Lizzy Dixon (2014 - 2015)
Suitors and sailors and sirens, oh my! The South Carroll Stagelighters’ production of “The Odyssey” embodies the classic tale and takes the audience on a whirlwind so epic, Aeolus would be proud.
“The Odyssey” (adapted by Thomas Hischak) is based on Homer’s celebrated epic poem by the same name. The saga follows the homesick Odysseus and his heedless sailors on their trek through the treacherous Aegean Sea, as narrated by a cloaked Stranger. Concurrently, in Odysseus’ homeland of Ithaca, his wife and son hold a legion of boorish suitors at bay, anxiously anticipating Odysseus’ return. Ultimately, this array of unfortunate ordeals culminates in a joyous reunion between a father and his family. “The Odyssey” has been translated into a myriad of languages and has even been reimagined as an Emmy-Award winning television series. Additionally, a staged version of the well-read epic was performed at The Theater at St. Clements in 2002.
South Carroll’s production would not have been as successful without the production team’s attention to detail. This meticulousness in all aspects leant greatly to the show’s believability. The minimalistic set design conveyed the setting without overpowering the other elements of the show.
Marissa Mowers’ strong voice carried throughout the theater, creating an empyreal Athena even when she was not onstage. She managed to convey emotions while maintaining her celestial radiance. Federico Alvarado (Stranger) also utilized his sonorous voice to inject emotion into his narrative lines. Tori Prestianni and William Babin displayed exceptional chemistry as Penelope and Odysseus, respectively. Prestianni maintained regal composure and authentic facial expressions throughout the show, never breaking character even during the long stretches of time during which she had no lines. Babin showcased his character’s development in a subtle yet effectual manner and even exhibited his impressive archery skills towards the end of the show.
Lorin Loftus (Nurse) remained constant in her character choices throughout the show. Her movements were intentional and although she utilized a character voice, she could still be understood. Jacob Miller as Telemachus held his own against the rowdy suitor ensemble and exhibited heartwarmingly lifelike affection for his parents. Each of the ensembles added to the personality of the show. The handmaidens displayed notable versatility, remaining practically constant from scene to scene. The suitor ensemble added to the humor of the show, improving at times. It was evident that each suitor had a distinct personality. The sailor ensemble’s synchronization when pantomiming rowing was impressive and visually pleasing, as was the emotion they showed even in the absence of lines.
The lighting transported the audience and created a palpable separation between the scenes that were synchronous. Although the sets were minimalistic, nothing was lost visually because of the captivating use of light. The props were detailed and appeared well constructed. The gigantic Cyclops was an ambitious concept as were the hand-constructed Grecian chalices.
South Carroll High School’s production of “The Odyssey” was admirably ambitious, refreshingly simplistic and sure to leave you tweeting “#ohmygodyssey”.
Devon Burke (2014 - 2015)
He has bamboozled a vicious Cyclops out of death, thwarted a transcendent beauty’s plan to turn his crew to swine, maneuvered his ship through tumultuous waters, and returned home to the island of Ithaca, where his wife and son wait sanguinely. The legendary Odysseus challenges every catastrophe in South Carroll High School’s production of “The Odyssey”.
“The Odyssey,” the epic famously written by the Greek poet Homer, reveals the harrowing travels of Odysseus and his crew, relaying their encounters with the mystical Circe, promiscuous Calypso, and enthralling sirens on their journey from Troy to Ithaca, where Odysseus reigns as king. Throughout Odysseus’ quest, he receives succor from the sage goddess Athena while enduring the fiery (and often watery) wrath of Poseidon, god of the sea. Adapted for the stage by Thomas Hischak, this classic work of literature incorporates humor and accessibility, fitting for a high school production.
An outstanding element of this production was the original music composition and orchestration by Kristin Hamby. Adding immensely to the production with works reminiscent of celestial beings and heavenly Ancient Greek harp music as well as rumbling, grave tones to signify violence and war, the orchestration vivified the plot and sets expertly. A second notable mention resides with the eight foot tall puppet, manipulated by a group of performers and devised to animate the horrendous Cyclops that terrorizes Odysseus and his crew. This unexpected element had an uproarious effect on the audience; members guffawed throughout the entire scene in which the puppet was used.
