The Curious Savage – Harriton High School

The Curious Savage by Harriton High School in Bryn Mawr, PA

November 24, 2021

Review submitted by Katie Locke of Episcopal Academy

Although Harriton High School set the stage for a black and white performance, their production of The Curious Savage encouraged audiences to question if life really should be viewed with a monochrome lens.

In order to attain her wealth, Mrs. Savage’s three stepchildren send her to a mental institution called The Cloisters. As Mrs. Savage befriends the quirky and lovable residents of The Cloisters, it is revealed that she hid ten million dollars left to her by her late husband. Mrs. Savage’s thrill for mischief escalates the rage of her stepchildren, and as The Cloisters inhabitants and Savage children interact, the audience is encouraged to ponder who the real savages are.

Both the technical aspects and acting abilities in Harriton High School’s production of The Curious Savage were quite impressive. The tech crew utilized their creativity, building a realistic black and white setting which established the tone of the play. The gait and mannerisms of each actor was specific to their role. This was especially effective when creating juxtaposition between The Cloisters residents and the Savage children. Additionally, the actors never once broke character. Even if an actor did not have many lines, they continued to react realistically without drawing the audience’s attention away from the central focus of the scene.

Ally Fenton, playing Mrs. Savage, had a commanding stage presence. Onstage for the majority of the show, Fenton was assigned a difficult role, but continuously portrayed Mrs. Savage’s grace, humor, and mischievous tendencies with ease.

The Cloisters residents (Ava Susser-Stein, Gage Klaumenzer, Nel Blinman, Aiden Kaliner, and Olivia Twomey) brought warmth and humor to the production. Each actor was clearly dedicated to their role, and their interactions were reminiscent of a real family. The Savage children (Sam Bailey, Julia Halpern, and Jack McCullough) had distinct body language, differentiating their personalities while simultaneously conveying their identical, wealth-driven goals. Bailey, Halpern, and McCullough beautifully displayed the thoughts of their characters while their fury and resentment slowly grew as the show progressed.

Inspired by the 1950s time period, the Harriton High School tech crew established a completely black and white setting. The grayscale set, designed by Sophie Baskin, perfectly fit the tone and atmosphere of the show, and the black and white props (Nel Blinman, Marlena Marg Bracken, and Alice Deutsch) completed the scene. This theme was continued by the detailed costuming of Julia Hoeffner, Tess McCullough, and Tommy McShane. Many of The Cloisters residents had a distinctive pop of color in their outfits, acting as a small but impactful contrast to the costumes of the Savage children.

The precise acting choices and well-thought-out technical designs of Harriton High School’s The Curious Savage provided a delightful and insightful experience for audiences.

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Review submitted by Anna Walmsley of Upper Merion Area High School

Ten million dollars gone missing? A failed actress committed to a sanatorium? Three top-society siblings meet their ruin? Harriton’s The Curious Savage has all this and more. When desperation sets in, who is really mad, and who is sane?

John Patricks’ 1950 comedy is a quirky, fast-paced story about the relativity of sanity and finding your true family. After the passing of her husband, Mrs. Ethel P. Savage inherited a hefty sum of 10 million dollars in the form of half-a-million-dollar bonds. Seeking to claim the cash for themselves, her three step-children commit her to The Cloisters, a sanatorium housing a variety of endearing patients.

Harriton’s students transformed the stage into a time machine. Everything was taken into account to take the audience back in time. The set was painted black and white, lighting gels were modified, and classical music was played between scenes by a three-person pit orchestra. Stepping into Harriton’s auditorium was like stepping onto the set of a 50s TV show!

Mrs. Savage herself was played by Ally Fenton, whose theatrics and charismatic expressions amazed. Fenton displayed a spectacular range of emotions, from making tender-hearted connections, to performing in a most extravagant manner. Her grandiose way of speaking, coupled with her grand flourishes and sweeping gestures, dominated the stage.

The supporting cast brought a delightful charm to the table. The Cloisters residents were especially endearing, creating a warm, inviting atmosphere. Most notably was Fairy May, played by the brilliant Nel Blinman. Blinman’s comedic timing and energetic nature truly captured the familial aspect of the show. Starkly contrasting Blinman’s enthusiasm was the Savage step-children trio, namely Titus (Sam Bailey), Lilly Belle (Julia Halpern), and Samuel (Jack McCullough). Their snooty, arrogant, and bratty attitudes proved that money is the root of all evil. Bailey, Halpern, and McCullough perfectly captured how their characters were driven by greed and greed alone.

Harriton’s production teams nailed every aspect of this performance. Along with having a black and white set, every prop was carefully selected for this show. Whether it be the student-made parcheesi board, a wall mounted dartboard, or antique radio, the props were flawless. The costumes were just as seamless (pun intended)! A concurrent theme of good versus evil was shown through the black and white costume design. And, to add in some additional flair, each character was given their own pop of color!

