Beauty and the Beast – Delaware County Christian School

Beauty and the Beast by the Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square, PA

March 16, 2022

Review submitted by Gabriel Planas-Borgstrom of Bordentown Regional High School

Stunning sets, captivating costumes, and an absolutely “enchanting” cast made Delaware County Christian School’s production of Beauty and the Beast one to watch until the last petal fell!

With a book by Linda Woolverton and music by Alan Menken, Beauty and the Beast is the stage adaptation of a classic Disney tale. It tells the story of an arrogant, cold prince who has a curse laid upon him and the servants within his castle, making him a hideous beast until he can learn to love and be loved by someone in return. As luck would have it, a headstrong village girl named Belle wanders into his castle after he imprisons her father. The two slowly form a bond, and the questions of finding true love and saving the castle’s inhabitants are answered within this heartwarming tale.

Delaware County’s show was brought to life by a strong core of leading and supporting actors, who created a backbone within the cast that elevated everyone to give their best performances. They were complemented excellently by the simple yet impressive sets, as well as the costuming which made the lively cast of household objects believable.

The commanding stage presence and smooth vocals of Emma Carrington made her the perfect fit for Belle. She charmed the audience whenever she took the stage and kept the production both moving and engaging. Alongside her was Noah Dutton as the Beast whose acting wonderfully highlighted the sensitive, human side of the larger-than-life monster.

Every great story needs an even greater villain, and as Gaston, Jeremy Mitchell delivered. His barbaric and arrogant character was only outdone by his impeccable singing, seemingly unable to miss a note all evening. Another high point within the cast was Emily Chung as Cogsworth, whose comedic timing and bold mannerisms created a refreshing, hilarious spin on the classically wound-up character.

It’s no easy feat to make a whole village or castle appear on any stage, but the ingenious multi-level set design created the perfect atmosphere for the performance. Although the balance between the orchestra and the ensemble microphones was occasionally amiss, the cast persevered and kept the overall effect alive.

A timeless animated classic such as Beauty and the Beast can be very difficult to transfer to the real world, but the extraordinary performance of Delaware County Christian School took this challenge head on and delivered a very memorable experience.

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Review submitted by Evelyn Walker of Conestoga High School

Delaware County Christian School’s cast of Beauty and the Beast made the audience their “guests” and brought them into the enchanting story with energy and creativity. The students exhibited impressive dance skills, character work, and humor that earned them a standing ovation. 

Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice’s classic Broadway musical re-introduced audiences to the magic of Disney onstage following a long period of sadder shows. The show tells the story of a young French girl who “wants much more than [her] provincial life”. When young Belle finds herself the prisoner of a prince under a spell, she becomes determined to make the best of her situation and eventually finds love in the place she would least expect it. Avoiding the advances of the town heartthrob Gaston and dancing with enchanted cookware, Belle embarks on an adventure of romance, family, and magic, meeting unlikely friends along the way. 

The orchestra opened the show with Beauty and the Beast’s well-known refrain, immediately immersing the audience in its magic. From the sets to the costumes the design was impressive, and the students showed enthusiasm and hard work in every scene. 

Emma Carrington was spunky and adventurous as Belle, depicting a young girl’s struggle to fit in and eventually find a home with bright vocals and deep emotion. She worked particularly well with Noah Dutton’s Beast in “Home–Reprise”, the song in which Belle professes her love for the Beast. Her interpretation of “A Change in Me” was beautiful and filled with hope. Dutton’s take on the Beast was unique and refreshing and he collaborated comedically with the enchanted ensemble.

While Carrington and Dutton told their love story, many supporting cast members helped them on their journey, including Jeremy Mitchell as Gaston, Jazmine Scotton as Mrs. Potts, and Emily Chung as Cogsworth. Mitchell’s impressive vocals, swagger, and stage presence brought Gaston’s larger-than-life character to a new level. Scotton’s interpretation of the classic song “Beauty and the Beast” was stunning and received raucous applause. She easily riffed on the number and sang with deep emotion. Chung’s sarcastic energy as Cogsworth was unique and kept the audience on their toes. She was consistently funny and brought a special energy to the Beast’s castle. Along with these performances, the featured dancers added excitement to the show with their tightly choreographed numbers, including the Wolf Chases and the Napkins’ “Be Our Guest” dance break.

