Cappies’ Reviews Of South Florida High School Theater

cappiesPublishing student reviews of high school theater is the cornerstone of a new service from Florida Theater On Stage and the South Florida Critics and Awards Program, better known as The Cappies.

Now in its 19th year, the Cappies enrolls theatre and journalism students, trains the m as critics and assigns them to attend shows at 25 schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The student write reviews under the mentorship of teachers and volunteers. TESTING

 

For more information about the Cappies, visit www.cappies.com/sfc/Home.aspx

The most recent reviews will be at the top of the page, but all of them will appear here all year.

Reviews of Pippin at NSU University School on Saturday, 4/17/2021.


By Rachel Goldberg of Cooper City High School

Magic is in the air as Pippin is mystified by the manipulative Leading Player and her theater troupe. Their goal? To convince Pippin his life will never be truly fulfilled until he participates in the troupe’s grand finale. Pippin’s longing to find his “Corner of the Sky” was wonderfully expressed in NSU University School’s production of the musical “Pippin.”

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson, “Pippin” takes real individuals from the early Middle Ages and throws them into a circus of mystery. This cynical musical shared its magic with Broadway beginning in 1972 and was revived in 2013. The story of “Pippin” is a lesson to all viewers and a reminder that everyone wants to feel a little “Extraordinary.”

Portraying Pippin, Noah Han remarkably captured the determined nature of the youthful prince. Han exhibited impressive vocals and energy throughout the production, most notably in his song “Corner of the Sky.” The cunning Leading Player was fantastically embodied by Bailey Busher. Busher brilliantly portrayed the artful charm and conniving persona of her character. Han and Busher displayed a delightful dynamic of puppet and puppeteer, creating an engaging and believable performance.

Eva Daskos embodied the eccentric and dramatic Fastrada. Daskos brought infectious energy and commendable vocals to the production. Anthony Langone commanded the stage as Charles, Pippin’s father. His character voice was an incredible addition to the role, and both Daskos and Langone’s comedic timing and consistent characterization were exemplary. Catherine, the lonely and heartbroken widow was portrayed by Haleigh Mish. Mish delivered a sincere, genuine performance and showcased elegant vocals. Moreover, Mish mastered her “show within a show” moments with Busher, contributing to the authenticity of her character.

The ensemble of “Pippin” expressed beautifully blended harmonies throughout the entire production, and although they lacked energy in act one, it was much better in act two. Two standout cast members were leading the production on and off stage. Bailey Busher portrayed the Leading Player and choreographed the entire production. The choreography fit the show magnificently and seemed to be effortlessly molded to accommodate each cast member and their abilities. Eva Daskos played Fastrada and was head of the costume crew. Each costume was entirely unique and yet the ensemble appeared cohesive due to the matching color scheme and circus style. Other technical aspects of the production included impeccable stage management led by Liberty Lapayowker, consistent sound, and fluid, dynamic stage lighting.

At the end of the night, Pippin chooses a simple life instead of an exhilarating death. However, when a young and wide-eyed Theo takes center stage, the Leading Player can begin her journey with the next Pippin…and the next…and the next. It seems as if history is bound to repeat itself, just as NSU University School’s production of “Pippin” is bound to be truly “Extraordinary.”

*** *** ***

By Abigail Alder of North Broward Preparatory School

Ladies and Gentlemen, step right up to witness the spectacle and set aside all previous misconceptions. The search for the most fulfilling life begins now. Experience the magic, merriment, lust, and murder with the players of “Pippin” as they command NSU University School’s stage.

Originally written as a college musical in 1967, “Pippin” has undergone many changes over the decades. In 1972, with the collaborative efforts of theatre legends, Stephen Schwartz  (music and lyrics), Bob Fosse (choreographer and director), and Roger O. Hirson (book), “Pippin” opened on Broadway. Departing from Fosse’s former darker and tawdrier version, for the 2013 Broadway revival, Schwartz changed the players from a traveling theatrical troupe to circus performers. The result: charismatic characters illuminate this anecdotic revue. “Pippin” is the story of Charlemagne’s first-born son’s desire for fulfillment and exceptional life. He gets caught up with a colorful group of circus performers, including the troupe’s devilish ringmaster, Leading Player. As Pippin strives to become significant in his own right, audiences embark on an adventure of equal parts whimsy, heart, and wonder.

Reminding audiences of the “Simple Joys,” Bailey Busher (Leading Player) had a vibrant stage presence and propelled the show’s momentum with her storytelling. Busher’s masterful use of the choreography was undeniably captivating. Noah Han (Pippin) embodied his character’s naivete and uncertainty, yet his performance was spirited. Han’s memorable vocals complemented the beautiful score, notably in the song “Corner of the Sky.” Together, Busher’s puppeteering persona played well off of Han’s character’s discontent and longing.

Asserting his dominance, Anthony Langone (Charles/Player) commanded the stage as the demanding king. Instantly exuding confidence, Eva Daskos’s (Fastrada/Player) undeniable chemistry with each character interaction was a joy to watch. Haleigh Mish (Catherine/Player) consistently demonstrated her enthusiasm and stood out with her stunning vocals on “Kind of Woman.” As a whole, the cast did a commendable job executing the challenging choreography. Despite minor lulls in energy, the cast quickly bounced back and remained engaged. The ensemble was particularly vivacious in numbers such as “Morning Glow” and “Finale.”

Contributing to the magic were the technical elements, enhancing an already “Extraordinary” show. The costumes, designed by Eva Daskos, incorporated both modernized and dated pieces, creating an appealing juxtaposition between the show’s vintage and contemporary feel. Alongside Daskos, Bailey Busher multitasked by performing and leading tech with choreographed dances that were apt for the production’s style. From Fosse to acro, Busher included all aspects of movement that made “Pippin” distinct. Dana Wrubel designed unique makeup looks for each player that further established their individuality. Tackling over 800 cues, the stage manager, Liberty Lapayowker, did a phenomenal job maintaining the show’s pace.

Strike the lights, take off the costumes and makeup, break down the facades to see what is true. The magic of life is in authentic relationships and experiences. Let NSU University School’s production of “Pippin” serve as a reminder of the possibilities that await just beyond the horizon.

*** *** ***

By Hannah Coleman of North Broward Preparatory School

The magic is in the air at Nova Southeastern University School after their amazing production of Pippin. The iconic musical was written in 1972 by Stephen Schwartz and Robert O. Hershin and tells the story of a mysterious performance troupe. The Tony award-winning musical has become a timeless tale of family, character, and individuality. NSU University Schools’ production was extremely impressive and offered professional-level talent to the audience.

The musical centers the leading player of the troupe as a narrator-like character, telling and influencing the story of Pippin. Pippin is a prince who struggles with leadership, right and wrong and finding significance. The rendition done by NSU University School is accurate to the 2013 Broadway revival. The parallel world between the actors in the troupe and the characters they’re playing create a dynamic and immersive story that can be enjoyed by all.

Bailey Busher’s (Leading Player) performance was phenomenal. Her gorgeous vocals, enthusiastic energy, and unwavering commitment bettered the show as a whole. Noah Han (Pippin) was also an extremely talented actor and vocalist. He embraced the youthful innocence of his character and brightened the stage in each of his scenes. The Leads of the show each mirrored each other’s skill in the best ways and embraced their character’s contrasting personalities to create a diverse range of work.

The ensemble as a whole was exquisite. The entire cast showcased beautiful dancing and seamless work as an ensemble. The duo Eva Daskos (Fastrada) and Anthony Langone (Charles) were a powerful pair. The two had beautiful chemistry and comedic timing and remained entertaining throughout the entirety of the show. In the ensemble’s entirety, character development could’ve been more thorough and there were moments where the energy seemed to falter. However, the entire cast displayed outstanding talent, understanding, and hard work.

The technical aspects of this musical were largely done by the students and cast. One stand out of these student technicians was Bailey Busher (Choreographer). The choreography was inspired by Bob Fosse’s work in the original production and was inspirational to watch. The use of social distance in choreography was done perfectly and appeared natural, the level of difficulty was high and all of the dances were executed beautifully by the cast.  Another impressive tech element was Eva Daskos (Costume Designer). The costumes all remained in a similar color range and were each well suited to accentuate each character. The features in the layers of the costumes added another level to the performance which allowed the audience to feel immersed in the role of the show. Finally, Liberty Lapayowker (Stage Manager) did an incredible job. Every cue was perfectly timed and completed without flaws.

Overall, NSU University School did a remarkable job with its production of Pippin. Creating live theatre in a pandemic is an impressive feat and the show’s use of creativity to make this happen was excellent. Subtle choices in the show took advantage of the socially distanced atmosphere and took the production to the next level.

*** *** ***

By Savanah Schwantes of Cooper City High School

A young man is determined to find fulfillment: what lengths must he go to, what obstacles must be overcome? NSU University School’s production of “Pippin” truly had plenty of “magic to do.” From a dancing granny to a dying duck, audience members were brought on a sensational ride as they learned that the only thing to be sure of, is that there’s nothing to be sure of!

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger Hirson, Pippin first started his journey on Broadway in 1972. Winning dozens of awards since its premiere, the show follows the story of a young man named Pippin who longs to gain adventure and enjoyment in his life. What makes the tale more unique, however, is its show-within-a-show concept, in which Pippin and a troupe of performers are led by the Leading Player. In the end, Pippin must decide if he should settle down with Catherine, the woman he loves, or continue his pursuit with the troupe.

Embodying the namesake role was Noah Han. Han proved his dedication to the character of Pippin throughout the entirety of the show. He provided consistent energy, as well as beautiful vocals. The audience was enthralled as Han flawlessly belted “Corner of the Sky.” The vibrant, yet manipulative Leading Player was personified by Bailey Busher. Busher brought life to everything she did, executed difficult choreography with ease, and truly brought “Glory” to the stage.

With phenomenal character commitment and stellar comedic timing, Eva Daskos and Anthony Langone must also be praised for their portrayal of Fastrada and Charlemagne, respectively.  As Fastrada, Daskos brilliantly shined as the overdramatic stepmother. Commanding both the kingdom and stage, Anthony Langone employed diverse physicality and a spirited character voice to expertly epitomize Charlemagne.

As a whole, the cast of “Pippin” had a lovely stage presence. There were moments when the ensemble lacked energy, yet their efforts were evident. The players were tasked with partaking in numerous dance numbers, and they magnificently brought the choreography to life.

The technical crew of “Pippin” incorporated ingenious elements to bring the show to life. In addition to acting as the Lead Player, Bailey Busher also served as the choreographer of the show. Busher produced exemplary choreography that was catered to each cast member’s skill level. Eva Daskos’s beautifully designed costumes aided in emphasizing a distinction between the players and the characters within Pippin’s life. Daskos must be applauded once again, as they assumed the responsibility of lead costume designer, and were also an integral cast member.

While Pippin ultimately found fulfillment in his love for Catherine, the audience found fulfillment from NSU University School’s production of “Pippin.” The admirable cast members and innovative technical aspects created a show that was certainly far more than just “Extraordinary.”

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

“Welcome to the show, ladies and gentlemen!” A mystic and exotic journey of intrigue, romance, illusions, and a hint of magic! Witness daunting acts of lust, murder, and holy war as NSU University School presents their “Extraordinary” production of “Pippin.” Join this masterful troupe of traveling players through this dark tale of daring displays and royal revelations.

With a book by Roger O. Hirson and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, this alluring show-within-a-show centers around the naive and perpetually dissatisfied heir to the Frankish throne on his theatrical journey to find “something completely fulfilling.” Deceived by false perceptions and empty promises, this award-winning musical follows the protagonist Pippin through war, revolt, love, and miracles. Premiering in 1972, this medieval yet modern tale of achievement and temptation continues to defy the boundaries of time with its infectious music and Fosse-inspired dance.

Embodying Pippin, the distinguished yet discontent protagonist, Noah Han beautifully portrayed his young and innocent persona by maintaining a sense of naivety while still showcasing his compelling character progression. Han’s authentic expressiveness and marvelous vocals contributed to the continually engaging production. Guiding Pippin as the cunning and charming Leading Player, Bailey Busher delivered a commanding performance through her powerful vocalization and exquisite dancing. While immaculately capturing the mysterious ringleader, Busher showcased her expansive talent as the production’s choreographer through her intricate and stylized choreography.

The conniving and calculated stepmother, Fastrada, was remarkably portrayed by Eva Daskos. Daskos showcased impeccable comedic timing through both their theatrical physicality and unfaltering energy. Charles, the prideful king of the holy empire, was embodied by the animated and comical Anthony Langone. With consistent vitality, Langone commanded the stage with his grandiose presence and authoritative articulation. Daskos and Langone developed a humorous and entertaining relationship through their dynamic chemistry and equivalent enthusiasm.

With their tireless commitment, enticing stage business, and dramatic movements, the production’s brilliant ensemble never failed to engross viewers’ attention. The crisp and beautifully blended harmonies demonstrated the exceptional vocal ability and rigor of the cast. The entire company superbly showcased the Fosse-inspired complexities of the choreography with a natural expression of the often unnatural motions. Displaying an impressive understanding of timing, the cast maintained an exceptional rhythm throughout both their comedic and heartfelt scenes.

The technical aspects of the production depicted the theatrical and mysterious adventure through warring kingdoms, ordinary estates, and colorful theaters. The vivid lighting immersed viewers into the fantastical world and the complex, well-designed costumes helped distinguish the eerie players from the flamboyant leads. The technically rigorous production was exquisitely illustrated thanks to the commendable work of the stage manager and cohesive crew.

When the sets, costumes, lights, and magic are stripped away, we begin to see that the one perfect act, a grand finale, may not be underscored by glory and sunshine. NSU University School’s climactic production of “Pippin” confirms that fulfillment ultimately does not lie in an extraordinary finale but rather the “Simple Joys” along the journey.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Good Kids at Cooper City High School on Friday, 4/16/2021.


By Nick Vela of JP Taravella High School

“We’re all good kids. Every single one of us, but what does that even mean?” In a society dominated by the instant gratification of social media, absurd expectations of an insensitive patriarchal hierarchy, and the constant injustices of sexism and misogyny, the most kind-hearted individuals can become just as ruthless and relentless as their cold-hearted counterparts. Bringing awareness to the sensitive subjects of sexual assault and alcoholism, Cooper City High School’s painfully pertinent production of “Good Kids” sheds light on the all too relevant and relatable issue of rape culture and its ever-growing stigma.

Written by acclaimed dramatist Naomi Iizuka, “Good Kids” is the first commission of a New Play Initiative established by the Big Ten Theatre Consortium in 2014. First produced at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, and loosely based on the Steubenville High School rape case, this provocatively prominent play follows Chloe as she crashes a Midwestern high school party on one seemingly normal Saturday night and deals with the shockingly public aftermath of the sexual assault she experienced there.

Leading the production as the tragically pivotal role of Chloe, Alana Agresspahl delivered a heartbreakingly honest performance from the very first moment she appeared on the screen. Demonstrating an unwavering commitment to her complex character, Agresspahl’s striking line delivery and touching facials truly conveyed the depth of her role’s profound emotions. Sharing a similar story of sexual assault, Mia Doucette’s authentic role as the story’s central narrator, Deirdre, provided an enticing outside perspective and much-needed break from the heightened tension of the characters within the actual narrative.

Commanding the screen as the compassionately candid Skyler, Piper Breslin exhibited dynamic energy and endless dedication. Their genuine portrayal and evident character development made for a phenomenal performance with many levels and dimensions. Furthermore, Kristopher Olinsky impressively captured the inherent innocence and uncertainty of his role as the misfit jock Tanner, creating an exceedingly enjoyable and highly realistic character.

Aside from some occasional overacting and low energy, most likely due to the show’s mature subject matter, the ensemble as a whole displayed a captivating sense of chemistry, as well as in-depth relationships showcased throughout every scene. The cast’s admirable character work and careful consideration for the piece’s adult content produced some sincerely inspiring and meaningful moments.

As for the technical elements of the production, the perfectly timed editing, inventive scene transitions, tasteful props, and overall creative choices truthfully brought the show to life. Despite a few minor inconsistencies with the frequency of in-person scenes and green screen usage, the almost entirely student-run technical team took full advantage of the virtual format, elevating the tone and cohesiveness of the piece.

With a compelling combination of neverending repercussions and rumors, Cooper City High School’s hauntingly heart-wrenching production of “Good Kids” reveals the attitudes, misconceptions, and social influences that create a climate where sexual assault can run rampant.

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

When unruly teen parties and debilitating levels of intoxication result in catastrophic circumstances, every person has a different account, a different belief, a different story. In the hostile world of “he said/she said” with the prevalent ignorance of victim blaming, the horrific reality of teen rape culture leaves the unsettled public asking, “What happened to good kids?” Cooper City High School’s heart-wrenching production of “Good Kids” casts a necessary light on the dismal truths plaguing today’s adolescents.

Written by Naomi Iizuka, this captivating play tackles pertinent social issues including sexual assault and alcoholism and the growing stigma surrounding them. Written in 2014, “Good Kids” is loosely based on a tragic sexual assault at Steubenville High School in a small Ohio town in 2012. This timely and timeless show follows a young girl as her high-spirited party crashing ends with her enduring the life-altering effect of a publicized sexual assault.

Alana Agresspahl gave a compelling performance in her emotionally rigorous role as Chloe, the story’s protagonist. Agresspahl provided an authentic and mature execution of the demanding material and showcased marvelous range throughout her character’s tumultuous journey. Portraying the story’s dedicated narrator, Deirdre, Mia Doucette helped advance the play through her heartfelt and earnest storytelling skills. Doucette displayed incredible development, especially as her character’s motivations and prominent history are explored towards the end of the performance.

Supporting the production with their fiery charisma and impactful monologues, Piper Breslin demanded the virtual stage with their remarkable performance as Skyler, the caring social outcast. Breslin’s consistent energy but dynamic intensity levels created an outstanding and engaging performance. Tanner, the impressionable but good-natured jock, was embodied by Kristopher Olinsky. Through his genuine emotional portrayal, Olinsky captured the innocent nature of his character and internal conflict immaculately.

The ensemble of the production formed a cohesive unit of storytellers as they communicated the heavy themes of the show beautifully. The cast displayed well-established chemistry right at the beginning of the performance and continued to advance and explore these intricate relationships. The ensemble of jocks did an incredible job conveying their overall cruel behavior while maintaining various levels of empathy, regret, and rationalization.

The technical aspects of the production effectively communicated the small-town intimacy while contrasting with the show’s essence of polarity and loneliness. The technical crew took advantage of the virtual platform by incorporating creative editing, and the complex scene transitions tied in the show’s emphasis on technology. The effective use of props and costumes remained authentic and contributed to the play’s realism.

The critical conversation about adolescent sexual assault has gained increasing awareness; however, this heigtened exposure has created an idea that today’s youth have lost their moral character. While unfortunately today’s teens are afflicted with these frightful realities, this expanded awareness has simply resulted from social media’s exposure of this ongoing issue. Cooper City High School’s empowering production of “Good Kids” reveals the disparities between the unjust accusation of teens’ loss of virtue and the admirable bravery of today’s youth as they stand up for their principles.

*** *** ***

By Jacob Harris of Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS

The modern world, the 21st Century; a place where gossip spreads by the second. As information becomes unleashed, it’s inevitable for personal stories to come to closure. The world is a place where plots can ripple at any given moment and our lives can vastly shift by the second. Once people know your truth, your life can change instantly. Cooper City High School’s production of “Good Kids” represents the position the world is in today, where our lives are put to the test, where our conscience is sworn to secrecy, but will you conceal or confess?

Written by Naomi Iizuka, Good kids revolves around Chloe, a teenage girl in a town where a sexual encounter has been the recent scandal of the county; unspeakable events have been rumoured to occur, leaving nobody with a definite answer to what has happened. Rumors begin circulating through the roots of the community as people learn more about the case. Nobody knows exactly what happened in this instance, except for Chloe. She is the only person who could justify her case, yet the vicious and self-centered world around her is trying to tell her story, the story that sets everything apart from the pure truth.

Alana Agresspahl (Chloe) portrayed authenticity and an evident understanding of her role. Agresspahl’s genuine acting choices felt natural as the story developed. Her strong connection to her peers and the powerful activism expressed blossomed as the production was executed. Overall, Agresspahl had a strong emotional connection to her character and her acting choices were remarkable.

Piper Breslin (Skyler) depicted clear characterization which aided the storytelling of the production. Breslin emphasized how their character felt about the topics discussed and displayed notable character development as the production proceeded. Mia Doucette (Deirdre) rendered strong commitment to the case being studied in the production, representing a separate point of view of the story. Doucette portrayed Deirdre with immense energy, providing a break of suspense to the ever so somber story.

Despite minor technical mishaps, the production ran smoothly. Matheus Lima edited the virtual performance, adding technical elements and transitions to keep the production flowing. From full-blown parties to mini stops at a 7-Eleven, the virtual backgrounds assisted the storytelling of the production, providing an environment for the scenes to take place in. Overall, the editing of the production created a natural feel for the virtual performance, frequently providing space to adhere to CDC Guidelines.

The world holds endless possibilities, some of which people do not understand what’s in store for life. The innocence and purity of the human world could all be captured instantly; the people today perceive information in the way that they want to see something, not what has truly happened. Cooper City High School’s production of “Good Kids” accurately represents a major dispute in the world today, expressing how people either “believe” or “have to believe” in order to process their everyday lives.

*** *** ***

By Leah Tomas of JP Taravella High School

“Something happened to Chloe after that party last Saturday night. Something she says she can’t remember. Something everybody is talking about.” Cooper City High School’s production of “Good Kids” seeks to uncover the secrets surrounding an alleged attack on a high school student by her classmates at a high school party gone wrong.

Written by Naomi Iizuka, “Good Kids” is a contemporary work of theatre intended to tackle difficult subject matter for the purpose of spreading awareness and education artistically and respectfully. Inspired by the 2012 Steubenville High School sexual assault case in which a teen girl was attacked a group of student athletes while drunk and unconscious, “Good Kids” depicts the dangers of victim blaming and the sharing of viral content on social media despite the ways in which we as individuals present ourselves to others socially.

Alana Agresspahl (Chloe) delivered a genuine portrayal of intense emotions through detailed characterization and line delivery alongside impressive comedic timing, while Piper Breslin (Skyler) demonstrated boundless energy and evident commitment to their character and dynamics throughout their performance.

Eddie Dieguez (Daphne) presented complimentary characterization to Agresspahl’s rendering of Chloe, and the two exhibited effortless chemistry and good pacing during their shared time onstage. Additionally, Mia Doucette (Dierdre) did an excellent job balancing out the tension frequenting such a heavy script, while Kristopher Olinsky (Tanner) demonstrated clear characterization and commitment to the portrayal of his role’s innocence and uncertainty.

The ensemble worked cohesively to deliver an engaging performance. The cast exhibited significant individual character development and growth as the story progressed alongside great execution of realism and mature themes. Though the ensemble became inconsistent at times in regard to the authenticity of individual characterization and energy level, and the virtual platform created difficulty surrounding the determination of the speaker’s identity, the cast did a fantastic job and delivered a commendable performance.

The technical elements of this production were incredibly well executed. Costuming was appropriate and well done, and the student technicians expertly used the virtual platform as an opportunity to bring theatre to life through digital editing. Although at times unbalanced audio and mixing interfered with the performance, the integration of student composed music to underscore onstage action created ambience and facilitated the establishment of location, mood and setting.

Cooper City High School’s production of “Good Kids” highlights the importance of compassion and communication in the midst of tragedy and violence through its authentic depiction of the tragic public aftermath of an act of sexual violence. The production emphasizes the chaos introduced by uncertainty and fear: “There’s the story people tell about you – and then there’s the story you tell about yourself.”

*** *** ***

By Emma Flynn of South Plantation High School

It could never happen in your town, it could never happen at your school, and it could never happen to your kid. How could it? They’re all “good kids,” after all. Except, to a young girl at a party too intoxicated to even walk, it did. In Cooper City High School’s production of the gripping and horrifying “Good Kids,” all will be questioned and when the truth finally comes out, it may tear a community to shreds.

Inspired by the 2012 Steubenville High School sexual assault case, “Good Kids,” written by Naomi Iizuka, aims to explore the complex web of high school social life and the prevalent, yet debilitating, rape culture that stains the psyche of today’s teenagers. With an emphasis on the influence of social media like Twitter and YouTube, Cooper City High School’s production of “Good Kids” is nothing if not mature, taking great care to accurately and tastefully exhibit the reality of sexual violence amongst high schoolers.

Seated in the exceptionally demanding role of Chloe, Alana Agresspahl brought her all to the wounded character, breathing life into the performance with skill and grace. Molding from the subject of schoolyard taunts to the victim of a vile crime, Agresspahl evolves on the screen, shifting from a hard-headed, lovable teenage girl, to a terrified and defeated one as the plot unfolds. Kristopher Olinsky as Tanner also had a particularly compelling story to follow, with Olinsky skillfully portraying a goodhearted boy ultimately turned bystander through both circumstance and his own cowardice.

As an ensemble, the Cooper City High School players fit together seamlessly, each with an impeccable commitment to character and full understanding of the difficult and harrowing material at hand. One player with a vast understanding of their character was Piper Breslin as Skyler. Portraying an outcasted and jaded young teenager, Breslin’s performance was not only one full of emotion and raw intensity, but one that displayed a maturity that is beyond their years. Breslin’s adept perception of their character and their motivations brought an already multifaceted and elaborate character to another level.

The tech elements in this production served only to broaden the already fantastic narrative the actors painted in their performances. Though suffering from a lack of consistency with setting, the use of transitions and video editing done by Matheus Lima was especially impressive, providing the show with superb technical moments that worked excellently with the harrowing emotional scenes throughout. Though minimal, the use of props, hair/makeup (Marley Meany), and costumes were also great additions, bringing added depth to the characters and players on the screen.

Cooper City High School’s “Good Kids” is not just a tasteful exploration into the culture of high school adolescents and how it can promote sexual violence, but also a cautionary tale that warns us that sometimes they’re just not “good kids.”

*** *** ***

Reviews of I Love You, You’re Perfect Now Change at Coral Glades High School on Sunday, 4/11/2021.


By Emma Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

“Find someone to love! Someone you think is perfect! Then spend the rest of your life trying to change them!” This familiar progression truly encompasses the never-ending adventure on the “Highway of Love.” From terrific first dates to tragic heartbreaks, Coral Glades High School’s production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” captures the love, laughter, and loss of the complex conundrum of “the relationship.”

With book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, this hilarious music review tackles the many forms of relationships and love, from dating, to marriage, to children, and every heartwarming thing in-between. The group of lovebirds cycle through a series of vignettes that will have you bursting with both laughter and tears. As the second longest running Off-Broadway musical, this lovable production addresses the heavy themes of connectedness and romance with lighthearted wit.

Alexis Andriesse in the song “A Stud and a Babe” delivered a captivating and comedic performance. Andriesse displayed stunning vocals while showcasing superb commitment to each of her various characters through both her physicality and intonation. Julyette Vargas in the song “Hey There, Single Gal/Guy” demonstrated immaculate characterization and incredible vocalization. With impeccable comedic timing and consistently infectious energy, Vargas quickly established her unique personas at the beginning of each of her scenes. Andriesse and Vargas displayed an engaging connection, despite not being physically together, in their hilarious performance of “Single Man Drought.”

Starring in the song “I’ll Call You Soon (Yeah Right),” Maliyah Mattis commanded the virtual stage with her unwavering enthusiasm, comedic characterization, and powerful vocals. Mattis energized each of her scenes with her dazzling stage presence and rich energy. Accompanying Mattis in the song “Tear Jerk,” Joshua Simon embodied his comedic role through his expressive physicality and amusing mannerisms. Simon’s brilliant facials and diversity of characterization brought additional liveliness to the performance.

The ensemble of the production formed a cohesive unit through their magnificent storytelling skills. Each cast member created distinct personas for each of their scenes, immediately engaging viewers into every moment of the quickly paced show. The entire company exhibited a fantastic understanding of comedy, expressed through their inflections, embodiment, and clear understanding of the script’s intricacies. Overcoming the difficulties of a virtual performance, the cast provided exceptional, well-blended harmonies.

Conveying the love-filled atmosphere, the technical aspects of the production flawlessly captured the show’s romcom essence. The use of green-screen backgrounds transported audiences to each of the quickly changing settings. Despite minor inconsistencies, the costumes effectively differentiated characters’ ages and were appropriate for each character. The sound was well-balanced and executed with clarity.

Coral Glades High School’s stellar production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” encompasses the power of connection through its infinite forms. From the ignited passion of first love to love that outlasts a lifetime, the heartwarming show describes the indescribable feeling.

*** *** ***

By Jermaine Jenkins of South Plantation High School

The joy and dread of first dates, marriage, babies, single life, and the agonizing trips in the family car are just some of the everyday adventures that one can relate to. “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”, produced by Coral Glades High School, insightfully and hilariously explores the complex dynamic and reality of love and romance in all of its forms through catchy tunes and relatable lyrics.

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” had its premiere in 1996. With book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” went on to break records for being one of the longest running Off-Broadway musicals. This record-breaking production, told through a series of vignettes and songs, follows a multitude of characters as they experience the different stages of a relationship.

Commanding the virtual stage with her genuine devotion and alluring presence, Maliyah Mattis gave a remarkable performance. Specifically shining in the song “Tear Jerk” and the scene “I’ll Call You Soon (Yeah Right)”, Mattis successfully showcased her range and comedic timing. Through her distinct expressions, enthusiasm, and bold physicality, Mattis gave a stand out performance that aided in tastefully guiding the production. Julyette Vargas must also be applauded for her unmatched energy and powerhouse vocals throughout the entirety of her performance, most notable in the songs “On The Highway Of Love”  “Hey There, Single Gal”. Vargas’ ability to develop undeniable chemistry with everyone around her is a testament to her capability as an actress.

Alexis Andriesse gave a commendable performance in the song “Single Man Drought”. Her facial expressions and bold characterization left for a performance that was all around enjoyable. Also exhibiting impeccable comedic abilities and a strong portrayal of her characters, Heidi Gruenbaum stood out in the song “I Can Live With That”

The ensemble worked together as a cohesive unit as they brought brightfulness and colorfulness to the production through their engagement and dedication. Although the chemistry occasionally faltered, they made up for it with their impressive vocal work, wonderfully harmonizing and blending.

The technical crew of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” justifiably took advantage of performing in a virtual world through their use of green screens. This magnificent choice created a sense of realism that made the show all the more enjoyable. While there were a few inconsistencies when it came to costuming, all of the technical elements successfully elevated the show.

Coral Glades High School’s production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” hilariously and effectively illustrates the trials and tribulations of romance and love. With a seemingly flawless cast and crew, Coral Glades High School beautifully sends the audience “On a highway of love”.

*** *** ***

By Peri Harris of Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS

What is love, and more importantly, how can you truly find it? With the unrealistic beauty standards and societal norms that we’re presented with in the 21st century, it’s safe to say that human connection seems almost unimaginable; The romanticized television shows, overpriced beauty enhancers, and materialistic beliefs make the inorganic facade of love shatter within seconds.  In Coral Glades High School’s production of, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” the cast and crew explore the many ups and downs of romance, and how to navigate your way along the highway of love.

With lyrics from the heart by Joe DiPietro, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” reveals the unfortunate truth of love, and how this rainbow of human emotions takes it’s toll on partners.  The piece features a series of vignettes, all revolving around individuals dealing with a similar problem; they’re struggling to find affection.  When family car rides turn to musical numbers and a first date foretells the future, the cliché meaning of intimacy is juxtaposed, and audiences are invited to celebrate love – or the materialism of it, for that matter.

Julyette Vargas populated the story with her high energy and enthusiasm. Vargas was challenged with portraying multiple differing characters, and she faced the said challenge with confidence. Amongst her incredible vocals, impeccable comedic timing, and stylistic acting choices, her passion for performing was evident. Vargas radiated with charisma and character, and she truly lit up the screen with every scene she was a part of.

Another standout performance was that of Maliyah Mattis; Mattis’ natural talent was displayed as she graced the screen with her darling presence and stunning vocalizations. Most notably, in her incredible monologue, “I’ll Call You Soon (Yeah Right)”, Mattis was truthful to the comedy of the piece, and it was a testament to her acting ability as a performer. Equally energetic was Heidi Gruenbaum in her monologue, “The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz”. Gruenbaum’s comedic timing was effortless, and she brought yet another unique persona to the production.

The cast as a cohesive unit was dedicated and colorful; there was a present connection throughout the entirety of the production, and they excellently communicated the lovable themes of this story. Exemplar in their comedic timing, the cast had a clear understanding of the array of hilarity in the piece, not to mention, their absolutely stunning vocals. Although they were challenged with filming individually due to CDC guidelines, the harmonies were tight and gorgeously arranged, most notably in the conclusive number. “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”

The technical aspects of the production were vital to the storytelling of the piece as a whole, and they efficiently guided audiences along the journey with the actors. The atmosphere was accurately represented by the vibrant greenscreens, and it realistically transformed the piece. Despite some minor inconsistencies, the costumes (Julyette Vargas) were simplistic and effective in further communicating the many chronicles of love.

Coral Glades High School’s production of, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is a celebration of the unruliest of hearts; the cast and crew exhibited the universal truth that as long as you love yourself, you will ultimately find love in the world.

*** *** ***

By Avery Anger of Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes: divorce?! More waiting?! And a funeral?! Although those are not the original lyrics to the famous nursery rhyme, they certainly are a more truthful choice of words to write out the arc of our love lives. Presented as a spectacularly honest, lighthearted collection of short stories, Coral Glades High School’s production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” explores the various stages of a relationship throughout one’s life and the simple, and not so simple, human interactions that make it possible.

Although there is not one specific and cohesive plot, at its core, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” tells the different tales of humans longing to make a connection, while simultaneously calling attention to the impossible beauty standards that society has set for all individuals. Featuring the clever compositions of Jimmy Roberts and the bold writing of Joe DiPietro, this production also wittily addresses the importance of communication, even in the most awkward of situations.

Displaying her infectious energy and remarkable versatility was Julyette Vargas, who appeared in the songs “Hey There, Single Gal/Guy”, “Cantata Reprise #1/Wedding Vows”, “On the Highway of Love”, and “Waiting Trio.” Vargas demonstrated her ability to adapt to the countless environments of each of her characters through the utilization and execution of contrasting facial expressions and distinctive dialects, especially during the numbers “Hey There, Single Gal/Guy” and “On the Highway of Love.” Showcasing her divine vocals and grounded acting techniques was Maliyah Mattis. Mattis participated in the musical numbers “Tear Jerk” and “Waiting Trio”, as well as the scenes entitled “I’ll Call You Soon (Yeah Right)” and “Whatever Happened to Baby’s Parents?”. Her honest acting during “I’ll Call You Soon (Yeah Right)” truly heightened the overall quality of the performance and allowed for the humor of the piece to shine through.

Vocally, the entire cast worked together as a cohesive unit to achieve a delightful blend of harmonies, which elevated the emotions of the production as a whole, especially during the epilogue sequence amid the number “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” . In addition to the stunning vocals, the entire cast exhibited their understanding of the sophisticated lyrics and brilliant writing, for their comedic timing was continuously executed with excellence. Though the energy seemed to be lacking at certain points throughout the performance, the ensemble must be commended for maintaining the level of consistency in both their chemistry and commitment to their characters throughout the production.

The technical elements of the musical allowed for a smoothly-running show, while also contributing to the close-knit atmosphere of the piece. Juliette BeJune, the student technical director, must be acknowledged for overseeing a project as technically complex.

So, hurry up, find someone you love, someone you think is perfect, and then whisk them away to Coral Glades High School’s captivating rendition of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”. You’ll definitely love, leave, and come back wanting more!

*** *** ***

By Nick Vela of JP Taravella High School

Love is certainly not easy. Dealing with both the ups and downs of yearning, devotion, and heartbreak, can make relationships seem like a hectic “Highway of Love,” most likely prompting you to get off at the very next exit. But the series of much-need laughter, joy, and even sorrow that defines human connection, is simply a necessity. Ranging from dating and marriage to in-laws and children, Coral Glades High School’s hilariously heart-wrenching production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” will take you on a jam-packed journey through the many perils and pitfalls that romance is sure to conceive.

Originally produced by New Jersey’s American Stage Company, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” made its Off-Broadway debut at the Westside Theatre on August 1, 1996. With a brilliant book and lively lyrics written by Joe DiPietro and memorable music composed by Jimmy Roberts, this crowd-pleasing comedy has been performed in more than 250 cities worldwide, as well as being deemed the second-longest running Off-Broadway musical. The comical cabaret-style musical revue is structured as a series of standalone vignettes all centered around the whimsical world of relationships, depicting the overall arc love makes throughout an individual’s life from their first date to their marriage’s last breath.

Commanding the screen with her endless energy and incredibly satisfying vocals, Maliyah Mattis demonstrated commendable characterization through her enthusiastic and expressive stage presence. Her remarkably honest portrayal of the script’s outlandishness, specifically shown in her monologue “I’ll Call You Soon (Yeah Right),” made for a truly standout moment. Additionally, Heidi Gruenbaum delivered a show-stopping performance, forming an extremely developed character arch, showcased in her moving monologue “The very first dating video of Rose Ritz.”

Maintaining an unwavering commitment to her many differing characters, Julyette Vargas conveyed an evident versatility in her acting choices and strong characterization through her impeccable comedic timing. Vargas’s electric essence and virtuous vocals really shined in her humorous group numbers “On the Highway of Love” and “Hey There, Single Gal/Guy.” Accompanying Vargas with a refined vocal technique, particularly shown in the delightful duet “Single Man Drought,” Alexis Andriesse’s compelling chemistry with Vargas wonderfully accentuated the hysterical nature of the song.

Aside from some minor issues with pacing, energy, and connection that could have been due to the production’s virtual format, the cast as a whole exhibited beautifully blended harmonies and an in-depth understanding of the show’s comedic style. As for the technical aspects of the production, the impressive use of green screens as scenic backgrounds, paired with clear sound and efficient lighting, communicated the many moods and overall atmosphere of the show, despite a few inconsistencies in cohesive costuming choices.

With a captivating combination of vibrant vocals, heartfelt humor, and timeless themes of new love and heartache, Coral Glades High School’s playful production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” insightfully illustrates the countless truths and myths love can create, paying tribute to the human connection we all desperately crave.

*** *** ***

Reviews of The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot at Oxbridge Academy on Saturday, 4/10/2021.


By Sebastian Figueredo of American Heritage

“But like, we’re all probs gonna die anyway.” Guinea pigs, lustful puppets, the Plague, and interpretive TikTok dances. Could there be a more perfect mirror of the past year of isolation and floating through cyberspace? Oxbridge Academy’s glittery production of “The World Is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot” dares to frame the anxieties and intense longings of a group of comically vain youths in a series of Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls (among other desperate reaches across the Matrix).

Written by millennial playwright Catherine Weingarten, “The World Is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot” brilliantly adapts Boccaccio’s classic Italian tale “The Decameron” about young adults wistfully sitting in a mellow and flirting/telling stories to try to forget the Black Plague that’s seriously harshening their vibes. First workshopped by Porch Night Collective in Baltimore, this play’s first full production came in the form of Oxbridge Academy’s beautifully fully-virtual extravaganza packed with pastel and unrelenting expressions of teenage girlhood; exactly as Weingarten intended her work to be displayed.

Swimming their way through endless “text-speak” lines filled with “like” and “ugh,” the ensemble cast brought their sparkle full-force and practically spilled a Unicorn Frappuccino (delicately and masterfully) over every second of this production. “Fun!” would be the optimal word to describe every line of dialogue delivered with impressive comedic timing by each of the cast members.

Kaya Kutner never failed to stay bubbly and starshine levels of energetic each time she popped on screen as Lauretta. Her two-minute long, (if I dare say) hyperpop-reminiscent number about ardent yearning and her pet frog stood out; which is admittedly hard to do in a show where every minute an iconic quote is dropped. Poppy Grace Westwood and Lindsey Diemer as Emilia and Pampinea made excellent scene partners and followed the peaks and valleys of their characters’ journeys with vigor and naturality.

Makeshift at-home backgrounds and costumes fit perfectly into the teen feel of this entire show. A puppet show, bardcore Shakira tunes, and the Plague clad in red TikTok dancing through the transitions set a jovial air and baby-pink essence to the production. Creative editing and graphic design worked excellently to put a new, cute backdrop to each student’s performance. Round of applause to the curators of “The Official Study Guide” that described the references and vibes of this show to pinpoint specificity.

Between using the New Play Exchange to get the rights to do this play and playing Britney Spears over the chaotic ending, no other production could be as current and representative of what The Future of Theatre promises.

Oxbridge Academy’s “The World Is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot” playfully explored loneliness and love in the cyberworld in a format Campy enough to belong in its own corner of the 2019 Met Exhibit, and for that, there is love.

*** *** ***

By Sophie Vega of Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School

Get ready to LOL and ROFL when you watch Oxbridge Academy’s hilarious performance of “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kind of Hot!”

With the Black Death slowly encroaching, seven “hotties” retreat to an Italian meadow to escape the disease and find that romance is closer than they think. Between the sudden confessions of attraction and steamy infidelity, the group is happy partying with each other while the world burns in front of them. But when their steamy love lives begin to intertwine, drama ensues, and their safety from the plague is suddenly jeopardized by one of their members who: snuggled with a guinea pig? Ugh, gross!

Catherine Weingarten’s “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kind of Hot” is a satirical and contemporary adaptation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century novelas. Gathering its main inspiration from The Decameron, it tells steamy tales which mirror the indulgent and sorrowful love of the renaissance writer’s works. Weingarten specializes in writing comedic, yet farcical plays which highlight the gender disparities in our culture and the ever-heightening expectations placed on girls in society. The show’s commentary on beauty, sexuality, and conceit, juxtaposed by the urgency of the Bubonic plague, is no short of entertaining. The script is generously embellished with “text speak” and valley girl accents, in contrast to the dramatic Italian language in which Boccaccio’s works were originally written.