Harriton’s The Curious Savage combined melodrama, comedy, and family into one package, and tied it with a technologically stunning bow!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Conestoga High School

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA

November 24, 2021

Review submitted by Meg Matsukawa of Academy of the New Church

Take a step into the constellation of the human mind at Conestoga High School’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, where numbers shape the world, colors shape the mind, and bravery shapes the heart.

Based on the novel by Mark Haddon and adapted by Simon Stephens, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time premiered in 2012, winning many awards for its successful runs in the West End and on Broadway. The play enters the mind of Christopher Boone, a teenager with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), who unravels family secrets as he investigates the murder of his neighbor’s dog. As his life begins to spiral out of control, he is forced to be braver than ever.

Conestoga High School’s adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time brought Christopher’s story to life through ingenious costumes, impeccable lighting, and incredible acting. With gut-wrenching emotion and dedication, the wildly talented cast and crew delivered a stellar performance.

Jared Bundens brilliantly played Christopher Boone, bringing awareness to the struggles of ASD with his phenomenal performance. He flawlessly stepped up to the difficult role, his outstanding emotional ability leaving the audience in awe. Sasha Reeder beautifully played the understanding Siobhan with grace and tranquility, grounding the show as she wove in and out of Christopher’s narration with talented ease.

Alexis Costas poured guilt, betrayal, and love into her performance of Judy Boone, her gut-wrenching monologues of motherhood touching every heart. Maximillian Shah portrayed Ed Boone with ease and ability, toeing the difficult line between desperate and dangerous. The ensemble represented voices in Christopher’s head and strangers in the world, and though the energy dropped at times, they gave a wonderful portrayal of internal and external struggles.

The Conestoga Costume Crew did a stellar job of using color association to subtly communicate Christopher’s emotions. Though there was the occasional mic drop, the Conestoga Sound Crew tackled the difficulty of numerous body mics and sound effects with skill. With flawless clues and celestial lighting designs, the colors, spotlights, and projections of the Conestoga Lighting Crew helped tie the show together.

In a stunning story of heartache and hope, Conestoga High School’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time captured the starry skies we all have inside, reminding us that no matter how difficult life is, we truly can do anything.

Review submitted by Arielle Oslon of Upper Merion Area High School

Conestoga’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time taught an auditorium full of people how to use the Pythagorean theorem, but that wasn’t all the show had to offer.

The play follows Christopher, a 15-year-old boy with Autism. After the death of Wellington, his neighbor’s dog, Christopher becomes determined to find the dog’s killer. As he continues his detective work, he learns more than he was ever expecting to, about his mother, and what really happened to her. As the story unfolds, it is a deeply emotional experience as the audience gains perspective on the world from a different point of view.

Overall, the production was well-polished and seamless. Clean transitions and professionalism from the cast and crew made the show feel cohesive and original.

Jared Bundens took on the challenging role of Christopher, which evidently required hard work and dedication. It was clear that Bundens took his role as Christopher seriously and he managed to portray his character with authenticity and respect. The level of emotion Bundens brought to the stage only amplified as the story progressed. His thoughtful expression of Christopher’s emotions and mannerisms deeply resonated for audience members who have relationships with those on the spectrum. Right by his side was Sasha Reeder playing Siobhan. Taking on the role of both Christopher’s teacher and internal monologue, she provided a unique perspective to the story.

Christopher’s parents Ed (Maximillian Shah) and Judy Boone (Alexis Costas) portrayed the hardships of raising a neurodivergent child. Their scenes showed depth of character through their frustrations towards each other and towards Christopher, as well as their complex love for their son, which required an outstanding amount of effort.

With constantly changing settings, the Conestoga Set Construction Crew built a set that was more on the abstract side. Only consisting of gray boxes in various sizes, it gave the actors the creative freedom needed to transform the stage into a house, a school, a police station, and countless other locations. Costumes became part of the set as ensemble members in black often played prop pieces. While in the scene however, colors of costumes were carefully chosen, reflecting Christopher’s own feelings, through his love of red and hatred of yellow and brown.

There is no need for a calculator or an A level math brain to figure out that all of the components of Conestoga’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time add up to an amazing success!

Check Please – Interboro High School

Check Please by Interboro High School in Prospect Park, PA

November 17, 2021

Review submitted by Nel Blinman of Harriton High School.

A mime, a psychic, and a pirate – no, it’s not a circus. It’s speed-dating, live on stage! Interboro High School’s performance of “Check Please” and “Check Please: Take 2” was a hilarious festival of comedy and shock.

“Check Please” and “Check Please: Take 2” are two one-act plays consisting of a series of vignettes, featuring Guy and Girl, two hopeless young romantics searching for love. While they do not exactly find their soulmates, they do meet a cast of quirky characters, including an old woman, a fraudulent linguist, and an undercover method-actor.

