastic comedic timing. The leading cast was to die for, the sets were possessed with craft and intricacy, and the orchestra was shockingly powerful.

Leading man Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Jaspar Albright) filled each scene with the presence of a naive, yet more than competent scientist. His larger than life characterization was exquisite. His Transylvanian partner Inga (Nina Gold) was equally powerful, providing an excellent foil to Frankenstein’s anxiety, with her lively, exuberant, flirtatious energy that filled the large stage.

The supporting cast provided the spark of life to every scene! Igor (Ben Newman) was rib-tickling-ly, side-splittingly, dying and coming back to life-ingly hysterical. Dry delivery and audience mugging put Igor in the driver’s seat. Frau Blücher (Allegra Greenawalt) was equally jocular. Her droll and well-timed delivery was the electric cherry on top.

From the lively lighting to the outstanding orchestration, technical elements were powerfully executed. Lighting was moody at times, while providing cartoony colorful fun to the comedic scenes. Sometimes spotty, the sound was corrected quickly when there was the occasional mic error, and was otherwise excellent. The sets were amazing feats of construction, the main attraction being two very large modular rolling panels with built-in stairs and catwalks. The small pit orchestra offered Broadway quality sound that filled the large theater easily.

Harriton Theater Company’s Young Frankenstein reanimated the heartstrings, and electrified the funny-bone. Gather your mob to see this delightful production!

Review submitted by Alicia Method of Bordentown Regional High School

Harriton High School rose both the dead and the bar for freaky, comedic musicals in its production of Young Frankenstein.

The musical was written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan and based off the 1974 movie of the same name. It is a parody of the horror film genre and features many well-known characters and settings such as Transylvania and the creations of a Doctor Frankenstein. The story follows the grandson of the original Frankenstein, Frederick Frankenstein, as he travels back to his grandfather’s castle after the infamous scientist’s death and begins engaging with his grandfather’s old friends and their suspicious activities.

Young Frankenstein relied on soaring vocals and intriguing special effects to suck the audience in to its wonky world of zombies and werewolves. Many cast members were clearly fully immersed in their characters, which helped to sell the overall performance.

The lead couple of the show, Inga and Frederick, played by Nina Gold and Jaspar Albright, displayed wonderful chemistry and managed mature scenes admirably well. Both of their vocals shone, dominating selections such as “Roll in the Hay” and “The Brain”. Supporting and lurking around these two was Igor (Ben Newman). Newman managed to spend the entire show hunched over while his comedic lines were always delivered with perfect timing and enunciation to get the audience laughing.

Other standout performances came from the Monster (Jackson Eisner) and Frau Blücher (Allegra Greenawalt). The Monster mainly expressed himself through grunting and moaning, which Eisner interpreted and displayed creatively. Frau Blücher became the heart of the comedy with extremely entertaining gestures and line pronunciations. Greenawalt’s song “He Vas My Boyfriend’ was especially humorous and magnificently delivered.

Some of the most striking elements of the show were its technical aspects. An expansive set that rolled and spun added depth to the setting and production as a whole. Other effects such as fog and a gigantic puppet helped to immerse the audience in the spooky experience. A few sound issues compromised some scenes, however the cast rebounded from these with increasing enthusiasm and energy. The student orchestra was incredible in both sound and precision, filling the auditorium with the tricky song selections.

The cast of Young Frankenstein should be commended for their performance of this eccentric yet heartwarming tale.

Curtains – Upper Moreland High School

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Curtains by Upper Moreland High School in Willow Grove, PA

April 2, 2019

Review submitted by Annajean Gionta of Haverford High School

What kind of a show can go from a number entitled “Show People” to one called “The Woman’s Dead” and leave audiences all “In The Same Boat” of adoring praises? Upper Moreland High School’s production of Curtains sure can!

Written by Rupert Holmes, John Kander, and Fred Ebb, the musical comedy Curtains first debuted on the stage in 2006. Following a “show-within-a-show” format, the show follows the cast and crew of a new musical attempting to reach the Broadway stage. However, during its Boston previews, murder after murder occur, leaving all members of the show suspects. Through this enchanting story, hilarity, complexity, and sympathy are born.