Delaware County Christian School’s stage crew created impressive sets, lighting, and costuming to fully immerse the audience in the show. The crew was efficient with scene changes and quickly responded to lighting cues. 

Delaware County Christian School’s performance of the “tale as old as time” brought fresh energy and excitement to a classic story. 

Love, Dot – The Hill School

photo by Lilian Rizek

Love, Dot by The Hill School in Pottstown, PA

March 9, 2022

Review submitted by Leah C. Garofalo of Phoenixville Area High School

A yellow brick road, wicked witches, and ruby red… Chuck Taylor’s? The Hill School’s production of the new musical Love, Dot is filled with vibrance, spirit, and a strong message: finding where you belong.

Love, Dot is a modern retelling of the classic book, film, and musical The Wizard of Oz. The show, written by Sydnee Johnson, cleverly reinvents the characters into relatable teens. The score, arranged by Christopher Robinson, features many pop songs, truly making this a story of the current generation. The Hill School’s Ellis Theatre Guild is the first to put on the production.

Overall, the show was driven by the evident energy and passion of everyone present on stage. There was not a moment when the actors seemed uninterested or as if they were not truly invested in the story. This made the story engaging and easy to follow.

The leading actress, Isabella Moranheras, fully embodied the role of Dot. Her consistently strong vocals and emotional performance sold the character. Dot is a teenager running away from home in hopes of finding a sense of belonging, a description that Moranheras made easy to read.

The supporting and ensemble cast gave the show a sense of liveliness. Meena Ali (Sandy), Meredith Marks (Tina), and Tiffany Lee (Leona) had a clear bond with each other and the leading actor. This bond was proven by their ability to work off of each other on stage and their capability to mesh their vocals together for impressive harmonies, such as the trio “Power/Fight Song.” Each actor was individually strong, but their power when together was impressive. Geordie Ravara (The Wizard) was able to fulfill her exuberant role. Her vocals, comedic timing, and stamina were exceptional. Timmy Woodward (Glen) was able to take his initially bubbly role and develop the character throughout the performance. Additionally, each ensemble (notably the Munchkins and the Monkeys) was invested and engaged with the arc of the show.

The behind-the-scenes work was vital to the show’s success. Because the show has never been done before, the stage management (Kelly Grable and Nimala Sivakumar) was excellent. Additionally, the choreography, while simple, was effective and well-done. While some vocals were difficult to hear due to loud backing tracks, overall, the sound didn’t have many errors. Furthermore, the props (Nimala Sivakumar and Kelly Grable) enhanced the show due to their detail.

Overall, The Hill School’s production of Love, Dot was a heartwarming experience. The show itself dives into currently relevant topics such as LGBTQIA+ rights, making the show relatable to many and teaching us all that there’s no place like home (where the heart is).

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Review submitted by Nel Blinman of Harriton High School

Lions and tigers and… a secret plan to gentrify the east side of Oz? Oh my! The Hill School’s premiering production of Love, Dot was a thrilling and lively new spectacle.

A modern retelling of the age-old classic, The Wizard of Oz, Love, Dot was created especially for The Hill School. It follows Dorothy (or Dot, as she prefers), a Kansas native who longs for a bigger life. As she struggles with rejection, she discovers her mother’s legacy in a faraway land called Oz. She journeys there, and forms friendships with Sandy (the scarecrow), Tina (the tin man), and Leona (the lion). Together, underscored by a jukebox selection of popular songs, they embark on a journey of sisterhood, of origin, and of justice.

The highlight of The Hill School’s Love, Dot was the versatility; they transformed their high school auditorium into a small country town, a magical and strange city, and a concert, brimming with energy and life. There was never a dull moment – how could there be, when the audience was literally dancing in the aisles?

Isabella Moranheras (Dot) was the heart of this production. She was quick-witted, nuanced, and impactful. Coupled with her silky modern vocals, Moranheras quickly earned the love of the audience. Her character’s struggles with sexuality, family, and relationships made for a true acting challenge, but she rose to meet it, and left a wake of awe and inspiration.

Daniel Schlegel (the Wicked Witch of the West) was striking, loveable, and hilarious – his performance of “Every Step You Take” was positively breathtaking. His band of flying monkeys were spectacular as well, with outstanding physicality. Geordie Ravara (the Wizard) was dazzling in her grandiose musical numbers, and Meena Ali (Sandy) stole the audience’s hearts and split their sides with her charming and relatable character.