OMG! From her hilariously exaggerated facial expressions to her fantastic comedic timing, Lauretta (Kaya Kutner) commanded the attention of the audience. Kutner’s performance in the song “No Moves Were Made,” which took inspiration from Britney Spears and the Paris Hilton-era of 2000’s pop, stood out due to its absurd storytelling and engaging dancing. Emilia (Poppy Grace Westwood) perfectly embodied the awkward giddiness of a girl pining for her best friend before knowing if that love is requited. The bitter interactions between Filomena (Paige Brewster) and Pampinea (Lindsay Diemer) developed their relationships to each other and to their romantic counterparts in the show.

The attention to detail displayed within this production–from the creative acting choices to the clever editing–was like, so impressive! Using bard versions of modern pop and rap songs to underscore each scene paralleled the satire of the contemporary classic, and using props like pixie sticks and vines unified the characters despite the limitations of the zoom format. The chemistry of the overall cast extended to the personal relationships that each of the characters formed to their potential lovers. Although some actors could have developed a deeper understanding of their personas, the scenes involving the ensemble were engaging and had good pacing. On top of that, they all maintained the high energy for the sharp comedic timing needed for this show.

TLDR; Oxbridge Academy’s performance of “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kind of Hot” was creative, comical, commendable, and like… totally rad!

*** *** ***

By Nick Vela of JP Taravella High School

“Everything is but a construct.” When trying to survive a fatal plague like the Black Death, all things seem trivial. The scrutiny that individuals endure when acting on their perfectly normal feelings of passion and intensity are overlooked, and scandalous love affairs, forbidden romances, and ridiculously complex love triangles that are typically frowned upon and often deemed “too handled hot to handle” begin to ensue. With a striking blend of modern-day comical references and the rich historical context of 14th-century Florence, Italy, Oxbridge Academy’s infectious production of “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot” hilariously highlights the reckless nature that is bound to arise when trying to live through apocalyptic times.

Written by Catherine Weingarten, a comedic playwright known for her satirical forms of storytelling, “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot” is a modern retelling of the classic “The Decameron,” Giovanni Boccaccio’s highly acclaimed collection of 14th-century Italian novellas. First developed by the Less Than Rent Theatre in 2018, this contemporary adaptation follows the absurd adventures and shameless stories shared by seven survivors of the Bubonic plague pandemic.

Commanding the screen as the innocently wide-eyed Pampinea, Lindsey Diemer portrayed her lively character honestly, forming an entertaining and incredibly comical performance. Accompanying Diemer as her enemy turned lover Emilia, Poppy Grace Westwood demonstrated extremely believable acting choices, authentically pining over an unattainable friend in an adorably awkward manner. Together, Diemer and Westwood fostered captivatingly undeniable chemistry that truly furthered their enjoyable relationship.

Showcasing impeccable comedic timing and unwavering commitment to her kooky character, Kaya Kutner delivered a show-stopping performance as the eccentric failed songwriter Lauretta. Kutner’s remarkable line delivery and creative character choices truly shined due to the script’s ridiculous nature. Additionally, Isaiah Butler’s compelling charisma and endless exuberance as the dynamic Dioneo also made for a standout character.

Aside from occasional overacting, most likely due to the greatly exaggerated format of the play, the cast as a whole exhibited a commendable sense of comedy, exceptionally developed relationships, and constant dedication to their outlandish roles. Incorporating a wide range of art forms and uncommon sources of inspiration, such as puppetry and TikTok-inspired choreography, the ensemble of the production never failed to maintain a high level of energy.

As for the technical aspects of the production, the clear sound, tasteful bardcore background music, and engaging graphics generated a completely immersive viewing experience, fully exploiting the countless digital options that come with a zoom format. Despite having a few stylistic inconsistencies among the costumes, the seamless editing, creative virtual presentation, and coordinated lighting and scenery choices made it seem as though all the actors were actually within the same space. Overall, the detailed technical elements only enhanced the performance further.

Oxbridge Academy’s all too relatable production of “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot” will have you second-guessing the traditionally tragic undertones that come with sickness and death, as the sexual tension of seven restless adolescents sparks a neverending series of nonsensical shenanigans and amusing antics.

*** *** ***

By Lexi Schwartzberg of Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS

At one point or another, all modern artists have had to combat the ever-mounting challenge of attempting to maintain the relevance of decades and sometimes even centuries-old works in the twenty-first century.  In the age of the corona virus, this task has become almost insurmountable, and perhaps no art form has suffered more from this drawback than theatre, an ancient form of performance that relies on the energy from both live participants and spectators, neither of which have been possible in the past year. And yet, in a commendable feat, the students at Oxbridge Academy High School have found an ingenious way to adapt the stories of the renowned The Decameron of fourteenth-century Italy to the virtual stage in their recent production of Catherine Weingarten’s The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot.

First developed in 2018, Weingarten’s play parodies a famous work by Florentine Renaissance author Giovanni Boccaccio, in which a group of young men and women trade tales in a secluded villa as they evade the grasp of the malignant Black Death that runs rampant in their home city. Oxbridge Academy High School has seamlessly shifted this show to entertain its audience with the all too familiar atmosphere of quarantine-induced isolation during the modern-day plague. Featuring a cast of expressive characters communicating via online video chats, this production reflected emotions and experiences everyone can relate to.

Even through the computer screen, the actors managed to develop a cohesive and energetic atmosphere throughout the duration of the show. With romance as a main topic of discussion amongst the remotely stationed characters, the students at Oxbridge Academy faced a formidable challenge in the portrayal of intense desires harbored from afar, but they rose to the occasion with laudable vigor, bringing the over-the-top roles to life through various instances of awkward and often uncomfortable amorous encounters. Especially praiseworthy was the performance of Kaya Kutner, who delivered a comical and energetic portrayal of Lauretta, the caricature of a young lady whose overzealous pursuit of one of the ensemble’s young men generated an amusing display of tactless rejection.

Complimentary to the talents of the production’s committed cast, the technical crew at Oxbridge Academy created an engaging visual and audial depiction of the characters’ online activity. Graphic designers Chris Holbrook and Bianca Ingenito orchestrated a colorful array of near-constant digital elements, including transitions and video chat notifications reminiscent of the common online alerts that have become quite familiar to our society throughout the past year’s seclusion.

In their humorous and animated production of The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot, the students at Oxbridge Academy High School have successfully tackled the imposing demand of keeping the stories of yore alive amidst a socially distanced world. This delightfully dramatic rendition of a nearly untried play illustrated sentiments that both middle age Florentines and twenty-first century adolescents can surely relate to.

*** *** ***

By Jacob Harris of Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS

Sit back and get comfortable because the world is inevitably going to end. With a plague on the rise, people are forced to surrender to this outbreak where the best – and only – cure for hysteria is storytelling. Relationships spark and sever in the snap of a finger; love triangles form just as quickly as they shatter. Oxbridge Academy’s production of “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot” takes a modern approach of the 14th Century Plague of Italy, making people wonder “is this truly the end?”

Written by Catherine Weingarten, “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot” is a modernized adaptation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s contemporary classic, “The Decameron.” Published in 2019, “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot” exemplifies the power of true love and establishes how a life-threatening crisis could rewrite the narrative to any given love story. As time progresses, these lovestruck characters display skit-like scenes to pass the time before the world will soon come to an end.

Lindsey Diemer (Pampinea) had an evident understanding of her character’s backstoryand maintained a strong connection to her role. Diemer’s choices seemed genuine and her clear physicality added to her quirky character. Isaiah Butler (Dioneo) conveyed his role with palpable energy. Despite the ever present somber plague, Butler’s contented nature acted as a gleam of hope, encouraging those around him, countering the current situation.

As a whole, the cast’s collective commitment was visible even through the barriers of a screen. Each actor established their own variations of their characters which aided to the cohesivity. With strong connections to their peers, the performers expressed vitality and engagement to accurately depict the environment of which they were enduring. Overall, the ensemble of actors flawlessly worked together in unity to express the true meaning of the production. Kaya Kutner (Lauretta) displayed clear charisma and impeccable comedic timing throughout the entirety of her performance. In her show stopping musical number, “Nistrato”, Kutner’s energy shone through her strong personality and high spirits.

The technical aspects of the play fit the contemporary style. Led by Heath Bauer, each technical decision seemed conscious and set in the theme of the eccentric show. The sound, designed by Lindsey Diemer and Mikey Olaciregui, utilized pop-based music which translated into the appropriate time-period of the production to enhance the show. Overall, the technical aspects of the production suited the play and adapted well to an online environment.

Although the end is arriving, there is so much in store to be discovered. A deceiving virus transforms into a menacing curse, taking over the course of the world. As this plague threatens the lives of civilians world-wide, the face of the earth has been struck with this epidemic which symbolically relates to current situations. Experience a spectacle where love fills the air, tension begins to arise, and even a commendable puppet show ensues in Oxbridge Academy’s production of “The World is Ending and Maybe That’s Kinda Hot”.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Anything Goes  at Cardinal Gibbons High School on Saturday, 3/27/2021.


By Jennifer Moloney of JP Taravella High School

All aboard the S.S. American, where something fishy on board will make waves within the passengers in this nautical narrative! At Cardinal Gibbons High School’s production of “Anything Goes,” try not to get thrown overboard in the midst of comical confusion and crazy calamity. This marine musical is a show you will “shore”-ly not want to miss.

With music and lyrics by Cole Porter and an updated book by Timothy Crouse and John Wiedman, Anything Goes originally debuted on Broadway in 1934, making waves with the new style of slapstick comedy. As the SS American sets sail, suave and self-assured singer Reno Sweeney sails the sea and stands up for lovelorn Billy Crocker and conman Moonface Martin. As Crocker falls head-over-heels for heavenly Hope Harcourt, a classy cruise turns into complete chaos when criminals cause catastrophe aboard.

Depicting the eccentric and engaging entertainer Reno Sweeney was Beatriz Arevalo, whose spectacular vocals and stunning dance techniques created an altogether show-stopping display. She was able to implement characterization that stayed true to the time period in a performance that remained consistent, yet dynamic. Showing similar commitment to his role was Cameron Relicke, who embodied the benevolent businessman Billy Crocker with ease. Arevalo and Relicke displayed a level of realistic chemistry that broke through the barrier of a screen. The pieces of friendship seen between the two peaked in the number “You’re the Top,” as the pair shared a striking, comedic moment.

Billy Crocker’s hopeless and heavenly crush Hope Harcourt was portrayed masterfully by Claire Bedley. Her “de-lovely” voice carried an authentic Broadway tone, which aided her magnificently as she exquisitely executed her heartwrenching solo, “Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye.” Guiding Billy in his quest for love was clever and comical conman Moonface Martin (Anthony Avello). Adding laughter to the best of moments, Avello aided in storytelling with his voicing of the character and bursts of personality. His musicality was an added bonus, as he maintained skillful breath control throughout.

Although occasionally wavering, the energy of the cast remained high and kept the musical-at-sea spirited throughout. The ensemble had terrific vocal work, with tight harmonies and an impeccable tone. Overall, they did a remarkable job of staying engaged and involved while on stage, an impressive feat for a production shown online.

The technical aspects of this saltwater show were far from a shipwreck. The makeup and costumes, led by Lilly Krause and Madi Elias, stayed true to the time period of the 1930s, specifically noting the costumes of Reno and Billy. The lighting design, including the use of spotlights, was seemingly flawless, as each change in lighting helped transition from scene to scene. These aspects, paired with the equally superior sound, took the production to an incredible level.

As tensions rise and tides fall, Cardinal Gibbons High School’s stellar production of “Anything Goes” is sure to blow you out of the water. Say “Bon Voyage!” and get ready to travel to a night of incredible theater not to be forgotten.

*** *** ***
By Sarah Abisror of Cooper City High School

Audience members “got a kick out of” Cardinal Gibbons High School’s fantastic production of “Anything Goes!” This comedic tale of romance taught us that even if the love of your life is standing at the altar next to someone else, love will always find a way.

“Anything Goes” premiered on Broadway in 1934. Its original book is by Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay, and Russel Crouse, and its music and lyrics are written by Cole Porter. The original run inspired several revivals, both on and Off-Broadway. Its plot follows the story of the passengers aboard the S.S. American and what happens when they fall in forbidden love. From the moment they met, Billy Crocker had his eyes on Hope Harcourt. He sneaks on the ship she boards, only to find she is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Billy must enlist his friend Reno Sweeny and his new partner of sorts, Moonface Martin, to help him win over Hope.

Through her commendable characterization and powerhouse vocals, Beatriz Arevalo (Reno Sweeny) absolutely stole the show. She demonstrated her triple-threat abilities during numbers like “Blow Gabriel Blow.” She impressively pulled off physically demanding choreography and held out high belts while staying in character the entire time. Alongside Arevalo as her charismatic friend, Cameron Relicke (Billy Crocker) delivered an amazing performance. Relicke had great chemistry with everyone on stage, which is a testament to his acting ability. Every word he uttered was believable and authentic, displaying a deep understanding of his character.

Claire Bedley (Hope Harcourt) gave a graceful performance as the bride-to-be. She had a lovely singing voice complete with articulation and diction during her songs. She had undeniable chemistry with Relicke, adding to the stakes of their seemingly doomed relationship. As the goofy gangster, Anthony Avello (Moonface Martin) showed off his excellent comedic timing. Both actors had great physicality, a trait that was definitely missed over the last year of virtual theater.

The ensemble was made up of stupendous singing sailors! Amazing vocals were showcased throughout, and all the harmonies sung by the ensemble were exemplary. Everyone blended beautifully and sung each note confidently. Despite occasional dips in energy, the ensemble gave an incredible performance complete with stellar vocal prowess.

The technical elements of this show were executed wonderfully! The costume and makeup teams, led by Madi Elias and Lilly Krause, perfectly represented the time period. Each character’s look was cohesive and individualized. It was very refreshing to see technical elements done live again! All of the tech in this production elevated the performance and was incredibly successful.

It was “Easy to Love” Cardinal Gibbons High School’s production of “Anything Goes!” Audiences were transported onto the S.S. American during this marvelous performance. Congratulations to the cast and crew on a job well done!

*** *** ***

By Peri Harris of Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS

Life is full of grandeur aboard the S.S. American; you feel the rhythm of the tide dancing below your feet, the stars are glittering high above you, and the cooling ocean breeze swirls in the sky. The perfection is evident, and life is smooth sailing until ministers become gangsters, relationships become entangled love triangles, and all dramatic encounters result in a fabulous tap number! Cardinal Gibbons High School’s production of, “Anything Goes” celebrates that love is universal, and it can even survive on a love boat from New York to England.

Debuting on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre in 1934, “Anything Goes” excites audiences with its intertwining love stories and toe-tapping melodies. Following Reno Sweeney and Billy Crocker to the S.S. American, this captivating cruise line musical is the perfect blend of melodrama and lighthearted comedy, with an unstoppable touch of tap dancing.

Beatriz Arevalo sparkled with star-quality as the sassy and seasoned night-club singer, Reno Sweeney. Arevalo’s performance was flawless; she strongly committed to the 1930’s time period and conveyed her character’s storyline with ease. Amongst her stunning radiance, captivating vocals, and clear characterization, her undeniable passion for the stage was evident. Cameron Relicke’s depiction of Billy Crocker was truthful, as he established clear relationships with each of his scene partners. Relicke’s ability to develop such strong chemistry with a demanding stage presence added a sense of realism to the production as a whole.

Portraying the infamous Moonface Martin, Anthony Avello showcased his infectious comedy and skillful stylistic choices beautifully. Avello commanded the stage with his lively presence and caricature-like manner. Avello’s impeccable comedic timing and dedication to the role most notable in his solo number, “Be Like the Bluebird.”

The ensemble’s high energy was bright and colorful; the cast worked together as a cohesive unit and communicated this lovable story with an entertaining quality. Specifically in the show-stopping number, “Anything Goes”, the cast as a whole impressively tap danced in sync, while still adding their own characterizations to each and every move. Although including the entire cast in a full-length tap number poses challenges, they exhibited their incredible technique with ease, while also evidently enjoying the experience. Not only that, but their superb vocal technique and blending throughout the entirety of the production were worth noting.

The technicalities of the production were exemplary; the numerous aspects ran smoothly making for an extremely enjoyable, and professional experience. The Makeup and Costumes (Lilly Krause, Madi Elias) were time period appropriate and creative in their execution. The Stage Management Team – led by Julia Nicolaus – ensured a night of perfection for actors, and the management company was clearly an utter catalyst in the success of this performance.

It goes without saying that love always prevails – even if it takes a trip across the Atlantic to realize it! In Cardinal Gibbons High School’s production of, “Anything Goes”, the cast and crew flawlessly executed this “de-lovely” story, and proved that as long as you embrace the value of friendship, it’s always, “Easy to Love.”

*** *** ***

By Cristian Velasquez of Cypress Bay High School

Slip-on your tap shoes, prepare to weigh anchor and set a course for the 1930s. Next stop, Cardinal Gibbons High School’s “De-Lovely” production of “Anything Goes,” where romantic complications result in song, dance, and ridiculous shenanigans.

With music and lyrics by Cole Porter and a collaborative book by Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay, and Russel Crouse, “Anything Goes” takes place on the luxury liner the S.S. American. This slapstick comedy musical sailed to Broadway in 1934 at the Alvin Theater and was revived in 1987 and 2011. The tale follows the devious duo Reno Sweeney and Moonface Martin as they aid their companion Billy Crocker in securing the love of heiress Hope Harcourt. With a colorful collection of passengers, criminals in disguise, and a man vying for the love of an engaged woman, farcical antics are bound to ensue.

Portraying the brazen Reno Sweeney, Beatriz Arevalo remarkably captured the charismatic nature of the brassy nightclub singer. Arevalo exhibited impressive vocal skill and dancing capabilities throughout the production, most notably in the titular song “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” The lovelorn Billy Crocker was played by Cameron Relicke. Relicke wonderfully embodied the magnetic charm and quick-wittedness of his character. He additionally delivered compelling vocals, especially in his song “Easy To Love.” Arevalo and Relicke displayed a delightful friendship dynamic, creating engaging and believable performances.

Anthony Avello embodied “Public Enemy #13,” Moonface Martin. Avello brought an infectious comedic aspect to the production and exhibited commendable breath control in his song “Be Like The Bluebird.” His unwavering energy and consistent character voice achieved an engaging performance. Hope Harcourt, the beautiful and virtuous heiress, was portrayed by Claire Bedley. Bedley delivered a sincere and genuine performance and showcased elegant vocals in her duets with Relicke. Moreover, Bedley and Relicke demonstrated touching chemistry, contributing to the authenticity of their relationship.

Additional standout performances were that of Parker Greenblatt (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh) and MacKenzie MacLean (Evangeline Harcourt), both exhibiting impeccable comedic abilities. The ensemble of the production expressed beautifully blended harmonies throughout its entirety and maintained engaging enthusiasm. Although the energy was lacking at times, the remarkable execution of the elaborate choreography by the cast boosted it anew.

The technical aspects of the production aided in the depiction of the 1930s ocean liner and its passengers. The costumes and makeup aptly fit the time period, ranging from fashionable flapper attire and fur coats to classic sailor uniforms. The clarity of the sound remained consistent, and the balance between the volume of the performers and the live orchestra was impeccable. The spotlights were fluid when used, and the dynamic stage lighting of the production exceptionally accentuated the set and created various settings.

Cardinal Gibbons High School’s snazzy production of “Anything Goes” hilariously illustrates that love is not always smooth sailing; however, we must endure, follow our hearts, and understand that it is never “Easy To Love.”

*** *** ***

By Maddy Winkler of American Heritage

Amidst the sparkly blue waters of the vast ocean is a stage of smooth sailing intermingled with complex relationships and stupendous singing sailors. Cardinal Gibbons Drama Department handled our passports with care and off on the journey we went! And boy, some magnificent journey it was.

Anything Goes is a timeless musical which has undergone rearrangements since its script and music were first written by the acclaimed Cole Porter. Its nuances and humor are keen and have received many awards for “Best Musical Revival,” it is no surprise that its 1934 Broadway debut has led the show towards harboring stages both locally and across all oceans.

Beatriz Arevalo is one you would genuinely acknowledge as a “triple threat”. Carrying the show as the over-the-top Reno Sweeney, Arevalo transformed herself from head to toe and said goodbye to the 2020s and hello to the 1930s. She not only created a consistently energetic demeanor, but she also mastered the vocal characterization of the time, not to mention her articulate dance execution from fouettés to clean taps. A true star is able to highlight her scene partners and Arvalo did this seamlessly. The chemistry between her lovers, friends, and companions was radiant, especially in numbers such as “You’re the Top” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”

Aside from the prodigious leading lady, the ensemble as a whole was brilliant. It was much appreciated how involved every member of the cast was, whether they had solos or even a simple featured dance part. Actress Claire Bedley (Hope Harcourt) was another female cast member who embodied professionalism with her rare classical Broadway voice and expressive facials. Like the well-oiled cruise ship they boarded upon, the cast moved in time with each other in choreography execution and layered vocals that blended harmoniously. While some characters might have enhanced their motives and worked to make choices more consistent, they truly captured the essence of such a precise time and show.

The technical aspects of this production were off the hook. The makeup and costume teams (Lilly Krauss and Madelyn Elias respectively) detailed each student to match the personas they filled, from realistic sailor uniforms to the black mink coat, Reno flaunted near the show’s opening. Looking with a fine eye, even the makeup and hairstyles the cast presented were suited to the setting: both visually and in relation to time. Although the set was a uniform stationary boat, the tech team managed to distinguish locations with selections that highlighted a certain mood or section of the boat. Utilizing shadowing and bright lighting, the acting was enhanced by not only allowing the actors to feel in the moment but for the viewers as well.

All in all, Anything Goes at Cardinal Gibbons High School was outstanding in its ability to tell a story in a specific time period and deliver well-rounded excellency. After COVID-19 caused stages to go dark, it was refreshing to watch the sails get hoisted back up again and produce such beautiful art.

*** *** ***

Reviews of 12 Incompetent Jurors  at David Posnack Jewish Day School on Wednesday, 3/17/2021.


By Leah Tomas of JP Taravella High School

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is by far one of the most bizarre cases I have
ever seen in my thirty years on the bench.” David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “12 Incompetent Jurors” is a lighthearted and fun tale of the chaos that ensues when a gang of dysfunctional personalities must collaborate to determine whether an accused thief is guilty of abducting half-a-dozen cats.

Written by Ian McWethy, “12 Incompetent Jurors” is a parody of the teleplay “12 Angry Men,” written by Reginald Rose. The production first premiered at the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival. The plot follows a group of 12 vastly different and incredibly odd jurors as they struggle to reach a verdict regarding a case of an accused cat-burglary as a result of the interference of the incredibly persistent Juror 8, who firmly believes that the very obviously guilty thief is innocent.

Jason Drucker (Juror 8) led the production with commendable energy and consistency in addition to providing dynamic and contrasting characterization to Abigail Steiner (Juror 3). Tal Naider (Juror 10), an evidently strong actress and performer, masterfully executed a foreign dialect while maintaining clear diction and consistent characterization.

Max Bernstein (Juror 5) and Deborah Cusnir (Juror 6) exhibited great chemistry and thoroughly developed a balance of tension and affection throughout their relationship dynamic as their performance progressed, while Cameron Miller (Juror 12) delivered excellent comedic timing and flawless execution of an incredible Russian accent.

The ensemble of this production worked as a cohesive unit to create an entertaining performance. The cast presented great character work and impressive stage business alongside genuine reactions to the dialogue spoken by other characters allowing for extensive character development throughout the entire cast without becoming distracting. Each actor was present, focused, and engaged. The ensemble did a phenomenal job utilizing their time onscreen to establish the setting of each scene.

Although lacking in variety, the technical elements of this production were very well executed. The cast and crew adapted seamlessly to the required virtual platform and provided detailed integration of current social and societal conditions into the script, props, and setting to create a more immersive and relatable experience for the audience. Although it became difficult to identify the actor speaking due to the inevitable complications that arise when performing a one-act play via Zoom, elaborate costumes and makeup facilitated the development of distinct out-of-the-box characters, and subtle lighting cleverly revealed the progression of time in order to convey different aspects of the plot.

“As a judge, I am not supposed to give you my opinions one way or the other, but come on people! This is one of the most open and shut case as I’ve ever seen. Case closed.” David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “12 Incompetent Jurors” is sure to be a hit beyond a reasonable doubt.

*** *** ***

By Nick Vela of JP Taravella High School

The civic responsibility of jury duty is difficult enough. Having to determine someone’s level of guilt, especially when it means potentially altering the rest of their entire life, can seem like a tremendously tortuous task. Yet for this eccentric ensemble of characters, the thought of sending a man to jail for a mere “three to six months” is high stakes enough. With a kooky combination of remarkably comedic circumstances, rousing character relationships, and hilariously preposterous personas, David Posnack Jewish Day School’s hysterical production of “12 Incompetent Jurors” will truly have you questioning what one can consider “reasonable doubt” when we are so willingly swayed by the most absurd of arguments.

Acting as a satirical parody of the highly acclaimed play “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose, this ludicrously light-hearted comedy, written by Ian McWethy, was originally published on April 6, 2016. The farce’s nonsensical script follows twelve deeply distinct individuals as they discuss the fate of an alleged cat burglar. Despite seeming like a simple open-and-shut case with an abundant amount of evidence, such as an incredibly incriminating video, two eyewitnesses, and a live confession, one juror stands in the way of this man’s guilty sentence.

Driving the production as the exceedingly persuasive wannabe lawyer Juror 8, Jason Drucker’s constant energy and unwavering commitment to his role made for a truly compelling character. Nicely juxtaposing Juror 8’s ridiculousness as the logical and level-headed Juror 3, Abigail Steiner’s contrasting personality and persistent characterization complemented Druker’s charisma beautifully. Furthermore, the bickering couple that was Max Bernstein and Deborah Cusnir as the short-tempered and protective Juror 5 and his loose-gummed wife, Juror 6, demonstrated captivating chemistry and the perfect amount of argumentative tension, forming an impressively believable and amusing dynamic. Their continual engagement, even when muted, made for a standout performance.

With a wide variety of realistic and articulate accents and dialects, commendable character work, and fully developed relationships, the ensemble was a phenomenal aspect of this production. Never failing to react and remain responsive, the cast as a whole fully exploited the comical aspects of this virtual setting and completely dedicated themselves to the script’s outlandishness with exceptional comedic timing, excellent pacing, and significantly effective line delivery. Overall, the ensemble never managed to lose the audience’s attention.

As for the performance’s technical elements, its modernized features, made possible by the production being a stay-at-home edition of the original comedy, generated relatable subject matter that translated well to a 21st-century pandemic time period. Although having some minor issues with the spotlighting of characters’ cameras due to the various limitations of a zoom format, the detailed props, elaborate hair and makeup, and personalized lighting, created a hectic, yet cohesive environment, adding to the characters’ big personalities and progression of the production in general.

David Posnack Jewish Day School’s extremely enjoyable production of “12 Incompetent Jurors” blurs the lines between guilt and innocence, as we are giving an inside look at the often crazy and surprisingly comical complexities of jury deliberation.

*** *** ***

By Rachel Goldberg of Cooper City High School

A cat-burglary sends a Zoom room of jurors into disarray. The accused seems guilty at first, but one wannabe lawyer is determined to convince the others of the culprit’s innocence. David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “12 Incompetent Jurors” tells the hilarious tale of 12 jurors, 6 cats, 3 pieces of evidence, and 1 man determined to change the verdict.

“12 Incompetent Jurors” is a comedic spoof of the 1964 “12 Angry Men.” Written by Ian McWethy, this play puts a lighter spin on its predecessor, and the “at home” version was a genius accommodation due to the current pandemic. Published in 2016, this show has brought laughs across the United States beyond a reasonable doubt, and each juror brings a unique, chaotic, and hilarious addition to the screen.

As the wannabe lawyer with a tendency to annoy his peers, Jason Drucker showed amazing devotion and impressive stage-presence in his portrayal of Juror 8. Drucker’s energy was infectious and his line delivery was not only effective but believable. The character of Juror 8 was a perfect contrast with Juror 3 played by Abigail Steiner. Juror 3 is the only sane juror in the courtroom, and she desperately tries to maintain logic and reason. Steiner was the perfect complement to Drucker, and the two juxtaposing jurors showcased strong character work and chaotic cohesiveness.

Max Bernstein and Deborah Cusnir must be commended for their work as Jurors 5 and 6 respectively. Bernstein and Cusnir were adept at understanding their relationship as a married couple in the show. Their chemistry and familiarity with each other, as well as their argumentative tension, was a fantastic addition to the performance. Most noteworthy were the couple’s moments shared while not speaking; their expression and character choices allowed for some incredibly cute muted moments on screen.

The cast of “12 Incompetent Jurors” had a thorough understanding of their characters and each juror was perfectly articulate despite the variety of difficult accents seen throughout the courtroom. The performance had stellar pacing, and the ensemble displayed wonderful energy, commitment, and was standout for their stage business as well as reactions when not speaking.

The technical aspects of the production were simple, yet effective, and they were an appropriate enhancer to the already captivating performance. The old-age makeup and attention to detail on every costume added a sense of realism to the production. The age and personality of the characters were easily differentiated by their appearance.

So did he do it? Is the cat-burglar a guilty or innocent man? While he walks free with a ruling of “not guilty” the cast and crew of David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “12 Incompetent Jurors” are certainly guilty of a phenomenal performance filled with authenticity and humor.

*** *** ***

By Roie Dahan of American Heritage

Dis-order in the court! The jury has reached a verdict! David Posnack Jewish Day School’s whimsical rendition of “12 Incompetent Jurors” gives a glimpse into the quirky workings of courtroom chaos, humorously contemplating a ridiculous case of feline felony.

Written by playwright Ian McWethy, “12 Incompetent Jurors” follows the deliberation of twelve jurors contemplating the sentence of Donald Pleats, an accused cat burglar. All goes smoothly until one of the jurors devises an outlandish theory: Pleats was framed by George Lucas’ cousin and hologram taxidermy dolls! A play on the TV staple “12 Angry Men,” this ridiculous spoof garners laughs and gags while staying true to the framework of the original drama.

From a bickering couple and an old Russian woman to a crazed nationalist and a social media queen, the ensemble of this production did not falter in delivering a hilarious and diverse group of characters. Despite the digital performance platform, the cast kept an unwavering energy and commitment with each role, giving attuned yet jocular reactions in coordination with the pacing of the show- even if they were silent. Through the screen in rectangular boxes, the cooky caricatures of this court kept the audience engaged and thoroughly entertained.

The dichotomy of pensive logic and nonsensical conspiracy was portrayed commendably by Juror 3 (Abigail Steiner) and Juror 8 (Jason Drucker) respectively. Steiner’s staunch stubbornness provided a perfect foil to Drucker’s slapstick accusations and explanations. Their back-and-forth bickering was consistent and extremely amusing in payoff. Embodying the over-enthusiastic Foreman, Whitney Wildstein delivered a charming performance demonstrated through her lively facials and demeanor. Cameron Miller never missed a bit as Juror 12, keeping a consistent Russian dialect and hilarious persona. Tal Naider proved her comedic chops and full character commitment in her turn as Juror 10, the ultimate patriot. As Jersey’s most in love yet turbulent couple, Max Bernstein (Juror 5) and Deborah Cusnir (Juror 6) displayed an undoubted chemistry with one another while coexisting as their own wacky characters. From their muted arguments to foolproof accent work, this duo always elicited uproar
.
Although minimal, the technical influence on this production did not go unnoticed. The simplicity of the Zoom platform worked completely to the show’s favor as it simulated a real ensemble setting while enforcing social distancing. The modernization of the actors’ actions, such as the toilet paper vlog, enhanced the reality of the production, while the progression of time was accurately depicted as well. The props, costumes, and makeup were all perfectly suited for each character. Juror 10’s 2nd Amendment flag encompassed the politics of their persona, while Juror 12’s makeup fully grounded her in old age.

Staying true to its comical title, David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “12 Incompetent Jurors” was ridiculously entertaining, guiding the audience on an hour-long journey of laughter and waywardness. You’d definitely want to reconvene for this jury!

*** *** ***

By Emma Flynn of South Plantation High School

A story of abducted cats, wannabe lawyers, and how George Lucas himself may be the face of a heinous crime, “12 Incompetent Jurors,” produced by David Posnack Jewish Day School, is not just a brilliant and diverting exploration of an utterly ridiculous trial, but also a witty commentary on the pandemic and how we all must laugh a little in the face of sincerity.

“12 Incompetent Jurors” is a satire based on the 1954 teleplay “12 Angry Men,” and was created by Ian McWethy. “12 Incompetent Jurors” follows the plight of Juror 8, an aspiring attorney, as he attempts to convince his fellow jurors that the man accused of kidnapping kittens is innocent, all while taking them all through a wild goose chase of hilarity and joy. With a colorful and truly excellent ensemble cast, “12 Incompetent Jurors” is a show that has one both gripping their sides in laughter and biting their nails in anticipation of what comes next.

With a larger-than-life presence and impeccable commitment to character, Jason Drucker’s portrayal of the enthusiastic and nearly derailed Juror 8 is riveting. Between his wild accusations and manipulative turns-of-phrases, Drucker turns an already intricate and amusing character into a deliciously multifaceted one, going from grief to madness in one flip of a switch. Portraying Drucker’s ultimate foil, Abigail Steiner as Juror 3 was also a fabulous addition, edging to insanity herself as she tries to round up the jurors and steer them back to reason, all while chaos reigns around her.

As an ensemble, David Posnack Jewish Day School’s players light up on the screen, each with a fully realized and developed characterization of their role. Every reaction, every side conversation, and every background movement done by the ensemble was completely in tune with the motivations of their characters. None were more in tune with their characters, though than Juror 5 (Max Bernstein) and Juror 6 (Deborah Cusnir). Depicting a warring couple, Bernstein and Cusnir fit together like a puzzle piece. Together, they relished in the moments that they were not the focal point, using their background status to engage in silent skits that brought their character’s relationship to another level.

The tech elements in this production served to only amplify the world that the actors had built up in their performances. Though suffering from some inconsistencies with camera perspectives, the use of the Zoom format suited the show seamlessly and great lengths were taken to ensure that the show was still engaging even on a screen. The props were also done expertly, bringing even more life to the characters, such as Juror 9’s (Alan Kornbluth) occasional interactions with a mannequin head and the use of a fidget spinner to curb Juror 2’s (Joelle Bensadon) anxiety.

Amidst a trial that may never end, David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “12 Incompetent Jurors” is a clever exploration of the gullibility of humanity and the hilarity that can ensue when faced with a single over-determined juror.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Almost, Maine at Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School on Saturday, 3/13/2021.


By Rachel Goldberg of Cooper City High School

An Aurora borealis shimmers on a stunning evening as Pete sends his lover, Ginette, on a long journey around the globe. Her goal? To complete a full circle and finally absolve the distance between them. Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School’s production of “Almost, Maine” explores this story and many others, each with a compelling couple at its center.

“Almost, Maine” is a play written by John Cariani and consists of nine heartwarming vignettes, each scene presenting a unique idiom of love. The series of small, slice-of-life scenes allow for actors to take on multiple characters and for many clever idioms to be explored. Love for this show began at its premiere in 2004 in Portland, Maine, and only spread as it ran off-Broadway in 2006 and was featured in New Playwrights: Best Plays of 2006. A day in the life of this almost-town teaches that love is a multi-faceted force that cannot be given one single definition

With genuine devotion and a larger-than-life stage presence, Erica Gouldthorpe exhibited impeccable range in her portrayals of Sandrine, Gayle, and Rhonda. Gouldthorpe showcased the awkwardness of running into an ex-partner, the winy and upset Gayle asking for her love back, and the tom-boy and pro skier Rhonda. Bianca Weston also mastered the art of differentiation as Glory, who held her literal broken heart in her hands, and as Hope, who revealed the consequences of waiting too long to say “I love you.” Both actresses created sincere relationships with their scene partners and were entirely committed throughout the show. Their natural presence on stage allowed for a very realistic performance.

Christopher Muston was skating on thin ice in his scene with Brooke Bowser, playing Phil and Marci respectively. As Marci waits for the other shoe to drop and for Phil to finally express his feelings, her shoe literally falls from the sky after he does. Muston and Bowser spectacularly executed these mature, adult characters, and their argument consisted of strong acting choices and wonderful range.

The ensemble of “Almost, Maine” had a thorough understanding of their characters and each couple displayed stellar chemistry despite being tasked with portraying multiple characters. Although there were a few emotional beats missing in act two, the heartfelt authenticity and genuine emotion from the cast was the perfect amount of warmth on this cold winter night.

The technical elements of the show added depth and detail to the already delightful performance. The use of green screens and virtual backgrounds transformed the stage into the not-quite town of Almost, Maine. The sound crew should be commended for their critical understanding of ambiance, as seen in their use of the sounds of a filled bar and footsteps in the snow. Another notable element that transformed this performance from separate scenes into a seamless and united play was the use of music between scenes.

Just before the night is over, Ginette completes her journey around the world, just as Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School’s production of “Almost, Maine” journeyed through the intricacies, beautiful exchanges, and timeless power of love.

*** *** ***

By Peri Harris of Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS

You’re standing under the beauty of the northern lights; the stars are glittering like bursts of gold, the hues of pink, green and blue are flowing high above you; as flurries of snowfall from the star-filled sky, you hear a small but stubborn fire crackling in the distance. In the glory of this perfect moment, you realize something even more beautiful – the love of your life is standing right in front of you, taking in that same magic. In Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School’s production of “Almost, Maine,” the cast and crew beautifully illustrated the universal desire to find emotional devotion, the strenuous effort it takes to rekindle it, and the comfort and warmth provided by the flame of love.

Written by John Cariani, “Almost, Maine” is filled with outpouring passion, as couples from a little town of nothingness, per say, prove that love means everything. Cariani’s skillful work is a collection of scenes, all nuanced by the prevalence of affection. Being recognized as the most produced play in North American High Schools from 2009-2012, the adorable quality and underlying strength of this production embodies what the world desperately needs: genuine connection.

The cast as a collective was committed and energized; each and every scene was packed with lighthearted comedy and contrasting vulnerability. More specifically, the pairs in each scene developed authentic chemistry, allowing for the company as a whole to communicate the comforting tone of the story, creating a sweet, yet professional experience.

Erica Gouldthorpe (Sandrine/Gayle/Rhonda) radiated with sparkling star-quality and high energy, as she graced each scene with her dynamic personality. Portraying 3 roles in one production poses challenges, however, Gouldthorpe’s endless dedication to her distinctive characterizations uniquely and excellently contributed to the storytelling of the production.

Brooke Bowser captivated the screen with her honest and vulnerable depiction of Marci. Bowser displayed emotional depth and communicated the intricate burdens of her character’s relationship with ease. Bowser’s professionalism and believability were unmatched, and she created a strong contrast to the lighthearted scenes of the show. Alongside Bowser, Christopher Muston portrayed Phil, Marci’s husband. Bowser and Muston did an incredible job establishing the intensity of the scene, and with highly developed maturity, they displayed clear intentions regardless of the adversity faced throughout their relationship.

Despite some minor inconsistencies regarding the realism of the virtual backgrounds, the technical aspects of the production significantly aided in the establishment of the little town known as Almost, Maine. Between the background music nicely contributing to the tone of each scene, and the props skillfully symbolizing the underlying themes of love throughout the production, all technicalities were crafted with the utmost attention to detail.

Amidst the freezing and unbearable nature of a winter’s night, Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School’s production of “Almost, Maine” invites audiences to experience the heart-warming joy that encompasses falling in love. The cast and crew of this compelling production proved that even during the worst of storms, what shelters your heart from the cold is the value of togetherness, and being surrounded by the people you love most.

*** *** ***

By Bailey Busher of NSU University School

In a place that’s almost a town, far north in Maine, stories of love brew under the Aurora Borealis. Archbishop McCarthy High School’s production of “Almost, Maine” presented these stories to the community of South Florida, where our winters are nothing like this almost town and made the audience question: “What is love?”

“Almost, Maine” written by John Cariani, is a compilation of short stories that explore the expression of love through symbolic representations in the town of Almost, Maine. “Almost, Maine” premiered in 2004, and in 2017 and 2018, it was the most produced play in North American High Schools.

The production overall was driven by the emotional chemistry created by each acting duo. The overall theme and tone of the show were kept constant by using the pure emotions of love portrayed by the actors. The complexity of love was shown in every scene because of the actors’ well-developed characters, despite only having a few minutes to get to know them.

Erica Gouldthrope took on the challenge of playing three completely different characters (Sandrine, Gayle, and Rhonda), each one unique and engaging. Gouldthrope’s acting was organic and she seemed comfortable with her scene partners on stage, leaving the audience rooting for each one of her characters. Another standout actor was Bianca Weston, playing Glory and Hope. Weston had clear diction even while using different cadences and tones for her two characters and allowed her characters to fully develop to create even more on-stage chemistry and emotion.

The scene between the characters Phil (played by Christopher Muston) and Marci (played by Brooke Bowser) particularly stood out because of the actors’ ability to convey the maturity of love. Muston and Bowser were able to establish compelling, realistic characters by showing the emotional vulnerability of a couple realizing that the other shoe is about to drop and their relationship is coming to an end. The two actors were skilled in matching each other’s energies in order to form the build-up to the final moment. Some movements and physicalities throughout the play were uncomfortable and awkward but were made up for with physicality that showed the difference between characters played by the same actor. The pacing and dynamics of a few scenes were lacking but were balanced by exceptional moments.

The performance was brought together with the use of greenscreens and sound effects. The greenscreen, with a few minor technical difficulties, kept the show fluid and utilized the new platform in which theatre is being performed. The sound, specifically the music, brought the virtual audience out of their homes and into Almost, Maine. Both technology aspects together added to the peaceful ambiance of the show.

Archbishop McCarthy High School’s “Almost, Maine” demonstrated that love is individually defined. “Almost, Maine” teaches audiences to embrace the love they feel and to not try and make sense of the complicated feeling: just enjoy it.