Curtains demands much from all elements: from both actor and technical levels. Considerably so, Upper Moreland showcased a broad range of talents. Leading roles conveyed precision, the supporting cast conveyed dedication, and the ensemble conveyed enthusiasm at all times.

Leading the show was the incredibly powerful actor, singer, and dancer Christian Tuffy (Lt. Frank Cioffi). His comedic timing was sharp, his vocals were crystal clear, and his dancing was wonderfully refined as highlighted in the tap number “A Tough Act to Follow”. Leading beside him was actress Nina Vitek (Carmen Bernstein), also a power-house of a performer, particularly vocally. During songs such as “Show People” and “It’s a Business”, such was blatantly clear. Duo Liz Jones (Georgia Hendricks) and Brian Miller (Aaron Fox) also provided commendable performances and they displayed excellent chemistry.

Just as the leads of the show soared, the supporting, featured, and ensemble cast did as well. Angelina Reilly (Bambi Bernet) had no trouble stealing the spotlight as audiences craved more of her sassy character. Also impressive was Grace Farrell (Niki Harris) and her ability to play such a naive ingenue so well. Other nuanced and noteworthy featured performers included Andrew Riegel (Christopher Belling), Bodhi Childs (Bobby Pepper), and Leia Curran (Joannie Harmon). The ensemble of the show also remained consistent in efforts to engage their audiences.

Most notable about the behind-the-scenes aspects of this show was the talent of student director Conner Holm. Certainly, the scenes that he directed were some of the best in the production as they tended to convey the most emotion and creativity. While there were some microphone issues toward the beginning of the show, a swift recovery was made. The lighting of the show made for an excellent assist to the story. The lighting was vibrant and specific to the mood of each scene.

Overall, Upper Moreland performed a show that was detailed and entertaining. From those on stage to those backstage, effort and raw talents were clear. Their production truly was “A Tough Act to Follow”!

Review submitted by Aurelle Odhner of Academy of the New Church

Come to Upper Moreland High School and see all the “Show People” performing the musical murder mystery Curtains! This criminal comedy will make you die laughing before you can say “whodunit.”

Based on the original concept by Peter Stone, the Curtains musical features a book by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander. The comedic plot follows Lt. Frank Cioffi, a homicide detective with a passion for theater, as he tries to shine a spotlight on the murder of the leading lady in an aspiring Broadway show, while simultaneously helping revive the production itself. The goofy detective with his infectious excitement for musical theatre brings out a love for the stage in everyone around him, and even finds some love himself among the cast.

Any show with a leading cast like Upper Moreland’s would be a “Tough Act To Follow.” Throw in some great voices, an sharp ensemble, and a tap number for good measure, and you’ve got a show with as much talent as it has humor. The cast may be dead serious about solving this murder mystery, but they’ll keep you laughing the whole way through.

The Upper Moreland cast featured some standout leads that were to-die-for. Christian Tuffy filled the central role with an endearingly jovial portrayal of Lt. Cioffi, while Carmen Bernstein, played by Nina Vitek, took center stage to belt numbers like “It’s A Business,” and had the audience hanging on every note. Grace Farrell brought a subtler talent and a lilting voice to the stage as the sweet Niki Harris, and she and Tuffy created a charming dynamic.

Among the list of suspects, or rather the supporting cast, was Liz Jones, who lent her clear voice to the part of Georgia Hendricks. Her partner in crime, Brian Miller, brought alive the role of Aaron Fox with his emotive acting, and the two complemented each other nicely. Julia Jennings as Olive Shapiro remained present and in character at every moment, and together with Miller, Jones, and Vitek, gave a remarkable rendition of “What Kind Of Man” and created countless memorable moments. Angelina Reilly also stood out as Bambi Bernét, leading the ensemble with her focused energy.

Thanks to well-organized stage management and efficient stage crew, scene changes were smooth and seamless, and the show went off without a hitch, with the exception of an occasional murder. Even more commendable was the student direction by Conner Holm in the final scenes, in which the many tangled narratives were unraveled and motives were clearly revealed.