Although this show was something of a goliath, the stage management (led by Kelly Grable and Nimala Sivakumar) and stage crew teams ran an effective and tight ship, ensuring that scene changes were seamless every time.  

Love, Dot was a miraculous, magical, and thoroughly modern journey to the land of Oz. Though there is no place like home, it was an honor to be in the Hill School theater for this fresh new piece.

Once Upon a Mattress – Archmere Academy

Once Upon a Mattress by Archmere Academy in Claymont, DE

March 9, 2022

Review submitted by Arielle Oslon of Upper Merion Area High School

There is no need to be “Shy”, praise for Archmere Academy’s production of Once Upon a Mattress should be shouted from the tent-tops!

Once Upon a Mattress, premiering off-broadway “Many Moons Ago” in 1959, transformed the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” into a hilarious musical comedy. The show follows Winnifred the Woebegone, an idiosyncratic swamp princess, and her new prince beau Dauntless the Drab. Trepidations plague the happy couple as they await a test from Dauntless’s daunting mother to determine if the unusual “Fred” is worthy of his hand in marriage. Desperate to keep her son trapped under her wing, Queen Aggravain creates an impossible challenge to nearly ensure failure: feeling a tiny pea from under twenty down mattresses.

Whether in heartfelt emotional scenes or in hilarious comedy numbers, each member of the cast brought an infectious energy to the stage no matter the circumstances. Majestic sets and sparkly costumes coupled with the talented performers brought the zany fairy tale to life.

Leading the show to greatness was the extravagant Winnifred, portrayed by Serena Martin. Her beautiful vocals in “Shy” and stellar dancing and commitment to character in “Spanish Panic” and “Song of Love” were highlights of the production. Playing Fred’s adorkable interest, Dauntless, was the charming and jovial Rob Smith. His portrayal of the head-over-heels prince was the perfect foil to the robust Winnifred.

Not only were the leads brilliant, but the star-studded supporting cast was just as masterful. Star-crossed lovers, angelic Lady Larken (Amanda Treston) and brave Sir Harry (Jake Nowaczyk) had wonderful chemistry on stage. Strong vocals and beautiful harmonies in songs like “In a Little While” were extremely heartfelt and emotional. The comic trio of The Jester (Kaitlyn Kaulback), King Sextimus (Jack Maister), and The Minstrel (Ray Bellace) did a wonderful job moving the story along, while preserving the show’s charm.

Though the tech elements of the show were few, their demand was pea-lentiful. The towering stack of twenty mattresses, beautifully crafted by the Archmere Stage Crew, was not only mighty, but also easily transportable. The story would not have been complete without the beautiful costumes. Each and every one of the handsome dresses glistened in the stage lights, and were carefully chosen to fit each character.

No amount of Queen Aggravain’s tactics could have caused the audience to sleep through Archmere Academy’s splendid production of Once Upon a Mattress.

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Review submitted by Elena Milliken of Friends Select School

A test: twenty mattresses, one desperate prince, twelve princesses down, and only one remains. Once Upon a Mattress at Archmere Academy turned the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Princess and the Pea into a comedic party of a performance.

Originally opening on Broadway in 1959, the musical follows the meek Dauntless the Drab in his search for love under the controlling eye of his mother, Queen Aggravain, and his mute and lewd father, King Sextimus. Since “no one may wed, ’til Dauntless shares his wedding bed,” the desperate Sir Harry, in the shadow of a looming pregnancy, sets out on a quest to find a princess and returns with Winnifred the Woebegone. This vivacious and endearing newcomer causes quite the stir in the court.

Through palpable enthusiasm from a dedicated cast, Archmere Academy expertly captured the scale and drama of this lively show. From energized and dazzling numbers like “Shy” and “Song of Love” all the way through to the final bow, every single performer, leading or not, fully embodied their characters with energy and heart.

The standout performance of the night came from the effervescent and absolutely hysterical Serena Martin as Winnifred the Woebegone. From her show-stopping vocals to her superb comedic timing, Martin’s technical execution blended perfectly with her wit and charm to provide an emotional core to the show. Rob Smith encapsulated all of the quirky awkwardness and lovable innocence of Dauntless, not to mention his stellar singing, to create an adorable pair with Martin.