Interboro High School took these two light-hearted comedies in full-stride, and put forward a side-splitting show. Even with very simple scenery, they managed to create dynamic environments and fill the space with life and character. The audience was rolling with laughter by the end thanks to Interboro’s wealth of talent.

Though a majority of the cast appeared as a variety of different characters, two stayed the same: Travis Oliva as Guy and Kaylee Rogers as Girl. Oliva was charming, sweet, and charismatic as the unsuspecting Guy – even as he cycled through some of the strangest dates imaginable, he managed to maintain strong chemistry with every single one. Rogers was equally powerful as Girl, with great comedic timing and a somewhat sarcastic innocence. Together, they managed to be lively and dynamic even though neither ever left the stage.

Colin McGovern was a notable player. He portrayed many quirky characters, like Paul, the man with two wives (searching for a third). Every single time he sat across from Girl, he completely transformed into his brand-new role and filled the room with laughter. Another highlight was Aidan Dougherty, who played the Extreme Dewey and the phobic Manny, among others. His ability to perform such a diverse set of comedic roles to such a high level was incredibly impressive. Speaking of commitment, Imani Daniels as Cleo managed to perform as a foot-reading psychic – sniffing and licking included – with a completely straight face, as the audience dissolved into guffaws.

The set was beautifully designed, complete with Interboro Buccaneers wall-art, simple but practical, and easily transformed to multiple different settings. The lighting was perfect for a romantic dinner setting, and the costumes team did an amazing job creating many distinct costumes for each character. Even with a fully masked cast, the sound was flawless. Stage manager Sarah Schreiber deserves recognition for her flawless management of a show full of complex costume and prop exchanges.

Interboro High School’s production of “Check Please” and “Check Please: Take 2” was a hilarious compilation of talent and passion.

Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

“Check Please” at Interboro High School marked a triumphant, comedic return of live theater, filled with awkward first dates!

A short comedy infused with zany and quirky characters, “Check Please” revolves around two characters and their terribly unsuccessful attempts at blind dates. Following a series of failures, they coincidentally bump into each other, but just as soon as they get together, the two split. In “Check Please: Take 2”, the two singles try blind dating once again, but to no avail. As if history is repeating itself, “Check Please: Take 2” ends the exact same way as the first: the couple bumping into each other once again.

Overall, Interboro’s cast and crew superbly captured the comedic moments of this eccentric play. The audience was in stitches throughout the show while the actors and crew, specifically lights and sound, used comedic timing effectively. The actors also successfully portrayed multiple characters who were distinct, interesting, and comical all at the same time.

Leading the cast, Travis Oliva (Guy) and Kaylee Rogers (Girl) enraptured the audience with each date they encountered. Though each was on stage the majority of the show, both Oliva and Rogers endured the feat with admirable commitment. Their awkward chemistry undeniably contributed to their amusing performances. Notably, Oliva’s grasp on comedy was astounding, providing the contrast needed from the wacky characters. Rogers’ reserved portrayal of Girl was sweet, endearing, and even assertive when called for.

Standouts amongst the supporting and featured cast were Colin McGovern, Aidan Dougherty, and Imani Daniel. McGovern’s portrayals of Brandon, the method actor, and Lyle, the man who speaks many languages, were especially humorous. Just as Dougherty smoothly opened the door to enter as Dewey, the audience burst into laughter; his physicality and vocal intonations when shouting “extreme” were highlights of the night. Lastly, Daniel brought the house to roaring applause with her impressive commitment to her character–and Oliva’s foot.

Technically, the Interboro Theater Tech Crew masterfully used lighting and sounds to add comedic elements to the production. The timing of cutting music abruptly and utilizing swift blackouts was nearly perfect. Additionally, the Interboro Theater Costume Crew, even with many role changes, distinctly pulled together outfits to add to the characters’ personalities.

Interboro High School’s production of “Check Please” certainly left the audience wishing to order more!

Twelfth Night – Friends Select School

Viola (Elena Milliken) and the fellows (Sam Goldwert, Chance Fries, Lena Kinser, and Patrick Ryan)

Twelfth Night by Friends Select School in Philadelphia, PA

November 17, 2021

Review submitted by Rachel Lewiski of PA Leadership Charter School: Center for Performing & Fine Arts

Against the backdrop of illustrious Illyria, a group of rambunctious characters are caught in a web of bemusement, mischief, and mistaken identity. Friends Select School’s production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a romp for casual audience members and Shakespeare enthusiasts alike.

The play is believed to have been written in 1601 as a commission for Queen Elizabeth I. The plot begins in the fictional kingdom of Illyria and follows Viola, disguised as a man named Cesario, after she is instructed to woo the Countess Olivia. When Olivia falls in love with who she believes is Cesario, the show touches on complex issues such as gender dynamics and the fluidity of sexuality (in the limited capacity that was socially acceptable for the time period).