*** *** ***

By Cristian Velasquez of Cypress Bay High School

Despite the frigidness of the whirling winter winds, under the radiant glow of the Aurora borealis, the warmth of love can be found at any turn, but only if one is willing to search for it. Archbishop McCarthy High School’s production of “Almost Maine” elegantly addresses the complexities of love, loss, and forgiveness.

Written by John Cariani, “Almost Maine” is a series of nine loosely connected short plays taking place in an almost-town called Almost, Maine, a “town” so far north it’s almost not in the United States. The play premiered at the Portland Stage Company in 2004 and was later adapted into a book. The narratives take place one midwinters night under the light of the Aurora Borealis, as the citizens of Almost find themselves falling in and out of love in humorous and touching ways, as hearts are broken and mended all the same.

Erica Gouldthorpe (Sandrine, Gayle, & Rhonda) demonstrated an exceptional range, exhibiting distinct characterization between all three of her characters. Gouldthorpe additionally presented impeccable comedic abilities and established believable chemistry with each of her scene partners, creating a captivating performance. Bianca Weston (Glory & Hope) displayed notably bold physicality despite being hindered by a virtual setting. Weston delivered a sincere performance throughout the production through her unwavering energy and dynamic expressiveness.

Portraying the pain-free Steve, Marco Quesada wonderfully embodied the innocence of his character through his awkward physicality and characterization. Brooke Bowser (Marvalyn & Marci) and Christopher Muston (East, Phil, & Dave) achieved genuine chemistry and portrayed the maturity of their characters with dignity. Muston additionally demonstrated notable comedic capabilities and playful, authentic chemistry with Gouldthorpe.

The ensemble as a whole must be recognized for their commitment and precise understanding of their characters. Despite the brief length of each scene, the actors established well-developed characters throughout the production, vivifying the citizens of Almost. Moreover, the distinct differentiation of their characters contributed immensely to the authenticity of their performances. Although the pacing was off at times, the realistic choices made by the performers and the chemistry between the cast immersed the audience into the narrative once again.

The technical aspects of the production aided in the creation of the town of Almost, Maine. The music played between each scene was well-timed and provided for fluid and engaging scenic transitions. The use of sound effects presented an immersive element to the production. Although the use of the green screen did not correlate to the scene at times and interfered with some costumes, the digital background was effective in others.

As the sun peaks out above the horizon and the midwinter’s night sky fades from view, Archbishop McCarthy High School’s sincere and heartfelt production of “Almost Maine” beautifully conveys that no two love stories are the same and love can be found “almost” anywhere if one is willing to look.

*** *** ***

By Nick Vela of JP Taravella High School

What is love? A beautiful blend of charm, cheer, and comfort? A messy mixture of suffering, sadness, and sorrow? Even when you feel you have finally figured it out, the inherent intricacies of love somehow always keep you guessing. As friends become lovers, and lovers become strangers, Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School’s poignant production of “Almost, Maine” answers all of love’s most sought-after questions through an in-depth exploration of its most comedic and cold-hearted complexities.

First premiering at the Portland Stage Company in 2004, John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine” broke box office records the moment it hit the stage, earning national acclaim. This comical collection of unconventional approaches to love and loss opened Off-Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre on January 12, 2006, and was labeled the most produced play in North American high schools from 2009 to 2010 and 2011 to 2012. Set in the magical town of Almost, Maine, during one mystical midwinter night, this nonsensical narrative follows the romantic hardships of the town’s residents through a surreal series of nine stand-alone vignettes.

Commanding the screen as the sensible Sandrin, greedy Gayle, and rugged Rhonda, Erica Gouldthorpe successfully embodied a wide range of diverse characters, highlighting the impressive versatility of her acting skills. Gouldthorpe’s remarkable comedic timing and striking stage presence made for a truly standout performance. Exhibiting an incredibly believable and sincere portrayal of the mourning widow Glory and the desperately impulsive Hope, Bianca Weston’s clear diction and expressive physicality demonstrated a constant engagement and unwavering commitment to her two characters. Furthermore, Christopher Muston and Brooke Bowser’s well-developed relationship, displayed in their heart-wrenching duet scene as the hard-working husband Phil and his miserably misunderstood wife, Marcie, showcased a tragically truthful emotional tension as fragile as thin ice.

Aside from some minor issues with the consistency of the character’s accents, pacing, and emotional buildups, the cast as a whole presented a mature understanding of their roles, generating an authentic and realistic dynamic throughout the entirety of the performance. Overall, the ensemble of this production managed to establish their characters, develop their unique relationships, and maintain captivating chemistry with their fellow actors, all within the short time frame of their individual scenes.

As for the technical aspects of the performance, the moveable, weather-appropriate costumes, immersive digital backgrounds, and smooth musical transitions created a cohesive atmosphere and tone for the playful production. Although having a somewhat minimalistic set due to the various limitations of a virtual format, occasionally stagnant blocking, and a few poorly timed sound effects, the ambiance, and mood of the piece were consistently conveyed.

With a tasteful combination of wit, humor, and absolute sincerity, Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School’s extremely entertaining production of “Almost, Maine” will have you shouting, “Jeezum Crow,” in a matter of minutes, as you anxiously and literally wait for the other shoe to drop on love.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Antigone New at North Broward Preparatory School on Wednesday, 3/3/2021.

By Cameron Miller of David Posnack Jewish Day School

Ravaged by the horrors of war, the brothers, fathers, and sons of Thebes lie dead, rotting in the valleys. The act of burying loved ones is forbidden and punishable by death. But for one young lady, putting her brother to rest is worth the risk.

North Broward Preparatory Academy’s production of “Antigone Now” brought to life the age-old struggle of loyalty-to-lineage versus the law. The story takes place in Thebes, the site of many of the great Greek myths. Adapted by award-winning playwright Melissa Cooper in 2008, the play is a modern rewrite of Sophocles’ 2000-year-old Greek tragedy. Though originally written two thousand years ago, its relevance to the human condition has not decayed one bit.

Antigone (Julia Romero) is a fiery, irreverent Theban princess who breaks King Creon’s post-war law against burying her brother. With fervent rage behind her welled-up eyes, Romero portrayed the agony that festered inside Antigone that drove her to put her life at risk in order to lay her dead brother’s body to rest.

Contrasting Antigone’s fervor, Ismene (Skylar Minnett) had a loving, soft, and mild manner about her. The connection between the sisters could be felt through the screen. Minnett’s graceful physicality and delicate facial expressions beautifully brought life to the maternal love and protectiveness intrinsic to all big sisters.

A chorus (Kayla DuMornay, Evan Hirschensohn & Chantal Mann) composed of humans and ghosts drifted in and out of scenes, delivering animated facial expressions and pensive reactions to the endeavors of other characters. Through their deft use of modern inflection and blocking, the performers made the old language of the script accessible to the audience.

Although some performances lacked dynamics in energy and emotional fluctuation, the cast had a palpable chemistry that vividly portrayed characteristic shifts. While there were some awkward moments where actors’ eyes and focus drifted away from the camera, for the most part, the talented young thespians produced captivating performances, holding the audience’s attention in the palm of their hands.

The “set” was composed of different backgrounds, both virtual and environmental. Each character had his or her own unique backdrop to parallel the isolation of the empty set upon which the original show is performed. The use of red and blue LED lights created a distinction between the mood, nature, and personalities of Antigone and Ismene, quite literally, casting the two sisters in opposite lights. Subtle yet significant music pervaded each scene that immersed the audience into the ambiance of each moment. Although a heavy-handed use of special effects occasionally distracted focus from the performers, on the whole, modern technology was used effectively to enhance the intensity of critical moments.

The tragedies of ancient Greece may seem unrelatable in today’s day and age; however, the performers in this production brought the universal struggles of love, loss and rebellion to a new life. The tragic story of Antigone reveals the best and worst of humanity: its commentaries on power abuse, morality, and the strength of sisterhood remain relevant in our current world and evermore.

*** *** ***

By Madison Durand of Calvary Christian Academy

What is the cost of bravery? How far will one go to protect a family legacy? North Broward Prep’s present-day rendition production of “Antigone Now” prompted viewers to consider these timeless mysteries in their own lives and challenged them to seek personal truths in a divided world.

Melissa Cooper wrote “Antigone Now” as a contemporary retelling of Sophocles’ 5th century tragedy entitled “Antigone”. The play details Antigone’s tribulations in a post-war society following the election of a corrupt leader named Creon. While the land of Thebes must brace for the new administration, Antigone must decide whether to obey orders from the king or to defy them in order to preserve her family’s dignity. With its modern flair, the plot speaks volumes on themes of optimism, promise, and courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Julia Romero carried the production in her portrayal of the passionate and emotional Antigone. Romero effectively depicted her character’s misery through the use of vivid facial appearances and fluctuated inflections during moments of sorrow. In stark contrast to Antigone’s defiant nature, her sister Ismene, played by Skylar Minett, offered a more serene perspective on the show’s surrounding circumstances. While Minett appeared on screen less than her impassioned castmate, she nevertheless succeeded in channeling natural, believable levels of fear and anguish through her use of soothing intonations and composed  line-delivery. The production’s sense of dynamic progression was heightened by the evolving state of the relationship between characters like Antigone and Ismese, and this component can solely be attributed to intentional acting on the part of Minett and Romero.

Additional characters contributed to the show’s compelling semblance. Sophia Mobley exhibited an impressive performance in her representation of Aunt Creon, who communicated an authoritative intensity that evolved throughout the show. Her forthright line delivery and assertive gestures separated her from the other actors and made for a well-rounded portrayal of greed.

The technical aspects of this production were impressive and worth highlighting. Each scene was connected with illustrative transition clips of haze, smoke, or hurried footsteps of characters running, accompanied by dramatic audio that enhanced the viewing experience. Another unique addition was the use of colored LED lights in each character’s bedroom to convey a specific mood. While the actors overall managed to create seamless on-screen dialogue, there were occasional inconsistencies as characters stared into the camera to “break the fourth wall” in certain scenes, but this choice was not evident in other scenes.

North Broward Prep’s production of “Antigone Now” encourages audiences to prioritize family above all else, forgive our enemies, and strive to live in the present rather than alter our past.

*** *** ***

By Ashley Reep of Cooper City High School

Will an act of persistence to save what has been lost be seen as a treacherous crime or justice to honor the kingdom? North Broward Preparatory School’s adaptation of  “Antigone Now,” showcases the tragic consequences the war leaves on the city and ultimately touches audience members with its compelling story of morality.

Originally penned by Sophocles around the age of 441 BC, “Antigone” is an ancient tale that explores themes of fidelity and civil disobedience. The play follows a young girl, Antigone, whose raging heart is determined to bury her brother Polyneices, who died in the battle against his foe Eteocles for the throne. Antigone impulsively pursues this route of danger, even though it is strictly against the law and the people around her warn her it’s not worth sacrificing her life over. Today’s modern rendition of “Antigone Now” written by Melissa Cooper, masterfully reflects this same tragedy by implementing present-day aspects and contemporary motifs.

Leading the production was freshman Julia Romero (Antigone) who delivered an impressive representation of her character. Illustrating her fiery persona, Romero was committed to expressing her ideals for what she thought was right and took no hesitation in validating her stance. Alongside Romero was Skylar Minett (Isemene) who portrayed the warm-hearted and endearing sister. Minett brilliantly intensified the show through her detailed facial expressions and expressive body language. Together, the duo had remarkable chemistry and encapsulated a versatile relationship filled with moments of sincerity and conflicted emotion.

As the menacing ruler of the Kingdom, Sophia Mobely (Aunt Creon) wowed the audience by displaying a powerful leader who stopped at nothing to justify the legal principles of the law. Remarkably adept in solidifying her command over the city but also emoting her internal thoughts, she skillfully demonstrated a dynamic character arc throughout the entirety of the show. Mobley brought authority, dominance, and passive-aggressive undertones to the production and undoubtedly delivered a breathtaking performance.

The Chorus (Kayla DuMornay, Evan Hirschensohn, and Chantal Mann) added a unique touch to the play by effectively highlighting prominent moments of suspense. With their alluring auras and intriguing attributes, this charismatic trio succeeded greatly in developing the plot of the story. Overall, the group was a wonderful complement to this production as they brought realistic reactions and dedicated commitment to each scene they were a part of.

The technical elements of the show must be commended as they were masterfully executed. From the smooth editing transitions to the static movie-like effects, the visualizations enhanced this production to a level beyond that of superior. Furthermore, the use of tone lighting was another stellar addition to the show as it made each character more distinct and prominently outlined.

North Broward Preparatory School’s production of “Antigone Now” was an outstanding reconstruction of the former legend written by Sophocles. It leaves viewers with a story full of morals, principles, and justification for what is right.

*** *** ***

By Jermaine Jenkins of South Plantation High School

At its surface, “Antigone Now” appears to be a modern, theatrical adaptation of an infamous Greek tragedy. But at its heart-wrenching core, it is a captivating story about upholding beliefs against all odds, and a mesmerizing bond of sisterhood. “Antigone Now” at North Broward Preparatory School unravels the values of morality, family, and love.

Written by the award-winning playwright Melissa Cooper, “Antigone Now” is a modern reworking of the Greek play, “Antigone”, originally written in 441 B.C by Sophocles. The ancient story follows headstrong and steadfast Antigone who, after her brother’s death, is determined to honorably lay him to rest despite her uncle, King Creon, making this an unlawful act. However, her courageous efforts of opposition eventually leads to her ultimate demise.

Julia Romero exceptionally captured the eloquence and persistence in her portrayal of the tragic heroine and title character, Antigone. Romero’s distinct physicality and bold characterization aided in carrying the show beautifully. Her sister, Ismene, was compassionately played by Skylar Minett, who flawlessly displayed the benevolence and earnestness of her character through her unmatched energy and astonishing facial expressions. With prominent and engaging chemistry, both Minett and Romero exemplified a strong sense of sisterhood that tastefully guided the production.

Other roles worth mentioning include the powerful and cruel, Creon, portrayed by Sophia Mobley. Mobley exceptionally embodied and dedicated herself to the role as she added a sense of arrogance and femininity to the character. Playing the devoted Haemon, Evan Hirschensohn gave a memorable performance through his dedication to the character. Despite there being a lack of engagement throughout certain parts of the show, the Chorus members did a commendable job in supporting the production, as they used their unique characterizations to interact with one another.

The crew of “Antigone Now” took advantage of  performing during a pandemic by effectively editing together split screens and their clever use of camera angles that made the play seem more like a film. One technical element that is most notable was the use of virtual backgrounds. The use of contrasting backgrounds brought a sense of realism and comprehension to the production. Even further, the lighting was absolutely striking. The choice of lighting not only helped establish the differentiating moods of the characters, but also helped reflect the modernized nature of the show.

With profound dedication from the cast and crew, North Broward Preparatory School’s production of “Antigone Now” admirably proposes the lingering question of, ” At what point does one draw the line between law and morality?

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

“A people with no laws is nothing, barbarians, animals… Brother or sister, parent or child, blood or no blood, a traitor is still a traitor.” But what will happen when the laws of a city contradict the laws of morality? Is it better to endure the punishment of the law or the mental torment of abandoning your principles? North Broward Preparatory School’s compelling production of “Antigone Now,” tackles these ethical dilemmas through their modern retelling of this classic story.

Written by Melissa Cooper, “Antigone Now” is a contemporary adaptation of the Greek tragedy written by Sophocles in 441 B.C. The story takes place after the last battle of a brutal war, taking the lives of the rivaling heirs to the throne, Antigone’s two brothers. The play commences in the rubble-covered city as successor King Creon forbids the burial of Antigone’s brother, Polynices. Antigone must choose between deserting her brother, leaving him to perish in the city’s streets, or disobeying the King, resulting in execution.

Embodying the headstrong protagonist, Antigone, Julia Romero perfectly captured her character’s fiery persona through her unwavering energy and intensity. Romero exquisitely depicted Antigone’s emotional plight through her expressive facials and dynamic physicality. Antigone’s cautious sister, Ismene, was portrayed by the captivating Skylar Minett. Complementing Romero’s fervor, Minett’s sincere characterization and body language helped shape the pair’s sisterly chemistry. Creon, the authoritarian ruler of Thebes, was captured by Sophia Mobley. Mobley commanded the virtual stage through her powerful vocalization and consistent characterization. Mobley enhanced her role by underscoring each line delivery with a threatening intonation.

Aiding the progression of the narrative, the Thebian chorus supported both the characters with their wise advice and the audience through their illustrative commentary. Consisting of Chantal Mann, Kayla DuMornay, and Evan Hirschensohn, the trio displayed engaging chemistry, compelling facials, and organic reactions. Each actor magnificently showcased their contrast between their ethereal entities and civilian counterparts.

The cast of the production cohesively transferred this classic tale to a modern audience. The adaptations of the dated language combined with the cast’s modern inflections and movements increased viewers’ ability to identify with the ancient story. Although occasionally lacking in dynamics, the cast’s unfaltering energy created an engaging performance.

The technical aspects of the production helped vitalize the recuperating city of Thebes. The modernizing elements of present-day technology and costuming renewed the historic story into a contemporary translation. The addition of graphics and special effects transported viewers into the war-torn town while the use of contrasting hues conveyed the dynamics between faithful and rebellious citizens. The performance included perfectly executed scene transitions, ambient musical underscoring, and intricate lighting. Although the variation in settings between each actor created a slight disconnect, it also served to replicate a virtual interpretation of the isolation created by the original production’s absence of a set.

Spanning from ancient civilization to modern society, North Broward Preparatory School’s powerful production of “Antigone Now” beautifully captured the harrowing struggle of loyalty versus lawfulness.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Ranked at Monarch High School on Friday, 2/19/2021.


By Abigail Alder of North Broward Preparatory School

In a world where being average in high school is a life sentence that guarantees an unfulfilled future, the obsession to succeed becomes paramount. Monarch High School’s pop-rock musical, “Ranked,” challenges students to “Work Harder” as they compete for the highest possible rank.

Written and composed by teachers Kyle Holmes and David Taylor Gomes, “Ranked” explores the damaging effects of test scores defining a student’s worth. Coincidentally, shortly before Granite Bay High School’s opening night in 2019, a real-life college admission scandal overtook the media. The Operation Varsity Blues scandal shed light on the flawed modern education system and gave the new musical extra traction. “Ranked” is set in a dystopian world where students’ grades determine their future potential. For hardworking sisters like Lily and Alexis, maintaining an adequate rank consumes their every waking hour. At the same time, their peers seem to remain on top effortlessly…until the secret bribes are exposed. The students who benefit attempt to regain power by reinstating the systemic inequity.

Inciting anarchy and promoting change, Mariana Montoya (Lily Larsen) embodied confidence in her approach to the role. Montoya’s strong vocals complemented the edgy, contemporary score and will not be “Forgotten.” Logan Draluck (John Carter) came across as genuine yet vulnerable, and his care for Montoya’s character possessed a heartwarming quality. As the compassionate sister, Sara Bernasconi (Alexis Larsen) demonstrated a pure innocence and believability that made her character engaging.

Ranking in the number-one spot, Mia Prokop (Sydney Summers) kept her “Eye on the Prize” with her captivating presence and unwavering vocals. Prokop sustained consistent characterization and true vocal mastery. Notably, Damian Richter (Viv the Librarian) brought a palpable energy to all his scenes. The ensemble added to the story’s momentum, exemplifying the status divide within the student body. The cast recovered quickly from the moments where their vitality and precision waned. In numbers such as “The End of Today” and “Act 2 Finale,” the company exhibited extraordinary storytelling abilities and was thoroughly entertaining.

Faced with the challenges of an entirely virtual production, the team adopted creative transitions between scenes similar to that of live theatre. With their utilization of cohesive virtual backgrounds, the cast appeared almost seamlessly in the same space. This technique was instrumental in showing the different settings within the story. Mia Prokop contributed to the overall success by editing numbers such as “Not Today” and “Forgotten.” Another vital aspect was the costuming, which added tension among the characters, visually classifying the students’ hierarchy.

Monarch High School’s production of “Ranked” focused on the real cost of getting ahead in school. In the absence of a competitive structure, the characters found commonality in shared feelings and struggles. Students were inspired to rethink how they measured the worth of their peers and themselves. The musical reminded viewers to “Come Up for Air” and value people for their hearts more than anything else.

*** *** ***

By Ashley Reep of Cooper City High School

In a society where your worth and entire future are defined by a number, Monarch High School’s production, “Ranked: A New Musical”, takes a sensational ride as it explores the lives of high school teens who all want nothing more than to be at the top of the leaderboard.

With music and lyrics by David Taylor Gomes and book by Kyle Holmes, the two writers were able to create a remarkable story compacted with moments of doubt, anxiety, and sincerity. The story follows Lily Larsen, who, just like everyone else, is constantly driven to compete for the highest rank. When a catastrophe occurs and ranks suddenly vanish, Lily and the rest of her peers around her start to question if there really is more to life than a number.

In the role of Lily Larsen, Mariana Montoya portrayed her character exceptionally well throughout the entirety of the show. With bold stage presence and realistic emotions, Montoya was able to fully personify the distressed and over-critical teen who is terrified to fall below the average in fear of never having a profitable future. In her solo, “Peace of Mind” she was able to convey these thoughts and distinctively emphasize what rankings mean to her. In addition to her astonishing voice, Montoya also delivered realistic and distinctive facial expressions alongside her compassionate but also tenacious sister, Alexis Larsen played by Sara Bernasconi. Together, the duo was able to exhibit an affectionate and well-rounded relationship that connected endearingly with the audience.

Embodying the star villain of the show, Sydney Summers was personified by actress Mia Prokop. From the beginning of the musical, Prokop’s physicality and vocal inflection served to illustrate her elite demeanor and she impressively executed a phenomenal performance. This was outlined prominently in the song, “Eyes on the Prize” where she and her two sidekicks, Carly played by Carlie Nussbaum and Francis played Pooja Singh vocalize about how being above the average, or at the top ranks, is the only way to be successful in life. Overall, the fierce trio radiated a captivating presence which proved to showcase enticing characters and brought power, strength, and superiority to the show.

Alongside the cast, the ensemble supported the production with engaging personalities and consistent levels of energy. Despite minor flaws in cohesiveness with the choreography, the ensemble was still successful in staying committed to character and enticing the musical with their unique identities.

One stand out element regarding tech was the use of virtual backgrounds. The seamlessly connected virtual displays added a more prevalent effect to the show by establishing the location of each scene and song. Not only did these aspects aid the musical in looking more polished and clean, but it also solidified distinct moments apart from others, rewarding the audience with a delightful experience.

Monarch High School’s rendition of, “Ranked: A New Musical” was none other than sincere and truthful as it highlighted the importance of never letting a number define your value or worth.

*** *** ***
By Jen Moloney of JP Taravella High School

When buying grades turns class competition into complete chaos, students must “Work Harder” to stay Above the Average, in order to not be “Forgotten.” In Monarch High School’s production of “Ranked,” worlds turn upside down as the class ranking system is suspended due to fraudulent frights. Watch GPAs rise and integrity fall in a stellar performance you won’t want to miss.

With music and lyrics by David Gomes and book by Kyle Holmes, “Ranked” debuted in 2019 at Granite Bay High School. The musical later went on to play at the UC Davis Ground and Field Theatre Festival where it won 3 BroadwayWorld Regional Awards in 2019. The story follows anxious freshman Lily Larsen as she faces the academic anarchy behind her school’s ranking system, which divides the diligent from the do-nothing. Secrets get uncovered in this new pop-rock musical that leaves you wondering: if you don’t “Keep Your Eye on the Prize”, will you be forced to “Throw it All Away?”

Depicting the naive, nervous Lily Larsen was Mariana Montoya, who showed excellent range as her soft-spoken character grew and transformed through the performance. She was able to use her spectacular voice as well as strong facial and body expressions to create an engaging performance that remained consistent, yet dynamic. Showing similar commitment to her role was Lily’s smart, sympathetic sister, Alexis Larsen (Sara Bernasconi). Montoya and Bernasconi had remarkable chemistry despite the challenge of performing virtually. The raw emotion shared between the two peaked at the beginning of “Come Up for Air,” as the sisters share a heart-to-heart moment while they reflect on their relationship and take a moment to breathe.

A second superior set of siblings were Ryan and Sydney Summers, played by James Soler and Mia Prokop, respectively. As the privileged peers of this story, they both live lavishly at the top of the rankings, way “Above the Average.” Soler stayed captivating, even through a screen, especially seen in his moments with Prokop and Bernasconi. Top-dog Sydney Summers managed to keep breathtaking control over her voice as she belted notes with masterful execution. The pair shared a dramatic moment in the Act 1 Finale, closing out the act with the help of the spirited ensemble.

Despite the challenges of putting on a production during a pandemic, the cast and crew of “Ranked” persevered and did not let these external factors get in the way of their incredible show. The use of joint virtual backgrounds allowed for the actors to appear in scenes together in a cohesive manner, from the safety of their own homes. Besides some minor sound dubbing issues, the technical elements enhanced the socially-distant musical, specifically noting the uninterrupted camera work during the scenes. The ensemble was able to remain in character with flawless chemistry, even with the changes to our pandemic-filled life.

Monarch High School’s production of “Ranked” is a thrilling, spirited musical that reminds us all to “Come Up for Air,” and live life without the restraints of reputation.

*** *** ***
By Nick Vela of JP Taravella High School

When it comes to academic performance, students are constantly told to keep their “Eye on the Prize.” With the increasing importance of class rank, standardized test scores, and an insanely competitive college admissions process, previously positive educational environments have now become a breeding ground for anxiety, depression, and cutthroat competition. Monarch High School’s high-stakes production of “Ranked” strikingly highlights these potentially debilitating effects of a hazardous academic atmosphere through the cast and crew’s endless dedication.

Although Monarch High School’s thrilling production of “Ranked” was its Florida Premiere, the musical originally debuted in April of 2018, since then, it has been performed in a variety of diverse venues and settings, such as the UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance’s Ground and Field Festival. With a moving book written by Kyle Holmes and a captivatingly catchy score composed by David Taylor Gomes, “Ranked” tells the tale of a society obsessed with the scholastic success of its students. Creating a direct correlation between a child’s self-worth and their placement above or below the line of academic averageness, this distorted dystopia forces friend and foe alike to overcome the plights and perils of a ruthless educational environment.

Leading the production as the anxious, apprehensive freshman Lily Larsen, Mariana Montoya commanded the screen with her stunning stage presence, highly expressive facials, and unfaltering energy. Demonstrating absolute control over her vocals, Montoya showcased the depth and intensity of her captivating tone and extensive range through her touching solo performances, such as the musical number “Peace of Mind.” Accompanying Montoya as her level-headed older sister Alexis Larsen, Sara Bernasconi displayed an unwavering commitment to her character. Her soft and tender vocal dynamics paired with a natural physicality made for an extremely believable and enjoyable performance. Together, Montoya and Bernasconi emulated an authentic sisterly bond filled with both conflict and growth.

Delivering a standout performance as the merciless, high-achieving Sydney Summers, Mia Prokop illustrated a clear character arch as she pushed past her role’s stereotypical queen bee tendencies and embraced the sincerity of its secretly sweet counterparts. Allowing her impressive vocal technique to shine, Prokop’s powerful belt and refined runs only added to her exemplary characterization. Furthermore, James Soler’s ability to truly connect with his fellow actors and form realistic relationships, as the charismatic Ryan Summers, emphasized the innately charming nature of his character.

Aside from some minor vocal balance issues and energy inconsistencies, the ensemble acted as the musical’s narrative’s primary driving force by utilizing remarkable storytelling skills. Although the sound editing could have been stronger, the musical’s technical elements were a praiseworthy example of a successful virtual adaptation of “Ranked,” incorporating tastefully non-distracting backgrounds, effective digital transitions, commendable blocking despite being a completely quarantined production, and incredibly cohesive costumes that cleverly conveyed social status.

Shedding some light on an often dismissed perspective, Monarch High School’s impactful production of “Ranked” reminds us of the “Forgotten” morals we tend to leave behind when striving for academic excellence because at the “The End of Today,” what is the point of “working for a break that’s never coming”?

*** *** ***
By Leah Tomas of JP Taravella High School

“Buy your grades. Buy your future. But what happens when the rest of the world finds out?” Monarch High School’s production of “Ranked” has all the answers to this test, and more!

Featuring a book written by Kyle Holmes underscored by music composed by David Taylor Gomes, “Ranked” is a contemporary pop-rock musical that explores a dystopian universe in which individual intellectual achievements determine societal worth. The musical made its debut in

*** *** ***

Reviews of Unraveling at American Heritage on Friday, 2/05/2021.


By Max Hsu of NSU University School

Back in South Florida where it all began, American Heritage’s performance of “Unraveling: A New Rock Musical” tells a heartbreaking story of strained family relationships, perseverance, and self-discovery based loosely on the story of local alternative-rock band “China Doll.” The powerful, emotional performances and clever editing make this virtual performance one to remember.

“Unraveling” began as a homonymous memoir written by China Doll’s lead singer, Rossella Lamendola. After finishing the memoir, she saw potential for its story on the stage, and enlisted her daughter (who is also an experienced theatre performer and writer) to help bring her vision to life. The musical debuted in 2012 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as a concert-style reading, and was first staged in an Off-West End theatre in London. It continues to be workshopped and developed, with American Heritage’s rendition as the latest step along its journey.

Despite the distancing required for a performance amidst the pandemic, the ensemble worked very well together. The relationships between the family members of the cast felt real, as though the events on stage were merely a snippet of a broader world. Each member of the cast exhibited incredibly strong vocals. Although there were some issues in the recording and mixing of the music, the vocal performances were strong enough to shine through the inconsistencies. Likewise, some of the filming choices were a bit awkward, but not enough for the emotive performances of the cast to be lost on the audience. The cast particularly shined in ensemble numbers such as the titular song, where the crisp harmonies and engaging split-screen editing certainly drew the audience in.

As the young, aspiring rock star Ava, Diane Li’s character had excellent range, beginning as a naive singer-songwriter and evolving through the hardships she faced along the way. She showed pristine vocal control on both extremes of her range, executing piercing high notes and sultry lows with unfaltering precision. Playing Ava’s perky band-mate and sister, Tori, Emma Ferguson showed similarly excellent vocal quality, hitting her soprano harmonies with ease. As their brother, Michael, Ethan Shavelson showed off his tenor range and powerful falsetto in his solo numbers, while also giving a nuanced and emotional performance.

Madison Winkler as the mother served as a brooding narrator-like figure, who helped guide the story with her haunting presence and powerful voice. Wesley Wray as Bill consistently impressed with his adept vocal runs. Alex Baker utilized a strong accent and physicality to successfully portray an older character.

Although there were clear challenges with filming a performance during a pandemic, the production crew of “Unraveling” clearly did not let these challenges hinder their final product. Instead, they took advantage of the recorded format by editing together split-screen shots, making clever use of a green screen, and other effective editing and recording tricks to make this musical feel more like a film. While the masks could have been better incorporated into the costumes, it was interesting to see how they were worked into the blocking as a means of furthering the narrative rather than getting in the way.

American Heritage’s production of “Unraveling: A New Rock Musical” is an exciting, developing musical which takes every possible advantage of the pre-recorded format to tell its emotional story.

*** *** ***

By Amanda Kopelman of NSU University School

In hopes of breaking free and escaping familial trauma, three siblings discover their passion for music through their journey of discovery, together. First presented in 2012 at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the production remained close to home as American Heritage School masterfully executed “Unraveling”.

From the beginning of the innovative film-style production, American Heritage School produced a dark ambiance; with an incredible acting performance by Madison Winkler (Mother), the opening number effectively and inventively showcased the tense relationship between the cast members through seamless visual editing. While some vocals were unaligned with the actors’ lips, Diane Li (Ava) and Emma Ferguson’s (Tori) harmonies were unmatched. Their beautiful and seemingly-effortless notes allowed them to portray the emotion and strength of their unconventional sister-bond.

Leaving an impactful first impression, Ethan Shavelson (Michael) took the stage (and screen) with his delightful stage presence and powerful voice; Shavelson’s energy brought deeper meaning and a personal touch to the musical. Vocally, this production excelled; the harmonies were impactful and beautiful–notably in “Who Can I Be?” and “Carry Me”. With immense authenticity and professionalism, Wesley Wray (Bill) was truly a standout performer. Between his chemistry with other cast members and his stunning voice, Wray consistently performed spectacularly; his range of emotion was clear and masterfully executed.

While the costume’s color palette presented as slightly misleading, Miles Levitan was able to play his astonishing assortment of roles with strong character development and distinction. The set design and props team excelled in setting the tone and believability of the production, particularly during the bar scenes and through their creative normalization of mask-wearing throughout the performance. Additionally, American Heritage School raised the stakes by producing “Unraveling” entirely pre-filmed and edited, a difficult and commendable feat. Through creative film angles, stage combat was interactive and provided various point-of-view shots, further engaging their audience and breaking the fourth wall. While some green screen selections were distracting, the “in-person” scenes maximized the use of the space and offered the illusion of a large, film-like set.

John Eastep and his team successfully edited this decently lengthy production, displaying the dedication and collaboration established throughout American Heritage School’s creative process. Eastep and company developed a tasteful balance of gallery-style scenes, where cast members’ heads appeared in a collage, and “in-person” scenes with various camera angles to portray the film-like feel they were aiming for. Li, Ferguson, and Shavelson maximized the use of these various camera angles with their up-close emotions and compelling chemistry while remaining socially-distant.

While American Heritage School was presented with a clear challenge, the production that unraveled portrayed near-perfect, harmonious vocals and effective emotional development, driving the storyline of “Unraveling” and proving that even during unprecedented times, “Everything Will Be Alright”.

*** *** ***

By Nick Ribas of Cardinal Gibbons High School

It is impossible to tell how life will unravel, especially when watching the heart wrenching journeys of Ava, Tori, and Michael. American Heritage’s prerecorded production of Unraveling is an emotional-filled adventure that is bound to captivate the audience in its tragic, yet fascinating story.

Unraveling is a new rock musical inspired from the journey of the South Florida band, China Doll. The play, written by Roxanne Lamendola, Leah Forgo, and Scott Strait, follows the struggles of Ava, Tori, and Micheal as they flee their abusive household and form a more stable life through their band. But as rifts form between the siblings, it seems that things will not remain stable for long.

Diane Li played Ava perfectly, characterizing her innocent side through her voice and body language while masterfully transitioning to her more serious and tormented moments. Emma Ferguson, as Tori, not only embraced the personality of her character, but also had a breathtaking musical performance. Her rendition of, “Stop,” was notable in showing her melodic voice. Ethan Shavelson played Michael as if his character was a real person. Ethan expertly emphasized Michael’s anxious and compassionate qualities, which only intensified during his musical performances. Overall, the sibling dynamic was done very well.

Julian Villegas, who played Nick, injected comedic relief into the serious play. His line delivery made his comedic moments work and earned more than enough chuckles. As Bill, Wesley Wray, played his character brilliantly through his songs, especially in, “Without a Sound.” He played the boyfriend dynamic with Ava seamlessly and made the growing rift between the siblings that much more evident.

Creative use of camera angles was used to take advantage of the virtual production. Showing the first person view of the siblings as they suffered under their parents was certainly creative. However, there were many issues on the technical front. Unclear entrances/exits of characters as well as the sudden disappearance of items and masks made some moments of the play jarring. Cuts between scenes were much too sudden, which hindered the flow of the play and made things hard to follow. Also, the issue of some costume inconsistencies made it hard to differentiate the growth of characters as some did change clothes while others didn’t. Still, the play persevered despite the setbacks of being a virtual production.

American Heritage’s production of Unraveling, from its musical performances and character acting, was nothing short of beautifully bittersweet.

*** *** ***

By Shelby Stott of Coral Glades High School

Unraveling is defined as the act of undoing, often twisted or woven threads. In American Heritage High School’s production of “Unraveling”, the audience watches as a trio of siblings, knotted together by their traumatic childhood, come undone on their journey to embrace music and heal.

The new rock musical “Unraveling” takes inspiration from the journey of the South-Florida band China Doll. Rossella Lamendola, the lead singer of China Doll, released a book of the same name shortly before the creation of the musical. Rossella Lamendola recognized the theatrical nature of her reality and enlisted the help of her daughter, Roxanne Lamendola, to write the musical, which included songs from China Doll’s discography. Together, the two wrote “Unraveling” which was read for the first time at the Broward Center for Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, with a musical accompaniment by China Doll. The show wasn’t performed for the first time until 2017 at the Union Theater in London, and is still currently under development, making American Heritage High School’s production of the show all the more impressive!

Diane Li, as well as the rest of the cast, started the show off with a series of melodic harmonies which set the premise for a very vocally strong show. Li showed commendable skill in presenting an innocent yet strong persona for Ava, the lead singer of the band established by the three siblings later in the show. Her control in both her physicality and vocals helped to create a performance that was engaging and dynamic. Ava’s innocent character was juxtaposed extremely well by Emma Ferguson’s Tori. Tori, a more aggressive and layered character, was captured quite well by Ferguson because of her stunning vocal abilities and excellent characterization. Li and Ferguson played quite well off each other and made for a rather impressive performance.

Despite the musical’s creation for live theater, American Heritage High School put a lot of effort into translating the show into a new, virtual, pandemic-absorbed world. The technical elements of the show only enhanced an already amazing performance. The film crew, consisting entirely of students, did a nice job at providing creative camera angles, though at times scenes in the show felt awkwardly spliced together. The set, though minimalistic, was very fitting for the show and did a wonderful job of blending the performance in with its contemporary setting. The same can be said for costumes, which definitely reflected the contemporary nature of the show and while costumes did generally fit the flow of the show, there were moments when costuming choices proved to be a little confusing.

American Heritage High School was tasked with the challenge of making an already contemporary show, like “Unraveling”, more modern to fit the constraints of the current pandemic. Despite the conditions, the performers and technical team did not unravel but, instead persevered to take the audience through an inspirational musical journey.

*** *** ***

By Abigail Alder of North Broward Preparatory School

Never underestimate the power of music. Melodies can arise from even the most inharmonious of family dynamics. In American Heritage’s production of “Unraveling: A New Rock Musical,” the threads of traditional theatre are disentangled to form something new that is both edgy and honest.

In the summer of 2017, the premiere of “Unraveling: A New Rock Musical” was presented as an industry showcase in London’s award-winning Union Theatre. The musical was the mother-daughter collaboration of Rossella and Roxanne Lamendola, with an unforgettable score from Rossella’s years as the lead singer and composer for the South Florida-based band, China Doll. The musical’s narrative draws from the real-life shared history of three siblings turned bandmates. Ava, Tori, and Michael, band together on an emotional and compelling musical journey. As survivors of abuse, unable to silence their parents’ echoing ridicule playing on a loop inside their heads, they struggle into adulthood. The band’s future looks bright when a former music manager discovers them. However, things quickly shift as the siblings battle with themselves and each other. Ava’s boyfriend becomes more controlling than supportive, causing her to revisit her childhood trauma. Questions of self-identity and worth
circle the siblings as they try to remain together, still healing the wounds from their broken childhood.

The sibling trio demanded a raw complexity that was challenging but achieved. Leading the band, Diane Li (Ava) demonstrated the perfect balance of innocence and strength. Emma Ferguson (Tori), as the self-assertive sister, maintained her firey character even through the barriers of a mask. Portraying their troubled brother,  Ethan Shavelson (Michael) exhibited a true understanding of his role. Shavelson tackled the demanding score with mastery and ease, particularly in the title song, “Unraveling.” Together, the trio presented breathtaking harmonies that left viewers wanting, “One more round.”

Demonstrating his vocal dexterity, Wesley Wray (Bill) achieved an understanding of his character’s motivations as Ava’s boyfriend. Kaitlin “Alex” Baker (Leslie) consistently kept energy high while playing the persistent manager. Madison Winkler (Mother) showed intense physicality and a stern tone of voice, making her character believable. Although the cast’s commitment periodically waned during dialogue, whenever a song occurred, it was revived.

Technical elements such as innovative editing were explored throughout this production, and in several areas successfully contributed to the cohesive storytelling. Despite the challenging circumstances, the team creatively persevered. Some costuming inconsistencies made the differentiation between characters and passing of time hard to follow. The production’s attention to detail in settings like Nick’s bar added to the show’s quality. Intricate labeling on the prop liquor bottles gave the bar a realistic feel.

American Heritage’s production of “Unraveling: A New Rock Musical” exposes the discord between siblings struggling to outrun a tumultuous past while staying true to themselves and their unique sound.

*** *** ***

Reviews of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown at St. Thomas Aquinas High School on Sunday, 3/15/2020.

By Rachel Goldberg of Cooper City High School

Dear pen pal, the sun rose on a beautiful day today, and Saint Thomas Aquinas’ “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” was better than suppertime! We learned that snow comes up, Peter Rabbit is like Robinhood and happiness is an ageless wonder that touches the hearts of all who spread love.

“You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” is a musical with music and lyrics by Clark Gesner and direct excerpts from the “Peanuts” comic strips written by Charles M. Schulz. The series of small, slice-of-life scenes allow for serious yet comical interactions as well as catchy musical numbers. The show started at first base with its original off-Broadway production, and then hit a home run with the 1999 Broadway revival, which won two Tony Awards for Best Featured Actor and Actress! The story follows the journey of Charlie Brown, an insecure and optimistic young boy searching to discover himself. A day in the life of Charlie Brown and his Peanut gallery teaches that “happiness is anyone or anything at all that’s loved by you.”

With genuine devotion and awkward innocence, Baseball Team Manager and big brother Charlie Brown was embodied by Vicente Tome. With not a single Valentine, Tome showcased Charlie Brown’s sadness, but also demonstrated his optimism in his efforts to understand why everyone calls him a “Good Man.” Tome’s physicality set him apart from the rest of the cast, his awkward movements, and inward characterization added authenticity to his performance. By his side with advice for five cents, Lucy, was played by Liana Genao. With a 51 on the crabbiness scale and about to own a queendom, Genao kept a consistent character voice while speaking and had great comedic timing. Her relationship with her baby brother Linus was standout for its sincerity.