Upper Moreland’s Curtains is a hilarious show and perfect for anyone who loves a good laugh and a murder mystery!

The Drowsy Chaperone – Upper Merion High School

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The Drowsy Chaperone by Upper Merion High School in King of Prussia, PA

April 2, 2019

Review submitted by Tommy Christaldi of Sun Valley High School

The Underground Players of Upper Merion Area High School had no issues “showing off” their talent during their production of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone.  They delivered not just the promised “mix-ups, mayhem, and a gay wedding!” but much more.

Opening on Broadway in 2006, and winning two Tony awards, including Best Book, The Drowsy Chaperone is the quintessential show-within-a-show.  It opens on the nameless Man In Chair, a gloomy agoraphobe, who invites the audience to join him in listening to his favorite record, The Drowsy Chaperone.  This send-up of theater tropes plays out in front of him, complete with a score right out of the 1920s, as he narrates the events of his favorite musical.

As the only one in the “real world” for a majority of the show, Justin Halpern’s Man In Chair controlled the rest of the cast.  Whenever he pulled up the needle from the record, everyone froze, occasionally for minutes on end as he digressed.  The dedication from the ensemble cast in remaining unflinching was excellent.  Many other aspects of the show-within-a-show garnered immense laughter, including a record-skip causing the end of a dance to play out repeatedly. Upper Merion was even able to include a treat for returning viewers, as when the Man switched records to begin Act II, he instead put on Urinetown, Upper Merion’s 2018 musical.

Onstage for almost the entire show, Halpern had a large task on his hands, but he pulled it off very well, with near-impeccable comedic timing.  He remained engaged in the scene even when uninvolved, dancing along or mouthing dialogue of other characters.  Within the show, Carly Rhindress flourished as leading lady Janet Van De Graaff, with a voice reminiscent of a classic showgirl. As the Chaperone, Anna Bobok channeled energy and pizzazz in her rousing anthem, “As We Stumble Along,” complete with a lengthy and unwavering final note.

Daniel Isajiw, playing Janet’s groom-to-be, Robert, brought just the right degree of cheesy to the ridiculous character.  As the hilarious Latin lothario Aldolpho, Keagan Richards wielded showy body language and an impressive vocal range. Each other member of the supporting cast, from the ditzy Kitty (Kaci Walter) to the absent-minded Mrs. Tottendale (Molly Levine) and even the witty gangsters (Luke Preston, Grayson Davidock) had their own moments to shine, and each was able to induce rolls of laughter.

Given that the show was playing out in Man In Chair’s imagination, the apartment set, while beautiful and full of small details, was unrelated to the plot-within-the-plot. Therefore, setting was instead created through costumes and makeup.  Each character looked as if they were pulled straight out of an era gone by.

The Drowsy Chaperone was an uproarious yet heartfelt production, the perfect cure for any “non-specific sadness!”

Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

One spin of a record turns the modern-day life straight to the “decadent world of the 1920’s where champagne flowed while caviar chilled.” The Drowsy Chaperone at Upper Merion Area High School filled the air with nostalgia and talent.

The Drowsy Chaperone, written by Lisa Lambert, Greg Morrison, Bob Martin, and Don McKellar, whisks audiences into the world of a fictitious 1920s Broadway musical of the same name. As the Man in Chair recites the stories of his favorite Broadway classic through a playing a record, the musical bursts through his own apartment, with big, flashy numbers and outlandish characters. As the show continues, the comedy within a musical accentuates and becomes a universal show with timeless themes.

The production itself was gorgeous, including all actors and crew. The show was put together, and it was clearly well collaborated between all. Upper Merion did an amazing job incorporating the superb technical aspects with dedicated and committed actors.

The Man In Chair, played by Justin Halpern, used great acting abilities to portray his character. His comedic timing throughout his monologues added to his narratorial presence. Halpern kept the audience laughing and smiling line after line. Portraying the Chaperone, Anna Bobok commanded stage presence and brought the dramatic tipsy character to life. During her huge solo “As We Stumble Along,” Bobok brought the house down with her immense and powerful belt.