The plot of this production is anchored by several distinct characters, enlivened remarkably by the actors playing them. William Babin (Odysseus) portrayed a valiant champion, commanding each scene with authority and fortitude. His expressions softened as the character, humbled by the astute teachings of Athena (Marissa Mowers), gained a newfound essence of humility, adding depth and dimension to the one-sided heroic archetype. Marissa Mowers loomed above the stage on a raised platform and delivered her lines with a resplendent opulence, thoroughly capturing the immaculate beacon that is Athena. Federico Alvarado (A Stranger) brought forth a reserved yet benevolent elderly newcomer with an enigmatic presence, a commendable addition to the production.
The lighting featured in this show was sensational. Designed by Katie Dyson, the lights shifted color and placement often, encompassing the audience in a whirlwind of placid waters and bizarre islands, concealed havens and lavish royal resting quarters.
Sailing through treacherous waters, combating ruthless monsters, encountering mesmerizing goddesses, and engaging in a battle of strength and wit to win the hand of the dazzling queen Penelope, the cast and crew of South Carroll High School embarked on an expedition that struck a balance between comical, gripping and enjoyable in “The Odyssey.”
Madeline McArdle (2014 - 2015)
A solemn parade of people slowly file into the theatre as a spotlight illuminates the stage to reveal a solitary red door. The people begin to speak one by one, despairing and regretful, their voices growing steadily until the room is filled with chaotic noise only to be broken by a bone-chilling scream.
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is based on the novel “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. The play tells the tale of Dr. Henry Jekyll, who while seeking a way to separate both the good and the evil in men, created a potion that completely split the two personalities thus creating the persona Mr. Edward Hyde. He begins experimenting with this separation of his personality, indulging in his more shameful vices through Mr. Hyde. Over time however, Dr. Jekyll begins to lose control over the transformations, becoming Mr. Hyde during his regular life and having no recollection when he eventually changes back. In a struggle to maintain control, Dr. Jekyll desperately searches for ways destroy the increasingly powerful persona of Mr. Hyde ultimately destroying himself in the process.
Gino Cardoni gave an unforgettable performance as the Dr. Henry Jekyll. He impressively depicted Jekyll’s descent from an intelligent, well-respected scientist into his unbalanced and malevolent alter ego, Mr. Hyde.
The idea of splitting the character of Mr. Hyde into four parts created a fascinating illusion. The Hyde ensemble was brilliantly depicted by Brent Silvestri, Emma Felter, Evan Eichner, and Kala Baker. Individually, they each represented a different aspect of Mr. Hyde, his jealousy, hatred, violence, and lust. Through predatory and feral physicality, they combined seamlessly to create a whole character whose stage presence was powerful and terrifying.
While the set was minimalist, consisting only of a single red door, it allowed for an intriguing dynamic between the set and the characters. The door not only served as a physical entrance, but also as an entrance into Dr. Jekyll’s mind. This inventive design created a distinction between the transformations of Jekyll and Hyde, showing who was in the real world and who was trapped behind the door of their mind.
Patapsco High School and Center For the Arts production of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” thoroughly captured the complicated and and sometimes horrific nature of the duality of man.
Devon Burke (2014 - 2015)
The Loyola Blakefield Players tell the story of one courtroom teeming with tempestuous arguments, shouts of consolation and rage from an impassioned group of onlookers, controversial claims, and a budding Romeo and Juliet-esque romance in their production of “Inherit the Wind.”
Depicting the 1925 Scopes v. Monkey Trial, in which a school teacher is convicted of teaching evolutionism in schools during a time when only creationism was acceptable, the play explores the infamous controversy and the town of Hillsboro’s inherent turmoil. This play was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
The production was, in many ways, defined by the trial itself. Line after line of pure infuriation and zeal intensified the already heightened scene of the courtroom and showcased the two awe-inspiring actors, playing the antithetical attorneys Henry Drummond and Matthew Harrison Brady, Zachary Phillips and Matthew Demetrides. The chemistry between these two performers was sensational. Developing their characters impeccably through signature accents, body language, and other mannerisms, Phillips and Demitrides brought forth two distinct characters that meshed dynamically when sharing the stage as prominent characters.