As the philosophical little genius, Sam Infantino’s Linus was full of child-like wonder. Infantino showed a clear commitment to his character, not only in his acting but also by maintaining a consistent lisp while still being understood. With a new philosophy by the minute,  Sophia Janssens’ Sally Brown was characterized by dedication and outstanding vocal ability. Janssens maintained her character’s voice throughout the show, and her transitions from speaking to singing were expertly smooth, most memorably in her song “My New Philosophy.”  Also providing remarkable vocals was Schroeder, played by Michael Ryder.

The cast altogether did a wonderful job creating the caricatures that were seen on stage. Despite occasionally falling flat, the ensemble succeeded vocally and had fantastic diction. The Woodstock ensemble added humor and well-executed choreography to the performance. One exceptional performer was Skyler Hall as Linus’ Blanket. The technical elements of the show added depth and detail to the already delightful performance. Detailed costume and hair elements brought each character to life. Props and Makeup should be commended for their success in making the characters and the stage cartoon-like. The stage management team was noteworthy for their smooth and speedy transitions, and lighting was also used to great effect, helping to focus the audience on the important scene at-hand.

So, pen pal, today was a great day. Saint Thomas Aquinas’ production of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” was a beautiful story of happiness, love, and friendship.

*** *** ***

By Jaime Happel of J.P. Taravella High School

“Good grief!” Don’t get your jump rope in a tangle! And wipe off that failure face! It’s time to fly the Red Baron over to St. Thomas Aquinas High School and cozy up with your security blanket to enjoy the STA Players’ vibrant, nostalgic, and lighthearted production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

With music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” features a series of vignettes based on strips from beloved comic, “Peanuts,” by Charles M. Schulz. While the book for the musical was credited to an author, it was later revealed that the author’s name, “John Gordon,” was really a pseudonym for everyone who contributed to the script: Gesner, the original cast, and the production staff. The musical originated as a concept album and later debuted on Broadway for a brief run in June of 1971 at the John Golden Theatre. A revival of the production took place in 1999 and replaced the original character of Patty with Sally Brown, the role for which Kristen Chenoweth won a Tony Award.

Vicente Tome brought the iconic character of Charlie Brown to life with a meek demeanor and lovable personality that set him apart from the bunch. Tome developed an endearing connection with Liana Genao (Lucy Van Pelt) that was only strengthened over the course of the show. Genao completely encompassed the caricature-like nature of her crabby, bossy character, even altering her voice to match. Genao commanded the stage as if it were her own “Queendom,” but also showcased her softer side through her relationship with the kind-mannered, compelling vocalist, Michael Ryder (Schroder).

Sophia Janssens portrayed Charlie’s rosy-cheeked younger sister, Sally Brown, with her own unique spin on the well-known character. Janssens’ imaginative choices and giddy physicality made her a joy to watch on stage, and her powerful vocals shined through in her adorable rendition of “My New Philosophy.” Sam Infantino depicted the sweet, thumb-sucking baby of the group, Linus Van Pelt. Throughout the production, Infantino displayed Linus’ child-like-wonder and demonstrated commendable comedic timing, noticeably in his solo “My Blanket and Me.”

The ensemble dove headfirst into Charles M. Schulz’s cartoon world, truly capturing the iconic characters with consistent commitment. Although the stage was often a bit crowded during group numbers, the cast never lacked in energy. Technically, there was evident attention to detail throughout the show, especially in regards to hair and makeup. Bright, colorful lighting clearly set the mood and time of day during the production, and oversized costumes and props were a creative and playful touch that further contributed to the believable building of the whimsical world. Microphones and music were impressively balanced and blended, but at times the cues and vocal entrances were not in sync.

St. Thomas Aquinas High School’s high-spirited production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” teaches us that the most important philosophy that one can have is simple, clear, and only takes a minute: “Happiness.”

*** *** ***

Reviews of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown at St. Thomas Aquinas High School on Saturday, 3/14/2020.


By Emma Sugarman of J.P. Taravella High School

Relive the wonders of childhood as the Peanuts Gang takes you back to the sunshine and sugary days of youth. St. Thomas Aquinas High School’s cheerful production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” will take you through the “thoroughly, totally, utterly, blah” obstacles of growing up.

Based on Charles M. Shultz’s adored comic strip, “Peanuts,” the revue of songs and vignettes enlivens each member of the classic cartoon. With music, lyrics, and book by Clark Gesner, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” immerses you into the one-dimensional world of colorful antics and five-cent psychiatry sessions. The spirited musical comedy will transport you back to simpler times as the beloved characters face the inevitable hardships of being a kid as they battle kites, baseball, crushes, and school.

The noble, humble, honorable “Blockhead,” Charlie Brown, was embodied by Vincente Tome. Tome’s consistent sense of wonder conveyed through his hopeful expressions and stellar tone, created an engaging performance. Unlike his self-deprecating character may think, Tome displayed a flawless balance of maturity and youthfulness, capturing the heart of any viewer. Liana Genao portrayed the forceful and crabby, yet stunning, Lucy Van Pelt. Genao maintained her characteristic voice and physicality throughout the production, providing a significant contribution to her comical performance. Her character’s endless opinions and sassy remarks were conveyed through Genao’s bold and unwavering characterization.

Playing the younger sister of Charlie Brown, who will stop at nothing to get what she deserves, Sophia Janssens captured the role of Sally Brown through her relentless energy and commitment. Janssens’ articulate and amusing voice was seamlessly conveyed through both her speaking and singing lines. Janssens’ well-developed persona stayed true to the familiar character of the comic while adding her own unique flair. The blanket-coddling Linus was conveyed by Sam Infantino. Infantino’s line delivery was clear and precise despite his character’s humorous speech impediment. Infantino evidently displayed his role’s young age through his innocent mannerisms and physicality.

The ensemble of the production certainly captured the youthfulness of their characters with their wide-eyed wonder and frantic movements. The commendable stage crew, or Peanuts, remained in character during each scene change and even participated in musical numbers. The Woodstock ensemble presented clean and technically advanced choreography. The company’s faultless energy allowed for a consistently immersive performance.

The technical aspects of the production lifted the world of Charlie Brown right off the page. The interactive yet seemingly one-dimensional set bounced off the beautifully lit backdrop of dazzling colors and clouds. The comically oversized costumes and props represented the small stature the actors were imitating. Additionally, the costumes, accompanied by the hair and makeup, perfectly represented the appearance of the well-known characters.

Rediscover the hopes and hiccups of youth with St. Thomas Aquinas High School’s lighthearted production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Feel the everlasting joy of life because no matter your age, “Happiness” can be found on the turn of every page.

*** *** ***

By Rylee Berger of Cooper City High School

Like the four-panel comic strips that popularized the beloved Peanuts, St. Thomas Aquinas’ wonderful production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is heartwarming, hilarious, and brimming with happiness.

Initially conceived as a concept album, the musical comedy premiered in 1967 before opening on Broadway in 1971. With its book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner, the show finds its source material in Charles M. Schulz’s popular comic strip “The Peanuts.” Its well-known characters and their distinctive personalities feel as if they’ve been peeled directly from the page, benefiting the vignette-style production. At the musical’s outset, we are introduced to flawed favorite Charlie Brown who is fretting about how he can become a better person. As various scenes depicting daily happenings in the world of the Peanuts are performed, Charlie Brown is perfectly positioned to learn how he can make his bad days just a little bit brighter.

As the titular worrywart, Vicente Tome was able to distinguish his character’s insecure nature through his reserved physicality. Tome’s natural interactions with his onstage counterparts conveyed Charlie Brown’s bleak outlook and comparatively mature personality. As the crabby bully with a tough exterior, Liana Genao’s conviction as Lucy Van Pelt made for a particularly memorable performance. Her childlike physicality translated well on the stage and her comedic timing proved highly effective. Her scenes with little brother Linus (Sam Infantino) showed a strong connection and their mutually well-developed characters.

Another standout performance was that of Sophia Janssens as Sally. Janssens admirably transformed her strong character voice into her equally-as-powerful singing, specifically in the number “My New Philosophy.” Her impressive vocal range and understanding of her character were obvious. Most enjoyable was Janssens’ physical embodiment of the young character, particularly notable for its mannerisms suggestive of unrestricted emotions. These choices carried into all aspects of her performance, creating a highly believable and unique presentation of the role.

For a show relying on the successful portrayal of numerous characters, the students at St. Thomas certainly rose to the challenge. The core cast of six had strong chemistry with each other and built genuine relationships. What the musical lacked in plot, the actors certainly made up for in character, providing entertaining performances with distinct physicalities. While the vocal performances were uneven and the choreography often lacked synchronicity, the entire cast’s commitment to the childlike spirit of the musical was admirable.

The use of the ensemble to aid transitions between the fast-moving scenes worked exceptionally well; any errors were overcome by both actors and technicians. The lighting helped direct focus and the sound successfully amplified vocalizations with few errors. The adherence of costumes and props to their inventive concept was praiseworthy, and the cartoon likeness of the hair and makeup design was well-executed.

At the end of St. Thomas Aquinas’ supremely satisfying production, both Charlie Brown and the audience realize that happiness should never be perfect, that it instead lies in the small moments that make it easier to wake up the next morning, watch the sunrise, and revel in its beauty.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Oklahoma at American Heritage School on Saturday, 3/14/2020.


By Gabriela Phillips of Cooper City High School

Delve into a world of romantic tension and experience the lengths to which people will go for the person that they love in American Heritage High School’s production of “Oklahoma!”

With music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, “Oklahoma!” changed the nature of Broadway forever. Incorporating both a dancing and singing ensemble into the show revolutionized musicals. Based on Lynn Riggs Green Grow the Lilacs, the show has 4 Broadway revivals and won the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival in 2019. Telling the story of Laurey and her love interest Curly, “Oklahoma!” follows the relationships of various couples and explores the themes of love.

Playing the innocent farm girl Laurey, Ella Noriega’s dedication to the role was notable. Her attention to detail and mannerisms when talking to characters such as Curly exemplify her well-rounded acting abilities and realism when it came to the role. Showcasing her beautiful voice in songs such as “Many a New Day,” Noriega’s accent never faltered throughout the entirety of the show. She remained consistent in her choices, and formed a genuine relationship with her love interest Curly (Dylan Tuccitto). The two complemented each other, and their chemistry was seen in their number “People Will Say We’re in Love” and the reprise. Playing the outcast Jud Fry, Roie Dahan’s commitment was clear, and his investment in winning over Laurey was always evident.

With a bubbly and romantic demeanor, Ado Annie (Adelina Marinello) is always seeking love and hopes to please those around her. With beaming energy, Marinello let her character’s flirtatious personality shine through in her number “I Cain’t Say No!” During the show Ado Annie has her sights set on two men, Will Parker (Michael Guarasci) and Ali Hakim (Julian Villegas), both of which she hopes to marry in the future. Marinello and Guarasci’s relationship was very naturalistic, and the two wonderfully portrayed the chemistry of their budding romance, their voices complimented each other as seen in the song “All Er’ Nuthin.”

The ensemble remained devoted to their roles within the show. Their harmonies blended beautifully, best showcased in their finale “Oklahoma.” The corps de ballet should be commended for maintaining consistent energy throughout the dances, and mirroring the tension of what was going on in the real world. The boys in the song “Kansas City” also did an excellent job of keeping strong facial expressions and techniques throughout the number.

Technically, the show did an excellent job of immersing the audience into the world of “Oklahoma!” The set (Nikolas Serrano) was very well executed and was utilized wonderfully on the stage. Stage management (Rachel Taylor) should be commended for the efficient scene changes and transitions, as well as the punctual cues. The orchestra did an incredible job in the pit, always ensuring that they were never overpowering the actors.

With radiating energy and genuine relationships, American Heritage High School’s Production of “Oklahoma!” truly showcased the charming nature of the production.

*** *** ***

By Alonso Millan of South Plantation High School

In their take on the beloved western tale of love, dance, and music, American Heritage School absolutely shines with Oklahoma.

Oklahoma marked the first collaboration between the legendary Rodgers and Hammerstein, making its Broadway debut in 1943. Oklahoma was the first “book” musical, using dance and song to further progress the story. Centered around Laurey, a farm girl in a love triangle with the charming Curly and intimidating Jud, Oklahoma takes us on an exciting and romantic musical journey.

American Heritage School’s production of Oklahoma was a tremendous feat. With outstanding vocal performances across the board, quick-witted and hilarious standout characters, and an impressive orchestra and set, the show was exciting and fun throughout the night.

Leading the show was Dylan Tuccito as Curly. From the moment he first began singing off-stage for “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’,”Tuccitto delivered a knockout vocal performance. Never faltering in his singing, he and Ella Noriega (Laurey) blended voices together beautifully. Noriega’s technique was impeccable, effortlessly gliding through even the most difficult of high notes without any noticeable strain. The two’s chemistry was nice, creating a believable blossoming romance for the audience.

Roie Dahan must be commended for his stellar turn as Jud Fry. Dahan’s physicality and voice were on point at all times, wonderfully encapsulating the bitter and jaded nature of the character. Conversely, Michael Guarasci (Will Parker) and Adelina Marinello (Ado Annie Carnes) brought lightness and comedy to the show. Both Guarasci and Marinello were a joy to watch, and their sweet and turbulent romance was ever-present, especially in the standout number “All Er Nothin’.” The Oklahoma Citizens were also a highlight of the night, nailing choreography and harmonies without fail. A standout member of the ensemble was Kevaughn Reid, portraying Cord Elam. Reid instantly drew your eyes to him, whether he was the focus of the scene or not, with his exceptional dance technique and impactful facial expressions. Throughout the show, however, diction was a significant issue with the cast. Many lines were lost and difficult to understand. At times, some character’s physicality and acting choices were not as strong as they could have been. Despite this, the cast must be commended for their energetic performances and outstanding vocals.

The Oklahoma Pit Orchestra was nothing short of perfect. Throughout the night, there was not a single noticeable slip-up or mistake, an impressive feat for a high school orchestra. They complimented the actors wonderfully, as well as aided scenes such as the Dream Ballet, where no dialogue was present. The set design, by Nikolas Serrano, was also another standout aspect of the show. Serrano’s design fits the show very well, with the rustic nature of it further immersing the audience into the world of Oklahoma.

It was a night full of romance, country twang, and powerful vocals. American Heritage School’s production of Oklahoma was memorable across the board.

*** *** ***

By Leah Tomas of J.P. Taravella High School

“There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow. The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, and it looks like it’s climbing clear up to the sky!” Join the cast of American Heritage High School for their “beautiful” production of “Oklahoma!”

“Oklahoma!” is the first product of infamous duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II based on the 1931 play “Green Grow the Lilacs,” written by Lynn Riggs. The musical opened on Broadway in March of 1943 at the St. James Theater, winning a special Pulitzer Prize. The production was considered a revolutionary innovation in the world of theater, as it was the first of many to integrate music and dance for the purpose of facilitating the progression of the plot. The story follows handsome cowboy Curly McLain and his efforts to win the affections of beautiful farm girl Laurey over his rival suitor, a fearsome farmhand called Jud.

Dylan Tuccitto (Curly) led the production with compelling characterization, exquisite vocal quality, and an evident understanding of the deep meaning behind his spoken dialogue. Ella Noriega (Laurey) delivered stunning vocal clarity and range along with the effective application of subtle mannerisms for an overall authentic and detail-oriented portrayal of her role. The pair additionally demonstrated genuine chemistry and character development throughout the production.

Adelina Marinello (Ado Annie Carnes) effortlessly captured her character’s charm through her delivery of powerful vocals and an impeccable sense of comedic timing. Michael Guarasci (Will Parker) demonstrated captivating characterization in addition to developing an immensely convincing and endearing relationship with Marinello. Roie Dahan (Jud Fry) displayed impressive characterization and made excellent use of physicality to convey the frightening disposition of his character. Irene Newman (Aunt Eller) illustrated the maturity and maternal nature of her character with ease through her utilization of vocal inflection and physicality.

Julian Villegas (Ali Hakim) demonstrated brilliant execution of comedic moments along with an admirably consistent Persian dialect, and Jonah Warhaft (Andrew Carnes) communicated his character’s age very well through his speech and physical expression. The ensemble, as a whole, worked as a cohesive unit. The group illustrated the crisp execution of complicated vocal harmonies and immensely technical choreography. Though at times the cast lacked differentiation between characters and onstage combat was relatively ineffective, the company maintained consistent focus along with outstanding Midwestern dialects throughout the production.

The technical elements of this production were nearly flawless. Beautiful set pieces adorned a well-lit stage, and superb costuming seamlessly established distinctions between specific characters in addition to creating an immersive snapshot of the time and rural location in which the story takes place. Set changes flowed quickly and efficiently, and a fantastic student orchestra underscored onstage action with immaculate precision.

American Heritage High School’s commendable production of “Oklahoma!” combines lively dance numbers, dazzling vocal arrangements, and phenomenal storytelling for a journey back to “Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain, and the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain!”

*** *** ***

By Abbey Alder of Calvary Christian Academy

Beneath the sunny surface of sweeping prairies and neighborly hospitality lies an undercurrent of longing, secret feelings, and discord. Experience the splendor and struggles emblematic of prairie life just after the turn of the 20th century in American Heritage School’s production of “Oklahoma!”

Opening on Broadway in 1943, “Oklahoma!” set the standard, becoming the benchmark of the American modern musical. Based on Lynn Riggs’ play, “Green Grow the Lilacs,” the groundbreaking musical was a first collaboration between the legendary composer, Richard Rodgers, and book writer/lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. Their smash hit became the longest-running show of its time in New York, London, and toured the country for over a decade. Warranting several revivals with accolades that include a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Awards, “Oklahoma!”  continues to lure audiences back to the Wild West. Amidst the conflicts between cowboys and farmers, relationships evolve. Pursued by two suitors, a sweet farm girl named Laurey finds herself caught between a desirable cowboy, Curly, and nefarious farmhand, Jud Fry. A paralleling love triangle ensues among a flirtatious Ado Annie Carnes, Will Parker, and a reluctant Ali Hakim.

As the wistful farm girl Laurey, Ella Noriega conveyed a complex array of emotions from playing coy to on-edge and frightened. Noriega took command of the stage, demonstrating her vocal prowess in “Many A New Day” and “People Will Say We’re In Love.” Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Dylan Tuccitto (Curly) gave an electrifying performance with smooth vocals that resonated beautifully. Together, the pair had undeniable chemistry.

With a clear understanding of her coquettish and ditsy character, Adelina Marinello (Ado Annie Carnes) offered a captivating performance that displayed her comedic dexterity. Along with several others, Marinello exhibited pure technique through demanding vocal arrangements such as “I Cain’t Say No.” Acting as one of Ado Annie’s love interests, Michael Guarasci (Will Parker) enlivened the stage with his commitment and bursts of energy. The hesitant groom, Julian Villegas (Ali Hakim) breathed life into his worldly peddler persona, and his comedic moments were a delight. The ensemble’s impressive synchronization and realistic interactions enhanced the small-town atmosphere. Despite the ensemble’s occasional lack of emotion, their songs achieved a gorgeous vocal blend. The Corps de Ballet, featuring Ysabella Reyes (Dream Laurey), responded to the scene with appropriate facial expressions that translated to their graceful movements.

Technical elements such as set design and orchestrations contributed to beautifully conveying the “bright golden haze on the meadow.” The set, designed by Nikolas Serrano, provided an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere and authentic scenescape. The student orchestrations of Leanna Fadel and Co. were executed to perfection, keeping the show lively and engaging. The stage manager, Rachel Taylor, commendably achieved smooth and quick transitions despite her myriad of cues.

Still relevant, regardless of the decade or locality, American Heritage’s production “Oklahoma!”  illustrates the timeless yearning for a bigger life and the universal appeal of finding true love. “Oklahoma!”  is the musical with “plen’y of heart and plen’y of hope.”

*** *** ***

By Sophie Vega of Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School

Watch a tale of romance, comedy, and drama unfold as a cowboy and a farmhand fight for the favor of young farm girl Laurey, in American Heritage’s take on the classic 1943 musical “Oklahoma!”

Adapted from the 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Rigs, “Oklahoma!” was the product of the musical composition of Richard Rodgers in collaboration with the lyrics and book written by Oscar Hammerstein II. It played over 2,000 performances and remained in the St. James Theater for five years, establishing itself as a defining musical during Broadway’s “Golden Age” and as an American classic. In the turn of the twentieth century in Oklahoma, Laurey is an orphan living with her Aunt Eller on a farm who falls into the sight of both Curly McLain, a handsome yet reserved cowboy, and Jud Fry, a boorish farmhand with a violent disposition. When she soon realizes her true feelings for Curly, she finds herself and her love in the line of danger, as Jud tries everything he can to win her over. Simultaneously, Ado Annie, one of Laurey’s flirty friends, finds herself conflicted as she suddenly falls head-over-heels for Persian Peddler Ali Hakim. Despite her engagement with her boyfriend Will Parker, she must decide which man she wants to marry.

With stunning tone, confident stage presence, and detailed physicality, Ella Noriega (Laurey) wowed audience members with her impressive vocal technique and engaging portrayal of the young farm girl, in addition to her diction and enunciation despite having a thick southern twang. Alongside her as her romantic counterpart, Dylan Tuccitto (Curley) gave a notable vocal performance with his smooth singing and lush vibrato. Roie Dahan (Jud Fry) displayed a commendable portrayal of his character, from his intimidating physicality to his powerful voice and inflection, as well as a clear showcase of his arc. This translated well to audience members and successfully even left some in discomfort due to his believability.

The set design for the show in all aspects was both practical and functional, as well as stylized appropriately for the period, while showing influence from modern minimalist design techniques. The management of the stage was conducted with organization and fluidity, resulting in seamless scene and set transitions. Notably, the orchestra was professional and balanced, created a vibrant atmosphere that was engaging to listen to and aided the energy of the show splendidly. Although members of the ensemble could have benefited from further developing their individual characters, they danced with grace and purpose, in addition to displaying a commendable vocal blend in harmonies and counterpoint for large numbers such as “Oklahoma,” adding to the overall quality of the show.

In the end, American Heritage’s production of “Oklahoma!” left audiences smiling and laughing with its superior performance quality and engaging musical numbers.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Pangaea at Piper High School on Friday, 3/13/2020.


By Rachel Goldberg of Cooper City High School

In times of trouble, people stick to what they know. They isolate, blame, and cower from reality. Piper High School’s production of “Pangea” is a wake-up call that unity is strength and division will only bring destruction.

Written by Lamar Hanna, “Pangea” is an original musical never before performed on stage. In a dystopian world, traveler Murry (Malik Williams) is concerned for his war-ravaged home. Societies have split, Pangea is in fragments. In each society, they uphold their own standards and norms. Murry hopes that by showing #3 (Connor Porter) that there are other people out there, all with different versions of “Normal”, their world may be saved. On his journey, #3 documents the people he meets, and he begins to realize that breaking the norm just might bring everyone back together.

As Murry, Williams had bright energy as he advised #3 while also narrating the story. His character remained consistent as the story progressed, and he used an engaging tone. Porter’s physicality was a great non-vocal nod to his character’s background. Coming from the Grau nation, Porter was excellent in his stiffness and awkward interactions with other characters.

After traveling for a time, #3 and Murry come across Giallo, a world full of sunshine led by their Princess, Daffodil (Daneeva Newland) and her father. Newland’s energy and acting choices added to her already notable performance. Newland’s vocals were out of this world. Her beautiful tone and impressive range were showcased in her song “I Don’t Need Someone Like You.” Newland’s stage presence was partnered by the suave Midnight (Jordan Parsons). Parsons’ portrayal of the chill, man-of jazz from Azul included a smooth voice and pronounced character development. His relationship with Princess Daffodil was another commendable addition to the performance.

As Princess Daffodil and Midnight rekindle their love, something starts to change. Both actors suddenly reveal green on their distinctively one-colored costumes. The combination of yellow and blue begins to spark hope for the future of Pangea. The cast altogether created well-balanced stage pictures, despite sometimes seeming a little confused. Although the ensemble lacked energy and facial expressions, they always left the stage in character. One standout performance was that of Soundtrack 1 (Micaela Predestin). Accompanying Midnight on the violin, Predestin showed not only talent but also great comedic timing. Her reactions through music conveyed her understanding of the plot without ever needing to speak.

The technical elements fit the musical well. Although set changes were extremely prolonged, each set clearly depicted the world in which each society lived. Costumes showcased personality and despite considerable mic issues, the music did not overpower the actors.

In the end, being normal is overrated. Unity is strength, and to have unity, people must accept others for who they are. This message, conveyed in Piper High School’s “Pangea,” emphasizes abnormality in the best way, as well as the sunshine in each and every one of us.

*** *** ***

By Matthew Dell-Hak of Coral Glades High School

In a broken society where everything is “not quite normal”, Piper High School shows how to “Keep It Cool” in a time of desperation.

The original work of “Pangea The Musical” was created by Lamar Hannah. “Pangea” follows the divide of nations and the people amongst them, emulating the splitting of continents. The story travels through the worlds and celebrates individuality, as well as showing the strength the bond of people can have in a society. The production showcases various time periods and different monochrome aesthetics to represent each community. The creative twist on traditional theater was a refreshing reminder of how unique the arts can be.

A tie between worlds, Murry, was played by commendable actor Malik Williams. While the show had a few issues in tuning the mood the audience was to feel, Williams always knew how to bring a brighter and more comedic light to the atmosphere. Playing side-by-side with Murry was the quirky #3 portrayed by Connor Porter. The actors’ physicality brought for a more realistic performance even when the scenes were not correctly captured by the ensemble present. Overall, however, the duo made for a delightful adventurous pair that left for appealing character development.

The true backbone of the show would be that of Daneeva Newland in the role of Princess Daffodil. The talented young actress fulfilled her title with pride as the Princess strutted the stage and her vocals filled the room. Her energy made for the utmost memorable performance of the night and she must be praised for her creation of an organic multi-dimensional character. Accompanied by Jordan Parsons and Micaela Predestin (Midnight and Soundtrack #1), the trio always seemed to have a deep understanding of their characters and the dynamic they relayed onto each other. Predestin also deserves recognition for delivering an intriguing and memorable performance while substituting actual lines for the harmony of a violin.

While the audio seemed to have a few issues, such as feedback or complete cutting off of the mics, the actors did a commendable job at projecting and remaining rooted in character. The set was also an interesting take on each distinctive land, and while the transitions in between seemed a bit prolonged, the entire cast’s unity was more than enough to bring you right back into the world of “Pangea”.

Congratulations to Piper High School for creating a thought-provoking production that reminds us of the current socio-economic foundation we all live on.

*** *** ***

By Jaime Happel of J.P. Taravella High School

How would one define “the entire Earth? ” Believe it or not, the Greeks actually have a singular word that does just that: “Pangea.” This word inspired both, meteorologist Alfred Wegener, and Piper High School’s drama department to propose their own theories about a hypothetical supercontinent that they like to call, “Pangea.”

“Pangea The Musical”, featuring book, music, and lyrics by Lamar Hanna, is an original piece that made its debut at Piper High School. The new musical centers around the effects of “the great separation that tore apart the nation,” and emphasizes the importance of embracing our unique qualities. The story follows a teenage boy, devoid of emotion, as he travels through foreign nations of a divided world and discovers the beauty of living authentically. The cast and crew clearly dedicated a lot of time to distinct world building, which not only helped communicate Hanna’s artistic vision, but also guided the audience through their colorful interpretation of the fractured protocontinent.

Malik Williams portrayed the steampunk-inspired Warden of Pangea’s future, Murasaki Gurin, kindly nicknamed Murry. With eccentric energy, Williams commanded the stage and displayed a commendable knack for procuring comedic moments during his performance. Connor Porter depicted #3, Murry’s mundane teenage protégé from the dull nation of Grau. Porter’s monotonous tone and gawky, semi-robotic physicality abetted the development of his character, which served as an effective foil to the other nations’ more colorful citizens.

Daneeva Newland verified that she could live up to Princess Daffodil’s royal status in groovy Giallo, as she showcased her spunky stage presence, eminent engagement and soulful vocals. A profoundly dynamic relationship was built between the Princess and a smooth outcast of cool Azul, named Midnight (Jordan Parsons). The two lovers’ personalities were as similar as day and night, but Newland and Parsons still managed to sweetly exhibit their chemistry, prominently in their duet, “We Found Something”. Soundtrack 1 (Micaela Predestin) typically supported the duo, enhancing each scene, through her skillful, live violin accompaniment.

The Piper Players breathed life into a never-before-seen show, originating characters that were unfamiliar to audience and cast alike – a challenging and impressive feat in itself. Although the cast professionally persisted to perform despite the prevalent microphone issues throughout the production, at times, the intricate plot became difficult to understand. The stylized costumes made great use of color to effectively separate Pangea’s eclectic characters into their respective “nations,” each representative of distinctive cultures and time periods. The constantly changing sets further established the division among nations, and served as an intriguing background for the well-balanced stage pictures that were created; although, these changes often caused lengthy delays between scenes. Also, while sometimes lacking energy and vocal power, the ensemble consistently remained committed to their characters until they exited the stage completely.

The foolish and desperate belief that we need to be surrounded by others exactly like us unjustly separates the world we live in. In times of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to come together and celebrate those that are “not quite normal,” rather than ostracize them. Everyone yearns for acceptance in life, and Piper High School’s production of “Pangea The Musical” proves that “we’d go to the ends of the Earth to find what our hearts are longing for.”

*** *** ***

By Kelly Taylor of American Heritage School

Fusing factions of era’s gone by, “Pangea,” the new original musical, preaches to the world the importance of accepting uniqueness in a society obsessed with what is “normal.” Full of insightful messages and colorful metaphors, the musical pulls rhythm flavors from a variety of seasoned tastes, bringing the jazz of the 1920’s head to head with the groovy chic of the 1960’s. Exploring division through a unique universe full of different peoples, the musical comes complete with the songs of war as much as peace.

Originally debuting at Piper High School on March 12 and 13 of 2020, “Pangea” was written and composed by Lamar Hanna and tells the tragic story of separation that tore apart the planet of Pangea. Alluding to the ancient continent which supposedly made home for all earthly dwelling people before the tectonic and cultural break up, the musical bound pieces of human past into the creation of new races based on the primary colors as well as the plain shape of gray. With the Azul nation hyper obsessed with poetry and the blues, and the Gielo nation hanging loose in their Go-Go boots and flower power, each race is devoted to a particular emotion, or lack of emotion, that all citizens are bound by birth to feel. But, when Murry, a warden of Pangea, pulls peoples of Pangea together in a trip around the continent, four friends born of different blood journey to discover who they are and who they are allowed to be in a world that offers them so little space to be anything but “normal.”

Instantly striking with a domination that made her shine beyond the bright costume, Daneeva Newland, as Princess Daffodil, a resident of the sunny world based on the 60’s, glowed with a vibrant energy that rang true from her comical expressions to her killer vocals. Herself a little ray of sunshine, Newland created a diverse character capable of feeling both the extreme highs of love as well as the biting lows of heartbreak and despair.

Slashing scenes with the sharp, whitty use of her violin, Micaela Predestin, who played Soundtrack 1, contributed to the story with the comedic insertion of her wordless presence into the forefront of attention. With perfect timing and incredible talent, the live musician added a little spice and sparkle to every scene she was in.

With pronounced differences and distinctions separating the characters of each world, the cast put forward a lot of work to build the diverse world of Pangea. Although some of the characters were underdeveloped and lacked a clear cut character arch, the students of Piper High School must be commended for their choices as a whole as they performed without a precedent or standard to look to as these characters were solely of their own creation. Taking on their roles for the first time in a brand new work and production, the level of difficulty was incredibly high even when the standard ceased to exist in the clean slate of the narrative.

Working based on period research to formulate this new world, the costumes managed by Amanda Kerr showcased a wide variety of times and places. Kerr’s design solidified the diversity of Pangea as well as the ingrained differences through the strict adherence to solid colors which marked each society as “abnormal” to the others.

Challenged with a strong message and new material, Piper High School created a fresh face for this new musical.

*** *** ***

By Tai Beasley of Coral Glades High School

Seven continents were once one, split apart by rumbling chaos from deep within: Pangea. Piper High School’s tale, however, is far from this typical school definition. With futuristic travelers, glimpses into past worlds of monochromatic color, and the sassy harmony of a violin, “Pangea” reveals the importance of celebrating uniqueness, lest we become damned by the grayness of conformity.

Making its debut at Piper High School, “Pangea” is an original production by Lamar Hannah. The plot takes a lyrical interpretation of the occurrence of the breakup of continents, as its name suggests. #3, a futuristic character who is troubled by his uniqueness in a gray world, is visited by time traveler Murry, who takes him on a colorful journey to reveal the consequences of not accepting the differences of society. Strolling through the vibrancy of the past, each hued world contains an individual who shares in the feeling of aberrance, and leaves their societal confines to join the journey. When Murry takes the anomalies to Grau, a gray city in absolute war, it becomes clear that without learning from their past disaffection, their condemning future is only destined to repeat. With comedy, romance, and peculiar themes of civilization, Pangea brings a profound message of how creating unity through our nuances can prevent chaos of our worlds.

Lead actor Malik Williams (Murry), portrayed an energetic yet mysterious character with his inflection and physicality. His comedic timing was facilitated by his diction and pace of line delivery, in which other characters lacked. Jordan Parsons (Midnight) solidified the jazzy blue ambiance of his role with his smooth, buttery voice in “Keep it Cool”, and in doing so, stood out from other weaker vocals of the cast. The booming voice of the King of Giallo, played by Justin Dixon, was a groovy and comedic addition.

Stage royalty, actress Daneeva Newland absolutely exceeded expectations in her zesty performance of Princess Daffodil. Her facial expressions and physicality were larger than life, and her intonation perfectly portrayed her energetic and bold character, of which other cast members were insufficient. However, it was Newland’s stunning vocals that won my praise, excelling in melodic tone, rhythm, and strength in numbers such as “Are Ready For The Sunshine”. Her romance with Midnight was successfully conveyed in their chemistry, and their beautiful voices paired well in “We Found Something”. Pachelle McWaynson (Angry Scarlett), brought power and attitude in her physical presence and diction, and created a comedic chemistry in her contrast with timid #3 (Connor Porter). Micaela Predestin (Soundtrack 1), should be commended for her comedic and strong stage presence as a violinist, as she was able to emote without dialogue, using solely her instrument and expression.

The incorporation of instruments added a unique musical element to the production that complimented the plot well. The primary colors of the “past” societal groups contrasted with the gray “future” community, and greatly emphasized and enhanced by detailed set and costume elements. Scene changes, although higher in level of difficulty, were too long in duration and therefore took away from the performance, as did the loss of sound from the constant mic malfunctions. However, the cast continued through any errors and successfully conveyed their story.

Congratulations to Piper High School for their enlightening production of “Pangea”, teaching us that without uniting as one and embracing our differences, life becomes devoid of color.

*** *** ***

Reviews of In The Heights at Palm Beach Central High School on Friday, 3/13/2020.


By Megan Almonte of Monarch High School

The hundreds of stories told on the streets in Washington Heights are ones to remember, especially through the storytelling of Palm Beach Central High School’s  production of “In the Heights”.

“In the Heights” was written by Lin Manuel Miranda in 2005. The show captures the hardships many families would go through in the city of Washington Heights. The story predominantly follows Usnavi De La Vega and his Bodega store, as well as  Nina Rosario and the journey she faces when coming back home from college. The public was able to enjoy the story when it debuted on Broadway in March 2008 through loving songs, energy-filled dances, and more.

Overall, the production of “In the Heights” by Palm Beach Central High School really embodied the fun and energetic ambiance of the show through the challenging dance numbers such as the one in “The Club” and “Carnaval del Barrio. ” The show also encompasses many difficult raps throughout and was well executed considering the difficulty presented. To support the chaotic feel of the production, the set made the audience feel as if it were really taking place in Washington Heights.

To start off the show, we see Emiliano Andrade (Usnavi De La Vega) come out on stage and start his first song with power, energy, and determination. Even with some misarticulation, Andrade was able to stay in character and consistently emote the lyrics of the song in a way that helps the audience understand the story smoothly. Mirroring the energy of Andrade, Paloma Gomez (Nina Rosario), held a very strong internal connection with her character all through the show. Her great vocal delivery was mesmerizing as she told her own story on stage.

The show’s energy was supported through the fun dances and funny aspects of the show. A standout character that embodied the shows chaotic, energetic, comical, and mature spirit is Naomi Ruiz (Daniela). Ruiz had a great understanding of how to balance the comical bits of her character and her mature side, making it easy to have eyes on her every time she walked on stage with the great stage presence she had. Not to mention her beautiful vocal range and control in songs such as the beginning solo in “Carnaval del Barrio” made the audience fall in love with her even more. Matching Ruiz’s great stage presence was Nathaniel Veneziano (Piraguero). Though having little stage time, Veneziano had the audience wanting him on stage once again every time he left. His very loving, fun character was so enrapturing and one to love.

The set design team did a commendable job in recreating the Washington Heights streets. The attention to detail was beautiful, especially in the mural created for Abuela Claudia. The aspect of painting a mural of the actress Ronisha Renous, made the loss of Abuela Claudia feel real and personal.

All in all, Palm Beach Central High School’s production of “In the Heights” was a very heart-warming and fun one to experience.

*** *** ***

By Alexandra Sansone of Cooper City High School

From the black beans and rice to the Cafe con Leche, “promise me you’ll stay” in Washington Heights for Palm Beach Central High School’s production of “In the Heights.”

The Tony award-winning musical “In the Heights” was created by the renowned Lin-Manuel Miranda, known best for his work on “Hamilton. ” Though the show opened on Broadway in 2008, the work of writing the musical started when Miranda was in college 9 years prior. “In the Heights,” tells the story of the people in Washington Heights, New York, over a three day period as they struggle to keep up with the seemingly endless problems life throws their way. With rhythmic music, passionate romances, and big dreams, “In the Heights” is sure to grab everyone’s “Atención.”

Emiliano Andrade in the role of Usnavi De La Vega took to the stage with his smooth movements and high energy performance; this was maintained throughout the entirety of the show. His relationships with everyone on stage were authentic and believable, something that held true for the entirety of his performance. When interacting with Ronisha Renous, who portrayed Abuela Claudia, he was sincere in his distress about her health. Renous returned this concern, not only to Andrade, but to the entire cast as she embodied her character well; a loving grandmother to anyone who should need one.

In Paloma Gomez’s depiction of Nina Rosario, a girl trying to find her way in a world she is certain she can’t figure out, Gomez captured these conflicting emotions well. At various points on stage, Gomez conveyed the confusion, frustration, and pain she clearly felt, whether through a casual conversation or an intense musical number. Lending support to Gomez’s development was Naomi Ruiz as she brought her character, Daniela, to life on stage. Ruiz embodied her character by establishing the maturity of her character possesses and wielded her lines with sass that made their execution all better. Her powerful vocalization was evident in numbers like “Carnaval del Barrio” and “No Me Diga. ”

Though at times the energy given by the cast was inconsistent, the cast as a whole maintained commitment to their characters even when not the focus of the scene. The dancing was strong as everyone moved together to have fun with what they were performing. Despite some vocalists lacking diction, in songs like “Carnaval del Barrio” and “Alabanza, ” the soft harmonies blended together and made for a touching performance.

Movements on and off stage went smoothly and happened quickly. The piecing together of the set was true to the rustic neighborhood the production is paying homage to. The student painted murals were a nice touch that helped bring context to the actors’ locations throughout the show.

As the final bows were taken it was clear that the “Late nights with beans and rice” and the “syrups and shaved ice” is just one part of the community that Palm Beach Central High School’s production of “In the Heights”  has created.

*** *** ***

By Emma Wasserman of Western High School

A lot can happen over the course of three days. Whether it’s returning home as a college dropout, selling your company to pay for your daughter’s education, asking someone out on a date, or losing a loved one, each day can be jam-packed with excitement and tragedy. Palm Beach Central High School’s production of “In The Heights” was a beautiful snapshot into people’s lives.

“In The Heights” features music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes. It opened on Broadway in 2008 and went on to win four Tony awards, including Best Musical. The show, which follows the lives of residents of the mostly Hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights, New York, takes place over the course of just three days. It follows Usnavi De La Vega and Nina Rosario through their lives in the barrio. Nina, who has just returned home from college, and Usnavi, who is determined to chase after the girl of his dreams, watch as stakes build and tensions grow in their small hometown until tragedy strikes.

Leading Man Emiliano Andrade (Usnvai De La Vega) demonstrated excessive skill with his incredibly difficult rap numbers. Every time he entered the stage, his high energy and physicality were impressive.  In every scene his movements and expressions were purposeful and showed clear motivation and intention, thereby creating unique and meaningful relationships with other characters. Paloma Gomez (Nina Rosario) is a highly talented vocalist, engaging multiple parts of her range with ease. Gomez made intelligent subtle acting choices that clearly illustrated to the audience how Nina was feeling. Her reactions were even bigger in Act 2, after learning of Abuela Claudia’s death. The scene between Andrade and Gomez following this revelation was a touching moment.

Naomi Ruiz (Daniela) exhibited excellent comedic timing; every one of her jokes landed, leaving the audience clutching their sides in laughter. Her eccentric energy and intentional character decisions led to the creation of a fully realized and multi-dimensional character. Nathaniel Veneziano (Piragua Guy) managed to create a memorable character in the few moments he was on stage. His vocals were fantastic, and his high energy allowed him to stand out from the crowd.

The ensemble did a fantastic job executing the choreography. Standout performers Emma Grada and Isabella Marshall were exceptional in all of their numbers; not only was their dancing clean and precise, but they also were consistently engaging and stayed in character while dancing. Though the ensemble occasionally struggled with blending vocals, many of the group numbers were collectively strong, especially in Act 2. The cast as a whole struggled with diction, which made it harder to follow the plot of the story, however, this is partly due to the difficult nature of the rap and hip-hop music in the show. However, the ensemble did a phenomenal job with their stage business, always appearing engaged with the story they were telling, adding to the realism of the piece.