Daniel Isajiw and Ryan Slusky, playing Robert and George respectively, created great chemistry on stage, shown through their duet dance number, “Cold Feets.” Another stand-out was Keagan Richards as Aldolpho, who had the audience cracking up. Richards portrayed the Latin heartthrob and king of romance perfectly, making him a joy to watch on stage. Similarly, Carly Rhindress (Janet Van De Graaff) showed off her vocal talent throughout the show. Her voice was show-stopping and had charming energy, fitting the role impeccably.

Another strength of Upper Merion’s production was their sets. The Underground Players Stage Crew effectively built the Man In Chair apartment, which doubled as the set for the musical world. Also, the prop department, led by The Underground Players Stage Crew as well, provided a modern feel and staged special and unique objects throughout the show.

Upper Merion Area High School’s The Drowsy Chaperone was an excellent piece of theatre that helps the audience escape the dreary horrors of the real world.

Bye Bye Birdie – Marple Newtown High School

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Bye Bye Birdie by Marple Newtown High School in Newtown Square, PA

March 19, 2019

Review submitted by Alexis Rendel of Archmere Academy

Put on a happy face because Marple Newtown High’s production of Bye Bye Birdie brought its audience back to the rock and roll swingin’ time of the 50s.

Bye Bye Birdie is a musical comedy following the teen idol, Conrad Birdie, and his manager, Albert Peterson, as they plan Conrad’s goodbye tour before he leaves for the army. In addition to juggling Conrad and keeping his many fangirls at bay, Albert attempts to keep his audacious secretary and love interest, Rose Alvarez, from leaving him as a result of Birdie’s antics. The story takes place in 1958 during the Cold War and includes some humor that is very specific for the time. With music by Charles Strouse (Annie), lyrics by Lee Adams, and a story by Michael Stewart, this light-hearted musical transports the audience back to the jumpin’ era of classic rock ‘n roll.

Though many scenes were lacking in energy, the overall production certainly captured the time period and fluently articulated the messages of love, family, and fame depicted in the story. Some suggestive scenes were altered in order to maintain a sense of innocence for younger audience members, and though this resulted in a lack of clarity and understanding at times, the attempt was greatly appreciated. The immense challenge of accommodating a cast of over one hundred members was met gracefully as the show ran with very few hiccups.

Vinnie Cavallero (Albert Peterson) brought a strong, lively presence to the stage, especially with the tap number “Put on a Happy Face.” Furthermore, Olivia Knapp conveyed the fiery nature of Rosie with a natural attitude.   The comedic actors of this production shone through its shortcomings. Louie Kontaras as Harry MacAfee had the audience rolling in their seats with laughter during his speech on regaining Mr. MacAfee’s title as “Man of the House.” Even the drunken portrayal of Hugo Peabody (Brandon Raglow) and the awkward, lovestruck teenager Harvey Johnson (Richie Izzo) brought an energy to the stage that audiences certainly appreciated.

The technical aspects of Marple Newtown’s production definitely helped to strengthen the overall effect it had on the audience. Vinnie Cavallero’s costumes clearly expressed the 50s aesthetic and each costume had its own details, a terrific feat for dressing a cast of over one hundred people! The lighting, sets, and props, though simple in design, emulated the 50s with precision. At times, many of the mics seemed low in volume, giving the audience a difficult time understanding certain lines or songs, but period and storyline could still be understood.

Overall, Marple Newtown’s production of Bye Bye Birdie brought audiences back to a period of rock n’ roll and swing dancing, resulting in an entertaining, light-hearted piece.

Review submitted by Morgan Miller of Upper Merion Area High School

Inside the small town of Sweet Apple, Ohio, love blossoms as the town says Bye Bye Birdie in Marple Newtown High School’s amusing take on this classic period piece.

Set in 1958, Bye Bye Birdie follows the story of Conrad Birdie, an Elivis-esque rock star who is drafted into the army. When songwriter Albert Peterson chooses small-town teen Kim MacAfee to be Birdie’s last kiss before he heads off to war, her boyfriend Hugo will do almost anything to prevent her from kissing the teen heartthrob goodbye.  Bye Bye Birdie was originally produced on Broadway in 1960 and features music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams.