Further adding to the outstanding cast, Jack Maister, as King Sexitimus, amusingly communicated with the audience without needing his voice at all. His rambunctious and persistent physicality worked with his partners in crime on stage, the marvelous and musical Minstrel (Ray Bellace) and the remarkably funny Jester (Kaitlyn Kaulback), to add sneaky subplots that strengthened the show. The ensemble brought energy and life that served as a wonderful backdrop to the plot.

The set, expertly designed by Archmere’s Preparé Set Crew, was modular by design and moved to accommodate the plethora of locations necessary for the show. This included an impressive technical feat where tents were flown in and expanded right on stage, far beyond the standard scope of a high school production. The costumes were masterfully customized for the performance with specific details that furthered the plot, highlighting Ray Bellace’s (the Minstrel) prowess as a designer. In another multi-talented cast member playing double duty, Kaitlyn Kaulback’s marketing technique included many unique and helpful elements like customized stress balls and a painted rock advertising the show!

Archmere Academy’s Once Upon a Mattress was a lively, witty, hoot of a show that left the audience with smiles on their faces. Certainly not a sleepy soul in sight!

The Lightning Thief – Bordentown Regional High School

The Lightning Thief by Bordentown Regional High School in Bordentown, NJ

March 2, 2022

Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

Bring on the monsters because Bordentown Regional High School’s adventurous production of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical and its electrifying cast delighted audiences all the way to the Underworld.

Based on the book by Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief follows Percy Jackson after getting expelled from school and encountering a terrifying Fury disguised as a substitute teacher, Mrs. Dobbs. He is then sent to Camp Half-Blood, discovering he is a demigod–half-mortal and half-god–and that the Greek gods are, in fact, real. With growing animosity between the gods over Zeus’ missing lightning bolt, Percy, along with Grover and Annabeth, go on a quest to retrieve it. With a book by Joe Tracz and music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki, this mythological adaptation stays relatively true to Riordan’s novel, making it a joy to watch a childhood story come to life on stage.

Given The Lightning Thief’s ensemble-based nature, Bordentown’s cast had commendable collaborative energy throughout the scenes and musical numbers. The Oracle, portrayed by many cast members speaking and singing in unison, was a stand-out moment for the ensemble. As a whole, the cast’s enjoyable energy created a buzzing atmosphere from Camp Half-Blood to the Underworld.

Leading the cast, Gabriel Planas-Borgstrom (Percy Jackson) grounded the heroic, charming teen in realistic acting choices and skilled vocal technique. His notable stamina, given the demands of the character, impressed audience members throughout the performance. Additionally, Planas-Borgstrom’s comedic timing shone during scenes with Mitchell Reames (Grover) and Naomi Pirani (Annabeth).

Portraying two distinct characters is no easy feat, yet Jake Sfraga, playing both Luke and Ares, did so with ease. His ability to distinguish between the characters was organic and skilled. Mitchell Reames’s humorous portrayal of Grover was heartwarming, and during songs such as “The Tree on the Hill,” Reames displayed the depth of the character masterfully. Olivia McGlone as Hades brought incredible energy and originality to her featured role. Her sassy yet cunning interpretation of the God of the Underworld, exhibited through her stellar physicality, was the highlight of the production.

Technically, The Lightning Thief Pit was extremely successful at playing the pop-rock score. Although the pit overpowered some vocals at times, Makayla Coleman, in charge of sound, quickly readjusted the levels. Given a show with many technical aspects, Rachel Schiariti, the Stage Manager, thrived. Each of Schiariti’s cues was timely and efficient. The customized t-shirts denoting the cabin numbers of the campers, a creative touch by costumers Victoria Danao and Adi Omolade, added nuance to the production.

Overall, Bordentown Regional High School’s The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical was a heartwarming experience for the audience members and demigods alike!

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Review submitted by Malak Ibrahim of Upper Merion Area High School

Bordentown’s mythically marvelous performance of The Lightning Thief was well worth the “Drive”!

Based on Rick Riordan’s book of the same title, The Lightning Thief follows teenager Perseus “Percy” Jackson on a quest pulled straight from Greek mythology. With his best friend Grover and new friend Annabeth, the dynamic trio embark on a mission to find and return Zeus’ lightning bolt. The fate of the universe rests on Percy’s shoulders as a godly war starts to brew.