Palm Beach Central High School put on an outstanding and touching performance of “In the Heights” that reminded the audience to cherish every day.

*** *** ***

By Daniel Calderon of Somerset Academy Charter School

“It’s a story of a block that was disappearing. Un barrio called Washing Heights. The streets were made of music.” Palm Beach Central High School’s production of “In the Heights” was an awesome rendition of this contemporary musical.

With music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, “In the Heights” depicts all the members of the hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights. Following Usnavi’s life with his bodega, his love for Vanessa, and his dreams of moving to the Dominican Republic, coupled with Nina who left the neighborhood for Stanford University but has come back to her family after trouble occurred. These two distinct storylines are interwoven together to demonstrate the interconnectedness of this small community. Making its Broadway debut in 2008, this musical incorporated hip-hop, rap, and latin elements into its score making it a pioneer in the new wave of contemporary musical theatre.

Playing the small bodega owner Usnavi de la Vega, Emiliano Andrade showed great skill with his fully developed and different relationships with each resident of his community. Andrade was connected with his characters’ intention and motivation and with his strong physicality and eccentric energy added to the believability of his character. Paloma Gomez, playing Nina Rosario, did an amazing job at portraying the emotional complexities of her character and had some stellar vocal moments throughout the production, like in the song “Breathe.”

The Rosario family dynamic was successfully executed, showing the hardships and sacrifices one does for family. Including Paloma Gomez as Nina Rosario, Chayse Rivera as Kevin Rosario, and Caitlin Ocasio as Camila Rosario, together they had amazing chemistry and genuine interaction and emotions as actors, which demonstrated maturity of the actors. Playing the Salon owner Daniela, Naomi Ruiz who showed commendable skill encompassing her mature character’s mother-like persona and gossipy nature, adding layers to her characterization. Added with her fully developed relationships with each character, Ruiz brought light to the production. Ruiz demonstrated exemplary command of her vocal quality and the stylistic elements of the score, exemplifying in the musical number “Carnaval del Barrio. ”

The ensemble as a whole did an amazing job of staying present in the scenes and working together, although at times the diction throughout the show was muddy and unclear. The ensemble made up for it by telling the story through their bodies and physicality. They executed difficult choreography in musical numbers like “The Club” making it seem effortless and enjoyable on stage. Although sometimes the ensemble lacked build up in their scenes, they came together in “Alabanza” demonstrating beautiful vocals and emotional quality.

The technical aspects of the show were effective in giving a sense of community. The set designed by Sonya Smith was excellent, incorporating different levels and dynamics into the scenes but also giving off that New York barrio stylistic feel. The show did a great job with their props and costumes, adding to the realistic aspect of the narrative.

Palm Beach Central High School’s production of “In the Heights”  was a great rendition of this musical, leaving you with a sense of family and community.

*** *** ***

By Leah Tomas of J.P. Taravella High School

Lights up on Palm Beach Central High School’s production of “In the Heights!”  Join the cast and crew for a story depicting the value of community in times of strife, and the ways in which hope can illuminate even the darkest city streets during a blackout.

With a book written by Quiara Alegría Hudes underscored by music and lyrics composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “In the Heights”  opened on Broadway in 2008 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, receiving thirteen Tony Award nominations and winning four. The story follows Usnavi De La Vega, a shopkeeper in Washington Heights, a diverse, culture-packed neighborhood in New York City. From the window of his bodega, Usnavi witnesses the hardships faced by his friends as businesses close under the pressure of rising rents, dreams of achieving a higher education are met with the crushing weight of financial disadvantage, and the possibility of winning the lottery inspires hope in locals with dreams of one day breaking free from “the Barrio. ”

Emiliano Andrade (Usnavi) led the production with unwavering energy and made excellent use of physicality to convey the emotions and enthusiasm of his character in addition to establishing an authentic familial relationship with Angelo Del Valle (Sonny). Paloma Gomez (Nina Rosario) demonstrated immense vocal clarity and control along with beautiful tonal quality and diction throughout her performance.

Sharline Belliard (Vanessa) displayed strong characterization and dance ability alongside strong chemistry with Andrade, while Jonathan Cadelus (Benny) demonstrated consistent character choices and energy. Ronisha Renous (Abuela Claudia) convincingly portrayed an older character with ease through her effective use of physicality and vocal inflections, and proved to be a talented vocalist. Naomi Ruiz (Daniela) commanded the stage with clear confidence and powerful vocals. She effortlessly captured the maturity and sass of her character while conveying a subtle maternal disposition.

Chayse Rivera (Kevin Rosario) and Caitlin Ocasio (Camila Rosario) displayed evident individual character development along with an authentic family dynamic. Isabella Marshall (Graffiti Pete) and Nathaniel Veneziano (Piragua Guy) illustrated clear commitment to their characters, boundless energy, and sharp execution of choreography in addition to flawless execution of comedic moments throughout the production. Although energy and diction fluctuated at times in addition to minor difficulties managing the difficult vocal score, the ensemble as a whole did a phenomenal job bringing the city to life through their consistent energy and engagement in the story.

The technical elements of this production were outstanding. Beautiful set pieces were completely functional and established the location well in addition to creating onstage levels, and the use of creative and complex lighting alongside appropriate costuming effectively facilitated onstage storytelling.

Palm Beach Central High School’s production of “In the Heights” combines latin rhythms and modern hip-hop to recreate of one of New York City’s infamous neighborhoods, where the streets are alive with a rich culture wafting from the windows of dilapidated apartment buildings and echoing in the footsteps of those in search of new opportunities.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Sister Act at West Boca High School on Thursday, 3/12/2020.


By Alan Halaly of Deerfield Beach High School

Bust out your sequined tunics and diamond-studded rosaries! Sister Mary Clarence and her disco-loving nun choir are in town! Trust me, you’ve never seen a church choir this groovy. Full of laughs, poignant messages about the importance of sisterhood, and music that makes you want to boogie, West Boca High School’s angelic production of “Sister Act” will have you on your feet.

Debuting at the Pasadena Playhouse, the show is based on the film of the same name. The 2011 Broadway production was produced by the original movie’s star, Whoopie Goldberg, and racked up five Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. When boisterous lounge singer Dolores Van Cartier witnesses her mafia boyfriend Curtis shoot a man in the head, she heads straight for the police station. The peril comes when she discovers that her court date was delayed a year. Dolores is forced into witness protection and is put somewhere nobody, who knew Dolores, would ever think to look — a convent.

Leading lady Maya Petrie as Dolores Van Cartier was a marvel to watch as she gave the audience a masterclass on powerhouse vocals and comedic timing. Her character arc was deftly crafted and presented, as Dolores matured and bonded with her sisters. Alongside her was holier-than-thou Mother Superior played by Jessica Balton, whose attention to detail in her cynical characterization elevated the hilarity in her pessimism while also maintaining superior vocal quality. The nuanced progression of their relationship was brilliantly executed as both characters came to realize they were not so different after all.

Desir Dejueste’s charming awkwardness as the rookie police officer Eddie was a wonderful contrast to Dolores’ audaciousness. His solo “I Could Be That Guy” showcased his range vocally, and he had a terrific character transition from being shy to spontaneous. He exhibited professionalism when his costume malfunctioned in a dance-heavy number and he did not miss a beat. Similarly there was Sister Mary Roberts, played by Brianna Quackenbush, whose expert solo “The Life I Never Led” perfectly communicated her newfound hunger for life. As a whole, the Queen of Angels Church Choir was stunning to watch in their electrifying group numbers such as “Raise Your Voice”. They all had very distinct characters despite only having one or two solo lines in select songs.
Arguably the most impressive feature of the show was the special effects, as a student-led team constructed massive stained glass windows and a steeple that represented the church locale. The result blended an array of jewel tones magnificently. The stage management team also deserves high praise as not a single cue was missed, and despite there being multiple fly pieces, the scene changes were seamless.

West Boca High School’s divine production of “Sister Act” delivers on all fronts, complete with a wonderful balance of humor and heart that work together in harmony. Just as Dolores announced in her debut performance with the nun choir, this show certainly puts the “sis” in Genesis…and did it flawlessly.

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of J.P. Taravella High School

Hidden within the dull walls of a run-down convent, disco diva, Deloris Van Cartier, longs for her old life in the spotlight. When the lack of men, bars, and glitz becomes too much to bear, Deloris brings the sparkle to the steeple as she transforms the clashing choir to the spirited sunday service entertainment. West Boca High School’s vibrant production of “Sister Act” follows Deloris as she helps her sisters find their sound while she reclaims her own.

With a book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Glenn Slater, “Sister Act” centers around an aspiring performer, Deloris Van Cartier, on her journey to find her future. After she witnesses a murder by her gangster boyfriend Curtis, the police send Deloris to a covent, where she will be hidden until Curtis’ trial. Based on the film of the same name, the “divine musical comedy” tells the story of Deloris’ transition to her alternate life as a nun as she brings the gospel glamour to save the church’s impending closing.

Portraying the larger-than-life Deloris Van Cartier, Maya Petrie demanded the stage with her powerful vocals and impressive range. Petrie’s expressive facials, stellar characterization, and unwavering energy created an animated and engaging performance. Combating Deloris’ free spirit with her restrictive rules, the firm yet fair, Mother Superior was embodied by Jessica Balton. With her clear articulation and stunning vocalization, Balton truly captured the essence of her demanding role. She presented an explicit understanding behind each line, aiding her impeccable comedic timing. The pair developed an authentic relationship with a captivating progression throughout the production

Sister Mary Robert, the timid and youngest member of the convent, was portrayed by Brianna Quackenbush. Quackenbush presented an intriguing progression of her character’s significant development accompanied by the marvelous tone of her voice. The eldest of the sisters, Sister Mary Theresa, was embodied by Melody Burrage. Burrage stood out amongst the ensemble in every scene due to her outstanding sense of comedy and consistent elderly voice and physicality.

The diverse characterizations and liveliness of the ensemble brought an infectious energy to the production. The large number of company members filled the stage with enthusiasm yet never created traffic issues. The ensemble also displayed commanding vocals and beautiful harmonies.

The perfectly executed technical aspects of the production helped depict the drab, crumbling convent to the liveliness and vibrancy after its renovation. The vitality of the choir’s theatrical performances were conveyed through the rich coloring of the lighting including the brilliant stained glass windows. The costumes were perfectly fitting for the ’70’s time period, as well as each character’s persona.

Infected with the chapel charm, West Boca High School’s thrilling production of “Sister Act” will surely “Spread The Love Around.” So groove and rejoice as the Queen of Angels present the true spirit of sisterhood and everlasting power of friendship.

*** *** ***

By Alex Scaff of The Sagemont School

The appealing allure of stardom is often the most desperately desired temptation of all. However, as an individual begins to uncover the importance of faith and the untapped potential of an undying friendship, they are led to the pivotal question: what are we truly left with when the dazzling sparkle of fame’s glitz, glam, and glory goes out? “This whole new world of truth comes to light,” as West Boca High School’s praiseworthy production of “Sister Act”  illustrates a fun and fabulous tale of the everlasting bond of sisterhood, making you want to “Raise Your Voice” for more.

Based on the 1992 hit movie of the same name, “Sister Act” made its 2006 regional premiere in Pasadena, California, with a sensationally soulful score composed by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, and a heartfelt book written by Bill Steinkellner, Cheri Steinkellner, and Douglas Carter Beane. The feel-good comedy follows aspiring singer Deloris Van Cartier, as she struggles to find her footing in the less than ideal predicament she has accidentally found herself in. Witnessing her recent ex-boyfriend murdering one of his own cronies, Deloris is sent to a covenant for hiding and must learn to comply with the rigidity and devotion of nunhood.

Leading the production as the expressive and exuberant Deloris Van Cartier, Maya Petrie delivered a remarkable performance with powerhouse vocals, becoming the primary driving force of this uplifting musical. Paired with the endearing Eddie, portrayed by Desir Dejueste, whose clear character evolution to a courageous and protective police officer, made for an incredibly charming relationship with Petrie. A relationship characterized by an authentic chemistry.

Contrasting Petrie’s entertaining liveliness, was Jessica Balton as the strict Mother Superior. Balton’s impeccable vocal control, featured in her captivating musical number, “I Haven’t Got A Prayer,” gave us a complete understanding of her purpose within the story, demonstrating a mature sense of professionalism highlighted in her memorable performance.

Acting as the essential foundation of the production, the nun ensemble provided a spirited energy through their highly distinct characters, specifically shown in their show-stopping group numbers, “Take Me To Heaven (Nun Choir)” and “Sunday Morning Fever.” Although performing as a beautifully cohesive unit with excessive amounts of talent, Brianna Quackenbush’s evident character arch and outstanding vocal technique as Sister Mary Robert, Angelina Buck’s precise comedic timing as Sister Mary Lazarus, and Melody Burrage’s humourous characterization as Sister Mary Theresa, notably stood out as undoubtedly exceptional.

Aside from minor diction inconsistencies, the cast as a whole did a phenomenal job with the grandeur of the piece. Their exquisite harmonies, gorgeous vocal blend, and bold acting choices, allowed for extremely enjoyable characters. Technically, the production exhibited extravagant costumes that heightened the spectacle of the musical, commendable special effects that furthered the progression of the story, and efficient stage management that facilitated smooth scene transitions. All of which elevated the performance’s overall production value.

“There are no words” to effectively describe the engaging music, animated movement, and heartwarming camaraderie of this nearly flawless production. So “take the hint,” and come on down to West Boca High School’s powerful performance of “Sister Act.”

*** *** ***

By Cameron Appel of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

When a holy and dignified convent is invaded by a shelter seeking singer who embodies everything that a convent would condemn, it would be assumed that havoc should therefore ensue. Although glitter and glamour is not typically accepted in the presence of nuns, West Boca Drama Department teaches people not to judge a book by its cover in its hilarious and spirited production of “Sister Act”.

Adapted from the 1992 hit movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, “Sister Act”  follows the journey of fame seeking singer Deloris Van Cartier. After witnessing her mafioso boyfriend Curtis commit murder, Deloris seeks shelter in the most unexpected of places, a convent. As she tries her best to fit in with her new found sisters, she finds herself actually bonding with them. Deloris then teaches them the ins and outs of singing.

Maya Petrie performed incomparably as the leading role of Deloris Van Cartier. Between her dynamic vocals and distinct physicality, Petrie was able to capture the engaging arc of Deloris, allowing a genuine connection to form between her and other characters. Petrie’s bubbly energy and comedic timing aided her entire performance which magnificently shined  in the numbers “Take Me To Heaven” and “Raise Your Voice”. In addition to Petrie’s outstanding performance, Desir Dejueste depicted the delightfully awkward policeman Eddie. Dejueste’s unparalleled energy found himself at the spotlight of the stage, commanding the song “I Could Be That Guy”.

Other roles worth noting include Mother Superior, who was effortlessly portrayed by Jessica Balton. Through her tremendous vocals she was able to convey the multidimensional personality that is Mother Superior, unveiling her seriousness until eventually her genuine heart was displayed. Sister Mary Robert, played by Brianna Quackenbush, was also able to showcase her extraordinary vocal talent, most notably in the song “Raise Your Voice”. In a more broad light, the ensemble of nuns added individualized characters and comedy consistently throughout the performance. Shining physically as well as vocally, the ensemble brought a sense of completeness to the production each in their own unique manner.

The performance’s technical aspects were also completed with incredible expertise. Special effects (Amy Vitagliano, Liam Kline, and Scott Etzi) lit the stage completely through practical and fitting LED stained glass windows. These customizable lights matched the tone of the scenes, from the blue and red lights in the police station to the spinning flashes of the Disco numbers. The Sister Act Orchestra, consisting of thirteen skilled students and three adults, maintained the fast paced liveliness of the show with little to no flaws despite abundant and challenging songs.

West Boca Drama Department’s nearly professional production of “Sister Act”  displayed the heartwarming yet comical tale of women uniting through the commonality of music. Although differences may persevere, the true purpose of coming together is to create light in the darkest of situations and innately “Spread The Love Around”.

*** *** ***

By Abbey Alder of Calvary Christian Academy

Get ready to rock in the pews of the Queen of Angels Church in South Philly, where Deloris Van Cartier “put the ‘sis’ back in Genesis.” West Boca High School’s uplifting production of the musical, “Sister Act” inspired audiences to follow their dreams and be, “Fabulous, Baby!”

The stage musical, “Sister Act,” was based on the 1992 comedic film of the same name. With toe-tapping music by Alan Menken, combined with the catchy lyrics of Glenn Slater. Cheri and Bill Steinkellner wrote the book, which Douglas Carter Beane later revised. “Sister Act” had its musical debut in 2006 at the Pasadena Playhouse, premiered in London’s West End in 2009, and opened on Broadway in 2011. The musical follows aspiring singer, Deloris Van Cartier, who has the misfortune of accidentally witnessing a murder committed by her mobster boyfriend, Curtis Jackson. After Deloris reports the crime to the police, she is placed in protective custody in the last place anyone would ever look for her – surrounded by nuns in a convent. Vibrant and outspoken, Deloris’s unfitting behavior causes friction with Mother Superior. Deloris eventually tries to conform for her safety and realizes that she may have more of a mission at the church than she anticipated.

Producing a “sound that turns your soul around,” Maya Petrie (Deloris Van Cartier/Clarence) commanded the stage with her powerhouse performance. Building on her characterization, Petrie reached heavenly heights in the second act. Given the vocally demanding score, Petrie made it clear she was a “diva, goddess and star on the brink.” Embodying the reserved head of the convent with captivating vocals and grace, Jessica Balton (Mother Superior) gave the perfect contrast and genuineness to the role.

Conveying an authentic rapport with each other were Alec Schwartz (Curtis Jackson) and his band of thugs, garnering laughs from their very first number, “When I Find My Baby.” Other standouts were Brianna Quakenbush (Sister Mary Robert), whose vocals bloomed from her wallflower character, and Melody Burrage (Sister Mary Theresa), who chose impeccable comedic timing. The ensemble of lively nuns embraced their sense of community while still demonstrating their individuality. In “Sunday Morning Fever,” the ensemble performed with spunk and synchronization. There was a noticeable improvement in the ensemble’s diction in the second act. Whether the scene called for comedic relief or a heartfelt moment, the cast exhibited a thorough understanding of the context.

The various technical elements achieved the groovy 1970’s atmosphere, and the orchestra maintained the production’s high-energy. The special effects team of Amy Vitagliano, Liam Kline, and Scott Etzi created and programmed LED panels to emit a stained glass effect. Although, at times, the reason for the unlit panels seemed unclear. When all were lit, the result was stunning.

Experience the power of friendship, the bond of sisterhood, and feel your spirit move in West Boca High School’s production of “Sister Act.” Real connections are a divine gift, so remember to “Spread The Love Around.”

*** *** ***

Reviews of Rock of Ages at Cypress Bay High School on Thursday, 3/12/2020.


By Reese Abrahamoff of Cooper City High School

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Cypress Bay High School’s “Rock of Ages.” You are invited to an evening of hardcore dancing, heavy metal numbers, and the glamour of the 1980s. Remember, silence all electronic devices and please refrain from exiting the theater once the show has begun ….”oh, and prepare to have your face melted!”

Written by Chris D’Arienzo, the show began rocking Broadway in 2009. Closing six years later, this jukebox musical acquired the title of one of the longest-running productions in history, obtaining five Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical. And now…we begin. The lights? Dimmed. The crowd? Enthralled. As the curtain comes up, the stage is set for the story of Drew Boley, an underappreciated busboy with rockstar dreams. Enter small-town girl Sherrie Christian. Seeking fame and stardom, she finds herself on the streets of sunny Los Angeles in desperate need of work. When the two strangers meet, we are taken through a journey of love and regret bringing us back to a time where rock music was just as big as the freshly teased and heavily sprayed hair of the 80s.

Daniel Parilli starred as the mistreated and bashful Drew Boley. Parilli’s versatile voice was quite remarkable. His polished sound and extensive range added depth to his character’s true desires, which was impressive given the score’s difficulty. Kathleen Valent played Sherrie Christian, the aspiring, yet failing, actress. Both Parilli and Valent excelled in portraying an awkward, yet adorable, relationship. The pair remained consistent and engaging, letting their inevitable transition from friends to lovers to be both heartwarming and enjoyable. Narrating the show was Alejandro Rodriguez (Lonny). With non-stop energy and bold character choices, Rodriguez always livened the stage, inducing bursts of laughter from the audience.

With strong belts and clear motives, Natalie Medina certainly got her point across as the vibrant, protesting hippie, Regina. The commitment to her character was evident, performing with both certainty and vigor. Roy De Oliveira was entertaining in his role of Franz, son of the overbearing businesswoman, Hilda (Christine Marine). Maintaining a crisp German accent along with displaying noticeable dance training, De Oliveira captured the hearts of the audience, especially in his show-stopping number, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”

Displaying powerful vocals and distinct characterization, the ensemble showed strong commitment to their roles. Despite a lack of facial expressions and synchronized choreography, the ensemble’s placement, combined with the surround sound effect of their voices, added an intricate layer to the production. The show’s technical elements were nicely executed. The lighting enhanced the mood of each scene and the hair and makeup team proved great attention to detail with their classic styles and colorful looks, adding a degree of believability to the production.

“Dude, are we already at the end? Yeah, jazz hands!” As the actors leave the stage and the applause dwindles down, the idea of hope still lingers through the crowd. Cypress Bay High School’s “Rock of Ages” leaves the audience with one thought: just because the dreams you start with aren’t always the dreams you end with, it doesn’t mean they don’t still rock!

*** *** ***

By Nicole Sugarman of J.P. Taravella High School

Will a band of rockers, a “small-town girl, ” and a “city boy” be able to save the Rock n’ Roll history of the Sunset Strip? The answer lies in the powerful anthems of the Styx, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Journey, and more bangin’ 1980’s fan favorites. Cypress Bay High School’s electrifying production of “Rock of Ages” transports us to a decade of decadence, dreams, and debauchery for a night of good-hearted goofiness and head-banging smash hits!

“Rock of Ages,” written by Chris D’Arienzo, is a hair-raising jukebox musical featuring classic rock hits of the 1980s. Opening on Broadway in 2009, “Rock of Ages,” is set in 1987 on L.A.’s notorious Sunset Strip, follows Sherrie (Kathleen Valent) and Drew (Daniel Parilli), two dream-chasing rockers. Their rocky romance is underscored by the threat of a climbing tax bill and German developers with plans to renovate the Strip. “Rock of Ages” explores the struggles of striving for stardom and the power of a punch-packing melody.

Parilli’s portrayal of Drew, the good-guy awaiting his rise to rock fame, was powered by his chilling and consistent voice, as well as his boyish charm. Valent captured Sherrie’s fresh-faced sweetness and adjustment to the wild world of rock with her beautiful voice and evident emotional involvement. Parilli and Valent displayed adorable and believable chemistry, fueling the classic musical love story. Playing Lonny, the vibrant narrator, and employee of the Bourbon Room, Alejandro Rodriguez was extremely captivating and animated. His impressive comedic timing, unabashed commitment, and remarkable vocals brought the charming show to life.

Jake Fretwell, playing rock star, Stacee Jaxx, captured the star’s overconfident attitude through his physicality and 80s vocal rasp. Natalie Medina, portraying the aggressive protester, Regina, displayed an intense emotional commitment to her cause and phenomenal vocal ability. Hilda and her son Franz, the German mother and son trying to clean up the Strip, were played by Christine Marine and Roy De Oliveira, respectively. Their consistent accents, soaring energy, and outstanding comedic timing functioned to create distinctly bold characters.

The ensemble exhibited individual character choices and unwavering involvement in the present action onstage. While the integration of the cast into the audience helped immensely to create an awesome surround sound feel, it was often difficult to hear. Any occasional falter in energy was made up for by the ensemble’s appearance of having a blast at all times. The ensemble’s commitment contributed immensely to the feel-good nature of the show.

The costumes, hair, and makeup helped to establish the iconic era and develop characterization. While the lighting was often incredibly effective in establishing the mood, it was occasionally difficult to know where the action was on stage due to the number of performers present. The detailed set functioned to capture the rock vibes of the legendary location.

If you “don’t need nothin’ but a good time,” look no further. Cypress Bay High School’s exhilarating production of “Rock of Ages” revealed the need to write your own destiny and unveiled the intoxicating power of a little Rock n’ Roll!.

*** *** ***

By Bailey Busher of NSU University School

The 1980’s. The era that every teenager’s parents call “The Good ’Ole Days”. When one walks into Cypress Bay High School’s theater, they themselves fall into those good ’ole days and experience a story about following dreams that everyone can relate to.

“Rock of Ages”, written by Chris D’Arienzo, was first performed in 2005 in Los Angeles, the inspiration for the musical. It then moved to Broadway in 2009 until its closing in 2015. “Rock of Ages” follows a wanna-be rockstar, Drew, and a small town aspiring  actress, Sherrie, in 1980’s Los Angeles. “Rock of Ages” shows how one can overcome heartbreak, broken dreams, and gentrification through the best songs of the 80s.

Cypress Bay High School’s performance of “Rock of Ages” was brought to life through the help of the ensemble. Their commitment and strong vocals added to the feel and story of the show overall. The ensemble maintained their characters and created a believable environment in the background of the scenes. The entire cast seemed to enjoy every moment they were on stage, making the performance delightful for the audience to watch.

The leading man of the show, Drew, played by Daniel Parilli, demonstrated strong vocals despite the difficult range of the songs. The chemistry between him and Sherrie, played by Kathleen Valent, was terrifically awkward and delightful to see develop. Alejandro Rodriguez, who played Lonny, created an animated character that could stand out in the crowd. His interactions with the cast made the audience laugh, but he was especially at his best in his duet with Thomas Ince, who played The Bourbon Room’s owner, Dennis. Their show-stopping duet, “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” demonstrated both their amazing vocals and comedic timing.

Roy De Oliveira delivered a great supporting performance as Franz and showed off his amazing dance technique and energy in the upbeat and entertaining song, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. This song also displayed the talents of Regina, played by Natalie Medina, by presenting her clear and strong vocal technique that was held throughout the show. Another admirable performance was given by Jake Fretwell, who played the narcissistic rockstar Stacee Jaxx. Fretwell’s commitment and character work made for a great antagonist. Although the ensemble was not in unison during some dance numbers and the energy could be lacking at times, they made up for it with fantastic numbers such as the finale “Don’t Stop Believing”.

All technical aspects of the show helped with the environment and didn’t distract from the actors. To maintain the fun nature of the show, Ashley Valent and Katie Kanefsky created entertaining choreography that even brought the cast into the audience multiple times to keep the theme of breaking the fourth wall. Valent and Kanefsky’s choreography was well done despite multiple challenges they faced in the rehearsal process. The hair and makeup was executed beautifully with lively glitter on the ensemble, but it could have been more time period appropriate.

Cypress Bay High School’s performance of “Rock of Ages” was entertaining and enjoyable for all who saw it and shone light upon issues in the 1980s that are still present to this day.  It tells a story of love, dreams, and rock-n-roll that can be reflected in modern day lessons. “Rock of Ages” teaches everyone to never stop believing.

*** *** ***

By Rachel Goldberg of Cooper City High School

Flashing lights, deafening music, and huge hairstyles are all characteristic of “The Reagan Era” But beneath the “Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll” you’ll find deep-rooted passion, love, and some really great music. These three qualities not only signified the 80’s but they were also embodied in Cypress Bay’s wild production of “Rock of Ages.”

Built around classic rock songs from the 1980s, “Rock of Ages” was written by Chris D’Arienzo and features songs from artists such as Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Journey, and more. The show premiered on Broadway in 2009 and is known for its open interaction with the audience (also known as breaking the fourth wall). The musical tells the story of Drew, a busboy with dreams of rock-n-roll stardom, and Sherrie, a small-town girl trying to make it big as an actress. The two struggle to pursue their dreams against the odds while the Sunset Strip is threatened by demolishment and the dreams of a German real-estate developer. In the end, they all realize the importance of pursuing their dreams, even if those dreams change along the way.

A nice, warm, melt-your-face-off greeting from narrator Lonny (Alejandro Rodriguez) opened the show on a high note. Rodriguez commanded focus and also laughter; his formidable vocals, high energy performance, and comedic timing allowed for a fantastic performance. With a shy personality but a rocker’s voice, Drew was portrayed by Daniel Parilli. Parilli’s stunning vocals and awkward characterization made for a phenomenal performance, most notably when with love interest Sherrie (Kathleen Valent). Valant’s smooth and sweet vocals allowed her to convey her character’s emotions while in song. Together, Valent and Parilli’s chemistry only grew throughout the performance.

Roy De Oliveira was a brilliant Franz. He showed a clear commitment to the young boy caught between his mother’s “clean living” and his newfound love for a protestor of her cause. De Oliveira had endless energy and impeccable comedic timing. His abilities in dance stole the show and throughout his standout performance, he managed to keep a consistent accent and characterization. By his side with a sign in her hand, protestor Regina was played by Natalie Medina. Medina’s beautiful voice and clear character added heart and authenticity to the performance.

Overall, the cast showcased beautiful harmonies as well as mastering the high’s and low’s of the 80’s music. The ensemble did a great job in creating their own characters, most notable were Amelia Coventry as Ambrosia and Ashley Valent as Sapphire. Despite simple choreography, the dancers were consistent in their execution and all shared chemistry onstage.

The technical elements of this production showed great attention to detail; specifically, lighting and costumes. Although makeup and hair did not always match the time period, the lighting crew had a clear understanding of the show and its music, for example, dimming the lights when actors whispered to create a hushed environment.

“The Search is Over”; Cypress Bay High School’s production of “Rock of Ages” represents the dreams of each and every individual, teaching us to rock out, “Feel the Noise,” and never stop believing!

*** *** ***

By Emma Wasserman of Western high school

“The Search is Over” for a musical that will leave you laughing until your ribs hurt, while also leaving you touched by its honest sincerity. Cypress Bay High School’s performance of “Rock Of Ages” was certainly “Nothing But A Good Time.”

Rock of Ages, written by Chris D’Arienzo, is a jukebox musical featuring rock songs from the 1980’s. The show, which opened on Broadway in 2009, follows wannabe rock star Drew and wishful actress Sherrie trying to make it in Hollywood. Simultaneously, it examines how the mayor’s unilateral decision to rid the city of rock and roll and demolish the Sunset Strip and The Bourbon Room, affects others in the community.

Leading the show, Daniel Parilli’s portrayal of his character, Drew, was excellent and engrossing. His acting was completely genuine and his motivations seemed definitively clear and understandable to the audience. Though some actors made inconsistent character choices, Parilli in no way demonstrated this problem. He was also quite inspiring when singing the musical score which, considering its difficulty, is a very impressive feat. His opposite, Ashley Valent (Sherrie) not only excelled with the music, but exemplified a superbly done character arc. The chemistry between Parilli and Valent was palpable, and their relationship was tangible from the first moment they were on stage together. Parilli’s realistic portrayal of Drew’s smitten awkwardness and Valant’s commitment to her character made this relationship feel very realistic and endearing.

Alejandro Rodriguez (Lonny) performed a difficult role expertly, with fabulous comedic timing and appropriately hysterical characterization. He commanded the stage whenever he appeared, and his singing voice was exciting and impassioned. His acting and vocal skills combined exceptionally well with his  duet partner Thomas Ince (Dennis) in “I Can’t Fight This Feeling.”

Natalie Medina (Regina) and Roy De Oliveira (Franz) were both standout performers in their own right, also exhibiting a strong magnetism on stage. Medina’s depiction of a woman determined to save her town was evident in all of her scenes. Additionally, De Oliveira’s high energy, fantastic characterization, and consistent accent made him a highlight to watch in all of his scenes.

Though the ensemble occasionally dropped lyrics or seemed languid, they executed the choreography skillfully and always remained somewhat animated onstage, even when not the focus of the scene. However, dancer Ashley Valent was an eye-catching performer in both solo dances and group numbers. Her flawless technique and energetic demeanor were much appreciated by the entire crowd.

Though the set designers seemed to be going for an industrial feel, not all of their set pieces matched this theme. However, the pieces they constructed not only seemed to be well-made, but also looked fitting on stage. The lighting design, done by Brianna Cordoves, was excellent. She paid attention to detail and certain scenes, specifically the flickering lights as Sherrie finds the Venus Go Go Club, were beautiful moments.

Cypress Bay High School put on a splendid production packed with tremendous acting and stellar vocals; this show was truly a sight to see. The memorable characters and songs led to a show that had the audience remembering how important it is that they “Don’t Stop Believing.”

*** *** ***

Reviews of Luna Gale at Pompano Beach High School on Wednesday, 3/11/2020.


By Emma Sugarman of J.P. Taravella High School

A question of moral judgement. Amidst a vicious custody battle, who should be granted guardianship of an innocent baby? Each scene reaches new heights as Luna Gale’s universe is spiraling with disorder and disarray. Pompano Beach High School’s captivating production of “Luna Gale” will leave you trudging through society’s endless complexities as the battle of hope and despair persists.

Written by Rebecca Gilman, this powerful production follows two drug-abusing teenagers, their vulnerable baby, an evangelical grandmother, and a passionate social worker. Premiering at the Goodman Theatre in 2014, the touching tale addresses mature content including religion, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, and drug overuse. As the parents battle rehabilitation and the grandmother feels dismissed due to her religious beliefs, they all pine for custody of title character “Luna Gale”. The social worker’s heightened emotional entanglement in her cases leads to personal realizations peaking through each file.

Leading the show with her astounding performance, La’Kennya Huggins guided the story with her clear perspective of her character’s intertwining subplots. Portraying the seasoned and compassionate social worker, Caroline, Huggins maintained an engaging energy throughout the entirety of her performance. Her seamless incorporation of comedy within the otherwise heavy content was exceptional. As her character is faced with increasing emotional fatigue, Huggins impeccably displayed the progression of her impending “burnout”.

Embodying Luna Gale’s 19-year-old mother, Karli, Audrey Maggio aided the depiction of this harsh reality through her authentic performance.  Maggio presented expressive facials and a clear understanding of her character’s hardships. Alfonse Mazzarella, portraying Peter, the father of the baby, added a lighter and energized spirit contrasting the darker tone of Karli’s nature. Showcasing clear articulation and strong characterization with effortless comedic moments, Mazzarella captured the dynamic quality of his role. Additionally, Maggio and Mazzarella also took on the responsibility of directing the show. The pair did a commendable job capturing the sensitivity of the mature themes and undoubtedly balanced both of their demanding responsibilities.

The cast of this production showcased the severity of the show with their explicit understanding of the magnitude of their lines. Although some actors’ diction and projection caused the loss of some plot points and the pacing of the show was periodically inconsistent, any faults were remedied by the cast’s commitment to their roles and genuine line delivery.

The story may follow the estrangement of these characters, however, the technical crew clearly worked as a unified group to simulate the depths of this unfortunately, all too real world. Despite the slightly prolonged scene transitions, the set crew worked efficiently, and the underscoring helped to maintain the somber environment. The effective use of set, props, and costumes remained period appropriate and helped depict the play’s realism.

As the tale uncovers the typically hidden faults of society, we turn to the treasured adage “love conquers all” as a glimmer of hope. Through the entwinement of prejudices, traumatic pasts, and impossible decisions, Pompano Beach High School’s heart-wrenching production of “Luna Gale”  will test the true strength of this cherished phrase.

*** *** ***

By Avery Anger of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

A loud silence creeps over the forlorn hospital waiting room where a young, restless teenage couple snacks on the remains of their Skittles. Eventually, a social worker enters the cold, dull room to deliver the information the pair is so anxiously awaiting; the health of their baby daughter…or so they think. In an instant, their world crashes down, for they learn that their young daughter, Luna Gale, is to be taken away and placed in kinship care. Luna Gale, the title of Pompano Beach High School’s impassioned production, exposes the painful, raw reality of drug addiction, sexual abuse, and the overcrowded social welfare system.

Penned by award-winning playwright Rebecca Gilman, Luna Gale tells the tragic story of two recovering teenage meth addicts, Karli and Peter, and the fight to win custody of their beloved daughter through the eyes of a seasoned social worker, Caroline. While she juggles a fatiguing job, an arrogant boss, and other tribulations, the crude, traumatizing nature of Caroline’s past emerges, as does the eerily similar background of Karli. Together, Caroline and the couple work to uncover the unsettling secrets of Karli’s life, all while assuring the safety of Luna Gale.

Leading the show with her thoughtful body language was La’Kennya Huggins as Caroline. Huggins’ commitment to character truly deepened the essence of reality throughout the performance, as evidenced through her intense, yet skillful, character progression. Huggins’ persona interacted with many individuals on stage, including her overbearing boss, Cliff, portrayed by Riley Dion. Higgins and Dion’s strained relationship was clearly expressed through their accurate and dynamic facial expressions in the more tense scenes they shared together.

Depicting the angsty, drug addicted, teenage couple was Audrey Maggio and Alfonse Mazzarella as Karli and Peter. The pair seemed very in tune with each other on stage, enhancing the complexity of their chemistry and the believability factor of the production. Individually, Maggio and Mazzarella superbly communicated the disposition of their respective characters. Maggio’s authentic teenage physicality methodically captured the chaotic and unpredictable nature of her persona. In addition, Mazzarella infused the production with his occasional spurts of comedic relief, demonstrating his grounded character, for he remained more serious in the more somber moments of the performance.

Considering the fact that this rendition was entirely student produced, the cast and crew must be commended on their impressive interpretation of the heavy and mature content included in Luna Gale. The cast, though small, collectively engaged the audience with their honest performances and character consistency. Technically speaking, the elements in the production, especially the set design by Abigail O’Hara and Jasmine Francis, were subtle, purposeful, and added another dimension of reality. O’Hara and Francis’s attention to detail in the set beautifully underscored the cast as they maneuvered across the stage.

With their emotion-filled performances and thoughtful technical elements, the adept cast and crew of Pompano Beach High School’s take on “Luna Gale” offers an innovative perspective on the issues that plague today’s society.

*** *** ***

By Eva Daskos of The Sagemont School

The fate of so many children lies in your hands as paperwork crowds around your desk, and your phone never ceases its buzzing. It seems overwhelming, but to any social worker, it’s just another day at the office. Watch as the American social system and the spirit of those it affects are tested in Pompano High School’s rendition of “Luna Gale”.

“Luna Gale” was created by the renowned playwright Rebecca Gilman, who used the script to explore the harsh reality of foster care and drug abuse, all through the intimacy of a 7-character cast. The storyline follows the social worker Caroline, whose many budget cuts in her office have left her with more cases than she can handle, most notably that of Luna Gale’s. The fierce battle of custody between Luna’s parents and grandmother stands as the central plot, as each person will do whatever it takes to get Luna. This script contains extremely fragile subject matter, and the students of Pompano Beach High School should be commended for their careful management of sensitive topics in this high-difficulty play.

The burned-out Caroline was brought to life onstage by La’Kennya Huggins who brought a new perspective to the script. Huggins captivated viewers with her boundless energy in this role. The character Caroline has an absolute dedication to her job as she balances her stress and personal trauma, this makes Caroline a challenging role to take on, Huggins must be accredited for her work in representing this complex character onstage.

Luna’s case is an intricate one for Caroline, the child’s parents Karli and Peter are young struggling meth addicts, and Karli’s mother Cindy pushes for full custody of Luna, but Cindy’s true intent is questionable. Audrey Maggio as Karli brought an authentic naturalism to this role and had believable chemistry with Alfonse Mazzarella as Peter. Mazzarella seemed to truly understand Peter’s motivation which is vital in the interpretation of a character. Peter’s character development was evident in Mazzarella’s switch from Peter’s more positive outlook to his frustration as he confronted Cindy in a pivotal plot moment. Mazzarella had impeccable articulation, which stood out amongst other performers that struggled in their line clarity. Another notable performer was Riley Dion as Cliff, Dion’s scenes had a strong build which made up for other actor’s moments when a needed emotional progression was lacking.

The entire production of Luna Gale was student-directed by Alfonse Mazzarella and Audrey Maggio, who also had roles within the play, this added difficulty made their direction all the more commendable. The Set crew of Abigail O’Hara & Co made multi-use sets that fit the show nicely and complimented the Props by Tasfia Howlader, which although fit the 1995-time period, could have implemented more detail. Scene changes were carried out adequately, but at times seemed rushed and effected the overall pacing of the show.

Luna is one child in a sea of children from troubled homes, but Rebecca Gilman proves that inside each case folder, an entire life is at stake. Pompano Beach High School’s talented students delivered this playwright’s message beautifully in their production of “Luna Gale”.

*** *** ***

By Samantha Hallenberg of North Broward Preparatory School

Shedding a light on the dark subject matters of drug addiction, sexual abuse, and the flaws in child protective services, Pompano Beach High School exposed the harsh realities and impactful art throughout their stirring presentation of Luna Gale.

Written by Rebecca Gilman, the story of Luna Gale surrounds the passionate social worker, Caroline, and her newest case involving Peter and Karli, two teenage drug addicts accused of neglecting their baby, Luna. While Luna is placed with Karlie’s mother, Cindy, Caroline digs further into the case, unearthing dark secrets that force these flawed characters to confront their demons.

Each actor did a fantastic job at telling this heart wrenching story. The social worker, Caroline, played by La’Kennya Huggins, clearly showed that her motivation to help children was propelled by the terrors of her early childhood and the lingering guilt she carried over from her predecessor. Cindy, played by Amalia Phend, skillfully portrayed her character’s blind and obsessive faith. The honesty that Ms. Phend brought to Cindy’s story arc allowed Cindy’s demeanor to unravel, and brought a credible rawness and intensity to her performance. Peter, played by Alfonse Mazzarella, revealed himself to be the true protagonist of the play, giving a remarkable performance as the young addict who works to overcome any hardship to become a proper father to Luna. Lastly, Audrey Maggio’s portrayal of her character Karli was both captivating and authentic. Maggio captured the essence of her character, Karli, with a great sense of maturity and plausibility.  Her believability as a damaged
but well-intentioned girl dealing with substance abuse was a powerful statement about America’s quiet drug addiction epidemic.