Vinnie Cavallero led the production with his earnest and endearing portrayal of Conrad’s manager Albert Peterson. Cavallero showcased his excellent tap dancing skills and bright vocals in “Put on a Happy Face.” Cavallero’s chemistry with scene partner Olivia Knapp (Rose Alvarez) was charming and served to make their relationship appear dynamic and natural.

Allie Rollo certainly was a crowd favorite, as she portrayed a likeable and bubbly Kim MacAfee, whose infectious energy and innocence made her a delightful onstage presence. Alongside Rollo, Owen Clark embraced the role of rock star Conrad Birdie, as his mellow crooning and comical dance moves were a focal point during “Honestly Sincere,” where Clark succeeded in making the entire town weak in the knees with his exaggerated twists.

The Conrad Birdie Fan Club ensemble was a hysterical addition to the show, as their over-the-top swooning reactions and high energy level never failed to engage the audience in their various musical numbers. The Fan Club ensemble displayed impressive synchronicity in their dance moves, especially considering their sizable cast.

Vinnie Cavallero worked alongside the rest of the costume team in order to create an impressive range of unique costume designs. Cavallero crafted each individual costume in order to develop a seamless color scheme that accentuated the 1950s time period, with each individual family unit sporting their own unique color.

With this silly retelling of the renowned 1950s musical Bye Bye Birdie, Marple Newtown High School had their audience “Put on a Happy Face” as they enjoyed an afternoon of music and dancing that they would be hard pressed to forget.

Cinderella – Haverford High School

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Cinderella by Haverford High School in Havertown, PA

March 19, 2019

Review submitted by Katrina Conklin of Baldwin School

In Cinderella’s world, miracles can happen: peasants can become princesses, pumpkins can become carriages, but most importantly, corrupt systems of government can be mended. In Haverford High School’s production of the classic tale, these miracles came to life before the audience’s eyes.

With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Cinderella the musical expands upon the famous story, giving it a modern twist. There are bigger problems than just Cinderella not having a dress: the government is ruthlessly stripping the poor of their land, and Prince Topher remains oblivious. “Ella” must use her magic not solely for her own benefit, but for the benefit of the whole country, putting her famous kindness to the test.

Cinderella was delightful in every regard. The kingdom-sized cast maintained high spirits and riveting authenticity throughout the entire production, transforming the timeless fairytale into a reality

Abby Kesselman’s depiction of Ella was vocally mesmerizing; her faultless high notes and angelic melodies could not have been more fit for a princess. Equal in musicality was Jack O’Leary as Prince Topher, whose valiant portrayal gave a refreshing depth to the typically one-dimensional “prince charming” archetype. The two leads displayed convincing chemistry onstage, giving the term “power couple” a new meaning.

Another major standout was Sam Isle as revolutionary Jean Michel whose affability and charisma was infectious, even if he needed to improvise when faced with a technical difficulty. By far the most humorous performance came from Tommy Barnes’s Sebastian, who utilized the perfect amount of exaggeration and ridiculousness to portray the greedy chancellor. And of course, Cinderella’s story wouldn’t be complete without her fairy godmother, performed beautifully by Pammie Cobaugh. She captured her character’s elegance and warmth, as well as the eccentric charm of Marie’s disguised persona.

Technical highlights included the intricate and abundant props by Amanda Carano and Shannon Kaercher which ranged from large royal scrolls to a plump plush pumpkin. The costume team tackled the challenge of dressing the cast in ballgowns and formalwear, amplifying the performance’s enchanting atmosphere. The execution of Cinderella’s magical transformations, reliant on skillfully designed two-part costumes, was impressively seamless. The predominantly student orchestra carried the performance through, shining in standout numbers “A Lovely Night,” and “Ten Minutes Ago.”

It takes great skill and effort to revitalize such an age-old narrative, and Haverford High School did so to create what was much more than just a “lovely” night.