Between the skilled technicians, the pit’s well-balanced playing, detailed costuming, and, of course, the actors’ show-stopping performances, Bordentown brought a beloved book to life!

Gabriel Planas-Borgstrom (Percy) balanced his comedic scenes and songs while still portraying emotionally moving songs such as “Good Kid”. On stage for almost the entirety of the performance, Planas-Borgstrom’s voice did not falter, and his commitment to character paid off. Even when not the focal point of the scene, Planas-Borgstrom remained engaged in the show, elevating the performance.

Although not a lead, Mitchell Reames’s rendition of the beloved satyr Grover provided many memorable highlights. His voice and demeanor encapsulated the groovy, environmentalist feel of the 70s. While he and Planas-Borgstrom were comical together, Reames held his own throughout, notably in the somber song “The Tree on the Hill”. Likewise, Annabeth (Naomi Pirani) was able to show off her impressively high vocal range with consistency. Mr. D (Caroline Hubbard) and Gabe (Candace Farrell) added much-needed comic relief to the show, rousing laughter across the auditorium. Charon (Anna Madden) brought the house down with her energetic performance of  “D.O.A.”. Last but certainly not least, Olivia McGlone shone as Hades, reimagining a traditionally male character.

With a minimalist set, a heavy focus was placed on the other technical elements of the show. The sound team, led by Makayla Coleman, did a stellar job at managing a number of body mics and being on cue with every sound effect. Costumers Victoria Danao and Adi Omolade managed to personify every character down to the smallest detail, with their work on the Camp Half-Blood t-shirts customized to each cabin. Of course, the show would not have been possible without the beautiful accompaniment of the pit orchestra.

All in all, Bordentown managed to put on a stellar and “Strong” performance of The Lightning Thief!

Beauty and the Beast – Jenkintown MS/HS

Beauty and the Beast by Jenkintown MS/HS in Jenkintown, PA

February 9, 2022

Review submitted by Jack McCullough of Harriton High School

Sacré Bleu! A nonstop joy, Jenkintown High School’s Beauty and the Beast certainly gives audiences a chance to experience something there that wasn’t there before!

Based on a fairytale of the same name, the original film, released by Disney in 1991, tells the age-old story of a young woman named Belle, who, in order to save her father, offers to live with the monstrous Beast, learning in her time with him that there is more to love than what the eye can see. Opening to widespread acclaim, the movie became one of the company’s most iconic, prompting Disney CEO Michael Eisner to order production on a musical almost immediately. Just two years later, Beauty and the Beast hit Broadway, and in the time since has grossed over 1.7 billion dollars, making it one of the most successful musicals ever made.

For a show as magical as Beauty and the Beast, often the most critical aspect of the production is the ensemble, who are entrusted with bringing the whimsy of the world to life, providing much of the energy found within songs. Luckily, the performers of Jenkintown were ready to give everything they had to their performances, elevating large group numbers to dizzying heights with energy and excitement, and filling the stage with life from wing to wing.

Taking center stage as book-smart beauty Belle was Jackie Drozd who set the tone for the show perfectly with her witty delivery and heartfelt vocals, exuding kindness while remaining grounded in her portrayal of the classic character. Her stage presence was simultaneously attention-grabbing and subtle, with each movement carrying character and emotion behind it. Right beside her throughout, leading man Zach Pacuraru (The Beast) conveyed emotional complexity rarely seen in high school theatre, blending immense rage with defeated sadness, before finally transitioning into the kind and gentle person that he truly was at heart.

As main antagonist Gaston, Aden Dubin brought his A-game, infusing every scene and song with the unbridled ego of a man who genuinely believes that the world revolves around him, generating a larger than life character to wildly entertaining results. Serving as the backbone of the show were the servants of the Beast’s castle, whose chemistry was unparalleled, delivering quips and interactions with a clean and polished vigor.

 Propelling the musical numbers and electric character moments to an even greater quality were the technological feats, which went off without a hitch, seamlessly transporting the audience to the different scenes of the fairy tale world. Whether it be the magnificent costume work from designers Maryjanet McNamara and Heather Willever-Farr, or the superb lighting work, which brought genuine fear through deep blood reds, particularly in show-stopping number “The Mob Song,” all helped to round out the show into something truly special.