The director, Angela Bey, made the innovative choice to set Illyria in a nightclub inspired by contemporary New Orleans. The set included a simple staircase and balcony at stage right, and a bench upstage center, all adorned with vibrant, multicolored flowers. This set gave the show a pleasant, dreamlike ambience.

The show found its stride in its two main female characters, the charming and lovable Viola/ Cesario, played by Elena Milliken, and the relentless Olivia, played by Sarah Gorenstein. The two actresses had an undeniable magnetism to their banter, which invested the audience in Olivia despite her pompous disposition. A trio emerged in the form of Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Maria (played by Alston Abobi, Henry Planet, and Annalise DiCicco, respectively). Their mischief-making was enjoyable to watch. Henry Planet was especially impressive with his mannerisms and physical comedy. And how can one forget Christopher Crisden’s charismatic performance as Feste. He captivated audience members as he gallivanted around the stage, singing contemporary numbers that were added to the show for his character specifically.

Performing Shakespeare in masks proved to be a difficult ordeal for this show. The masks seemed to hinder some performers’ diction. Some lines were delivered too quickly and not clearly enough. In addition, some actors would stand in the house waiting for their cue in direct line of sight of the audience. 

The costumes, designed by a plethora of FSS students, were also inspired by contemporary New Orleans. The costumes reflected the characters, with the more quirky characters wearing unconventional outfits and the others wearing more typical clothes. For example, Sir Andrew wore knee high gold boots with a substantial heel. This contrasted the simple and elegant black dress that Olivia wore during Act 1. Olukayode Ekundare composed music for this show and accompanied Feste during his numbers. On another note, the show included well-executed stage fighting.

For this production of Twelfth Night, the director took a well-known classic and infused it with the lively nature of contemporary life. Everyone involved dedicated themselves to the show’s success. 

Review submitted by Paul Giacomucci of Cardinal O’Hara High School

Of all of the places to set a Shakespeare play, modern day New Orleans may not be one that would come to mind for a lot of people. But Friends Select School brought this idea to life in their production of Twelfth Night.

The idea to mix the two came from the show director’s time spent in the city of New Orleans. They loved the vibrancy of the city and the electricity of its nightlife, and took inspiration while directing the show. In this production, castles, jesters, and servants are replaced by night clubs, musical performers, and security guards, but classic Shakespearean English and wordplay still shines through in the script. In Twelfth Night, the protagonist Viola is caught in a shipwreck with her brother. When she wakes up, she takes on the fake identity of Cesario, but hijinks ensue when the owner of a local castle, or should I say night club, falls in love with Cesario without knowing the truth of her identity. 

Many members of the cast brought uniqueness to the characters that they played. For having to speak in Shakespearian English, many members of the cast sounded as if they spoke that way everyday, though it looked to be a struggle for some. The cast was able to keep the lovely humor of the Shakespeare’s original script while putting their own spin on it that kept the audience hooked.

Viola, played by Elena Milliken, was incredibly expressive. You could see the wonder and curiosity in her character throughout the entire show. Monny Caldwell, who played Duke Orsino, had lots of stage presence.

The supporting cast was arguably the show’s strongest aspect. Alston Abobi, Annalise DiCicco, and Henry Planet all had smart and funny interpretations of the characters Sir Toby, Maria, and Sir Andrew respectively. Every time the trio was on stage, they were sure to make the audience laugh in a new way. Christopher Crisden sold the dry humor of Feste while singing. Speaking of music, the transitional music was written and performed entirely by student Olukayode Ekundare. The composition was very complex for something that typically remains in the background. He was actually included in the story as a street performer, which helped add to the New Orleans setting.

The lights and sound were entirely done by students. The lights were fairly complex for a high school production with many different colors illustrating different moods, times of day, and locations. There was a classic spotlight section that helped highlight a dramatic scene, but it was impressive how seamlessly the rest of the lights that weren’t the spotlight turned off and back on without disrupting the flow of the show. The show had a static set throughout the entirety of the run time, but the set was commendable in how intricate it was. A large staircase was lit up by string lights and vines. A park bench was dwarfed by the surrounding flowers and leaves. For a small stage, the crew managed to create a wonderful looking set that also managed to be versatile enough to not require change.

Friends Select’s strong all-around cast helped bring together the unlikely combination of New Orleans and Shakespearean writing in a way that is sure to stick with audiences long after the curtain closes.

Antigone Now – Upper Dublin High School

Antigone Now by Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, PA

November 9, 2021

Review submitted by Elena Milliken of Friends Select School

A city recovering from the grief and destruction of war. A pair of sisters struggling with loss. A ruler discovering what it means to lead. Antigone Now at Upper Dublin High School transformed a classic tale into an exploration of moral ambiguity.