Review submitted by Aurelle Odhner of Academy of the New Church

Hear ye, hear ye! Haverford High School is giving a performance of Cinderella!  All are invited to come witness the magic and romance of this spectacular show. With soaring songs, dazzling dances, captivating costumes, and much more, an evening spent watching this musical is sure to be “A Lovely Night.”

Rodgers and Hammerstein, the famous musical-theatre-writing duo, wrote their own version of the timeless story of Cinderella which was brought to life on the stage of Haverford High School. Drawing from the French tale penned by Charles Perrault, these musicians combined the classic elements of a pumpkin carriage, a cruel stepmother, and pure glass slippers with their own delightful music. They tell the story of how kind, gentle Ella goes from a miserable maid to the belle of the ball, dancing the night away with the Prince. Her journey of transformation and self-discovery is as universal as the tale of Cinderella itself.

Haverford High School brought enchanting vocals to the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, along with spirited dancing. The large ensemble responded well to each other and always seemed to be having a ball, while the leads and soloists provided astonishing talent. Perhaps the most magical moments however, came from the student-designed costumes. On three separate occasions, tattered garments were transformed onstage into shimmering gowns.

Abby Kesselman shone in the title role, with a voice as movingly sweet as her personality. Her charming prince, Jack O’Leary, was an equally powerful singer, and their heart-wrenching harmonies filled the room in numbers such as “Loneliness of Evening.” Krystyna Barr demonstrated great depth of character as Gabrielle, while her sister Charlotte, played by Noel Guidetti, added continual comic relief with her amusing physicality and expression. Tommy Barnes also stood out for his dramatic portrayal of Sebastian.

The chorus was a source of focused energy for most of the show. Their excitement was contagious in “The Prince Is Giving A Ball.” Two dancers in particular, Jack Drennen and Alex Lambert, gave consistently astonishing performances as the Fox Footman and Raccoon Coachman. Their nimble footwork and impressive gymnastics drew audible gasps from the audience.

The production benefited from a strong, primarily student orchestra, led by senior Dylan Hincka. Their professional sound and lively playing created the perfect support for those onstage. The marketing and publicity team, headed by Annajean Gionta and Chloe Calamaro, also showed a high level of professionality with elegant posters, quality videos, and extensive media networking, all while respecting the confines of their theatre contract.

“It’s Possible” that Haverford High School had the help of a fairy godmother in creating this stunning performance of Cinderella, but in this case the magic and catchy tunes linger with the audience long after midnight.

A… My Name is Alice – Jenkintown High School

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A… My Name is Alice by Jenkintown High School in Jenkintown, PA

March 19, 2019

Review submitted by Julia Jennings of Upper Moreland High School

Creating a poignant and compelling portrait of women’s experience across all settings and stages of life, Jenkintown High School charmed the audience with an “all girl band” of powerful performers in their production of A…My Name is Alice.

This musical revue incorporates twenty-one different songs and scenes united solely in their narrative of women and the world. Originally produced by The Women’s Project at the Village Gate Off Broadway, the show examines the diverse joys, sorrows, and complex relationships that women face, driving at the heart of what it is like to be a woman in modern society.

Jenkintown High School took on this difficult production with incredible feeling and strength, many actresses having to carry entire scenes on their own. This talented and passionate cast of almost entirely women was perfectly highlighted by a dynamic lighting design and versatile set to create an emotional feminist tour de force that swept the audience off its feet.

The ensemble of “Alices” worked together extremely effectively, creating complex and ever-changing chemistries as each actress filled several roles across different scenes. The cast displayed a compelling emotional connection with each other that appeared as a powerful force in the show. Individual performances also stood out as actresses were impressively able to create a memorable character through their short vignettes. As Ms. Mae, Aniya Cager was an audience favorite with her incredible mastery of a complex and lengthy monologue. Emily Munson similarly created a comedic character as the poet, never failing to make the audience laugh through her overblown, though metaphoric portrayal. Actresses such as Marielle Zakrzwski and Yusra Ali also very effectively created more serious stories in scenes including “Emily the M.B.A.” and “Pay Them No Mind”.