The lighting, by Shea Heiton, enhanced the chilling reality the characters faced in their given circumstances. Specifically, the opening scene’s bright hospital lighting juxtaposes the dark truths and hardships Karli, Peter, and Caroline would soon face. The lighting highlighted was used to deliberately deceive the audience. The warmer lighting used in Cindy’s first scene was meant to show Cindy as a more sympathetic character and a more appropriate parental guardian for Luna, a reality dispelled later in the production. The lighting was also cleverly used to signal scenes that might be difficult to watch. A red light was used during a blackout, to signify the following scene would include sensitive content.

The sound, orchestrated by Brooke Wittie, was seamless. A unique and effective detail was Wittie’s usage of hanging microphones used instead of the standard, more commonly used facial mic which could potentially distract the audience from the plausibility of the performance.

Overall, Pompano Beach High School’s production of Luna Gale exemplified the true power of theatre. The simplicity of their production allowed for an honest and clear telling of the impactful story of Luna Gale.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Imaginery, The Musical at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Saturday, 3/07/2020.


By Stephanie Maestre of West Broward High School

The imagination is a wondrous thing. It holds the key to new worlds, new characters, and new ideas. Ever since we were young, our imaginary friends have been there for us when no one else was. But what if your imagination was ripped away from you? Where would your imaginary friends go? Sam and Milo are about to find out. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s production of Imaginary the Musical will take you through the halls of Sam’s new school and the sensations of Imaginary Land, but be wary of the Headmaster’s office.

Imaginary follows Sam, a young boy with a vivid imagination, and his only friend Milo. As Sam transitions to a new school, he is pressured to live in the real world and leave his games – and Milo – behind. He befriends Alice, a bright girl who can tell that all is not right in the school. Together, they seek answers as to why the students are so robotic and emotionless. Meanwhile, Milo makes some discoveries about himself and meets some new friends of his own.

Portraying the curious and imaginative Sam was Logan LaPierre. Maintaining consistent childish energy and bright vocals, LaPierre met the demands of a very challenging role. His chemistry with every character he encountered was unique and authentic. With Milo, he was curious and bounded through their make-believe adventures, but with Alice, he was intimate and determined to uncover the secrets lurking in the Headmaster’s office. In numbers such as The Last Day of Summer and All the Fun You Had, his chemistry flourished, and his vocals resonated throughout the house.

Sam’s partner in crime Alice was animated by Pari Harris’ incredible acting abilities and flawless vocal intonation. Each interaction she had was specific to the character and her minute mannerisms made her believable. Harris’ singing never faltered in numbers such as She Played Guitar and The Adventurer’s Code. Looming over them was David Prengler as the Headmaster. His hilarious disposition and yet sinister tone were pronounced every time he made an entrance. Prengler kept a clear accent and demanded the stage in Upgrade Time and Headmaster’s Soliloquy as he strutted past students with his cane and cape.

The ensemble was the backbone of the production. All the ensemble members were flexible as they became clones of each other in Upgrade Time and later developed their own unique characters in Imaginary Land. They executed the choreography in perfect sync; whether they were marching through the halls or tapping through Imaginary Land, they all performed almost flawlessly. Though at times the ensemble overpowered lead vocals, they were well balanced in their harmonies.

Electrocuting the stage with each “upgrade”, lighting enchanted the show and conveyed emotion, tone, settings, and even passage of time. The choreography was exciting and reflected the nature of each song from the sharp movements of the Big Kids and the fluid steps of the IF’s. The publicity team put forth tremendous effort in advertising the show in many local businesses and through sidewalk art, posters, social media, and more. Although there was an imbalance of microphones, sound was carried out well. The technical crew truly let their ‘imaginations’ run wild as they put together their categories.

The endless possibilities that our imaginations create can develop extraordinary things. The imagination and incredible direction of Jared Block brought Stoneman Douglas’ production of Imaginary to life.

*** *** ***

By Amalia Phend of Pompano Beach High School

“Anything is possible to do; if you close your eyes and see it, then it’s true.” With a sense of childlike wonder and fantasy, Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ production of “Imaginary” shows that with just a little creativity and imagination, anything is possible.

Originally produced and performed by the National Youth Music Theatre at The Other Palace, London in August of 2017, “Imaginary”- book and lyrics by Timothy Knapman and music and lyrics by Stuart Matthew Price and Knapman, tells the story of 11-year old Sam (Logan LaPierre). While dealing with both a new school and the stress caused by his imaginary friend Milo (Jacob Harris), Sam must free his school from the oppressive Headmaster (David Prengler) without losing his imagination. Thanks to the incredible student director (Jared Block) and stage management team (led by Jordan Braunstein), this show came to life.

Playing the adventurous Sam, Logan LaPierre showcased impressive vocals and consistent character. His impeccable vocal technique was evident, especially in songs such as “The Last Day of Summer Part II.” His onstage relationships, especially with fellow student Alice (Peri Harris) and imaginary friend Milo (Jacob Harris), were genuine and entertaining to watch. In his rambunctious role Jacob Harris showed emotional range and animated facial expressions. Alice played brilliantly brought consistency, stunning vocals, and innocence to the table, while keeping her energy high as she became Sam’s new friend.

Playing the evil and conniving Headmaster, David Prengler’s commitment to character, physicality, and onstage presence left the audience waiting for more. His song “Upgrade Time” was one of the most entertaining in the show, and his ability to control an ensemble was brilliant. The vivacious drag personality and gatekeeper of Imaginary Land, Big Brenda, was played by none other than the incredible Tanzil Philip. Philip also had a large onstage presence, and the two played off of each other well. His voice was perfect for the character.

Avery Anger’s performance as the quirky German teacher, Frau Rammstein was over-exaggerated through facial expressions and physicality, and depicted hilarity and an obvious understanding of the character.

One of the most notable aspects of this production were the ensembles. Their energy was always high and consistent, and the members of each ensemble portrayed specific characters. They built the atmosphere of every number, and even when moving set pieces, they stayed in character, which made the show flow well. Their sharp movements in numbers such as “Upgrade Time” were very well choreographed, thanks to student choreographers Cameron Appel and Alexandra Duffy.

The show was brought to life by impressive technical elements. Lighting transitions were clean, sharp, and always perfectly on point with changes in scene. They distinguished the differences in the characters’ motives and enhanced effects. Sound performed wonderfully in this show, from the perfectly time sound effects to the clarity of the mics. Makeup and hair presented well on stage and costumes were perfectly chosen for each character.

Full of creativity, dance, and lots of imagination, Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s production of “Imaginary” reminds us that we’re “not alone” and with a friend we are always “ready for our next adventure. ”

*** *** ***

By Dylan Jost of North Broward Preparatory School

Nothing is more powerful than a child’s imagination. The actors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School fully utilized this immense power in their superbly-executed production of “Imaginary”, an extraordinary show that brought childlike wonder and excitement to the stage.

With imaginative music and lyrics by Stuart Matthew Price and dazzling book and lyrics by Timothy Knapman, “Imaginary” was commissioned, produced and performed by the National Youth Music Theatre at The Other Palace, London, in August 2017. The musical follows a creative 11-year-old named Sam as he attempts to navigate a new school- one that holds surprising secrets behind closed doors. Chaotic and cheerful, yet imaginary, Milo is Sam’s only friend as he tries to make his way through a school full of robot-like students, a bizarrely evil headmaster, and wacky teachers. Will Sam and Milo’s friendship be able to survive the pitfalls and challenges that they encounter? Or will painful revelations, new friendships, and special confetti threaten to tear the two friends apart?

Leading the show with poise and professionalism was Logan LaPierre as Sam. It can often be difficult for high schoolers to portray young children, but LaPierre proved that he was more than up for the challenge, delivering a performance that was defined by outstanding vocals, unsurpassed enthusiasm, and enthralling dedication to his craft. LaPierre’s comedic timing and exuberance never faltered, allowing him to always remain captivating and truly embody the imaginative persona of Sam.

As Sam’s newfound friend Alice, Peri Harris commanded the stage with lovely vocals and clearly evident commitment to her character, particularly in “The Adventurers’ Code”. Her consistent accent and childlike wonder gave her the ability to convincingly portray the curious and spunky adventurer. As the devious Headmaster, David Prengler wowed the audience with a performance full of gleeful, grasping menace. Prengler acted with a maturity beyond his years, while also delivering an impressive vocal performance defined by a rich timbre and clear vibrato. Prengler’s comedic talents were also on full display, with his exaggerated mannerisms and physicality allowing him to induce laughter repeatedly. As an ensemble, the Big Kids were remarkably professional, with clear harmonies and sensationally in-sync dance moves, particularly in “Upgrade Time”.

Technically the show was masterfully executed. The lighting was superb and managed to convey various emotions through carefully selected color choices. The entire show was directed by a student, Jared Block, who managed to create a production of professional quality through stellar directorial choices. The marketing and publicity team promoted their show to the utmost degree through unique ideas such as chalk art outside of their theater and ubiquitous posters around the surrounding community. The props were well selected and added to the contrast between the school and Imaginary Land. The choreography was also well done, with students choreographing 12 songs and utilizing creative ideas such as tap dancing while also jumping rope.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School brought a hilarious, yet moving story of friendship, imagination, and courage to the stage in their production of “Imaginary”. Transporting the audience to a crazy world full of wonky machines, imaginary friends, with twists and turns. The talented actors of “Imaginary” proved that imagination is everlasting.

*** *** ***

By Nick Vela of J.P. Taravella High School

As legendary theoretical physicist and influential contributor to philosophical science, Albert Einstein, once profoundly proclaimed, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schoo’s otherworldly production of “Imaginary, The Musical” brilliantly embodies this message of creativity, as it admirably expresses the inspiring underlying themes of friendship, bravery, and the true meaning behind growing up.

With a comical book and lyrics written by Timothy Knapman and a heartfelt score composed by Stuart Matthew Price, “Imaginary, The Musical” first premiered on August 9, 2017 at The Other Palace in London, commissioned and produced by National Youth Music Theatre. Leading the phenomenal production as the highly imaginative British schoolboy Sam, Logan LaPierre demonstrated a deep understanding of his pivotal role through his clear character development and incredibly expressive vocal tone, notably showcased in his various solos, such as “The Last Day of Summer Part II.” Accompanying LaPierre as his mischievously adventurous imaginary friend Milo, Jacob Harris, established a genuine connection with LaPierre making for a realistic relationship and acting as a primary driving force of the production. Together, LaPierre and Harris portrayed extremely convincing children filled with youthful exuberance highlighted in their duet, “The Last Day of Summer Part I.”

Supporting the production with her captivating stage presence and refined vocal technique, Peri Harris delivered a remarkable performance as the clever and compassionate Alice. Her authentic relationship with LaPierre and constant focus and dedication to the scene at hand, created an exceptionally enjoyable character. Furthermore, David Prengler’s performance, like none before, as the malicious and socially deranged Headmaster provided a jolt of energy to the production. Prengler’s confident acting choices, dramatic characterization, impressive vocal control, and impeccable comedic line delivery, allowed him to stand out among a cast of tremendously talented actors.

The cast as a whole, like the numerous ensembles, consisting of lunatic teachers, believable parents, brainwashed students, and whimsical imaginary friends, illustrated a diverse cast filled with highly individualistic characters that could still blend beautifully into one cohesive unit. Although there may have been some inconsistencies in the ensemble’s accents and diction, the coordination featured in the well-executed dancing and gorgeous harmonies revealed in the countless musical numbers of the production, demonstrated effective vocal direction and choreography that suited both the story and the cast.

Aside from some minor microphone imbalances, the technical elements of the production were more than memorable. The lighting’s variety heightened the intensity, mood, and action of every scene. The visually appealing costumes helped differentiate between adults and children. The extraordinary stage management allowed for an extremely smooth show and the outstanding student direction made for clear characters, high stakes, and treacherous turmoil within the story.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s stunning production of “Imaginary, The Musical” brought to life the power of the imagination and the wonder of childhood through an exceptionally vivid and vivacious lens.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Bubble Boy at Cooper City High School on Friday, 3/06/2020.


By Abbey Alder of Calvary Christian Academy

Life itself is a bubble, and at some point, everyone feels trapped. Changing those circumstantial constraints poses challenges, especially for Jimmy Livingston, who stole a bus, traveled with a cult, ran with a gang of bikers, and left the safety of his room to escape the feeling. Although most can avoid these extremes, the desire to be unfettered is still the same. In Cooper City High School’s production of “Bubble Boy,” audiences were encouraged to embrace their differences and burst free from restrictive bubbles.

The comedic musical, “Bubble Boy,” was based on the 2001 zany screenplay written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. Premiering at Rahway’s Hamilton Stage in 2013, it later made its New York City debut in 2018. The escapade centers around Palmdale, California’s very own Bubble Boy, Jimmy Livingston. Jimmy, born immunity-deficient, isn’t like most teens. His days cycle on repeat, filled with the same routine, magazine, and television program all while sealed inside a decontaminated bubble. Despite his controlling mother’s attempts to shield him from the outside world, Jimmy meets Chloe Molinski living next door. Their instant connection evolves from friendship into love. After news of Chloe’s upcoming nuptials, Jimmy creates a bubble suit and embarks on an epic cross-country quest to stop the wedding. Though unprepared to navigate this new world, Jimmy manages to break free from his bubble and change his fate.

Embodying the sheltered boy, Reese Abrahamoff (Jimmy Livingston) brought believability to the otherwise silly character. Generating one laugh after another, Abrahamoff exhibited
impeccable comedic timing and delivered the right level of awkwardness with vulnerability in his physicality. Emily Kaufman (Chloe Molinski), sang with an angelic quality that revealed her vast vocal range. Together, the pair’s chemistry felt authentic.

Filling the stage with undeniable power and a beautiful vocal resonance, Marley Meany (Mrs. Livingston) had a clear understanding of her character and motivations, forcing her son to “Stay Clean.” Will Barringer (Mark) gave a notable performance as the boyfriend with punk-rock flair. Commendably, the ensemble was engaging and demonstrated optimal energy in numbers such as “One More Mile” and “Bubble Boy.” Any lulls that occurred while transitioning between scenes and songs, the cast overcame with newfound vitality. During the times when lines became less articulate, the ensemble sustained their coordination.

The technical aspects of this production contributed to the audience’s epic atmospheric adventure by adhering to a grayscale color palette for the Livingston home, then contrasting with the use of bright colors to depict the outside world. Another stand-out was the inventive construction of the transparent “bubble,” which didn’t hamper Jimmy’s volume. Though the choreography was lively, the lighting sometimes pulled focus away from the intended performer. The diligent publicity team maintained a constant buzz through its commitment to multiple social media platforms.

Cooper City High School’s production of “Bubble Boy” exposes the challenges, both literal and figurative, of being confined by a bubble. The lyric, “Maybe your bubble is you’re afraid to let go,” exemplifies the vast world beyond our bubble’s barrier

*** *** ***

By Annie Sudler of Calvary Christian Academy

If you had to live your whole life in one room, how far would you run away for the person you love?  How about 3,000 miles?  These are some of the questions audiences are given throughout “Bubble Boy”, whose touching story and fun music were so well portrayed at Cooper City High School’s recent production.

Based on the 2001 film of the same name, “Bubble Boy” first took to the stage in 2008 with a cast of high school students.  Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (also the writers of the film), the musical went on to have multiple other productions, and featured such notable cast members as A.J. Holmes, Alice Ripley, Caissie Levy, and Chris McCarrell, to name a few.

“Bubble Boy” tells the story of Jimmy Livingston, whose lack of an immune system forces him to live his life in a bubble room.  When his crush and only friend, Chloe, tells him that she’s getting married, he takes it upon himself to make it there and stop the wedding.  Dodging germs, police, and his overbearing mother, Jimmy sets off on a cross-country journey to get to Chloe before her wedding.

Playing the titular boy in the bubble was Reese Abrahamoff.  Abrahamoff’s complete understanding and commitment to the character ensured that the audience felt every emotion with him, and his impressive vocal range and control were truly stunning, shining in such numbers as “One More Mile” and “Out Of Here”.  His chemistry with other actors was strong, especially in scenes opposite Chloe Molinski and Mrs. Livingston (played by Emily Kaufman and Marley Meany, respectively).  Both Kaufman and Meany were vocal powerhouses with strong control and support in all of their numbers.  The women also had a hilarious onstage relationship together, and their scenes were laced with nuanced behavior that was hilariously done.  Other commendable performances were given by Will Barringer as the rocker Mark and Gabriela Phillips as ice cream truck driver Pushpahp.  The two lent their impressive comedic timing to the show in a way that was thankfully received, especially in the gloomier moment s of the show.

The ensemble was a whirlwind of energy that swept the show off its feet!  Playing many different groups such as rebellious bikers, cheery cultists, and frazzled townspeople, they brought a consistent level of energy and excitement to everything they did.  Even with an occasional vocal or volume slip-up, they recovered professionally and ensured the story was understood the full way through.

Technically, the students did an admirable job.  The props and sets were well built, and the designers’ intentions were clearly seen.  The design of the lights, done by Katie Behr, was equally impressive.  The decision to use color to highlight mood and emotion was brilliantly done and did not go unnoticed.  Of course, the publicity team must be credited.  Their innovative use of the relatively new social media site TikTok gained them recognition among the community after some of their short videos promoting the show went viral.

“Bubble Boy” is a heartwarming story that makes audiences think about how far they’d go for the people they love.  Cooper City High School’s recent production gave a touching answer to that question and did so beautifully.

*** *** ***

By Nick Vela of J.P. Taravella High School

As the profound protagonist of Cooper City High School’s brilliant production of “Bubble Boy” passionately professed, “I’d rather spend one minute holding you than a lifetime of knowing I never could. ” Come on down and allow this fun-filled musical fantasy to expose you to the significant underlying themes of love, courage, and basic humanity.

Based on popular 2001 Touchstone Pictures’ film of the same name, “Bubble Boy” made its professional premiere at the Wolfbane Performing Arts Center in Appomattox, Virginia on September 22, 2016 and ended its short run on October 15, 2016. Containing a charming contemporary-pop score composed by Cinco Paul and an incredibly comical book written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, the endearing musical comedy follows the adventurous coming-of-age story of a young Jimmy Livingston, born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), as he embarks on a cross-country journey to profess his love to the girl of his dreams. Confined to a plastic bubble room for the majority of his life, Jimmy must learn to overcome the various obstacles his lack of an immune system causes, as well as face the treacherous twists and turns beyond his isolated world.

Leading the production with impeccable comedic timing and commendable characterization, Reese Abrahamoff delivered a remarkable performance as the lovable Bubble Boy, Jimmy Livingston. Abrahamoff demonstrated extremely expressive facial expressions and a gorgeous vocal tone, acting as the primary driving force of the production. Accompanying our good-natured hero was the strong and secretly insecure girl next door, Chloe Molinski, portrayed by Emily Kaufman. Kaufman brought to life a realistic, relatable, and authentic character, brilliantly articulating her role’s inner turmoil through her stunning vocals and clear objectives. Together, both Abrahamoff and Kaufman displayed a heartwarming relationship filled with genuine chemistry, notably showcased in their captivating duet, “There’s A Bubble Around My Heart.”

Commanding the stage as Jimmy’s mother, Mrs. Livingston, Marley Meany embodied her highly controlling and authoritative character with believability and exquisite vocal control. Alongside her was the quiet and passive Mr. Livingston (Ander Diez). As Diez remained engaged, despite having almost absolutely no dialogue, and Meany committed to her character completely, the dynamics of their relationship made for enjoyable comedic relief, specifically showcased in the musical number, “Bring Back My Boy. ” As for the cast as a whole, the high energy and well-executed comedy from the ensemble, highlighted the joyful spirit of the musical.

Aside from some minor sound imbalances, the overall technical elements of the production were praiseworthy. The lighting designer’s use of color helped to create a further distinction between Jimmy’s barren bubble world and the contrasting outside world. The individualized costumes reflected each character accurately and effectively distinguished the major ensemble groups. The advertising of the musical through currently popular media platforms, such as TikTok, and the promotion of positivity around the community through various video submissions, raised the publicity of the production to a higher level.

Cooper City High School’s thoroughly entertaining production of “Bubble Boy” utilized a humorously heartfelt story to beautifully illustrate the ability that individuals have to burst out of the restrictive metaphorical “bubbles” that surround them.

*** *** ***

By Alana Pena-Torres of Dillard High School

“Double, double, toil and trouble”, who experienced such struggle as the boy in the bubble? It’s hard to imagine a life stuck in a bubble, but Cooper City High School’s engaging production of the 2013 musical Bubble Boy made it easy to empathize with Jimmy Livingston’s story and connect it to the universal truth that we all have a bubble of our own to pop. There’s no better way to learn this than by immersing yourself in the hilarious, animated world of Bubble Boy.

Originating as a book and film written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, the musical Bubble Boy, with music and lyrics by Cinco Paul, premiered on November 6th, 2013 at Hamilton Stage in Rahway, New Jersey. The show tells of a timeless moral tale of searching for self-fulfillment by letting go of inhibitions in the form of a bright, animated comedy. The story revolves around Jimmy, a boy born without immunities, who under the adamant command of his mother, has remained isolated in a bubble room his entire life. One day, he meets a girl named Chloe and the rest is history – if history entails sunny, delusional cults, erratic bike gangs, and a homemade bubble suit. The story follows Jimmy in his pursuit of love and adventure with delightful surprises along the way.

The tricky role of Jimmy Livingston is skillfully managed by Reese Abrahamoff who exhibits a deep understanding of his character and the range of his emotions. He demonstrates impeccable comedic timing and an endearing innocence as he reacts to the world around him. He showed remarkable vocals in his array of heartfelt ballads and upbeat pop songs, not to mention the emotional duets he shares with Chloe Molinski(Emily Kaufman). Kaufman’s full tone and excellent control of her voice made her spunky, yet vulnerable character, all the more enjoyable.

Supporting actress Marley Meany as Mrs. Livingston was truly “living” her mother-knows-best type of character. The way she comedically burst Jimmy’s bubble of hope systematically almost seemed like second nature. One can easily believe she is missing a few screws yet sympathize with the pain and love she feels for her son. Her powerful notes balanced seamlessly with her chilling lighter tones. Will Barringer as Mark and Francesco Brusco as Shawn made for a hilariously idiotic and memorable duo. Their commitment to their character’s speech and behavior was impressive and well-executed. The show was further enhanced by the bubbly ensemble’s contagious energy and charisma.

The parts of the show that involved offstage blocking further drew the audience into the story; however, at times, their use of the space was not the most effective. The lighting was captivating and captured each scene’s distinct characters and moods, pairing smoothly with the set, which was inventive and fun to observe, especially Jimmy’s bubble room in the first act with its monochromatic colors symbolizing his one-note life. Additionally, the cast and crew’s publicity for this show was inventive and highly effective.

Cooper City High School popped the bubble around everyone’s heart with Bubble Boy, telling a story of possibility, hope, and living with no regrets.

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of J.P. Taravella High School

Like the ending of every classic fairytale, the hero saves the day, leaves his plastic bubble, and dies. Born with no immune system, Jimmy Livingston lives the life of a fantasy inside his safe plastic bubble; concealed from deadly germs, disease filled air, gentle outside breeze, or any chance for a first kiss. Inflated with fantastic adventures and forbidden romance, Cooper City High School’s riveting production of “Bubble Boy” will leave you bursting with laughter and bubbling with tears.

Based on the movie of the same name, “Bubble Boy” tells the story of Jimmy Livingston, who lives a “decontaminated” life in his bubble room. With music and lyrics by Cinco Paul and book by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, this sparkling production follows Jimmy’s quarantined life, which has remained stagnant for years until Jimmy’s true love moves in next door. When she moves to New York to marry her amateur rocker boyfriend, Jimmy suits up in a portable bubble to travel across the country to stop the impending wedding.

Portraying the trapped, yet free-spirited Jimmy Livingston, Reese Abrahamoff led the production with his well developed and clearly established character and excellent vocals. His character may have been isolated, but his motivated emotions were actively communicated despite the plastic barrier. Chloe Molinski, Bubble boy’s adored neighbor, was embodied by Emily Kaufman. Kaufman graced the stage with her outstanding and technically rigorous vocalization. Her sincere performance evoked genuine investment in her character’s story. The pair provided authentic chemistry and exceptional harmonies, exceedingly present in songs such as “There’s a Bubble Around my Heart. ”

Marley Meany, as Mrs. Livingston, Jimmy’s overprotective mother, presented a marvelous performance through her strong commitment to her character. Meany’s “pure” intonation and amusing comedic moments supported her engaging role. Countering Mrs. Livingston’s outspoken personality, Ander Diez, as Mr. Livingston, provided a comedically quiet performance. As Jimmy’s father, Diez remained highly active in each scene and provided a strong sense of comedy regardless of his few spoken lines.

The ensemble maintained bubbling energy throughout the production even through the intricate choreography. Many chorus members were clearly engaged in every scene and showcased expressive facial expressions. The different ensembles depicted an intricacy that allowed for a dynamic progression of the plot.

The technical elements of the production captured the true essence of Jimmy’s perception of the world. The monochromatic costumes, lighting, and scenery showed Jimmy’s feelings of dread while trapped in his bubble. Conversely, after he experienced the outside world, his feeling of fulfillment was reflected in the vibrant colors that decorated the stage.

The boy’s interaction with the world may be coated by plastic, however visible or not, everyone is surrounded by their own metaphorical bubble. Cooper City High School’s captivating production of “Bubble Boy” shows us that everyone is faced with challenges, but nothing can seal away their “Bright and Shiny” potential.

*** *** ***

By Jennifer Holz of NSU University School

The fear of judgment often keeps people from reaching their full potential. It can make people feel trapped– as if they’re in a bubble. Cooper City High School explores the impact that said judgment makes in its production of “Bubble Boy-the Musical”.

Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, “Bubble Boy” tells the story of Jimmy Livingston, a boy born without an immune system, as he travels cross-country from his plastic bubble home in Palmdale, California to Niagara Falls, New York to stop the wedding of the woman he loves. The musical premiered at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza’s Scherr Forum in February of 2008 and featured a cast consisting of local high school students. The musical received favorable responses and was commended for its lighthearted storyline.

Reese Abrahamoff’s portrayal of Jimmy Livingston, known to the town as “bubble boy”, beautifully captured Jimmy’s childlike wonder and heartwarming optimism. Throughout the entire performance, Abrahamoff wowed with his strong vocals and wide range of emotions. His comedic timing was impeccable and allowed him to immediately create authentic connections with the entire cast. Playing Chloe Molinski, the girl next door who catches the eye of the renowned bubble boy, Emily Kaufman displayed significant character development. Her voice was melodic. As a pair, Abrahamoff and Kaufman had genuine chemistry that showed the giddiness of young love.

Various performances supported the production as a whole. As Mrs. Livingston, Marley Meany commanded the stage. Her comedic timing was astonishing, and her vocal control was exemplary. Along with Meany was Will Barringer who played the carefree rocker, Mark. Barringer’s commitment to the role was exceptional.

The Greek chorus style of the ensemble greatly aided the dynamic of the show. Although some of the harmonies were lost due to sound complications, the Bubble Boy Ensemble consistently kept its energy high. A standout moment for the ensemble was during “One More Mile”. The harmonies were superb and, despite being sectioned into different character groups, they all worked together seamlessly.

The Troupe 0784 Officers must be praised for their outstanding marketing and publicity. Their “I’ve got a bubble” campaign was a great way of promoting the show while bringing the community together. The lighting designed by Katie Behr used bright colors to demonstrate the new and exciting world that Jimmy was experiencing. The choreography by Reese Abrahamoff and Donna Nesselroth was fun and upbeat.

People must not allow the judgment of others to keep them from chasing their dreams. Cooper City High School’s production of “Bubble Boy” illustrates the power of love and how it can overcome fear and transcend the boundaries placed on people by others and themselves

*** *** ***

Reviews of The Right to Remain Silent at The Sagemont School on Saturday, 2/29/2020.


By Lexi Schwartzberg of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

The Right to Remain Silent, by Mark Fauser and Brent Briscoe, is a thrilling series of monologue-based scenes depicting an average day in the life of a police officer taking mugshots of the various criminals who come through the local police station.  The Sagemont School’s production of the dynamic show took the audience through the sweeping highs and lows of the various criminals’ testimonies, providing a satisfying retelling of the challenging piece.

The small cast of actors managed to effectively set the mood for each scene, quickly transitioning between monologues that were comedic, tragic, and frightening, and bringing the audience along for the ride. Despite some areas where more emotions in the form of facial expressions and vocal inflection could have added to the quality of the actors’ performances, the students did an impressive job in their undertaking of a piece that demanded a great amount of memorization and mature acting.  Performed in the small Black Box Theatre, The Sagemont School’s production of The Right to Remain Silent lacked the necessity for excessive technical involvement; however, the technical crew led by Production Stage Manager Inas Ahmed kept the show moving smoothly and efficiently.

An especially notable performance was that of Eva Daskos in her portrayal of And Here’s Your Change, expertly conveying the character’s anguish and building her monologue to an emotional climax using her entire body and vocal inflections.  Santiago Murillo showed an artful range of ability in his portrayal of two contrasting characters, the comedic Kobaishi Muru, and the terrifying I Scream For Ice Cream, demanding both laughs and shudders from the audience throughout his scenes.  A comedic gem was found in the form of Ariel Seligman Delgado, who devoted her entire physicality to embodying the character Blue Light Special, performing an especially humorous monologue that was a treat to watch.

The Lighting and Sound Crew, under the direction of Madyson Gold and Marc Plaskett, respectively, provided the simple but effective portrayal of a camera snapping photographs, an action which appeared several times throughout the course of the production. Additionally, the Make-up/Hair Crew, led by Ariel Seligman Delgado, included an immense amount of detail in the applying of realistic tattoos for certain characters, the realistic wounds of a different character, and the bedraggled hair of yet another. Lastly, Eva Daskos led the Costumes Crew impressively, providing a tremendous amount of nuance which added to the believability of the characters.  Perhaps most notably was the instance in which a cloud of dust floated off the thoroughly dirtied costume of a homeless character, a detail which caught the eye of several onlookers.

The students at The Sagemont School produced an enjoyable rendition of The Right to Remain Silent, and their efforts to immerse the audience into the environment of the police station were impressively reflected in their performance.  The challenging piece was met with admirable success for a high school production.

*** *** ***

By Alonso Millan of South Plantation High School

The wildest stories can come from the most unexpected places, and in The Sagemont School’s production of The Right To Remain Silent, 12 incredible tales of murder, robbery, and more are put on display.

Written by Mark Fauser and Brent Briscoe, The Right To Remain Silent began as two original monologues. From there, it evolved into a fully fledged show documenting the happenings at a police booking station during the graveyard shift. The monologue based show tells the individual stories of all the characters that come through the station, at times hilarious and light hearted, and at others intense and dark. The play was later adapted into a Showtime television movie, winning a Cable ACE Award for Best Supporting Actress.

With no lead actors, the 12 distinct stories are played by several different actors, with each character telling their story through a monologue. Through some standout performances and well executed technical aspects, The Sagemont School’s production of The Right To Remain Silent was an enjoyable experience throughout the night.

Santiago Murillo absolutely shined as a murderous ice cream man in “I Scream For Ice Cream”. Murillo completely embodied the charming but twisted character, eliciting both laughter and uneasiness throughout his well rounded performance. His work as a Star Trek fanatic in “Kobaishi Muru” was hilarious as well, making the quirky and nerdy character another highlight of the night. Murillo’s ability to build two distinct and dynamic characters must be commended. Another standout role was Eva Daskos in “And Here’s Your Change. ” Daskos expertly led the audience through the journey of how she ended up there with emotional intensity and careful but strong choices that elevated her performance to great levels. Ariel Seligman Delgado was hilarious as an airhead shopaholic in “Blue Light Special”, perfectly capturing the ditzy and bubbly character through the entire piece. Many actors had difficulty with enunciation and energy, at times seeming disengaged or forgetting lines. However, s
tandout performances made for an exciting and dynamic night.

The costume design, by Eva Daskos, built the world of the play in an extremely well executed way. With no set and minimal technical aspects, the costumes were perhaps the only way to set the time period of the show. Daskos rose to the challenge wonderfully, completely immersing audiences into the show through her stellar designs. The lighting design by Madyson Gold also added a nice aspect to the show through the effect of the camera flashes, which made the setting all the more believable.

Whether it be the most ordinary story, or an unbelievable tale, The Sagemont School’s production of The Right To Remain Silent was a journey full of laughter, shock, and memorable performances.

*** *** ***

By Stephanie Maestre of West Broward High School

Police investigators have always had it rough. They have to sit and listen to hundreds of people’s stories. However, The Sagemont School’s production of The Right to Remain Silent is not about the police but rather the stories of the criminals. There are comical stories, sad stories, scary stories, and more, showing that not all criminals are one and the same.

The Right to Remain Silent started out as two monologues performed in 1992 in a class by the soon-to-be playwrights Mark Fauser and Brent Briscoe. When their teacher mentioned it to their former teacher, he said he wanted the two pieces to be made into a play. Within a week, the play was finished. Both acts each encompassed 18 hours worth of narratives. However, this is not the version that was performed. This was a condensed version with 12 monologues of “testimonies” as they each went into a booking room to have their mug shots taken.

Portraying a pistol-packing pizza delivery girl in And Here’s Your Change, Eva Daskos fluctuated the extremities of her emotions and conveyed those feelings to all sides of the room. Her gut-wrenching retelling of how three men mugged her made the audience’s skin crawl and the moment she pulled her gun she sent spines shivering. Her pacing allowed enough time for the audience to process each part of her narrative before moving on.

Santiago Murillo breathed a cold air of comical tension into his character in I Scream For Ice Cream. His understanding of the character was evident in his acting. As he spoke of his love for children, he beamed with normalcy. However, when he transitioned to his mentions of bullies and his own childhood, his insanity began to peek through, slowly driving him mad.

Starring in the Blue Light Special, Ariel Seligman Delgado brought a comical wit to the room. Her tale of a clash with her children and an elderly woman at the department store spread chuckles around the black box and her charisma never faltered. Her snarky personality gave the character charm. Despite the freedom of the black box theatre, some actors hesitated to utilize the space. Though at times some actors were quiet or lacked facial expression, most actors made up for it in the memorization of their lengthy monologues and the emotions in their voices.

The few technical aspects were extremely well executed. Costumes were highly realistic and appeared relevant to the time period. From minute details such as dust coming off a homeless man’s sleeves to the authenticity of a 1990s Domino’s pizza girl’s uniform, Eva Daskos should be highly commended for her attention to detail. The lighting helped transition the scenes effectively and genuinely made it seem as though mugshots were being taken. Sound effects sometimes cut off abruptly but effectively helped to add context to the testimonies and avoid awkwardness during scene changes.

The Sagemont School’s production of The Right to Remain Silent is an effective display of the varying types of criminals investigators go through every day and is a prime example of how not all criminals look the same.

*** *** ***

By Cristian Velasquez of Cypress Bay High School

Chocolate frosted donuts with nuts on top and no sprinkles are just what you’ll need to make it through the graveyard shift. Grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair because you’ll be spending a long night at The Sagemont School’s production of “The Right To Remain Silent.”

Originally produced as two monologues, “The Right To Remain Silent” was written in 1992 by Mark Fauser and Brent Briscoe and was later refined into a full-length production. Unlike traditional plays, this play is told as a series of monologues rather than one continuous storyline. The story takes place during a graveyard shift as two police officers take mugshots of alleged criminals as they explain what lead to their arrest.

A standout performance among the cast is that of Eva Daskos as “And Here’s You Change.” Daskos commanded the stage throughout the entirety of her performance with her distinguished and authentic character. Her inflection married the shifts in tone of her monologue and the intensity of her performance was impeccable. Daskos maintained powerful facial expressions and impressive physicality, drawing the audience into her story.

Another notable performance was that of Santiago Murillo in “I Scream For Ice Cream.” Murillo’s chilling and sinister yet innocuous disposition contributed vastly to the eerie narrative of his character. Additionally, Blue Light Special, portrayed by Ariel Seligman Delgado, delivered a contagious comedic element to the production, creating a pleasing contrast to the deeper and intense monologues.

The cast as a whole did a commendable job at memorizing their lengthy monologues. Although their usage of the space was not utilized to its full potential, the intimacy created by the black box theater made up for some of the static movement.

The technical components of the production worked together remarkably along with the performance aspects. The costuming for each character was simplistic yet appropriate and was relevant to their stories. The makeup and hair designs additionally furthered the believability of the characters, matching the events of their stories and age differences. Although the sound was abrupt at times, the flash and sound effect of the camera taking the mugshots allowed for fluid transitions between each character’s monologues.

The Sagemont School’s powerful production of “The Right To Remain Silent” unveils many modern-day issues in society through the tales of these criminals in the form of monologues. So, now that you’ve finished your donuts and sipped the last drop of coffee, its time to take a break until your next shift, but don’t forget to bring a fresh batch next time, rookie.

*** *** ***

By Peter Sookhansingh of South Plantation High School

In telling the obscure tale of a handful of criminals, Sagemonts Schools “The Right to Remain Silent” proves to be quite an anomaly.

“The Right to Remain Silent” was written by Mark Fauser and Brent Briscoe. The play details the stories of several individuals, all of which have committed some sort of crime with varying severity. This narrative is given through a series of consecutive monologues.

Due to the story being so incredibly straightforward, the set was kept as minimal as possible. This only heightened the degree of difficulty for the performance, as each actor had to make adequate use of their space and fully embody their character without limited visual aids. Additionally, the monologues left little room for dropped emotions or monotony, so dedication to character depth was very much anticipated. Although this seemed to be quite a struggle for the actors, standout monologues such as “And Here’s your Change” performed by Eva Daskos pulled this feat off excellently. Aside from having a brilliant stage presence, the commitment to characterization and the development from one emotion to the other was done wonderfully.

The cast as a whole was composed of a myriad of repeat actors, with some performers not as driven as others.  Although appearing as their characters on a surface level, there was a severe lack of emotion and commitment. This became even more apparent when some actors dropped their character entirely. These moments, however, were fleeting.

Another noteworthy element were the costumes given to each actor, all of which perfectly embodied their situations. Standout examples would be the shackles that were original builds on the Santiago Murillo in “I Scream for Ice Cream” and the contrasting destroyed punk outfits on Ximena Del Rioand Leila Dupont in “Iron Claw. ” Despite the hair and makeup being slightly less intricate and, at times, even befuddling in accordance to the characters circumstances, the costumes were able to quickly remedy any confusion.

Although coming off as a more subdued retelling  of the story as a whole, Sagemont Schools “The Right to Remain Silent” will surely remain memorable.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Seussical at J.P. Taravella High School on Friday, 2/28/2020.


By Rylee Berger of Cooper City High School

The Cat in the Hat and a Sour Kangaroo, Yertle the Turtle and Solla Sollew. A kind-hearted elephant who’s really quite brave, and the small, tiny world he’s trying to save. At J.P. Taravella the stage is thus set for a production of “Seussical” you will not forget.

Written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, with credit to Eric Idle for co-conceiving, the musical was deemed a critical failure after a short Broadway run in 2000. Despite this, the past twenty years have brought “Seussical”” success in high school, community, and regional theatres. Weaving together Dr. Seuss’ tales, the musical begins when a “thinker” called Jojo (Candice Davis) dreams up the Cat in the Hat (Hunter Quinn.)  The Cat whisks Jojo through a story concerning some of Seuss’ most beloved characters as they discover the power of imagination and friendship.

Hunter Quinn’s powerful stage presence and confidence radiated through his portrayal of the Cat in the Hat. His energy never faltered throughout the demanding role. Tasked with presenting multiple characters as well as narrating the story for both the audience and Jojo, Quinn easily rose to the challenge. His physicality and vocalization brought the iconic cat to life, providing a caricature-like performance that was distinctively reminiscent of the hilarity and absurdity of all things Seuss. Quinn’s depiction of the Cat in the Hat worked nicely with that of Candice Davis as Jojo. Davis provided clear commitment to her role and was successful in displaying the arc of her character.

Further enhancing the quality of the show, Nicolas Vela’s Horton was solemn and sincere. His vocal performance was particularly notable. Vela was able to provide exceptional command of numbers like “Alone in the Universe” and “Solla Sollew” whilst never sacrificing his characterization. Equally as engaging, Nicole Sugarman’s natural talent shone in her role as Gertrude. Taking the imaginative themes to heart, Sugarman’s childlike physicality and evident understanding of her character were unmatched. Her spectacular vocalization and ability to entertain were highly compelling; the number “All for You” highlighted these skills exceptionally well.

The ensemble, particularly vital to the performance of this musical, maintained high energy throughout the production. Though some members of the cast lacked strong characterization and commitment, harmonies were executed cleanly and powerfully. The Bird Girls stood out for their crisp and unified choreography. The use of space by the actors was particularly creative, routinely utilizing both the pit orchestra and the set in unique ways.

The technical elements of the production were effective. While setting “Seussical” on a children’s playground was unique and gave youthful energy to the production, it at times led to a disconnect between the design elements. The calling of the cues and the use of lighting aided in swift transitions between scenes.

J.P. Taravella’s pleasantly playful and light-hearted “Seussical” appeals to children of every age, with delightful characters gracing the stage. The musical reminds us of how lucky we are and that truly great friends are never so far.

*** *** ***

By Alexandra Sansone of Cooper City High School

“Oh, the thinks you can think when you think about” JP Taravella’s colorful production of “Seussical” the Musical.

Based on the whimsical creations of Dr. Seuss, “Seussical” was brought to the stage by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Narrated by the infamous Cat in the Hat, “Seussical” follows the story of Horton the elephant (Nicolas Vela) who discovered the spritely microscopic town of Whoville on a speck of dust. After meeting Jojo (Candice Davis) a Who who has wildly creative thinks, Horton decides to protect Whoville on a clover, no matter how much trouble this causes him. And does it ever cause him trouble. When the production first opened in 2000, it was met with mediocre reviews and little success. Despite this, it has become one of the most produced productions by school and community theatre programs.