Antigone Now, a modern retelling of Sophocles’ classic play Antigone, follows the once-royal titular character through the turmoil after her brothers’ deaths. Her defiant decision to disobey sovereign Creon, her uncle, and bury her brother leaves the entire city to survey the damages.

Upper Dublin’s rendition shined through its simplicity. With six actors that never left the stage, they were able to portray intimate relationships while capturing the movement of a whole city. In addition to the previously named characters, a three-person chorus integrated themselves with the set to underpin the story.

Benjamin Brown’s portrayal of Creon perfectly captured the internal dispute of a new ruler with the airs of a well-trained politician. Brown grounded the performance with a quiet power that never left even when the focus shifted. Addy Deloffre as Antigone hooked the audience through her deep anguish and stirring performance.

Another riveting performance was that of Petra Kolar; her Ismene balanced a lovable dedication to her sister with her own grief. There was not a single moment of the show where the audience could not see Kolar’s powerful talent. She brought an honesty and calmness to the role that played perfectly with Deloffre’s Antigone. The chorus played by Katie Horton, Allison Chong, and Finn Anderson became the backbone of this show. Each had standout moments that highlighted their ability then they were able to seamlessly merge back into a group, demonstrating deep versatility as actors. The lines they shared were so in-sync and pointed that it really felt like the voice of the city.

Elyse Gonzales, Noa Sussan, and Timmy Tilson pulled off an impressive feat by fusing many sounds of a city together to encapsulate a place on the brink of collapse. Costumes and hair, courtesy of Virginia McCullough, added a striking depth to the characters, especially through the demise of Antigone. The distinct details put into the environments of Creon and Ismene further strengthened the audience’s understanding of each character, highlighting Elyse Gonzales’ grasp of her craft as Master Carpenter.

The cast of Upper Dublin’s Antigone Now left the audience pondering the thought-provoking tale while in awe of the emotional vulnerability each actor brought to the show.

Review submitted by Malak Ibrahim of Upper Merion Area High School

Upper Dublin’s Antigone Now was both compelling and captivating!

Based on Sophocles’ classic play Antigone, Antigone Now reimagines the classic as a contemporary adaptation in a dystopian Thebes. Antigone defies King Creon by burying her traitorous brother, Polyneices, and evokes dialogue about democracy and justice. As Antigone’s submissive sister Ismene watches the chaos and bloodshed that ensues, the audience is taken on a fateful journey narrated by the Chorus.

Addy Deloffre (Antigone) held deep emotion behind her voice and actions throughout the production, enveloping theatergoers in her grief. Right by her side was Ben Brown (Creon), whose gait and politician-like mannerisms were a sight to behold. Brown’s ability to project to the audience elevated the theatrical experience to a new level. Both Deloffre and Brown were able to interact with each other with intensity, most notably in the scene where Creon and Antigone clash over the burial of Polyneices.

Petra Kolar was outstanding in her role as Ismene. Throughout the show, the emotions she portrayed as Antigone died were heart-rending. Her tender and loving actions towards Antigone truly depicted their sisterly bond in a raw and human way. Not to be forgotten, Finn Anderson, Allison Chong, and Katie Horton (Chorus) narrated the production in an alluring fashion. There was not a moment where the Chorus was not synchronous, effortlessly nailing their shared lines and movements. Each member was able to simultaneously blend in as a whole but remain as separate individuals, which was no easy feat.

Upper Dublin’s various technical crews brought polished and professional elements to the production, enhancing an already tremendous show. Though minimalistic, the set crew was able to produce a highly comprehensive set. From the graffiti art to the mismatched fabrics, each item was placed with intent, and this dedication did not go unnoticed. The lighting throughout complemented the mood of each respective scene and was especially evident with the harsh, gray lighting at the end of the show. The sound crew hit their cues with ease and their sound choices transported spectators right into war-torn Thebes. Last but not least, the costumes and make-up for every cast member were spot on, including Creon’s vibrant red suit, which stole the spotlight.

All in all, Upper Dublin managed to rejuvenate a centuries-old classic into a new life form, making the audience wish there was more to this short but captivating tragedy.

Radium Girls – Episcopal Academy

Katie Locke as Grace

Radium Girls by Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA

November 9, 2021

Review submitted by Sam Bailey of Harriton High School.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it: Episcopal Academy puts on a radiant production of D.W. Gregory’s Radium Girls, highlighting the inequality that women face in society and the fragility of the men who aim to oppress them.

Radium Girls, a two-act play, frequently performed by high schools nationwide due to its thematic resonance and female-centric cast of characters–tells the story of Grace, a young factory worker in the U.S. Radium Plant, who, like her peers, falls gravely ill due to exposure to the lethal substance. The egotistical, idealistic men in charge refuse to take blame for the atrocities occurring.