Patrick Gagliardi (E.K. Hornbeck) created a perfectly sardonic and farcical critic with simple but powerful movements and cynical tones that conveyed a hilariously sarcastic character, adding to the play notably. The mayor of Hillsboro, played by Peter Pferdeort brought a charmingly clueless essence to the stage, exuding comic ability as well as a commendable energy and presence. Also maintaining a particularly impressive energy throughout the show, the townspeople depicted tremendously a spirited group of ordinary citizens, creating a particular expressive and energetic scene in which they responded to Reverend Jeremiah Brown (Nicholas Kolasny) as he led them in an animated chant that led the ensemble into the next scene with a profound new energy, visible on stage.
The technological aspects of the production were also creditable, the set was utilized in an effective way, conveying different locations by using different levels. Set changes were accompanied by the strumming of an acoustic guitar, a creative choice that emphasized the sleepiness of a small American town.
This production truly found a balance between the harsh opinions paired with the significant religion in schools controversy and telling a story of friendship, love, and family, all while showcasing the remarkable talents of the Loyola Blakefield Players.
Devon Burke (2014 - 2015)
Within one modest household, storybook characters leap from one aspiring young author’s written words as she bellows them passionately to anyone who will listen, a strong-willed mother watches over her disparate children, and a lonely yet optimistic young man and his cantankerous grandfather grow to treasure each one of these little women as they face the obstacles of missing a loved one, working to leave a mark on the world, and wanting to grow up already in Century High School’s production of “Little Women: The Broadway Musical”.
Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, this classic story opened on Broadway in 2005, enlivened by songs by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein. Set in the Civil War era in New York City, frequent flashbacks bring the story back in time to the March household in Concord, Massachusetts, where Jo’s tenacity and vehement goal of becoming a famous writer spur her actions and feelings toward her beloved family and newfound friends.
With a mere ten-person cast and the additional challenge of using the black-box theater style, the performers needed to consistently utilize powerful facial expressions and movements to keep their characters distinctive—this they did meticulously. Scene after scene, the performers developed their characters by interacting with each other and reacting to occurrences in the scene in a way that emphasized the most definitive aspects of their characters’ personalities. By the curtain call, a strong unity was formed between all of the characters, each one’s idiosyncrasies fusing into a golden bond that inevitably brought tears to the audience members’ eyes. It was this unity that anchored the production.
Mallorie Stern’s interpretation of Jo was phenomenal. Slashing across the stage in a whirl of high-energy audaciousness and spunk, Stern was on top of every line and vocal, using her movement and face to portray the unconventional young spirit that is Jo March. A nice accompaniment to Stern was Griffin DeLisle (Laurie) who, with a big smile and innocent disposition, delivered spot-on vocals. Yet another notable mention goes to Jack DelNunzio (Professor Bhaer), who maintained an accurate German accent, holding it through the challenging number “Small Umbrella in the Rain”.
Every performer featured in this musical was sensational. Kylie Cooley brought a hilariously bombastic Aunt March to life with a poised brashness and more than several sassy eye-rolls. Cassie Saunders (Beth) delivered one flawless high note after another while maintaining a reserved and sweet-tempered presence. Cody Fandel (Mr. Laurence) did a wonderful job of portraying an aloof gentleman with little spurts of happiness that transitioned his character into a lovable father figure.
Though some technological aspects of the show hit some roadblocks (such as a faulty microphone and forgotten set change) the actors and tech crew recovered quickly and seamlessly. The costumes were extremely impressive, detailed, and time-period appropriate, vivifying the story and the significance of the historical aspect of the plot.
Overall, “Little Women: The Broadway Musical” was a pleasure to experience and displayed the commendable talents of the performers and tech crew of Century High School.
Caroline Aube (2013 - 2014)
The theatre is dark when suddenly spot lights appear on four figures in masks created in the style of Commedia Dell'arte coming down the aisles towards the stage. Their laughter inciting antics is what opens up South River High School’s production of “The Taming of the Shrew”.
“The Taming of the Shrew”, written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1590 and 1592, is the story of the money-grabbing Petruchio and his endeavor to “tame” the waspish Katherina (Kate) Minola. It also tells the tale of Kate’s younger and friendlier sister, Bianca, and her many suitors: the elderly Gremio, the licentious Hortensio, and the young and intelligent Lucentio. “The Taming of the Shrew” has been performed countless times on the stage and has been adapted into a 1948 stage musical “Kiss Me Kate”, a film version of that musical of the same name, a 1967 version of the original play, and the 1999 film “10 Things I Hate About You” is loosely based upon it.