Packed with charm, cheer, and abundant joy, Jenkintown’s Beauty and the Beast stands as a poignant reminder, proving to the audience that while the show is a sight to behold, the heart that lies within might be even more magical.

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Review submitted by Lindsey Keller of Upper Merion Area High School

“No Matter What” song or dance Jenkintown’s Beauty and the Beast is performing, you will certainly be dancing in your seat. The classic story was brought to life on Jenkintown’s stage this weekend.

After an enchantress cursed a prince and his castle, the Beast and his furniture friends are isolated deep in the woods with a curse that can only be broke with true love. Years later, Belle comes to the Beast’s castle to save her trapped father and makes an ultimatum; take me for him. In her village, Gaston hears of Belle’s circumstances and starts to rally the town against the Beast. In a race against time, and a mob, the Beast’s final chance at true love to break the age-old curse is resting on the shoulders of the beauty, Belle.

With simple choreography, the cast filled the stage throughout the show with infectious energy and bold facial expressions. The actors surprised the audience while occasionally appearing throughout the aisles during group numbers like “Be Our Guest.”

In numbers like “A Change in Me” and “Is this Home?” Jackie Drozd portrayed Belle’s elegant and gentle nature perfectly. While accompanying the Beauty, Zach Pacuraru encapsulated the Beast’s energy in his furry, yet powerful stage presence. With his booming voice and hunched frame, Pacuraru had bold expressions throughout his scenes and especially in the song “How Long Must This Go On?” As they waltzed around the stage, the pair extended their love story to all corners of the theater.

The supporting roles of the show gave the performance its spunk. Most notably, the iconic pair of Cogsworth, played by Daniel Gifford, and Lumiere, played by Merrick Mangan, had the audience giggling at all of their silly interactions. Other castle members like Mrs. Potts, played by Celia Defazio, and Madam de la Grande Bouche, played by Charlotte Steinhauer, performed with quirky elegance. The ensemble filled the theater with their volume and strong personality.

The Beast’s backstory was told through windows at the back of the stage as shadowed silhouettes performed. Small points of effective lighting, like red flashes or blue tones, soon followed in the performance. The costumes were so elegant that even the dancing spoons had glitter while Gaston’s flexing muscles and the furniture’s classic updos did not disappoint.

Jenkintown’s production of Beauty and the Beast was nothing like any other. The audience’s love of the show alone could break the Beast’s curse.

Rhinoceros – Phoenixville Area High School

Rhinoceros by Phoenixville Area High School in Phoenixville, PA

December 14, 2021


Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

Phoenixville Area High School displayed a world where rhinoceroses roam the streets of … Paris, France? The PAHS Theatre Guild’s outlandish production of Rhinoceros serves as a warning of fascist ideals in modern-day times.

Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, written in 1959, is categorized as “Theatre of the Absurd,” exhibiting that nothing in the playwright’s world makes any sense. In Rhinoceros, one by one, characters begin to metamorphosize into rhinoceroses, allegorically representing the uprise of fascism, Nazism, and communism, in France during and after World War II. As the play progresses, less and less characters resist the transformation until there is one left — the last-standing human.

The production was brought to life by the roaring ensemble. From hilarity to tragedy, each actor imbued meaning and characterization to minute, featured roles. Notably, the firemen ensemble added a snarky, memorable moment to the play when the office workers escaped a stair-less office building (the stairs being destroyed by a rhinoceros). During the scene changes, though a bit lengthy, the ensemble of rhinoceroses meandered through aisles and interacted with audience members, making the play an immersive and enjoyable experience.

Braydn Strzelecki as Berenger exceptionally carried the weight of absurdity on his shoulders. Given the demanding nature of the role, Strzelecki’s stamina and thorough preparation was evident. Although some delivery was repetitive, his improvisational moments were hilarious. His heightened emotions effectively contrasted the rather mellow rhinoceros ensemble, allowing the audience to grasp the message of the play. Alongside Strzelecki, Claire Meachen (Daisy) skillfully added a genuine air to her role. Her physicality and dedication, even while not the main focus of the scene, drew in the audience. Most importantly, Meachen’s strong character development, as Daisy capitulates to the rhinos, commanded the last scene.