Episcopal Academy’s production refused to bore its audience with the sorrowful topic for even a moment. The creatives behind the endeavor utilized certain elements of set and technology to further engage the viewers; headlines of period-accurate newspapers were digitally projected behind the actors, building excellent mise en scene. The school’s tech team should be applauded for this glorious use of automation; after all, distinctly creative appliances like this one helped to create an unmistakable world for these tragic characters to live and die in.

Katie Locke’s Grace began her arc with undeniable ingenue charisma and a contagious smile; her natural charm made the character’s descent into illness all the more heart wrenching. Act two, especially, showed off Locke’s unbelievable range, as she sobbed, smiled, and screamed her way through the emotional catalog. Kevin Landaiche’s performance as Arthur Roeder mirrored his co-star’s; his shrewd authority spiraled to broken masculinity in a plumage paralleling Grace’s unforgiving health.

Amongst the impressive ensemble of talented players, Will Esterhai stood out in his many roles – and many accents; his performance as the Lovesick Cowboy brought tears of laughter to an audience all too familiar with tears. Logan Schlitt, too, shined in her role as Grace’s feeble mate, Kathryn. Her vulnerability onstage was something to be remarked upon. It is not every day that one comes across a performer so emotive and powerful.

Episcopal’s tech crew was responsible for an impressively lit production. Their colorful, crisp use of the technology helped to create a show that never faltered or slowed. Annie Lee and Noah Rossin are credited for the play’s immaculate use of sound. Certain ambient effects, such as a reporter’s camera snapping a photo or an intimidating crunch of machinery, could be attributed to Lee’s work at manually capturing necessary noises. The lighting and sound teams’ work on the production has not been forgotten.

Episcopal Academy’s Radium Girls served as an extraordinary showcase for its talented theatre company. The cast, crew and creatives deserve a several-thousand-dollar settlement of their own for all the hard work that was poured into this exceptionally moving production. 

Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

Radium, the deadliest substance known to man. At its heart, Radium Girls at Episcopal Academy illuminated the dark dangers of scientific exploration combined with corporate greed on the health of humanity.

D.W. Gregory’s haunting, historical fiction drama follows Grace Fryer and her group of friends while working in the U.S. Radium Corporation and its life-long effects on the radium painters in the 1920s. After consuming the dangerous substance by licking the tips of paintbrushes day by day, the women fall ill with a mysterious disease that rots their jaws until their untimely deaths. The plot then follows Grace struggling to accept fate and the impending lawsuit against the corporation as she and her friends wither away.

The cast as a whole excelled at telling the somber story. The actors, with a relatively small cast, handled double casting with maturity and sophistication. With swift continuity, the crew complemented the dramatic and suspenseful moments with quick scene changes, never interrupting the smooth flow of the production.

Leading the cast, Katie Locke simply shone. Locke’s portrayal of Grace was impeccable, complete with physicality, vivacious spirit, and nuanced emotional intonations. Her experienced acting abilities masterfully contributed to the character’s deteriorating health. Locke’s evolution, from upbeat and obedient to sickly and defiant, drove the show. Though the demanding role is extremely difficult, Locke’s performance was nearly perfect. Kevin Landaiche (Arthur Roeder) symbolized the show’s commentary of corporate greed to a tee. Landaiche’s final scenes were especially impressive; the guilt seeping into his character was palpable.

Logan Schlitt as Kathryn Schaub was a stand-out performer in the supporting cast. Her chemistry with Locke and Alaina Guo (Irene Rudolph) was enjoyable and playful. As the show progressed, her emotional range was evident. Schlitt’s melancholic moments were poignant and allowed audience members to empathize with the girls. Also, Will Esterhai’s performances as C.B. “Charlie” Lee and the Lovesick Cowboy were equally strong. As Charlie, Esterhai excelled in exhibiting his frustration, specifically in the confrontation with Arthur Roeder in the second act. His comedic abilities shone as he portrayed the Lovesick Cowboy, a small featured role yet memorable due to Esterhai’s mastery. 

Most notably, the lighting, designed by Caroline Madeira and Jocelyn Felix, successfully and creatively brought life to the production. With green hues that grew in the dark and red washes to illuminate a horror-filled nightmare sequence, they used effective colors to convey the haunting mood. Additionally, the sound, independently recorded by Annie Lee and Noah Rossin, impressed audiences with its complex design.

Episcopal Academy’s Radium Girls portrayed the anguish and pain of radium poisoning at the hands of corporate greed all while highlighting the importance of women empowerment and social justice.

The 15th Annual Cappies Gala Recap

Screenshot 2020-06-07 22.00.23

The 15th Annual Greater Philadelphia Cappies Gala was a virtual hit!   Although the Gala was forced away from Unionville High School and into everyone’s living rooms, the night still showcased the brilliant theatre that happened in the Philadelphia Area this year.