The ensemble vocals in numbers such as “All Girl Band”, “Bluer Than You”, and “Lifelines” were incredibly powerful. Solo pieces like “The Portrait” and “The French Monologue and Song” also stood out with brilliant performances from vocalists Madison Gardner and Maria Cotsis.

The set was simple, yet very versatile and dynamic, creating authenticity for settings such as a kindergarten classroom, and the bedroom of a teenage girl. The lighting was another highlight of the performance, changing color and focus to reflect the changing mood of each scene. Despite occasional difficulties with the sound, the amplification of the large cast was balanced very effectively. The stage crew was a surprise highlight of the performance, appearing between scenes with pep and enthusiasm.

Jenkintown High School’s production of A…My Name is Alice powerfully gave voice to women across all aspects of society, encompassing them together through the idea of “Alice” to create a memorable, inspiring piece that left the audience with absolutely no doubt that “Alice is doing alright!”

Review submitted by Patrick McCann of Harriton High School

How do you define feminism? Coming up with a definition that encompasses every woman’s experience is difficult, if not impossible. Jenkintown High School’s production of A… My Name is Alice made no effort to define such a daunting term, but in not doing so may have managed to accomplish something even more impressive: capturing the raw essence of womanhood.

Conceived by Joan Silver and Julianne Boyd, A… My Name is Alice is a musical revue, a patchwork of disconnected songs and monologues. It presents a kaleidoscope of modern women: friends, rivals, mothers, daughters, poets, businesswomen, and even an all-women’s basketball team. But unlike some feminist plays, A… My Name is Alice makes no preachy pretenses. Instead of focusing on cheesy messages and feel-good songs, it pays tribute to a variety of female lifestyles, celebrating their common thread of womanhood.

The highlight of Jenkintown’s production was the clear community the cast and crew had built. From the opening number, a jazzy ode to female solidarity titled “All Girl Band,” the actresses’ chemistry was undeniable.

Maria Cotsis stole the show with her magnetic stage presence, drawing all eyes towards her whether she was singing, speaking, or simply posing on stage. She effortlessly ducked in and out of different accents and inflections, and flawlessly delivered four minutes of hilariously nonsensical French in “The French Monologue and Song.” As the First Alice in “Friends,” Cotsis masterfully embodied several different ages while pulling at the audience’s heartstrings with her stunning vocals.

As the show’s only running gag, Emily Munson had to maintain a difficult level of continuity across her three scenes as a beat-style poet without becoming boring and repetitive. She did so hilariously, leaving the audience in stitches whether she was mimicking a wilting plant or a dying swan. Aniya Cager was another comedic powerhouse, holding a conversation with herself for almost eight minutes. Madison Gardner left some members of the audience in tears with her heart-wrenching rendition of “The Portrait,” and Yusra Ali sang gorgeously in both “Pay Them No Mind” and “Friends.” The cast’s chemistry was intimately beautiful to watch, with several actresses crying, cheering each other on, and exchanging firm looks of solidarity throughout the performance.

The simple but effective lighting managed to be both simplistic and engrossing, making each scene unique without becoming distracting. The stage crew was equally impressive, incorporating the cast into the short and slick scene changes in a way that made the interludes between the scenes almost as visually interesting as the scenes themselves.

With a charming cast, slick lighting, and performances raw with emotion, Jenkintown High School’s production of A… My Name is Alice embodied the un-embodiable, capturing all the messiness and complexity of womanhood in its purest form.

Pippin – Sun Valley High School

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Pippin by Sun Valley High School in Aston, PA

March 19, 2019

Review submitted by Stephen D’Antonio of Archmere Academy

Astonishing Acrobatics. Cunning Costumes. Enormous Energy. Glamorous Games. Lavish Lighting. Tremendous Talent. Does this sound like a circus? Not quite, but close–it sounds like  Sun Valley High School’s “extraordinary” production of the musical Pippin!

The suspense-filled musical Pippin features an acting group looking for new, fine actors to recruit. Following a “play within a play” format, their “show” is directed by the “Lead Player,” and the troupe recruits a young man Pippin to go on a quest. Pippin endlessly tries to find fulfillment through war, advice from his grandma, education, and even love; however, he never feels fulfilled. Not until the acting troupe tries forcing him into performing one, perfect act does Pippin find his happiness.