Vela presented himself as a reserved but loving elephant. His vocal performance was strong in each song he sang, including “Alone In The Universe, ” a duet with Davis.  His relationships with other characters on stage were genuine and convincing. When interacting with Davis, he was emotional and sincere in his concern for Jojo and the town of Whoville. Davis, in turn, captured the childlike essence of her character wonderfully and maintained this energy and innocence throughout the show.

Hunter Quinn, in the role of Cat in the Hat, was true to the zesty nature of the beloved character. Quinn’s facial expressions were vibrant and his movements exaggerated as he interacted with both the cast and audience. His versatility in his presentation was both comical and impressive.

Equally as impressive was Nicole Sugarman (Gertrude), a bird with a one feathered tail desperate for Horton’s attention and affection. Sugarman’s attention to detail set her apart from everyone on stage. Her physicality expressed the nervous energy she carried with her whenever with Horton. From her animated facial expressions to her intense gaze, she showed a true understanding of her character.

The cast as a whole maintained consistent energy throughout the production, embodying the inner child that “Seussical” teaches us we all have. Though at times it was hard to find the focus of the scene on stage, everyone moved with purpose and grace. Though some vocalists lacked diction, harmonies were executed beautifully, especially by the omnipresent Bird Girls.

Transitions between scenes and of individuals on and off stage were smooth and well-timed as they effectively used the most of their set and stage space. Despite the occasional microphone being too loud for a performer’s strong vocal performance, the incorporation of sound elements was properly timed and implemented. Though some actors could have done with more detailed shading, the transitions of various hair and makeup looks were done efficiently and effectively. The incorporation of intricate handmade hairpieces was especially impressive.

Full of colorful creatures and loyal youthful spirit, JP Taravella’s production of “Seussical” teaches us you are not “alone in the universe” and “anything’s possible.”

*** *** ***

By Gabriela Phillips of Cooper City High School

A town named Whoville on a speck of dust and a one-feathered bird searching for love she can trust. With imagination beyond compare, JP Taravella High School’s production of “Seussical” truly shows that “anything’s possible.”

With music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, “Seussical” transports the audience into a world filled with childhood nostalgia. Having opened on Broadway in November of 2000, the show follows Jojo, a young boy with a vibrant imagination, as the Cat in the Hat narrates the story of Horton the Elephant and his journey to protect the dust containing a little town known as Whoville. Told through playful songs and rhyming lines, this show is sure to appeal to the child within everyone.

With infectious energy and a vibrant persona, Hunter Quinn narrated the story wonderfully as the Cat in the Hat. Guiding Jojo (Candice Davis) through a journey of a lifetime, Quinn’s energy and facial expressions never faltered. His exaggerated expressions complimented Davis’ child-like demeanor and aided in enhancing the relationship between the two. Quinn’s confidence always shone through and made the production all the more enjoyable to watch.

Playing the kind-hearted Horton, Nicolas Vela truly captured the genuine nature of his character. With numbers such as “Alone in The Universe” and “Solla Sollew, ” Vela was able to showcase his emotional commitment to the role as well as his vocal strength. Nicole Sugarman portrayed the unique yet determined Gertrude, her consistent energy brought a playful feeling towards the show. She always had the perfect intentions behind her movements, and paid strong attention to detail. The relationship between Vela and Sugarman was excellently developed and best exemplified in numbers such as “Notice Me, Horton. ” Sugarman’s vocal prowess and dedication to the role never faltered allowing for an engaging performance.

With beaming energy, the cast wonderfully tackled the demands of this difficult show. Through strong character development and wonderful vocal technique, they succeeded in fully developing the world within “Seussical.” Although at times some cast members lacked diction, their consistent energy made up for lost lines. A notable trio was the Bird Girls consisting of Fallon Collins, Jaime Happel, and Leah Tomas. Their wonderful vocal quality and energy remained constant through the entirety of the show and they always remained expressive in their movements.

Technically the show excelled. The use of pool noodles and water guns as weapons, as well as slides and rock climbing walls effectively tied in with the childhood theme. The sound and costume crews should also be commended for their quick changes with mics as well as costumes. Overall, tech did a great job of ensuring the production flowed well and looked cohesive.

With vibrant energy and dedication to the theme of childhood, JP Taravella High School’s production of “Seussical” reminds you of “all the thinks you can think” when you dream in bright colors.

*** *** ***

By Genevieve Dubin of North Broward Preparatory School

Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, and the Grinch all pop off the pages of our most beloved childhood poems and onto the stage in a whimsical and wild production sure to have you dancing in your seat and feeling like a kid again. Based on Dr. Seuss’ children’s stories, JP Taravella’s production of “Seussical” magically spins these tales into a fantastical show about friendship, feathers, and faith.

This musical comedy, written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, weaves together several Seuss books, focusing on the adventures of Horton in the Jungle of Nool and his quest to save the tiny planet of Whoville. Debuting in 2000, “Seussical” had a short run on Broadway, but has since found loyal audiences in revivals at regional theatres and schools around the country.

Hunter Quinn who played the infamous Cat in the Hat, charmed the audience with his colorful antics and vivid facial expressions. Quinn moved the show along with his lively and comedic narration, maintaining his energetic physicality throughout his performance. Candice Davis portrayed the young day-dreaming JoJo. Davis’s nonstop enthusiasm throughout the show filled every scene with her kid-like energy.

Nicole Sugarman dazzled in her performance as Gertrude McFuzz. Sugarman’s incredible vocalization mesmerized the audience, her powerful voice hitting every note with ease. Her marvelous physicality and energy encapsulated Gertrude’s character. Sugarman’s exemplary performance was matched by that of her counterpart, Nicolas Vela as Horton. Vela’s smooth vocal ability and lovable charisma played wonderfully into his creation of this classic character. Vela convincingly created contrasting relationships with both Gertrude and Mayzie, infusing these friendships with very distinct and deliberate nuances.

Dani Wolfe was truly “amayzing” bringing to life the fanciful Mayzie. Her vocal technique  and expressive facial expressions shone through during her solos. Wolfe’s dazzling dancing dominated the stage and enhanced her flamboyant character. Mikey Uliano and Kayla LaCerra who played Mr. and Mrs. Mayor developed a sweet and believable chemistry. Their relationship onstage was distinct, not only with each other but also with JoJo.

The Wickersham Brothers and Bird Girls wowed with their infectious energy, shining with tight harmonies and seamless choreography. The ensemble, though at times lacking the energy to match the leading roles, did an outstanding job at keeping clear harmonies and fluid movements.

The production’s lighting and sound enhanced the overall performance. There was microphone feedback at times, however the crew was always quick to recover. The innovative use of lighting transported the audience to Whoville and the Jungle of Nool. The creative costumes contributed to each actor’s character and performance.

Only the “Biggest Blame Fool” could resist the charms of JP Taravella’s production. With heart, imagination, and a beloved cast of characters, Seussical transported the audience into a child-like trance and a world of wonder.

*** *** ***

By Adrianna Luna of Cooper City High School

In the words of Theodor Seuss Geisel, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. ” So grab your thinking hat, open your mind and steer yourself into the auditorium of JP Taravella High School’s production of “Seussical. ”

“Seussical” is a conglomeration of Dr. Seuss’ famous works brought to life by the minds of Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle who managed the great task of melding such vastly different stories into one. The musical follows the story of Horton the Elephant, a resident of the Jungle of Nool, a world created by the imagination of a lonely child named Jojo with the help of his new friend the Cat in the Hat. Horton discovers a miniature planet on a speck of dust containing people called Whos. He takes it upon himself to protect the Whos, however, he faces adversity from his short-sighted animal neighbors. Tackling themes of loyalty, prejudice, and individuality, “Seussical” is an all-encompassing musical for any and all ages.

Playing the infamous top hat wielding cat, Hunter Quinn guided the audience as he assumed the role of narrator. With the mischief of a feline, Quinn would break the fourth wall interacting with the audience, whether through a live auction for an elephant or misting the audience with his tears. Quinn did not disappoint, ensuring his facial expressions, exaggerated movements, and sass complemented the high energy and emotion of Candice Davis (Jojo). Davis gave a praise-worthy performance, capturing the child-like nature of Jojo through her physicality and facial expressions.

Serving as the hero archetype, Nicholas Vela showcased Horton’s heart of gold through his solemn physicality and range of expression. Vela’s melodic voice was displayed through numbers such as “Alone in the Universe” and “Solla Sollew. ” Vela and Nicole Sugarman (Gertrude) had undeniable chemistry developed through numbers such as “Notice Me, Horton” and “All For You. ” Not to go unnoticed, was Sugarman’s energy and well-established girl-next-door persona that added depth to the production.

Tasked with a demanding musical, the entire cast managed to maintain a consistently youthful, high-energy performance. The ensemble creatively made use of the stage, utilizing their orchestra pit at times and managing to keep the audience engaged. “A person’s a person no matter how small. ” Taking these words to heart, the cast debuted The Little Trojans, children from their school’s early childhood program, into the roles of Child Whos,  eliciting a resounding “aww” from the audience. Despite the lack of diction from some characters and occasional microphone feedback, it should be noted that eighteen mics were shared amongst thirty two actors and there were no major technical issues, a feat in and of itself.

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go”, if you let the world expertly crafted by JP Taravella High School in their production of “Seussical” manifest itself into reality. Meet a cat, with a red and white striped hat. Or follow a circus, as a one-tailed bird with a purpose. “Anything’s possible!”

*** *** ***

Reviews of Smile at Monarch High School on Saturday, 02/08/2020.


By Lauren Ferrer of Calvary Christian Academy

“She’s a typical high school senior, she is thoughtful and bright and clean.” Beauty pageants were first popularized in the 1920’s, searching to find the purest of female teenagers in America. However, there is a lot more to these contests than fancy dresses and the well-known “princess wave”. In Monarch High School’s production of Smile, we were transported to the behind the scenes bustle and tension that precedes every beauty pageant.

The original production is based on the 1975 film by Jerry Belson. The show was adapted for the stage as a musical, composed by Marvin Hamlisch with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman. The show opened on Broadway on November 24,1986 and ran until January 3, 1987 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, receiving a Tony nomination for best book. Smile narrates the backstage anxieties of the 1985 California Young American Miss beauty pageant in Santa Rosa, California. Friendships blossom and tension spreads as these young contestants fight for the title of Young American Miss.

From the second she walked on stage, Mia Prokop, playing the part of Doria Hudson, portrayed a deep understanding of her character’s background. With strong vocals and captivating physicality, Prokop made clear her character’s vivid aspirations for the contest. Playing Doria’s timid roommate Robin Gibson was Janessa Coronado. Coronado’s simple mannerisms made for an interesting character to watch; as we are able to see Robin go through the stages of the contest with hope and apprehension. The growing friendship between Robin and Doria was made evident from the first act to the second, making for a heartfelt dynamic throughout the show.

Other standout actors include the husband and wife duo, Brenda (Megan Almonte) and Bob Freelander (Nicolas Martins). Contrasting Almonte’s firm and organized persona, Martins revealed a wide range of emotion as conflict grew between himself and Brenda. With impeccable comedic timing and a consistent Spanish accent, Mariana Montoya dominated the role of Maria Gonzales. Gonzales’ hilarious persona and quirky mannerisms made for an exquisite performance. Although the ensemble lacked connection to the event at hand, the pageant contestants had a strong vocal blend which resulted in beautiful harmonies.

Technically, the show ran efficiently. Making the choice to have the run crew in costume proved beneficial, as it allowed for minimal distractions during scene transitions. Although the actors were not always lit, the lighting designers are to be commended for their beautiful depiction during the number,  Disneyland. With vibrant colors and simple staging, the lights transported the audience away from the pageant at hand and into Doria Hudson’s dreams and aspirations. The hair and make-up team proved their noticeable research as all hairstyles and make-up choices were cohesive to the 80’s time period.

Brimming with powerful vocals and contagious energy, Monarch High School’s production of Smile reminds us to follow our dreams, no matter the chances, nor the outcome.

*** *** ***

By Ash Scorca of St. Thomas Aquinas High School

Being in competition with others is always tense, and though it isn’t always fair; it seems to be the case that those who work the hardest or deserve a prize almost never get it. Through betrayal and unexpected decisions, this truth shined through in the Monarch Theatre Department’s production of Smile by Howard Ashman and Marvin Hamisch. As audiences follow the different experiences of pageant girls during the Young American Miss pageant, they see first hand just how unfair competition can be.

Smile spotlights the experiences of a handful of teenaged pageant girls as well as the adults who are running the event. As the story progresses, the audience grows to love certain characters, only to see their chances unfairly tampered with by a rival pageant hopeful. The musical was produced on Broadway in 1986, but takes place in 1985. It is loosely based off of a ‘75 film, also titled “Smile”. The production did not do well on Broadway, running for less than two months, and was never given an official cast recording; thus it was  dubbed a “lost” musical. The musical was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and received two Drama Desk Award nominations, but did not win any of the awards.

The Monarch actors harbored beautiful harmonies and overall vocals on the stage. They diligently worked through some rough technical difficulties to sound amazing despite them. The actors seemed to have a good understanding of their characters and their arcs, especially Megan Almonte who had an amazing stage presence in her role as Brenda Dicarlo Freelander. Also Nicolas Martins, as Big Bob Freelander,  held a cohesive chemistry with Almonte and portrayed strong emotions in his role. Though energy was low from some actors, Mariana Montoya as Maria Gonzales lit up the stage with her high energy and comedic timing. Through and through, the actors worked incredibly well with the script and did a wonderful job bringing the story to the stage.

With completely student-run technical aspects, the technicians impressed audiences with their skills. The operation of the spotlight was imposing, since unfortunately a spotlight operator was replaced since their opening night.  Although some technical elements did not make a lasting impression, props managed to stand out with incredible detail and perfectly matched the period of the piece.  The scene transitions were quick and generally helped the show run smoothly.

Overall, the Monarch Theatre Department put on an especially engaging performance of this lost musical. The trials of competition may have brought down the character of Maria Gonzales, but Monarch rose to the occasion with an impressive showing of skill and talent. Although the actors worked around some tech issues and tech worked around some replacement issues,  everyone was able to put their all into the production with a marvelous turnout.

*** *** ***

By Kelsey Wells of Calvary Christian Academy

Forty years ago, the world was all about big hair, bright colors, and yes, beauty pageants. While exhibiting flair and pizazz to rival any pageant contestant, the company of Monarch High School transported the audience back to the dazzling decade of the 80s with their performance of the musical, Smile.

Throughout the show, the entire cast came together wonderfully as an ensemble, heightening the energy and deepening characters’ chemistries. For the most part, the actors continued to demonstrate more energy as the show progressed, though there were some inconsistencies in their intentions from time to time.  All of the actors were deftly able to harmonize and blend well together in each of the songs, despite having to battle issues with the mics.  Credit to all the actors who did a good job of projecting when a mic would cut in and out during a scene.

The ensemble was full of individual performers with exceptional talent and unique vocals. Mia Prokop exhibited captivating control over both the tender notes and powerful belts of each of her songs in the role of Doria Hudson. Megan Almonte – who played Brenda Dicarlo Freelander – had a sweet and nurturing tone, perfect for her character as the pageant coordinator. In a show dominated by female characters, Nicolas Martins brought in a beautiful baritone sound that added diversity to the show and dimension to his character of Big Bob Freelander.

The cast also included people with rather interesting abilities. Certain contestants of the beauty pageant are demanded by the script to perform an array of talents in the competition, and two of these girls rose to the challenge brilliantly. Pooja Singh played Sandra-Kay Maccaffee whose talent is ventriloquy. She exhibited real prowess as a ventriloquist while bringing comedy to the routine. Grace Prokop played Connie-Sue Whipple whose talent is flag twirling. She dazzled the audience with her skilled turns and catches, making the difficult act seem almost effortless.

The technical aspects of the show ran fairly smoothly, especially the run crew. They swiftly moved various set pieces while in costume as pageant attendants, which added an extra element of realism to the show. This attention to detail was also exemplified by the props in many of the scenes, with the standout piece being the time period projector used during the final round of the pageant to display the contestant’s photos This authenticy accentuated the realism of the show and made the audience feel as though they were really transported back to the 80s.

The company of Monarch High School tackled quite a difficult musical with great energy, skilled vocals, and authenticity that made each performer shine onstage. They truly brought a smile to the audience’s faces.

*** *** ***

By Cristian Velasquez of Cypress Bay High School

Slip into your glamorous gowns, strap on those high heels, and put on a dazzling smile! First up on the runway is Monarch High School in their spirited production of “Smile,” where the unmerciful competitiveness and the saccharine friendships of the 16 young contestants are brought to light in the California Young American Miss beauty pageant.

Based on the 1975 comedy film of the same name, “Smile” opened on Broadway in 1986, closing in January of 1987. Earning a Tony nomination for Best Book and two Drama Desk Award nominations, the production features music by Marvin Hamlish with lyrics and book by Howard Ashman. “Smile” tells the comical tale of the California Young American Miss Beauty Pageant of 1985, as the participants compete for the title of California Young Miss America and the opportunity to move on to the national competition held in Baton Rouge.

Mia Prokop portrayed the confident and determined Doria Hudson. With powerful vocals and excellent placement, Prokop demonstrated exceptional vocal abilities, especially in her solo “Disneyland.” Her captivating and consistent stage presence never failed to grab the attention of the audience. Alongside Prokop was Janessa Coronado who played  the anxious underdog, Robin Gibson. Coronado additionally demonstrated beautiful vocals and maintained a distinguished character. Both actresses worked together remarkably, forming a sincere relationship throughout the production, despite being one another’s competition in the pageant.

Brenda Dicarlo Freelander, the pageant’s Executive Director, was portrayed by Megan Almonte. Almonte remained consistent throughout the show’s entirety and developed her character with dignity. She displayed notably clean vocals in her song “The Very Best Week of Your Lives.” Almonte additionally exhibited delightful chemistry with Nicolas Martins, who portrayed Big Bob Freelander, the head judge of the pageant.

With flawlessly blended harmonies, the ensemble of the pageant contestants must be recognized for their dedication and commitment, despite lacking energy and facials at times throughout the production. One of the most notable performances among them, was that of Mariana Montoya as the humorous Maria Gonzales. With her boundless energy and limitless zest, Montoya never failed to humor the audience through her stereotypical portrayal of the Mexican guacamole-making teen.

From the mom jeans and spandex workout clothes to the dazzling pageant dresses, the costume designers must be accredited for their research into popular 1980’s fashion, complementing each scene of the show wonderfully. The lighting designer’s usage of the colorful lights contributed nicely to the emotional tones of the scenes; however, the spotlights were distracting at times. Stage management must additionally be commended for their accuracy on the numerous lighting cues throughout the production, despite sound discrepancies.

As the pageant comes to an end and the judges announce the victors, Monarch High School’s rendition of “Smile” leaves us with one thought: in a world ruled by competition, winning is not all that is meaningful, rather it’s the friendships we form on the way and who we are competing for that matters.

*** *** ***

By Madison Winkler of American Heritage School

With eye-shadow and rouge, a teased hairdo, and a sparkling smile, she’s the epitome of an American dream girl. Possessing impeccable beauty and charisma, 16 soon-to-be seniors fend to claim the crown and prove both their beauty within and on the exterior. The cast of Smile at Monarch High School performed and competed for the prized title of overall excellency and a night of endless charm.

Smile the musical made its Broadway debut in 1986 with remarkable music by Marvin Hamlisch and a likewise exceptional book by Howard Ashman. Loosely based on a 1975 comedy film of the same name, the musical is acknowledged as “lost,” as it lacks any original cast recording. The musical discovers the behind the curtain drama and course of events at the fictional 1985 California Young American Miss beauty pageant. With a glance at both the contestant’s varying mindsets as well as the pageant director and her outspoken husband, the musical bursts with energy, pizzazz, and the coveted title up for grabs.

With radiating vocals in her early show solo “Disneyland,” actress Mia Prokop enchanted the audience with her southern bell portrayal of Doria Hudson. Building a sweet and pure friendship with underdog contestant, Robin Gibson (Janessa Coronado), she consistently provided strong character choices and vocals. In addition, the Freelander family succeeded in developing personas that captured the essence of Smile. Ex-pageant contestant and current competition director, Brenda DiCarlo Freelander, played by Megan Almonte, withheld a great deal of maturity and pride. Her humble husband and mischievous son, respectively Big and Little Bob Freelander, similarly gave realistic performances that complimented those previously mentioned.

Like the praised above, other cast members, Mariana Montoya (Maria Gonzales) and Logan Draluck (Tommy French) are worth commending. With hilarious comedic moments, Gonzales exploded with Mexican fire and every line induced laughter. To follow, Draluck’s role as the pageant’s choreographer, Tommy French, was executed to a tee and like Gonzales, had some funny additions to the evening.

The Contestants were a cohesive ensemble of darling divas as shown through their developed, distinct characters and ability to transform the audience into the pageant world. While they at times lacked in overall energy, their stellar vocals and crisp harmonies were superb, adding a layer of sophistication to such a composed show. Adorned with dazzling gowns, the girls poured their hearts out hopeful to claim Young American Miss.

Technically speaking, the cast and crew of Monarch High School exceeded initial expectations. With nearly every category done by the hard work of students, it was outstanding to watch such craft translate on stage. The lighting team did notably well with their usage of specific lights to compliment both Gloria’s fanciful solo “Disneyland,” as well as Maria’s sensational Mexican extravaganza. Every category was intricate and the time put towards achieving such work demanded intense acknowledgement.

All in all, the Monarch Theatre Department collaborated beautifully to create a piece of art that captured pageantry in an upbeat, enjoyable manner. While the show did falter with sound implications and consistency in energy, the cast and crew lead the way to grasp beauty in everything and everyone.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Bring It On at David Posnack Jewish Day School on Tuesday, 01/28/2020.


By Rylee Berger of Cooper City High School

The astounding athleticism, epic stunts, and catty drama of cheerleading have propelled it to ubiquity across popular culture, high schools, and professional sports alike. America’s fascination with the sport has led to multiple TV shows, movies, and now a musical. “Bring it On,” performed by David Posnack Jewish Day School, is an entertaining production filled with complicated choreography and bitter rivalries.

Inspired by a 2000 movie of the same name, the musical boasts a Tony- and Pulitzer-prize-winning creative team, including Tom Kitt (of “Next to Normal”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (of “Hamilton” and “In the Heights”). The catchy tunes and snarky dialogue feel right at home in the vindictive high school setting, where audiences are introduced to cheer captain Campbell and the rest of Truman High School’s squad. After a suspicious series of events results in her transfer to a new school (notably lacking a cheer squad), Campbell must convince the apprehensive students of Jackson High School to help her win the coveted national trophy while battling a sneaky sophomore who wants the prize – and the power – for herself.

Lillian Milgram brought Campbell to life with her enthusiasm and energy. Tasked with a challenging score and demanding role, Milgram demonstrated commendable stamina for the duration of the show. Milgram’s relationship with Phoebe Zucker as Danielle, the head of Jackson’s dance crew and top of the school’s social hierarchy, was notable for its chemistry and honesty. These qualities were on display in their compelling duet “We’re Not Done,” a highlight of the production due to its expressive vocals.

As Campbell’s nerdy sidekick Bridget, Whitney Wildstein brought hilarity and power to her performance. Her physicality showed obvious commitment to her character and her comedic timing expressed a clear understanding of the text. Her onstage relationships were well-developed and believable with multiple characters, including Campbell and Twig (Josh Riesenberg). Another standout performance was that of Margalit Maleh as Nautica, especially in the entertaining number, “It Ain’t No Thing.” Her captivating vocals, distinguished liveliness, and impressive dance skills made for a highly memorable performance.

The entire cast maintained consistent energy levels and appropriate facials. Despite the tendency of some performers to overact, their commitment to their roles and ability to make choices was nevertheless appreciated. Though harmonies often clashed, the ensemble should be commended for their ability to end each number on a high note, using strong cheerleading poses to their advantage.

The David Posnack Band had the difficult task of playing for the two-and-a-half-hour musical with a pop-rock score atypical of Broadway. Though the orchestra at times clashed with vocalists, they provided much-needed underscoring to the show’s lengthy transitions. Their performance during these moments was enjoyable and well-balanced.

Ultimately, rivalries ignite, friendships form, and unexpected heroes take the floor in David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring it On,” a fun and highly spirited production that is sure to reinforce cheerleading’s prominence in popular culture..

*** *** ***

By Reese Abrahamoff of Cooper City High School

“How do we know who we are unless we cross the line?” A complicated question whose answer may be found between two squads of cheerleaders and their ruthless desire for victory. Who will come out on top? Find out in David Posnack Jewish Day School’s enjoyable rendition of “Bring It On.”

Based on the 2000 film of the same name, “Bring It On” made its way to Broadway in 2012, closing later that same year. With music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt, lyrics by Miranda and Amanda Green, and a book by Jeff Whitty, the production earned two Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. Ready? Okay! First up to the mat is Truman High, a school where friendships lack loyalty and drama trumps education. After an unexpected redistricting decision, ex Truman cheer captain Campbell Davis finds herself walking the disheveled halls of Jackson High, a school on the wrong side of the tracks. Dealing with themes of racial and social division, “Bring It On” takes us through a story of jealousy, high-school romance, and quite a few cheer routines!

Leading lady Lillian Milgram did a wonderful job as Campbell. With continuous stamina and proper intentions, Milgram maintained her character throughout the entirety of the production and excelled in showing her transformation from “Queen Bee” to the anxious outsider. Alongside Milgram was Phoebe Zucker as the headstrong Jackson crew leader, Danielle. Zucker’s fierce attitude and assertive expressions allowed for a genuine understanding of her hardened upbringing. Both actresses worked well with one another, creating a sincere relationship that one would never have expected, most evident in their dynamic duet “We’re Not Done.”

Rocking both parrot heads and comedy, Whitney Wildstein’s (Bridget) endless zest and bold choices never failed to humor the audience. With non-stop energy and persistent character development, Wildstein took control of the stage and the heart of Josh Riesenberg (Twig) whose jock mentality complimented Wildstein’s awkward physicality. One of the most notable performances was by that of Margalit Maleh (Nautica). With remarkable singing abilities and impressive character choices, Maleh was always a standout amongst the ensemble. Her sassy persona and obvious background in dance allowed for a thoroughly entertaining performance full of certainty and vigor.

The ensemble should be recognized for their dedication and constant energy throughout the show. However, at certain points of the production, it seemed that several characters were lost with the music and therefore struggled with synchronization during the dances. Additionally, while the cast should be commended for tackling such a demanding production, they often lacked vocal delivery as well as character motivation. Despite this, the cast did a great job working with a live orchestra. The David Posnack Band maintained lively energy along with stunning sound quality that contributed to the upbeat nature of the production.

In a world where competition conquers all and the desire for success continues, it’s common to forget about the people around us who make us better. David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring It On” invites us to think deeper, let go, and fly high.

*** *** ***

By Annie Sudler of Calvary Christian Academy

The frenzied world of competitive cheerleading first flew onto the scene nearly 50 years ago and has quickly made a name for itself as one of the most athletic competitive sports.  Popular among high schools, most recognize the effort required to cheer, but few ever see the politics that go on in every squad.  David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring It On” gave an exciting glimpse behind the curtain of what it means to be a cheerleader in high school today.

Based on the 2000 movie of the same name, “Bring It On” first tumbled onto Broadway in July 2012.  With a book by Jeff Whitty, music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt, and lyrics by Miranda and Amanda Green, the show broke ground as being one of the first musicals to feature a significant transgender character.  Though the show closed after only a few months on Broadway, there has since been a national tour, London production, and an upcoming UK tour slated for June 2020.

“Bring It On” follows Campbell Davis at the end of her junior year.  Newly elected as the captain of Truman High School’s cheerleading squad, her world is shattered as a last-minute redistricting separates her from her friends Skylar and Kylar, her boyfriend Steven, and her squad.  She is sent to Jackson High School, where, much to her dismay, there is no cheer squad, but rather a dance crew.  After a rocky start, she befriends the leader of the dance crew, Danielle, and together they create a cheer squad to rival Truman’s new captain, a sophomore named Eva who masterminded Campbell’s leaving.

Lillian Milgram (Campbell) was a joy to watch.  Her beautiful voice lent itself perfectly to the style of the score, and her relationships with others onstage mirrored those that would be seen in the halls of any high school today.  Another standout performer was Whitney Wildstein.  Playing the quirky and awkward Bridget, Wildstein gave what could easily be the most energetic performance of the night.  Her mannerisms and spot-on expressions coupled with masterful comedic timing ensured that sweet Bridget remained a favorite throughout the show.

Of course, members of the Jackson crew warrant praise as well.  Both Danielle (Phoebe Zucker) and Nautica (Margalit Maleh) took to the stage with fierce dances and strong characters.  They recovered from any sort of stumbling block sent their way with ease, whether a dropped line in a song or a missed move.  Over at Truman, Eva (Tal Naider) gave a similarly admirable performance.  Her wild rise to power was well crafted, and her ability to switch between timidity and ire was impressive.

The ensemble of the show certainly had a lot of work to do.  Playing both Truman cheerleaders and Jackson dancers and cheerleaders, the dances were endless and the stamina was high.  However, there were certainly moments where the energy dipped, such as in long numbers.  Though the soloists were able to carry the focus in those moments, it was not unnoticeable.  The live band playing the pop score did a remarkable job staying completely in sync with the performers, even adjusting slightly to compensate for timing errors amongst the cast.  Even during long scene changes, the underscoring helped keep the mood up and the audience focused.

At its core, “Bring It On” is the quintessential high school musical.  It explores popularity, loneliness, friendship, and what it truly means to do what you love.  David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring It On” was a truly heartwarming performance that reinforced the idea of unity and moving on.

*** *** ***

By Sarah Wyner of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

What’s a cheer captain without a squad? Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say, and whether you’ve been relocated to a new school or are being overthrown by your power-hungry next-door neighbor, it is essential to have your squad to keep your spirits high. Stunted into greatness, David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring It On” proves to be a relevant comedy that delves into the complexities of unexpected friendships, facing the unknown, and embracing what you were born to do.

Loosely based on the 2000 movie of the same name, “Bring It On: The Musical” is mounted with legendary music and lyrics by tony-award winning team, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt, and Amanda Green. After officially premiering on Broadway in August 2012, the show scored three Tony nominations including a nomination for best musical. This spirited show focuses in on the life of Campbell Davis, ambitious cheer captain of Truman High School, whose entire world takes a spin when she is suddenly redistricted across town to Jackson High. Though the school doesn’t even have a cheer team, Campbell finds her own sassy squad and works hard for her dreams against all odds, in the face of any competition.

Leading the production with exuberant energy was Lillian Milgram as the hopeful teenage cheer captain, Campbell Davis. Milgram led each number with strong charisma, and admirably captured the rowdy cheerleader’s compassionate side in her stunning, soft solo, “One Perfect Moment”. As Campbell’s new admirer at Jackson High, Randall, Shaun Rousso exuded an adorable passion all throughout his stage time and a clear chemistry with Milgram, notably in their duet, “Enjoy the Trip.”

As the cheery reject, Bridget, who yearns for a position on the cheerleading team, Whitney Wildstein frolicked across the stage with endless vitality and wit. Commanding the stage in her eccentric role, Wildstein roused the crowd with her enjoyable musical moments and impressive comedic timing. Another standout was Josh Riesenberg, who charmingly portrayed Jackson’s one and only hip-hop sensation, Twig. Riesenberg’s playful line delivery in scenes where he was crushing hard on Bridget made his character absolutely amusing to watch.

Despite minor inconsistencies in some performers’ musical timing, the orchestra did a commendable job maintaining the show’s buoyant acoustics with clear dedication and intensity that ultimately heightened the power of the production. The ensemble of Truman and Jackson cheerleaders brought high levels of energy and precision in each dance move. Most memorably, the Jackson trio, Danielle, Nautica, and La Cienega, portrayed by Phoebe Zucker, Margalit Maleh, and Alexandra Pri-Hadash, respectively, added a spice of sass and spunk to the students of Jackson.

In the end, “it’s all happening” at David Posnack Jewish Day School in their high-flying production of “Bring It On.” Packed with superior facials, spirit fingers galore, and one cheertastic competition, this all-star cast truly reminds us to follow our hearts, give it our all, and just “enjoy the trip” while we still can.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Aida at Dillard High School on Friday, 01/31/2020.


By Abbey Alder of Calvary Christian Academy

“Love is an ever-changing situation, but one thing remains the same: Love prevails in one way or another.” No truer words exemplify the powerful story of “Aida.” Dillard Center for the Arts’ production of “Aida” ignites the possibility and power that comes with changing one’s fate.

Based on Antonio Ghislanzoni and Giuseppe Verdi’s 19th-century opera of the same name, “Aida” was reinvented into a Tony-winning musical with an unforgettable score by the renowned duo of Elton John and Tim Rice. Premiering on Broadway at the Palace Theatre in March of 2000, “Aida” awed audiences and critics alike, which resulted in four Tony Awards and a National Tour. The show begins in the present-day, inside the Egyptian Wing of a museum with a couple drifting toward a burial chamber. The stage transforms in an instant, commencing the audiences’ journey to ancient Egypt to bear witness to a love triangle that transcends cultures and the passage of time. The spotlight is set on Aida, a strong Nubian princess enslaved by Radames, the Egyptian Captain. The two become romantically involved despite Radames’ betrothal to the Pharaoh’s daughter, Amneris. Aida ultimately must choose between love or liberating her people.

Playing the leading lady, Azaria Pearson thoroughly embodied Aida by displaying a great emotional understanding of her role and justifying her feelings through her physicality. Even while belting to the heavens in numbers such as “Dance of the Robe,” Pearson presented her vocal dexterity with ease. Playing the other half of the pair of star-crossed lovers was Andrew Robichaud as Radames. Robichaud asserted his dominance on the stage and exhibited his vast vocal range with noticeable technique. Together, the pair’s chemistry grew as the show progressed and fostered a seemingly real relationship.

Captivating audiences with her dazzling presence, Camila Peña-Torres played the princess, Amneris. Camila was particularly beaming in “My Strongest Suit,” where she demonstrated vocal control and prowess. Notable for his performance as Mereb, Solomon Liria was immediately engaging and emotionally present as he sang. Commendably, the Nubian ensemble collectively told the same story with their facials and attitudes. Occasionally, when sharing the stage, some ensemble members demonstrated more energy than others. The choreography executed by the ensemble was very clean, but at times lacked motivation. Overall, the ensemble was highly effective and contributed to the movement of the story.

Technical elements such as costumes, set, and lighting enriched the performance. However, sound elements were distracting and drew attention away from the story. The orchestrations, led by Juan Sebastian Fernandez, contributed to the energy of the show, setting the tone with an uplifting flare. Despite overpowering the actors in volume at some points, the orchestra enhanced the experience as a whole.

Dillard Center for the Arts’ production of “Aida” emphasized each person’s power to be courageous. As Aida so firmly said, “Fortune favors the brave.”

*** *** ***

By Nicole Ehrlich of Western high school

Powerful vocals, astounding orchestrations, and the brilliant telling of a tragic love story perfectly encapsulate Dillard Center for the Performing Arts’ heart-pounding production of “Aida.”

With music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, “Aida” is based upon the opera that shares the same name. This wonderfully crafted musical brings the age-old history between Ancient Egypt and Nubia to life while conducting a star-crossed love between the captured Nubian princess, Aida,  and the Captain of the Egyptian army, Radames. Romance, danger, and tragedy ensue, making for an electrifying experience. “Aida” opened on Broadway in 2000 and closed after 1,852 performances in 2004. The show won four Tony Awards after being nominated for five.

The beautiful Azaria Pearson took the titular role of Aida with astounding grace and power. Her body language spoke volumes, allowing for her acting to shine even brighter. Pearson embodied Aida, speaking gently to her Nubian people but showing the force of a princess who longs for the protection of her land. Her acting wasn’t the only outstanding point of Pearson’s abilities. Aida’s songs take a great deal of effort to pull off, but she proved it could be done with ease, allowing for her powerhouse vocal abilities to resonate throughout the theater. Aida would have never gone through the tough decisions she encountered without the presence of her adventurous lover, Radames, performed by Andrew Robichaud. Although there were mic issues throughout, Robichaud projected very well, surrounding the audience with the crisp control of his voice. The connection between Pearson and Robichaud grew stronger as the scenes came along, making for the heart-wrenching reunion after many years of searching for each other even more satisfying.

Showing off more of Dillard’s breathtaking singing talents, Camila Peña-Torres, depicting the glamorous Amneris, mastered the difficult vocal power with no sweat. Her solo, “I Know the Truth” showed depth and great emotional drain in the typically bubbly character. Torres’ comedic timing stood out greatly, building memorable laughs to cool off the nerves of the tense story. Portraying the dutiful and devoted Mereb, Solomon Liria always had eyes on him as he stepped on the stage. His sympathy and need for Aida were endearing, but the most eye-catching moments were whenever Liria opened his mouth to showcase his smooth singing abilities. “How I Know You (Reprise)” was music to everyone’s ears with his butter-like vocal technique, along with his emotional diction.

Out of many technical aspects of this show, the Dillard Center for the Arts Orchestra definitely shines spectacularly. Even though there were songs where singing was drowned out by the music, the live orchestrations formed an immersive aura throughout the production. Each instrument was played with great skill, never making a mistake in the music.

Dillard Center for the Arts captured the passionate love story of “Aida,” while retelling the timeless lesson that love will always power through hate.

*** *** ***

By Leah Tomas of J.P. Taravella High School

Travel back to the past, to a land far beyond reach. Under the blistering heat of the African sun and along the cool shores of the Nile River, an epic tale of loyalty, loss, and betrayal is beginning to unfold. Join Dillard Center for the Arts on a journey to uncharted lands for their timeless production of “Aida,” a story of “a love that flourished in a time of hate.”

Based on the Italian opera of the same title, “Aida” was written by Robert Falls, Linda Woolverton, and David Henry Hwang, with music by Elton John underscoring lyrics by Tim Rice. The story takes place in ancient Egypt after the capture and enslavement of Nubian princess Aida by captain Radames; an Egyptian soldier betrothed to the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris. The story follows the forbidden love between Aida and Radames, ascending leaders of two warring countries, and the turmoil that ensues when the two lovers are forced to balance their romantic desires and loyalty to their homelands. “Aida,” originally intended to debut as a Disney-produced animation, made its world premiere as “Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida” at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. The production opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre, winning four Tony Awards, along with an additional Drama Desk and Grammy Award.

Azaria Pearson (Aida) led the production with a strong stage presence, and excellent use of song lyrics in addition to distinct physicality as a means to facilitate her storytelling and expression. Andrew Robichaud (Radames) demonstrated evident commitment to his character throughout the production along with refined chemistry with Pearson. Both actors delivered impressive vocals along with a clear emotional arc individually and in relation to each other.

Camila Peña-Torres (Amneris) commanded the stage with exuberant confidence, great comedic timing, and outstanding vocal stamina specifically highlighted during the number “My Strongest Suit.” She additionally shared a dynamic relationship with Pearson displaying substantial character development throughout the performance. Jevaughn Jean-Gilles (Zoser) exhibited unwavering energy and consistency, and Solomon Liria (Mereb) effortlessly captured the essence of his character through his flawlessly passionate vocal performance.

The ensemble of this production, though at times fluctuating in energy and expression, delivered a fantastic performance through their clean execution of choreography and vocal harmony. Each actor displayed unique characterization and focus, specifically during the number “Dance of the Robe.” Strong leaders of the ensemble included Patriceia Sands (Nehebka), Keanu Bernabe (Pharaoh), and Quentin Mack (Amonasro).

The technical aspects of this production were relatively well executed. Combined technical elements with actor performance clearly and respectfully expressed multiple African cultures beautifully, clearly establishing the tone and location of the story. Throughout the production, microphones frequently malfunctioned, making the actors difficult to hear over the orchestra, which appeared to be slightly too loud, though they played very well.

Dillard Center for the Arts’s production of “Aida” is an enduring story of an unexpected star-crossed love strong enough to withstand the test of time, to which one phrase holds true “Every story, new or ancient, bagatelle or work of art: all are tales of human failing; all are tales of love at heart.”

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of J.P. Taravella High School

The flying sails of an Egyptian barge bombarded the stage sweeping you to a world of warring kingdoms, forbidden love, and “Elaborate Lives.” A museum exhibit transforms into the enchanting world of ancient Egypt as a sculpture comes to life to tell the story of star-crossed lovers.  Dillard Center for the Arts’s production of “Aida” will test the lovers’ loyalty to their kingdoms when faced with the blinding rays of true love.

Based on the opera of the same name, the musical adaptation premiered on Broadway in 2000, claiming four Tony awards and a Grammy for “Best Musical Show Album.” With music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls, and David Henry Hwang, “Aida” follows the story of an ill-destined love of an enslaved Nubian princess and an Egyptian warrior betrothed to the Pharaoh’s daughter. The misfortuned lovers face adversity as the wrath of their warring countries tests their love.

Azaria Pearson portrayed the courageous and loyal Aida. Pearson’s demanding stage presence was captivating with every entrance. She expressed marvelous vocals and did a commendable job using her emotions to motivate her vocal dynamics. Playing  Radames, Aida’s secret lover, and the Captain of an Egyptian military ship, Andrew Robichaud presented consistent characterization and showed a clear development throughout the production. The technicality and clarity of Robichaud’s vocals contributed to his notable performance. Robichaud and Pearson highlighted the complexities of their flourishing relationship while presenting engaging chemistry.

Amneris, the Egyptian princess and Radames’s bride-to-be, was captured by Camila Peña-Torres. Peña-Torres superbly showcased the contrast of her character’s materialistic and sensitive qualities.  Her impeccable comedic timing and unwavering energy captured the lively spirit of her role. Soloman Liria embodied Mereb, a faithful Nubian slave. Liria showcased clear and impressive vocals capturing the essence of his vocally meticulous role. His expressions aligned clearly with his tone and inflections.