The night began, appropriately with a word from the founder of the Greater Philadelphia Cappies chapter, Upper Darby’s own, Mr. Harry Dietzler.  He was excited that the Cappies was still going strong after fifteen years, and he remarked on the importance of celebrating high school theatre, the mantra of the Cappies program.  “Theatre is important and I thank you for making it happen this year in whatever form it happened.”

With that, Noelle Ackland, the Program Director of GPC started the awards announcements, and the show was off and running!   The night was filled with announcements of awards, “Fan Videos” that showcased the nominees for Play, Musical and Song, and the honoring of special Cappies critics.

The most crucial part of the Cappies program is the student critics.  Each school chooses three to six students who travel to schools across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware to watch shows, write reviews, and nominate performers and crews for Cappies nomination consideration.  The top reviews are posted here on this blog.  This year, Oakley Blinman (Harriton High School – 9th/10th grade), Fiona Moser (Agnes Irwin School – 11th grade), and Patrick McCann (Harriton High School – 12th grade) received the top critics honors for their grade level.  Oakley and Patrick spear-headed Harriton High School as their school also took home the Cappies Award for Critics Team!

For performances categories, none shined brighter than Conestoga High School whose production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat took home twelve Cappies Awards including Set, Orchestra, Male and Female Vocalist (Will Dusinberre and Emma Krapels, respectively), Song (“Those Canaan Days”), and the coveted Musical award among their haul.  Conestoga continues their incredible streak of taking home four of the last five Cappies Award for Musical.  Ridley High School’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone took two of the top performing awards by scoring awards for the Lead Actor in a Musical (Ethan McKeller) and Lead Actress in a Musical (Mackenzie Cannon).

For the Play categories, Episcopal Academy took home three Cappies awards for their production of Walk Two Moons.  The performance earned them the Lead Actress in a Play (Katie Locke), Comic Actor in a Play (Arnav Shiva), the top award by winning the Cappies Award for a Play.  Lead Actor in a Play (Ian Duane) went to Friends Central School’s production of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost.  Friends Central School and Interboro High School, with their production of The Curious Savage, both earned three Cappies Awards each for their school productions.

Another special moment of the night was presented by Joel Feldman, the co-founder of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation.  Casey Feldman was a published critic and actress for the Cappies program, and she was tragically killed by a distracted driver.  Each year, the foundation honors a Cappies critic who embodies Casey’s celebration of life, love for theatre, and most importantly, the spirit of giving and sharing that made her shine on and off stage and as a Cappies critic.  This year, the Casey Feldman scholarship was awarded to Cassidy Lennick of the PA Leadership Charter School Center for Performing and Fine Arts.  Cassidy was described as “An outstanding academic student with a long track record in excellence in dance, theatre, and volunteerism… with a huge heart with a love for theatre.”  Congratulations to Cassidy and best wishes for your promising future.  And the Cappies appreciates everything the Casey Feldman Foundation has done for the Cappies program over the years.

The complete list of nominees and winners can be found here.

2019 – 2020 Cappies Nominations and Winners

Thank you for a memorable, interesting, fun year of theatre.  We are looking forward to celebrating another year of high school theatre in the fall!

2019-2020 Cappies Nominations Released!

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The votes have finally been cast for the 2019-2020 Greater Philadelphia Cappies Awards!  The critics and shows have persisted, and after twenty-nine schools performed, some live, some virtually experienced, this crazy season is in the books.  On Sunday May 17th, Cappies critics cast their votes and the results were announced online.

In the Musical categories, Conestoga High School, with its over-the-top, and exuberant production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, was nominated for eighteen production awards, including eight technical awards, ten performance awards, a nomination for overall Musical Production.  Other shows with top honors include Upper Darby High School’s spunky production of Footloose, with nominations in fifteen categories including Lead Actor in a Musical, Lead Actress in a Musical, and overall Musical Production, Ridley High School’s transcendent production of The Drowsey Chaperone, which also included Lead Actor in a Musical, Lead Actress in a Musical, and overall Musical Production, and Abington Friends School’s poignant and lively production of Jason Robert Brown’s song cycle Songs for a New World which captured eleven overall nominations.

In the Play categories, Friends Central School’s imaginative Shakespearean production of Love’s Labour’s Lost garnered twelve nominations including Lead Actor in a Play, Lead Actress in a Play, and overall Play Production.  Episcopal Academy’s endearing production of Walk Two Moons gathered ten performance nominations.

For the critic awards, Academy of the New Church received five nominations, including  four out of their six critics being nominated for top awards and also the Outstanding Overall Team.  Harriton High School was recognized with four nominees, including Outstanding Overall Team.  Upper Merion Area High School and Conestoga High School both received three critics nominations.