It takes some extraordinary talent to put this challenging show on stage, but with ease, Sun Valley delivered. The entire cast worked together to bring a heavy-hearted (and complicated) show to life. The mysterious nature of all the Players, coupled with an intense choreography track, greatly supported the carnivalesque essence of the show.

As the leading role, Zack Volturo (Pippin) faced a challenging vocal score, an intense character development, and a copious amount of stage time. Volturo overcame these obstacles with ease, and repeatedly shined due to his strong stage presence and superb chemistry with castmates. Alongside Volturo, Hanna Buerklin’s enticing performance as Leading Player added to the mysterious aspect of the show. Together, Buerklin and Volturo’s opposing personalities and strong vocals blended excellently to create a perfect duo as the show’s leads, especially seen in the fun number “The Right Track.”

In the supporting cast, the relationship between Lewis (Tommy Christaldi) and his mother Fastrada (Alexa Rode) interestingly added to the show. Finally, Catherine’s (Chiara Robinson’s) lively characterization and compelling vocals shined immensely throughout the second act. She beautifully conveyed her deep character development in songs such as “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man.”

Despite sound difficulty, the technical end of the show flowed almost flawlessly. The intense lighting design by Tommy Christaldi incredibly upheld the circus and mysterious atmosphere of the show. The simple set allowed for many of the set-changes to be done by cast members, but the excellent communication between cast and crew allowed to smooth changes.

Overall, Sun Valley High School truly “had magic to do” in their performance of Pippin! Congratulations on “spreading a little sunshine” in an excellent show!

Review submitted by Anna Bobok of Upper Merion Area High School

Sun Valley High School “spread a little sunshine” of their own this weekend with their spell-binding production of Pippin!

Loosely based on Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and his son, Pippin follows the titular hero’s journey to find his place in the world. Confronted with bloody battles, lustful liaisons, political power, and a desirable demise, Pippin must determine which path will give him the complete fulfillment he yearns for, or if that one perfect path even exists. Filled with dulcet melodies from the brilliant Stephen Schwartz, Pippin continues to enchant audiences nearly fifty years after its release.

The curtains opened as Sun Valley’s ensemble of players slinked across the stage in an eerie yet enticing performance of “Magic To Do,” showcasing an infectious energy and dancing prowess that carried throughout the entire performance. Molly Thorpe, Caitlin Riley, and Alexa Rode demonstrated bewitching grace in their featured dances, especially the number “With You.” Harmonies from the cast were strikingly spine-tingling in the show’s “Finale,” where they performed a chilling a cappella rendition of the anthem “Corner of the Sky.”

Zack Volturo was utterly charming as the conflicted Prince Pippin. Volturo fostered sincere and tender relationships with each of his fellow actors, especially Hanna Beurklin’s brazen Leading Player. Buerklin oozed confidence as she swaggered across the stage to orchestrate Pippin’s entire life story, riffing her way through numerous complex songs and dances.

Whether he was portraying the brainless brick Lewis, strutting across the stage as a rambunctious chicken, or delivering a skillful accordion performance, the audience could always spot Tommy Christaldi on the Sun Valley stage. Christaldi was outstandingly hilarious, alongside Alexa Rode (Fastrada) in their peppy number “Spread a Little Sunshine,” where the two established an overly loving mother-son relationship that was hysterical to watch.

The Sun Valley Stage Crew was comprised of the real magicians of the show, performing disappearing and reappearing acts throughout the performance expertly. Tommy Christaldi’s bright and flashy lighting design perfectly captured the show’s chaotic nature. Hair and Makeup for the ensemble was dark and distinct, making some characters look almost like circus clowns or mimes. The Sun Valley Marketing Team reflected the show’s circus-esque aesthetic as well with a carnival at the entrance to the theater, complete with games, streamers, and a handmade photo-taking station.

Sun Valley’s Pippin proved to audiences that magic can be found just about anywhere, even on a high school stage!