Among the supporting cast, John Cox as Jean had stand-out moments. As the first to transform into a rhinoceros in front of the audience, Cox realistically portrayed the descent into madness and established the night-marish atmosphere of the second act. Additionally, Piper Cannon (Botard) commanded the stage with their portrayal of Berenger’s cynical co-worker. Their calm demeanor and enunciation were consequential to understanding the absurd, fast-paced plot.

Notably, the lighting design by Zachary Rosenfeld, thoughtfully added to the absurdity. Through the use of red and green lights, the mood effectively shifted from normalcy to lunacy. Considering the complicated scene changes, the PAHS Stage Crew effectively transformed the enormous set each time.

Phoenixville Area High School’s Rhinoceros literally tackled humanity’s willingness and eagerness to conform to the antithesis of moral ideals, ignorance, and the audience’s perceptions of the truth through Ionesco’s chilling yet insightful allegory.

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Review submitted by Pauline Hartman of Archmere Academy

When a society begins to mindlessly conform to radical ideologies, what happens? The people turn into rhinoceros of course!

When one individual refuses to submit to these ideologies, thinking with his own mind and expressing his own beliefs, what happens? The rhinoceroses consider him an enemy and look like “they want to lower their head and charge” as playwright Ionesco once wrote. Rhinoceros, the difficult and mature play performed brilliantly by Phoenixville Area High School, will have you wondering if the mindless conformity to the ideologies of the 1940s is still present today.

Written in 1959 by absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco, Rhinoceros is rooted in Ionesco’s personal experience, as he watched the world he knew be taken over by fascism, communism, and socialism. An ever-present theme in Rhinoceros, the Theatre of the Absurd movement is less concerned with the plot of a show but rather highlights the issues of the human condition. Put simply, the play follows the privileged man Berenger, and, as each of his companions turn into rhinoceroses, he is faced with the true challenge of choosing self-expression versus the mindless conformity.

With such a difficult play at hand, the leads handled the demanding acting well. Braydn Strzelecki as Berenger handled the most difficult role with ease. His comedic timing was excellent, his emotional transitions were seamless, and his improvisation skills in act two were spectacular. His love interest, Daisy, played by Claire Meachen, showcased similar skills. Meachen brought to life the complex relationship the two had with her commanding presence and her excellent emotional range.

The ensemble members were fantastic storytellers and committed to their individual roles. Specifically, John Cox as Jean and Matthew Wosczyna as Dudard had commanding stage presence in their individual scenes with Berenger. Similarly, Piper Cannon as Botard took on the role with power, bringing out the powerful thoughts the character represented to the audience. Body language was extremely important with the actors wearing masks, however, conversation still ran fluently and small microphone issues were resolved by act two.

The set paintings were alluring, a compliment to student Matt Nice, as they encapsulated the beautiful French society before being destroyed by conformity.  Scene changes were difficult, as the scenes were completely different locations and the sets were so complicated. While a little timely in length, Assistant Stage Manager Mikayla DePompeo carried out the changes well.

Not only does Rhinoceros bring thought-evoking ideas to the table, but also the impressive acting and comedic skills the actors of Phoenixville Area High School brought to life, the play generates the willpower to think for oneself and think more carefully about what you consider truth.

Newsies! – Cardinal O’Hara High School

picture by David Kelly

Newsies! by Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, PA

December 8, 2021

Review submitted by Jack McCullough of Harriton High School

Stop the presses! With larger-than-life performances and a timeless plot, Cardinal O’Hara High school’s Newsies! was a surefire headline grabber!

Originally a movie made by Disney in 1992, Newsies! tells the story of the real-life newsboy strike of 1899, with a group of young “newsies” going on strike after an increase of newspaper prices threatens to destroy their livelihood. At first, Newsies! opened to a pathetic reception, and was quickly abandoned by the studio. However, in the years following its release, Newsies! gained a significant cult following on home video, mostly due to its dazzling choreography by Kenny Ortega, and infectious soundtrack written by Alan Menken. This newfound popularity culminated in it being adapted into a musical with the same plot, which ran on Broadway from 2012 to 2014.

Through the expert use of a dedicated cast, Cardinal O’Hara put on a show with a fantastic sense of scale. The production’s set, while simple, provided the canvas for a wealth of lively and colorful locations, characters, and situations. Singlehandedly, the biggest contributor to the magnitude of the show was the ensemble. Every single member, prominent or not, was engaged and came across as a real person inhabiting the musical’s world, which resulted in dazzling large group scenes and musical numbers.