See the full list of nominations here –2019 – 2020 Cappies Nominations

The 15th Annual Cappies Gala, where the Cappies awards will be revealed for all the categories, will be held online this year.  Sunday June 7th at 7pm, the Cappies Steering Committee will host the Cappies Gala.  The online location will be announced soon.  So, get your online watch parties ready!

 

 

Songs for a New World – Abington Friends School

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Songs for a New World by Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA

May 12, 2020

Review submitted by Kristiana Filipov of Harriton High School

Have you ever felt like you’re at the precipice of a new world? Looked around just before you made a decision?  Thought about how things won’t be the same after this? So has the Abington Friends School’s theater company, who conveyed these momentous feelings in their musical-concert hybrid Songs for a New World.

With music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, the production is a “song cycle” of music about “one moment,” in which everything changes, and the things you may have been sure about cease to exist. Through a collection of different perspectives singing their stories, the cycle makes a point about the universality of change in our lives, and makes for a poignant experience.

Abington Friends’ production was lively and emotional, with soaring vocals from a phenomenally talented cast. The ensemble filled the stage and added energy to multiple solo numbers, and executed their choreography fluidly and skillfully in numbers like “The River Don’t Flow” and “The Steam Train.” Their tight harmonies also added to the show’s resonance, and brought it up to a level beyond compare.

Notable vocal performances came from Sophie Pugh and Katie Brady-Gold, whose powerful pipes filled the entire auditorium and brought goosebumps to many audience members. Pugh serenaded the audience with her performances in “The New World,” “I’m Not Afraid,” and “I’d Give It All For You,” while Brady-Gold wowed with “Surabaya Santa.”

Another notable performance was Zachary Ford’s “The River Won’t Flow,” which captured a sense of whimsical jazz among the other soulful tunes in the show. His mannerisms synthesized a recognizable character that the audience could understand, despite never speaking a word. Similarly, Halle Jacobson’s engaging performance of “Just One Step” demonstrated an impressive ability to convey a strong character through singing. Her forceful movements and body language were convincing and enthralling.

The Songs For A New World Pit Band brought the entire production up a notch, with their skillful performance of a wide variety of musical genres, transitioning between each different song seamlessly. Benjamin Goldstone’s sound was clear and crisp, despite some issues with the recording that made it difficult to understand some lyrics. Becca Pitcairn’s props were also woven into the show wonderfully, and never interrupted the focus of any scene.

With virtuosic singing talent and poignant emotional performances, the Abington Friends School’s production of Songs for a New World certainly created that new world, and entranced everyone into dumbfounded silence.

 

Review submitted by Claire Jenkins of Conestoga High School

Abington Friends School’s production of Songs for a New World beautifully immersed all audience members into a “new world” of musical theatre! The students delivered a unique performance consisting of high energy and an enormous amount of passion.

Songs for a New World is an abstract musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. With an array of musical genres such as pop and jazz, this show encompasses an overarching theme of the moment of decision. Each song consists of a different story line, all the way from a teenager boasting about his future basketball career in “The Steam Train” to Mrs. Claus angrily singing about her neglectful husband Santa Claus in “Surabaya Santa”.

Originally a show consisting of four performers, Abington Friends School succeeded in transforming this show into a performance of thirty ensemble members. Demonstrating both excellent musicality and emotion, the cast was outstandingly victorious in putting on a musical with a demanding score. The cast carried an amazing amount of emotion, adding character to each song performed.

Sophie Pugh was a bright spot in this show, singing powerful solos such as “I’m Not Afraid”. Pugh had an incredibly dynamic voice that was also very expressive of the emotions within each song. Zachary Ford, in songs such as “The River Won’t Flow”, also established his excellent vocal control and expression.

Katie Brady-Gold, an audience-favorite, showed terrific character and witty humor as Mrs. Claus in “Surabaya Santa”. Her comedic body language personated a contemptuous Mrs. Claus perfectly. Another commendable performance came from Mar’keece Barnett. Appearing in songs such as “Flying Home” and “The Steam Train”, Barnett added a vibrant attitude to the performance through his lively energy and admirable vocals. Devyn Costello-Henderson and Halle Jacobson also had notable performances. Costello-Henderson exquisitely conveyed great character depth in “Christmas Lullaby” while Jacobson dealt with both comical and serious tones in “Just One Step” and “The Flagmaker, 1775”.

A key element to this remarkable production was Noah Vinogradov’s impressive music arrangement. His creative and innovative incorporation of the guitar and piano matched the different emotions conveyed in each song. The set was another fine aspect, as it included a city skyline with a background that changed colors. With very few sound issues present, Benjamin Goldstone did a great job working with the sonic components of the production.

Overall, “I’m Not Afraid” to say that Songs for a New World was a huge triumph for Abington Friends School. Each student involved brought something new to the table to create this diverse, noteworthy production.