The leads in this show were funny and energetic in their portrayal of their characters. Andrew Galvin as Petruchio was very humorous in his use of outrageous facial expressions and body language. Heidi Tolson hilariously brought Kate to life and her character choices led the audience to believe that she really understood her character well. Graham Hays and Emma Osborn were funny and engaging in their time on stage as Lucentio and Bianca, respectively.
Ben Abbott was entertaining in his portrayal of the old and exasperated Baptista. His frustration with his daughters’ actions was convincing and funny. Scott Keegstra as Hortensio and Hugh Raup as Gremio were amusingly lecherous in their vying for the affections of “Sweet Bianca”. Maria Osborn as Tranio was hilarious in her attempts at machismo to “be” Lucentio. Finally, Addie Elswick as Grumio was hilarious with her use of silly facial expressions and body language, making even the times when she was silent memorable and enjoyable.
The whole cast had an immense amount of energy to give their performance and delivered a strong performance as a group. This energy may have caused some lines to have been rushed, but this did not take away from the performance as a whole. South River made a bold choice by putting musical numbers into the play. In the style of sea shanties, the numbers “Drunken Sailor”, “Maid on the Shore”, “Donkey Riding”, “Whup Jamboree”, “A Health to the Company”, and “Mist Covered Mountains” showcased the ensemble of Scallywags and were reflective of the themes of the scenes preceding them. They also showcased David Ossman’s energetic and musically appropriate choreography and Katie Smith’s beautiful direction of the songs. “Mist Covered Mountains” featured the whole cast singing in addition to a lovely Gaelic solo by Lucy Bobbin.
Meg Phillips, Sam Stafford and the South River Theater Company’s stage crew’s set was effective and thematically appropriate with a ship-like structure using varying levels upon which the cast could be situated. There could have perhaps been better communication between the booth and backstage as there were some light difficulties at some of the transitions. However, the majority of the show was appropriately lit and effective.
By the end of the show, a shrew may have been tamed, but South River Theater Company’s performance was not, in the best way possible.
Caroline Aube (2013 - 2014)
You didn’t have to be “King of the Forest” to enjoy Old Mill High School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
While most would know the tale of Dorothy and her dog Toto by way of the 1939 film of the same name, “The Wizard of Oz” was originally a 1902 stage musical based on “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. Since then it has been made into several different film, stage, and television adaptations: including the 1939 Judy Garland film. The adaptation that Old Mill’s Patriot Players used was the 1987 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production. This version has many of the same songs as the 1939 film, with a few additions such as “The Jitterbug” and “Poppies” numbers. Though different than the 1939 film, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation still carries the classic story of young Dorothy Gale and her longing to go somewhere over the rainbow, her accidental arrival in the Land of Oz, and her quest to get back to Kansas with her friends: the Tinman, the Lion, and the Scarecrow.
The performances of the leads in this production were nice and energetic. Genesis Hayes did a good job bringing Dorothy to life with her animated expressions and enjoyable stage presence along with her admirable singing ability. Amy Matousek as Glinda brought a sassy edge to the character that made her fresh and new for the audience to enjoy. Her singing voice also soared in “Munchkinland Musical Sequence and Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” along with “Poppies”. Kayla Jones as the Wicked Witch of the West brought a comedic element to the most feared person in all of Oz.
Jakob Diggs as the Cowardly Lion was endearing and strong in his performance, both in terms of acting and in terms of vocal performance. Tory Van Dine as the Scarecrow had wonderful comedic timing and often made the audience laugh with his antics. Devon Young as the Tinwoman made the audience feel for her struggle to get a heart while also making them laugh at her one-liners. Ryan Hunter as the Emerald City Guard was funny and vibrant with his use of voice manipulation and facial expressions. Sean Milligan as Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz was humorous and engaging throwing wide- eyed enthusiasm at the audience and making his time on stage memorable.
As a whole, Old Mill’s “Wizard of Oz” was driven by energetic performances by the whole cast. The ensemble numbers in the Land of Oz were particularly energetic and engaging to the audience. Numbers such as “The Jitterbug”, “Munchkinland Musical Sequence”, and “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” were driven by energetic movements and facial expressions by the ensemble.
Jenna Bachman and the Old Mill Stage Crew created the Land of Oz with vibrant colors and use of different levels. The lighting was also appropriate for each scene and the sound system was never overpowering.
Old Mill’s “Wizard of Oz” was indeed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.