Leading the cast was Jacob Babcock, whose charm and rugged personality perfectly encapsulated the character of Jack Kelly, the street-smart leader of the newsies’ strike. His performance didn’t come off as too suave or confident either, and this made his moments of genuine uncertainty or emotion all the more touching. Keira Bauer (Katherine Plumber) was unique and distinctive, her dry wit and sarcastic overtones blending perfectly with her excitement and relatability. Through her snappy delivery, she expertly sold her chemistry with costar Babcock.

Further adding to the lively backdrop of characters was Andrew McCarthy in the role of Crutchie. His characterization was magnificently heartfelt, providing an emotional core to the show, while also delivering some of the biggest laughs. Ryan Garvey as Davey brought a sharpness and power to his part, spicing up every scene, song, and exchange he was a part of. His mannerisms were deliberate and well-coordinated, forming his stage presence into a force to behold.

The technological aspects of the show were first-rate, accentuating moods and personalities through dynamic sound and lighting while remaining mostly unintrusive in their presentation. The props department of Cardinal O’Hara delivered in a big way, using creative and clever means to immerse the audience in a time period unlike our own. Paint jobs were clean, and craftsmanship was superb, shaping the stage to fit whatever the scene required.

In summation, Newsies!  at Cardinal O’Hara was a fast paced, feel-good experience that surely left everyone who saw it with a smile on their face. And that’s all the news that’s fit to print.

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Review submitted by Allison Courtenay of Upper Dublin High School

Breaking news! “Get yer pape” here at Cardinal O’Hara’s production of Disney’s Newsies!

Based on the newsboy strike of 1899, this motivational musical follows Jack Kelly and friends as they stand their ground and fight back against the tyrannical Joseph Pulitzer, owner of The World newspaper conglomerate. Originally on Broadway from 2012 to 2014 and then released to film in 2017, this energy-packed dance-heavy show leaves the audience inspired to “seize the day”!

Jacob Babcock was multi-dimensional in both voice and leadership in his role of Jack Kelly. Babcock’s broken-hearted warble in the song “Santa Fe” had the audience longing for the place where “dreams come true” right alongside Jack. Babcock’s command of the stage when leading the Newsies to take a stand in songs like “The World Will Know” was a beautiful contrast to the softness he exhibits in his friendship and brotherhood with Crutchie (Andrew McCarthy). Complementing his stage time, Keira Bauer was phenomenal in her embodiment of up-and-coming reporter Katherine Plumber. Bauer tackled the highly difficult song “Watch What Happens” with power and control in her breath and pitch.

Crutchie (Andrew McCarthy), Davey (Ryan Garvey), and Les (Brian Manning) acted as Jack’s best comrades and accomplices in organizing the strike. McCarthy kept up the pantomime limp throughout the whole show, never slipping up. Garvey had great energy in dance numbers and amazing vocals in harmonies and solos. Manning–far younger than his counterparts–rose to the occasion, always staying in the moment and selling a few hilarious lines. Kaia Grant as Medda Larkin stole the show every time she came on stage with her larger-than-life personality and her even bigger heart towards the Newsies.

The rest of the Newsies brought energy and anger to fuel this fire of change. Ensemble members successfully tackled challenging choreography and hid any imperfections or inconsistencies through character work. Although crowded, large dance numbers were eye-catching and exciting. A standout group number being “King of New York” where more than a few ensemble members seemed very proficient in tap dancing. New York accents for all cast members were done properly and transported the audience on the city streets with the newsboys. The camaraderie between the Newsies and the seamless blend of their chorale voices helped solidify the tight-knit relationship between such a large group.

The lighting, although distracting or out of the time period at times, was well focused in the sappy moment of “Something to Believe In”. The set–an elevated “rooftop”–was well detailed (with a nice touch of a clothesline) and functional with its moveable ladders. A standout piece was the rolling flat that depicted Jack’s painting of Sante Fe on one side and a political cartoon of Pulitzer’s harmful business practices on the other. A great and frequently-used prop was the newsstand with a workable bell and an abundance of precariously stacked newspapers.

“The world will know” about Cardinal O’Hara’s overall amazing production of Newsies!

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!