The ensemble of the production maintained engaging energy throughout the entirety of the performance and expressed beautiful harmonies. They presented the intricate choreography with ease while consistently incorporating stylistic movements from the  Egyptian culture. The ensemble appeared actively engaged and showcased individual and well-developed characters.

The technical aspects of the production helped convey the typical presentation of ancient Egypt by depicting a royal and opulent environment. The costumes and scenery aided in the establishment of the setting. The magnificent orchestra energized the production with its stellar tone and overall immersive quality.  The dynamic lighting helped indicate the different environments and emphasized the mood of each scene.

In a time of royal conflict, a forbidden romance prevails. Dillard Center for the Arts’s captivating production of “Aida” will test a love as deep as the Nile River runs long.

*** *** ***

By Rachel Goldberg of Cooper City High School

Most people think that “The Past is Another Land” and it’s of no importance to the modern world; however, Dillard Center for the Arts’ production of “Aida” proves that love is truly timeless and can eclipse any barrier.

With music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, “Aida” is based on an Italian opera written by Antonio Ghislanzoni with music by Giuseppe Verdi. The show premiered on Broadway in 2000 and won four Tony Awards. This musical tells the tale of an enslaved Nubian princess named Aida (Azaria Pearson), who finds herself fancied by Egyptian Captain Radames (Andrew Robichaud), even though he is betrothed to the Pharaoh’s daughter. Radames and Aida’s forbidden devotion to one another becomes a paradigm of true love that ultimately transcends the stark cultural contrast between their warring nations, yielding a time of unparalleled prosperity and peace.

Possessing a sharp tongue and a sharper mind, Aida, portrayed by Azaria Pearson exudes nobility. Her powerful performance showed great range and impressive development of her character’s arc. Pearson did an exceptional job building chemistry with every character she encountered, as well as showing her character’s turmoil when tasked with leading her people. Her clear commitment to her character shone through her choices in physicality and vocal delivery; her choices always expertly amplified how her character was feeling.

Most notable of Pearson’s relationships was that between her and Andrew Robichaud as Radames. Robichaud had a distinct stylistic voice that allowed him to convey his character’s emotions while in song. Together, Robichaud and Pearson developed a palpable connection, and their chemistry only grew throughout the performance. As Amneris, the daughter of the Pharaoh with a fashion fixation, Camilia Peña-Torres exuded high energy, confidence, and remarkable vocals. She showed amazing development from her role in Act 1 as the comedic relief to her character’s more mature and serious capacity in Act 2.

Overall, the cast did a stellar job in creating genuine characters. The ensemble’s commitment to their roles told many unique stories within the plot. Although there were times in which the company could have expressed more range in dynamics, their energy was authentic and consistent, especially in the song “Dance of the Robes.” The orchestra completed the intense score of this show seemingly with ease, providing a beautiful sound to the story. Despite overpowering the actors while playing, the musicians were professional, and the music immensely added to the performance.

The overwhelming passion of the company of Dillard Center for the Arts’ “Aida,” embraces stunning vocals, exuberant dancing, and promises the audience another story as two familiar strangers meet in an Egyptian history museum, continuing Radames and Aida’s love forever.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Bring It On at David Posnack Jewish Day School on Tuesday, 01/28/2020.


By Sarah Wyner of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

What’s a cheer captain without a squad? Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say, and whether you’ve been relocated to a new school or are being overthrown by your power-hungry next-door neighbor, it is essential to have your squad to keep your spirits high. Stunted into greatness, David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring It On” proves to be a relevant comedy that delves into the complexities of unexpected friendships, facing the unknown, and embracing what you were born to do.

Loosely based on the 2000 movie of the same name, “Bring It On: The Musical” is mounted with legendary music and lyrics by tony-award winning team, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt, and Amanda Green. After officially premiering on Broadway in August 2012, the show scored three Tony nominations including a nomination for best musical. This spirited show focuses in on the life of Campbell Davis, ambitious cheer captain of Truman High School, whose entire world takes a spin when she is suddenly redistricted across town to Jackson High. Though the school doesn’t even have a cheer team, Campbell finds her own sassy squad and works hard for her dreams against all odds, in the face of any competition.

Leading the production with exuberant energy was Lillian Milgram as the hopeful teenage cheer captain, Campbell Davis. Milgram led each number with strong charisma, and admirably captured the rowdy cheerleader’s compassionate side in her stunning, soft solo, “One Perfect Moment”. As Campbell’s new admirer at Jackson High, Randall, Shaun Rousso exuded an adorable passion all throughout his stage time and a clear chemistry with Milgram, notably in their duet, “Enjoy the Trip.”

As the cheery reject, Bridget, who yearns for a position on the cheerleading team, Whitney Wildstein frolicked across the stage with endless vitality and wit. Commanding the stage in her eccentric role, Wildstein roused the crowd with her enjoyable musical moments and impressive comedic timing. Another standout was Josh Riesenberg, who charmingly portrayed Jackson’s one and only hip-hop sensation, Twig. Riesenberg’s playful line delivery in scenes where he was crushing hard on Bridget made his character absolutely amusing to watch.

Despite minor inconsistencies in some performers’ musical timing, the orchestra did a commendable job maintaining the show’s buoyant acoustics with clear dedication and intensity that ultimately heightened the power of the production. The ensemble of Truman and Jackson cheerleaders brought high levels of energy and precision in each dance move. Most memorably, the Jackson trio, Danielle, Nautica, and La Cienega, portrayed by Phoebe Zucker, Margalit Maleh, and Alexandra Pri-Hadash, respectively, added a spice of sass and spunk to the students of Jackson.

In the end, “it’s all happening” at David Posnack Jewish Day School in their high-flying production of “Bring It On.” Packed with superior facials, spirit fingers galore, and one cheertastic competition, this all-star cast truly reminds us to follow our hearts, give it our all, and just “enjoy the trip” while we still can.

*** *** ***

By Annie Sudler of Calvary Christian Academy

The frenzied world of competitive cheerleading first flew onto the scene nearly 50 years ago and has quickly made a name for itself as one of the most athletic competitive sports.  Popular among high schools, most recognize the effort required to cheer, but few ever see the politics that go on in every squad.  David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring It On” gave an exciting glimpse behind the curtain of what it means to be a cheerleader in high school today.

Based on the 2000 movie of the same name, “Bring It On” first tumbled onto Broadway in July 2012.  With a book by Jeff Whitty, music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt, and lyrics by Miranda and Amanda Green, the show broke ground as being one of the first musicals to feature a significant transgender character.  Though the show closed after only a few months on Broadway, there has since been a national tour, London production, and an upcoming UK tour slated for June 2020.

“Bring It On” follows Campbell Davis at the end of her junior year.  Newly elected as the captain of Truman High School’s cheerleading squad, her world is shattered as a last-minute redistricting separates her from her friends Skylar and Kylar, her boyfriend Steven, and her squad.  She is sent to Jackson High School, where, much to her dismay, there is no cheer squad, but rather a dance crew.  After a rocky start, she befriends the leader of the dance crew, Danielle, and together they create a cheer squad to rival Truman’s new captain, a sophomore named Eva who masterminded Campbell’s leaving.

Lillian Milgram (Campbell) was a joy to watch.  Her beautiful voice lent itself perfectly to the style of the score, and her relationships with others onstage mirrored those that would be seen in the halls of any high school today.  Another standout performer was Whitney Wildstein.  Playing the quirky and awkward Bridget, Wildstein gave what could easily be the most energetic performance of the night.  Her mannerisms and spot-on expressions coupled with masterful comedic timing ensured that sweet Bridget remained a favorite throughout the show.

Of course, members of the Jackson crew warrant praise as well.  Both Danielle (Phoebe Zucker) and Nautica (Margalit Maleh) took to the stage with fierce dances and strong characters.  They recovered from any sort of stumbling block sent their way with ease, whether a dropped line in a song or a missed move.  Over at Truman, Eva (Tal Naider) gave a similarly admirable performance.  Her wild rise to power was well crafted, and her ability to switch between timidity and ire was impressive.

The ensemble of the show certainly had a lot of work to do.  Playing both Truman cheerleaders and Jackson dancers and cheerleaders, the dances were endless and the stamina was high.  However, there were certainly moments where the energy dipped, such as in long numbers.  Though the soloists were able to carry the focus in those moments, it was not unnoticeable.  The live band playing the pop score did a remarkable job staying completely in sync with the performers, even adjusting slightly to compensate for timing errors amongst the cast.  Even during long scene changes, the underscoring helped keep the mood up and the audience focused.

At its core, “Bring It On” is the quintessential high school musical.  It explores popularity, loneliness, friendship, and what it truly means to do what you love.  David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring It On” was a truly heartwarming performance that reinforced the idea of unity and moving on.

*** *** ***

By Rylee Berger of Cooper City High School

The astounding athleticism, epic stunts, and catty drama of cheerleading have propelled it to ubiquity across popular culture, high schools, and professional sports alike. America’s fascination with the sport has led to multiple TV shows, movies, and now a musical. “Bring it On,” performed by David Posnack Jewish Day School, is an entertaining production filled with complicated choreography and bitter rivalries.

Inspired by a 2000 movie of the same name, the musical boasts a Tony- and Pulitzer-prize-winning creative team, including Tom Kitt (of “Next to Normal”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (of “Hamilton” and “In the Heights”). The catchy tunes and snarky dialogue feel right at home in the vindictive high school setting, where audiences are introduced to cheer captain Campbell and the rest of Truman High School’s squad. After a suspicious series of events results in her transfer to a new school (notably lacking a cheer squad), Campbell must convince the apprehensive students of Jackson High School to help her win the coveted national trophy while battling a sneaky sophomore who wants the prize – and the power – for herself.

Lillian Milgram brought Campbell to life with her enthusiasm and energy. Tasked with a challenging score and demanding role, Milgram demonstrated commendable stamina for the duration of the show. Milgram’s relationship with Phoebe Zucker as Danielle, the head of Jackson’s dance crew and top of the school’s social hierarchy, was notable for its chemistry and honesty. These qualities were on display in their compelling duet “We’re Not Done,” a highlight of the production due to its expressive vocals.

As Campbell’s nerdy sidekick Bridget, Whitney Wildstein brought hilarity and power to her performance. Her physicality showed obvious commitment to her character and her comedic timing expressed a clear understanding of the text. Her onstage relationships were well-developed and believable with multiple characters, including Campbell and Twig (Josh Riesenberg). Another standout performance was that of Margalit Maleh as Nautica, especially in the entertaining number, “It Ain’t No Thing.” Her captivating vocals, distinguished liveliness, and impressive dance skills made for a highly memorable performance.

The entire cast maintained consistent energy levels and appropriate facials. Despite the tendency of some performers to overact, their commitment to their roles and ability to make choices was nevertheless appreciated. Though harmonies often clashed, the ensemble should be commended for their ability to end each number on a high note, using strong cheerleading poses to their advantage.

The David Posnack Band had the difficult task of playing for the two-and-a-half-hour musical with a pop-rock score atypical of Broadway. Though the orchestra at times clashed with vocalists, they provided much-needed underscoring to the show’s lengthy transitions. Their performance during these moments was enjoyable and well-balanced.

Ultimately, rivalries ignite, friendships form, and unexpected heroes take the floor in David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring it On,” a fun and highly spirited production that is sure to reinforce cheerleading’s prominence in popular culture.

*** *** ***

By Reese Abrahamoff of Cooper City High School

“How do we know who we are unless we cross the line?” A complicated question whose answer may be found between two squads of cheerleaders and their ruthless desire for victory. Who will come out on top? Find out in David Posnack Jewish Day School’s enjoyable rendition of “Bring It On.”

Based on the 2000 film of the same name, “Bring It On” made its way to Broadway in 2012, closing later that same year. With music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt, lyrics by Miranda and Amanda Green, and a book by Jeff Whitty, the production earned two Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. Ready? Okay! First up to the mat is Truman High, a school where friendships lack loyalty and drama trumps education. After an unexpected redistricting decision, ex Truman cheer captain Campbell Davis finds herself walking the disheveled halls of Jackson High, a school on the wrong side of the tracks. Dealing with themes of racial and social division, “Bring It On” takes us through a story of jealousy, high-school romance, and quite a few cheer routines!

Leading lady Lillian Milgram did a wonderful job as Campbell. With continuous stamina and proper intentions, Milgram maintained her character throughout the entirety of the production and excelled in showing her transformation from “Queen Bee” to the anxious outsider. Alongside Milgram was Phoebe Zucker as the headstrong Jackson crew leader, Danielle. Zucker’s fierce attitude and assertive expressions allowed for a genuine understanding of her hardened upbringing. Both actresses worked well with one another, creating a sincere relationship that one would never have expected, most evident in their dynamic duet “We’re Not Done.”

Rocking both parrot heads and comedy, Whitney Wildstein’s (Bridget) endless zest and bold choices never failed to humor the audience. With non-stop energy and persistent character development, Wildstein took control of the stage and the heart of Josh Riesenberg (Twig) whose jock mentality complimented Wildstein’s awkward physicality. One of the most notable performances was by that of Margalit Maleh (Nautica). With remarkable singing abilities and impressive character choices, Maleh was always a standout amongst the ensemble. Her sassy persona and obvious background in dance allowed for a thoroughly entertaining performance full of certainty and vigor.

The ensemble should be recognized for their dedication and constant energy throughout the show. However, at certain points of the production, it seemed that several characters were lost with the music and therefore struggled with synchronization during the dances. Additionally, while the cast should be commended for tackling such a demanding production, they often lacked vocal delivery as well as character motivation. Despite this, the cast did a great job working with a live orchestra. The David Posnack Band maintained lively energy along with stunning sound quality that contributed to the upbeat nature of the production.

In a world where competition conquers all and the desire for success continues, it’s common to forget about the people around us who make us better. David Posnack Jewish Day School’s production of “Bring It On” invites us to think deeper, let go, and fly high.

*** *** ***

*

Reviews of Driving Miss Daisy at Deerfield Beach High School on Saturday, 11/23/2019.


By Reese Abrahamoff of Cooper City High School

Lock the car, start your engine, and get ready for a road trip to the 1900s! On your way to the Deep South, you’ll find Deerfield Beach High School and their heartfelt production of “Driving Miss Daisy” as they delve into themes of human dignity and the importance of friendship.

The play, written by Alfred Uhry, made its debut in 1987 at the Playwrights Horizons Studio Theatre. The show opened on Broadway in 2010 after two National Tours and a 1989 film adaption, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the backseat of a 1949 Hudson Commodore, you’ll find Daisy Werthan, a Jewish, crotchety, white Southern woman with no intention of making friends. Enter Hoke Coleburn, a dignified, soft-spoken African American in desperate need of a job. When an unlikely friendship is formed, we are taken through twenty-five years of learning and enlightenment where we come to understand that companionship is, simply put, more important than societal expectations.

Leading lady Sarah Mellinger did a lovely job as the irritable Daisy Werthan. Mellinger’s olden physicality and constant state of dissatisfaction worked extremely well with her character’s grouchy tendencies and close-minded persona. From ridiculous accusations to subtle temper tantrums, Mellinger never faltered in showcasing the stubborn mannerisms of an elderly woman, which allowed for refreshing moments of comedy in a rather serious show. Alongside Mellinger was Chad Chambers as Hoke Coleburn. With clear motivations and a crisp southern dialect, Coleburn’s charismatic nature complemented his ability to play off of Daisy and her headstrong attitude. Together, Chambers and Mellinger demonstrated proper character development as time progressed, allowing for a sincere discovery of solace within each other.

Initiating the relationship between Daisy and Hoke was Alan Halaly (Boolie Werthan), Daisy’s insistent and loving son. With substantial energy and lively expression, Halaly’s sense of loyalty to his mother and her safe-keeping was evident throughout the entirety of the production and led to a truly genuine performance. In such a small cast, it can be easy to lose motivation and purpose. While certain lines seemed to be anticipated by the cast, the actors’ intimacy and character commitment allowed the audience to remain connected to the show and its mature themes.

The technical aspects of the show were outstanding, especially in reflecting the production’s passage of time. With the use of audible transitions throughout scene changes, such as snippets of Christmas music and, later, published songs, sound excelled in showing the character’s change in age as well as their understanding of life. The hair and makeup team, with the inclusion of sublime old-age makeup, accurately represented the maturity of the characters and presented remarkable attention to detail.

On the drive back to each of our own destinations, we are left to contemplate the true meaning of friendship. Upon the closing of the curtain, Deerfield Beach High School’s “Driving Miss Daisy,” leaves us with one thought; the road you travel on doesn’t always lead you to the destination you had hoped for, but if you can look back on your journey and smile, then it was worth it.

*** *** ***

By Kaitlyn Tully of Calvary Christian Academy

“Driving Miss Daisy” premiered off-Broadway in 1987 and made it onto Broadway in 2010. It won the Pulitzer prize in 1988 and was adapted into a popular movie in 1989. It follows a 72-year-old woman named Daisy whose son believes she needs a chauffeur, despite her adamant protestations that she does not. For the first week, she refuses to let the chauffeur, Hoke, transport her anywhere. When she finally allows him to drive her, they begin to become friends, caring deeply about each other.

The raw nature of this friendship shone through in the chemistry between Daisy (Sarah Mellinger) and Hoke (Chad Chambers). As their friendship blossomed, so did their interactions, leaving in their wake a friendship that would hold them together even when times grew difficult. Their comedic timing added a lighthearted air to the play, creating a sense of beauty in their friendship. Their accents increased the believability, making one feel as though one truly was in Atlanta. Sarah Mellinger’s ability to appear old added to this believability as she would shuffle down stairs and hold her hand to her back. However, other actors seemed to struggle slightly with the nuances of acting elderly. Despite this, the actors did manage to appear older at the end of the show, with Chad Chambers leaning on his cane like it was the only thing holding him up. And somehow, one felt that it was, that without Daisy to hold him up he was near collapsing.

The technical aspects of the show dropped one straight into 1948, allowing one to truly understand the context of the play. Props by Jennifer “Blue” Moore and Yeva Ilyankova became integral in establishing the setting, with magazines from the 1940s and rotary phones. Their attention to detail was incredible as they had real liquid in the teapot and real pie at the end. However, as the time period changed, the props did not, resulting in Daisy reading the same magazine in the 1960s as she did in the 1940s. Fortunately, sound by Michael Hahn also worked in establishing the time period, using classic songs in the transitions to create a sense of the passage of time. The timing of the sound cues was impeccable, making the play even more believable.

Deerfield Beach High School’s production of “Driving Miss Daisy” reminded one that friendship is what holds people together, even in the most difficult of times. It becomes the thing that is most important even as time passes and people change. And eventually, friendships are what allow us to become who we are meant to be.

*** *** ***

By Levi Cole of NSU University School

As people age, they are often distressed by their loss of independence. Deerfield Beach High School’s Production of “Driving Miss Daisy” tells the story of taking a step back and letting someone else take the wheel.

Authored by Alfred Uhry, Pulitzer Prize winning “Driving Miss Daisy” is the first of Uhry’s Atlanta Trilogy, which details the life of Jewish-Americans in Atlanta. The play first premiered Off-Broadway at the Playwrights Horizons Studio Theatre in April of 1987. Eventually, the production made its Broadway debut in 2010. Set over a 25 year period from the late 1940’s to the early 70’s, the narrative follows Daisy Werthan, an entitled, elderly Jewish woman, and her son Boolie. When Daisy’s age begins to degrade her driving ability, Boolie decides hire a chauffeur for Miss Daisy, an African-American man named Hoke. Initially, Daisy is hesitant, but, over time, Miss Daisy and Hoke develop an incredible bond.

As Miss Daisy, Sarah Mellinger displayed excellent characterization, physicality, and mannerisms throughout the performance, allowing her to portray a convincing elderly woman. Mellinger’s consistent Atlanta accent and delivery furthered the believability of her character and enhanced the production tremendously. Mellinger also exhibited laudable comedic timing, adding humor to the production. Chad Chambers demonstrated strong commitment and characterization as the sarcastic and wise chauffeur, Hoke. Similar to Mellinger, Chambers maintained a consistent accent and speech pattern, boosting his character further. Mellinger and Chambers possessed a wonderful chemistry onstage, adding to the believability of their roles and entertainment of the show. Portraying Miss Daisy’s protective son, Boolie, was Alan Halaly. Demonstrating strong diction and delivery, Halaly brought commendable energy and commitment to the stage.

Collectively, the cast worked very well together, developing realistic and believable relationships and entertaining dynamics. Despite lack of facial expressions at times, or occasionally fading out of accents, the cast brought excellent energy and engagement to the production. This play was staged in a black box setting, adding to the intimacy of the production.

The minimalistic technical elements of the play are also to be commended. The sound design by Michael Hahn is to be noted, as the timing of the sound effects was in sync with the actors. Notably, the hair and makeup team effectively showed the age of the characters as well as styling Miss Daisy’s wig realistically. Despite some awkward and lengthy transitions, overall, the tech components boosted the show’s enjoyment in an abundance of ways.

Telling the heartwarming story of a developing emotional bond between two differing personalities, Deerfield Beach High School’s production of “Driving Miss Daisy” captures the transition from unlikely acquaintances to best friends.

*** *** ***

By Leah Tomas of J.P. Taravella High School

In the midst of evolving race relations in America during one of the greatest social reform movements in the history of the United States, an unlikely friendship is flourishing. Travel back to the Deep South for a story of friendship against all odds with the cast of Deerfield Beach High School’s production of “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“Driving Miss Daisy” was written by Alfred Uhry. The play premiered at the Playwrights Horizon Studio Theatre in 1987, and made its Broadway debut at the John Golden Theatre in 2010. The play won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Broadway production received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play. The story follows Daisy Werthan, a 72-year-old Jewish woman, and her son Boolie Werthan, over the span of 30 years. When a car accident forces Miss Daisy to give up driving, Boolie decides to hire a driver, much to her chagrin. However, an unlikely friendship grows between Miss Daisy and her chauffeur, an African-American man named Hoke Coleburn.

Sarah Mellinger (Daisy) demonstrated mastery of physicality and vocal inflection to convey the old age of her character. Mellinger made excellent use of ad-libbed lines to create comedic effect, and developed a wide range of expression throughout her performance. Chad Chambers (Hoke) utilized vocal inflection to convey emotional meaning in each of his lines, and demonstrated superb execution of a Southern dialect. The playful banter between Mellinger and Coleburn provided comedic relief, and the two actors developed endearing and sincere chemistry throughout the production.

Alan Halaly (Boolie) portrayed his character with boundless energy and clear diction. Halaly developed strong relationships and characterization throughout the production, and did an excellent job portraying an older role.

The cast as a whole demonstrated great diction and energy, and each character was well-developed with a unique emotional arc. Though brief inconsistencies in the execution of a Southern dialect were prevalent, the accent was overall believable, and established the time and location of the story well. The cast often experienced difficulties creating consistent pantomime, some blocking appeared to lack motivation, and the combination of upstage-facing actors along with the decision to omit microphones from the performance resulted in inconsistent volume at times. Overall, the cast did an excellent job portraying older characters during distinct time periods, and delivered an engaging performance.

The technical elements of this production were well executed. The experience was increasingly immersive as the audience was located onstage to create an arrangement similar to a black box theatre. The sound design skillfully represented the passage of time through audio clips, and all set pieces, costumes, and props were time-period appropriate. Makeup effectively conveyed the age of each actor. However, over the passage of time, set pieces and props did not change to become appropriate for new time periods, and actors did not appear to age gradually.

It can be difficult to overcome our differences and create friendships with those we consider different from ourselves. Deerfield Beach High School’s production of “Driving Miss Daisy” is a heartwarming representation of the friendships that prosper when differences are set aside, and unbreakable bonds are forged..

*** *** ***

By Cristian Velasquez of Cypress Bay High School

With the delicate depiction of the passage of time and the experience of aging, Deerfield Beach High School’s tender production of “Driving Miss Daisy” tells the story of the budding friendship between a stubborn elderly Jewish woman and her colored chauffeur.

“Driving Miss Daisy” was written by American playwright Alfred Uhry. The Off-Broadway production premiered at the Playwrights Horizons Studio Theatre in 1987, where it ran for three years and was later staged on Broadway in 2010. Set in 1948 Atlanta, “Driving Miss Daisy” tells the saccharine tale of Daisy Werthan, who’s son Boolie hires an elderly man, Hoke Coleburn, to be her driver after she gets in an accident. Despite their initial wariness of one another, over the years, they form a long-lasting bond that defies the struggles that come with old age.

Performed with the audience sitting on the stage, Deerfield Beach High School’s heartwarming rendition of the production added a unique element of intimacy to the performance, which transports the audience to the world of “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Leading the show with poise was Sarah Mellinger as the bashful Daisy Werthan. From Mellinger’s physicality to her mannerisms to her intonation, she created a bold depiction of a stubborn elderly woman. Her dynamic character arc demonstrated the vastness of Mellinger’s expressiveness, especially during the decline into Miss Daisy’s old age. Portrayed with integrity was Miss Daisy’s “best friend” Hoke Coleburn, played by Chad Chambers. Mellinger and Chamber’s exceptional chemistry established a believable relationship between the two characters, as the tension between them faded over time and grew into a playful friendship.

Another notable performance was that of Alan Halaly, portraying Boolie Werthan. Halaly remained consistent in his accent and his physicality, which contributed to the enthrallment of his character through the show’s entirety. At times, throughout the production, the actors wouldn’t pantomime the opening of the house and car doors, but their impeccable emotional delivery and chemistry of the cast immersed the audience into the narrative once again.

The progression of time throughout the production is wonderfully portrayed through the song choices played during the scenic transition, despite being very abrupt. The sound effects played, such as the car horn and the phone ringing, were remarkably accurate, which stage management must be commended for. The props team must additionally be credited for utilizing items that aptly fit the time period; however, some props that needed to change over time did not. Accurately executing the old ages of Miss Daisy and Hoke, the hair and makeup team should be acknowledged for their attention to detail.

Deerfield Beach High School’s charming production of “Driving Miss Daisy” demonstrates how the power of friendship defies the passage of time, despite Miss Daisy and Hoke’s differences.

*** *** ***

Reviews of 26 Pebbles at South Plantation High School on Friday, 10/22/2019.


By Leah Tomas of J.P. Taravella High School

“Twenty-six pebbles. That’s exactly what happened. Each one of those a drop in a pond, and you know, it just emanates out. The ripples, the vibrations…It’s life. This stuff spreads.” When tragedy strikes, finding beauty in a bleak world ravaged by horrific cruelty can seem nearly impossible, but there is always a light in the darkness. South Plantation High School’s uplifting production of “26 Pebbles” is a true embodiment of the hope and kindness that ripples out from the core of even the most unspeakable sorrow.

“26 Pebbles” is a one-act drama written by Eric Ulloa following the citizens of Newtown, Connecticut during the aftermath of the tragic violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, resulting in the loss of 26 lives. The story is a depiction of the ways in which the Newtown community overcame the grief, frustration, and anger that ripples through monumental loss of this degree, and channeled their energy and emotion into social activism and motivation not only to heal the citizens of their hometown, but to heal the world. “26 Pebbles” premiered in February 2017 in Dayton, Ohio with the Human Race Theatre Company, and won the Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award for 2017.

Kierstin Rose (Actor 1) delivered a captivating performance. Rose smoothly transitioned between playing two distinct characters, and expertly manipulated her physicality and vocal placement as a means to thoroughly distinguish between both roles. Jermaine Jenkins (Actor 2) did an excellent job creating complex emotional arcs for each of his characters. Kayla Smith (Actor 4) expertly emphasized the importance of each of her lines, and maintained an energetic and engaged presence throughout the performance.

The Interpreters demonstrated a vast range of expression throughout the production. Each interpreter did a phenomenal job conveying the emotions of their corresponding actor through both striking facial storytelling and physical movements. Each interpreter was easily distinguishable from the rest of the ensemble and added an additional layer of complexity to the performance

The ensemble of this production worked well together to form a cohesive unit. The actors did a fantastic job playing real people, and delivered an honest and authentic performance with  strong focus on maintaining the original intent of the dialogue.. Though lacking emotional levels toward the beginning of the production, the group became largely more dynamic as the story progressed smoothly over time.

The technical elements of this production were overall very well executed. Intricate sound and lighting designs emphasized the emotional content of each scene, although sound clips appeared to cut off abruptly at times and draw attention away from the actors. Throughout the production, creative staging and special effects created an interesting foundation for storytelling.

South Plantation High School’s production of “26 Pebbles” is a heartwarming depiction of the power of community and creativity over anger in the face of adversity. “It’s all about how you ripple out, and what these vibrations can be. We are love. We are Newtown. That message says it all.”

*** *** ***

By Nick Vela of J.P. Taravella High School

With a glimmering and stagnant body of water follows the everlasting and comforting feeling of consistency, security, and safety. However, this sense of  familiarity and protection is fragile, allowing a pebble to cause the utmost disruption and destruction. South Plantation High School’s meaningful production of “26 Pebbles” is the story of the “ripples and vibrations” large enough to change the world

Written by Eric Ulloa and making its 2017 world premiere at The Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, Ohio, “26 Pebbles” was awarded the 2017 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award. Compiled and composed of real-world interviews of those who were personally affected, “26 Pebbles” truthfully tells the transformative tale the citizens of Newtown, Connecticut experienced after the devastating Sandy Hook incident. The play’s authenticity and emphasis on the uplifting and positive changes a community undergoes after a heartbreaking tragedy, such as developing a newfound strength, compassion, and unity, allowed the piece to connect with audiences from all over.

The actors of the production showcased an ensemble connected by a touching, honest, and natural chemistry. Their conversational line delivery and fully developed relationships provided an intimate environment, and therefore, established a sense of openness and vulnerability. Besides minor issues in the pacing and energy levels of the performance, the entire cast stayed true to the story and offered subtle, yet distinct character differentiation. Notably, Kierstin Rose (Actor 1) and Kamala Ramsey (Actor 5) demonstrated a commendable physicality and remarkable characterization in their many roles, as well as Jermaine Jenkins (Actor 2) and Kayla Smith (Actor 4), who displayed a captivating and appealing portrayal of their multiple characters.

The incorporation of American Sign Language illustrated a unique approach to live theatre and heightened the storytelling factor of the production tremendously. Making the performance accessible to an even broader audience, the interpreters of the production brilliantly and consistently mirrored their speaking counterparts. They displayed profound and genuine facial expressions, along with passionate and expressive movements, ultimately adding to the overall quality of the performance.

Demonstrating a true sense of collaboration, the technical elements of the production all beautifully blended together as a whole and raised the caliber of the piece significantly. The costumes effectively displayed the numerous characters through simplistic and quick onstage changes. The sound of the production, although at times faltering, completely immersed the audience in the story. The lighting design aided in conveying the present mood of each scene through its variety of hues, as well as added to the impact of the story through its inclusion of projections that offered visually enticing stimuli without being distracting.

South Plantation High School’s impactful production of “26 Pebbles” exquisitely expressed the importance of “resilience,” “faith,” “community,” and “family.”

*** *** ***

By Levi Cole of NSU University School

Tragedy and hope typically are not associated with one another, but from the darkness of tragedy emerges the light of hope. This concept is displayed beautifully in South Plantation High School’s production of “26 Pebbles”.

Written by Eric Ulloa, “26 Pebbles” debuted at the Human Race Theatre in 2017, focusing on the surrounding events of the heinous Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The play is an agglomeration of interviews with residents of Newtown, strung together into an ensemble-based production exploring the lives of individuals and the community affected by this tragedy.

Each actor in this performance was tasked with playing multiple roles, a challenge accomplished exquisitely by the cast. Additionally, paired with each actor was a shadow interpreter, who not only translated every line into American Sign Language, but was incorporated into the production as an actor. As a collective, the ensemble established a conversational tone, allowing for a unique and effective method of bringing the audience into the show. The ensemble worked excellently together, portraying the preexisting relationships of the citizens of Newtown brilliantly. Despite minimal microphone issues, the cast remained in character, and gave a believable and impassioned performance.

Kierstin Rose’s rendition of her characters in her role of Actor 1 was superb. Rose effectively portrayed multiple citizens of Newtown and clearly distinguished between them with changes in physicality, voice, and tone. Rose expressed a vast array of emotions and was responsible for many powerful moments in the show. Jermaine Jenkins (Actor 2) depicted his various characters with amazing skill. Displaying tremendous emotional commitment and dramatic timing, Jenkins brought an unforgettable performance to the stage. As Actor 4, Kayla Smith expertly exhibited praiseworthy delivery for her characters. Furthermore, Smith demonstrated her estimable acting proficiency, leading to many of the most remarkable moments of the play. Kamala Ramsey’s genuine acting and emotional commitment allowed her to create numerous believable characters in her role of Actor 5. Ramsey’s distinct and effective physicality and mannerisms helped to differentiate between her truly convincing characters.

The tech components of this production assisted in telling this powerful story. The special effects and technology by Reis Novaro successfully integrated a projector into the show, allowing for real footage and photographs from Newtown to be projected onto the stage. The lighting team and stage management must be commended, for there were over 100 light cues, all executed with no obvious glitches.

Shifting focus away from the violence and devastation, South Plantation High School’s “26 Pebbles” tells the moving story of recovery, community, and, most importantly, hope..

*** *** ***

By Jennifer Holz of NSU University School

With great loss comes the need to grieve and rebuild. South Plantation High School explores the questions of how a community can move past unthinkable horror, pain, and heartbreak, all of which occurred in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, with its performance of “26 Pebbles”.

Written by Eric Ulloa, “26 Pebbles” tells the true stories of a town going through the process of regaining its identity and reclaiming its narrative after a horrifying massacre that put Newtown on the map. The play premiered at the Human Race Theatre in Dayton, OH in February 2017 and was featured in American Theatre Magazine and the New York Times. Its impactful message of hope and community won it the Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award in 2017.

The entire cast worked together beautifully to explore the results of the suffering that the community was forced to endure. The connection that the actors had with each other was genuine and honest. Each principal actor wonderfully transformed their mannerisms and nuances to distinguish each character they were playing. Kierstin Rose’s subtle changes gave each of her characters their uniqueness and were executed superbly. The relationship she created with Victoria Kmiec, her interpreter, was so natural that it was as if they were moving and reacting as one. Jermaine Jenkins’s ability to project and work through the microphone difficulties that resulted in his microphone being turned off was commendable.

The performers were able to elegantly create the heartbeat of the close-knit community going through an indescribable tragedy. The interpreters of Newtown both enhanced the performance of their respective speakers and aided the community as a whole. The bonds that they formed with each other and the speakers molded the town and the experience of the audience. They amplified the impact of what the people were bound to endure and the emotions of the characters.

The lighting design by Hadrian Schrag and Daley Eisenmann nicely reflected the mood and atmosphere of the show. The use of props designed by Shaylen Deyo, such as the teddy bears, accurately reflected the events that occurred. The projections were impactful, especially in the scenes where they were displaying the picture of the children lost in the shooting.

Now more than ever, it is important to address the impacts that these tragedies have on individuals and communities throughout our country. South Plantation High School greatly explored how these pebbles ripple through society

*** *** ***

By Gabriela Phillips of Cooper City High School

Written by Eric Ulloa, “26 Pebbles” recounts the story of a close-knit community affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook. Ulloa utilized verbatim theatre, in which he conducted various interviews throughout the community of Newtown to piece together the dialogue of the play. It premiered at the Human Race Theatre in 2017 and won the Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award. This play doesn’t simply focus on the tragedy itself, but on how the community worked together to move forward from this event.

Portraying 19 different characters, the ensemble of 6 speaking actors, along with their interpreter counterparts, seamlessly transitioned between various residents of Newtown. With an incredible emotional dedication to her role, Kierstin Rose (Actor 1) gave a strong, yet genuine performance, most notable in her monologue about a boy who gave his life to save his classmates. Her ability to distinguish between her two characters was executed excellently, her shift in vocal inflection and physicality aided in making the show all the more understandable.

Another notable performance was that of Kayla Smith (Actor 4), who played three different characters. Evident in her portrayal of the characters was her ability to remain natural, best highlighted in her emotional lines when she would take the time to collect herself onstage and then deliver the line effectively. Her seemingly simple character choices helped maintain the realism of the show, also evident in her touching performance of “Amazing Grace.” Jermaine Jenkins (Actor 2) maintained a powerful performance while effectively distinguishing between four characters, a difficult task.

Alongside each speaking actor was an American Sign Language interpreter. Each interpreter did an admirable job of matching the character choices of their speaking counterparts, making the show easy to follow. As a whole, the ensemble did a great job of giving the show a conversational feeling representative of a small town. The mature themes in the show were handled with care, and they excellently showcased the town’s development from feeling angry and lost to hopeful.

The technical aspects of the show worked well to fully immerse the audience into the world of Newtown. The attention to detail when it came down to props (Shaylen Deyo) was remarkable.  They accurately represented what was used in real life. Another technical element that aided in making the show flow more effectively was the costume design (Adam Leneberg). With quick and simple costume changes throughout the show, they played a major role in differentiating between characters.

Tackling the intense themes within the show, South Plantation High School showcases the true strength, resilience, and transformation of Newtown, Connecticut in its emotional production of “26 Pebbles.”

*** *** ***

Reviews of Bright Star at Cardinal Gibbons High School on Saturday, 11/16/2019.


By Madeline Finkelman of North Broward Preparatory School

A charming latticed barn silhouetted against the sunset-streaked Blue Ridge Mountains sets the tone as the musical mood of the south sweeps across the stage. With the strumming of both banjo strings and heart-strings, Cardinal Gibbons High School’s bluegrass musical Bright Star beautifully tells a touching and tender tale, intertwining timelines in a sweet and sentimental spectacle.

Bright Star was written and composed by comedian Steve Martin and singer-songwriter Edie Brickell. The folk-style musical was inspired by the pair’s Grammy-winning 2013 bluegrass album, “Love Has Come For You” and the true-story “Iron Mountain Baby”. Bright Star premiered at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre in 2014. The musical opened in 2016 on Broadway at the Cort Theatre and ran for 139 performances. Set in rural North Carolina, the unconventional musical Bright Star tells the heart wrenching story of Alice Murphy, depicting events ranging from her reckless youth in the 1920’s to her stern and steely adulthood in the 1940’s. Her past and present lives weave together in a pain-tinged tapestry of love, fight, and redemption.

Leading the show with grace was Darby Silverman as the head-strong teen turned renowned magazine editor, Alice Murphy. Silverman exhibited a strong vocal quality which remained captivating and consistent through the show’s entirety. From uptight professional to carefree 16 year old, Silverman tackled the demanding task of portraying two different ages and attitudes with commendable clarity.

Alice’s first love Jimmy Ray Dobbs was played with sweet sincerity by Parker Greenblatt. Greenblatt established a believable character and created a genuine connection with Silverman. The two were best showcased together in their heartbreaking duet “I Had A Vision”. Another notable performance was that of Cameron Relicke as the passionately persistent Billy Cane. Relicke ably brought the wannabe writer to life, portraying the youthful and wide-eyed optimistic character with great charisma. Relicke developed a tender relationship with Juliana Rios as Margo. Jimmy and Margo’s playful, budding romance contrasted delightfully with the darker more developed relationship between Alice and Billy.

Bringing comedy and vibrance to the stage were Amber Arevalo and Wes Morby as the dynamic magazine office duo Lucy and Daryl. Arevalo excellently portrayed the sassy southern bell and showcased her great dance and vocal abilities in her song “Another Round”. With tight harmonies and knee-slapping choreography, the show’s ensemble enhanced the down-home charm of the show, helping to propel and tell the entrancing story of Bright Star. A standout among them, showcasing elegance and grace with every step, was Beatriz Arevalo.

From the denim overalls and period men’s suits to the floral printed dresses and flower-adorned hats, the costumes beautifully fit the country feel and complemented each of the scenes in the show. The quick changes were seamlessly executed, most notably, Alice’s onstage hair and costume change to her younger self. The onstage switch made for a lovely transition and was a unique and effective introduction to the flashback scenes in the production.

In the harmonious and homespun Bright Star, Cardinal Gibbons High School shined in its sweeping storytelling of broken-hearted characters made whole again by the power of time, forgiveness and love

*** *** ***

By Nicole Sugarman of J.P. Taravella High School

The bluegrass train, fueled by the banjo’s optimistic twang, the fiddle’s flair, and the bellow of the bass, swiftly transports you to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. In Cardinal Gibbons High School’s hopeful production of “Bright Star,” the celestial stars speckling the southern night sky serve as the essential conductor. The luminous bodies, in conjunction with the musical brilliance, light up the tracks to follow one’s own “Bright Star.”

With a refreshing score by Edie Brickell and Steve Martin, “Bright Star” shares the captivating tale of Alice Murphy, a successful editor. However, a glimpse into her teenage years of the 1920s exposes a painful part of her past that she has been forced to internally confront for all this time. As the story unfolds, the missing puzzle pieces of her past begin to assemble before her eyes, revealing a restoration of love and a revelation that can only be described as a miracle.

Darby Silverman, playing Alice Murphy, captured her character’s wide range of emotions with her chilling vocals and authentic reactions to the unimaginable circumstances. Silverman’s depiction of Alice in alternating time frames, consisting of her teenage self and the accomplished woman she has grown to be two decades later, was commendable. Playing Jimmy Ray Dobbs, Alice’s love interest, Parker Greenblatt effectively relayed the complex emotional journey of his character. Silverman and Greenblatt displayed nice chemistry throughout the production and skillfully adapted the maturity of their relationship as they aged.

Billy Cane, the eager young writer, was played by Cameron Relicke. Relicke displayed his character’s optimistic outlook through his lively vocals and exuberant energy. Playing Margo, the bookstore owner dreaming of a romance with Billy, Juliana Rios captured the sweet nature and hopeful spirit of her character. Relicke and Rios exhibited lovely development of their relationship, especially in their charming duet “Always Will.” Amber Arevalo, playing Alice’s spunky coworker, showcased terrific dance abilities and consistent characterization throughout the musical. She led the massive number, “Another Round,” with tremendous energy and bold vocal delivery.

While the orchestra did occasionally overpower the actors, the powerful melodies provided substantial energy that was expressed through their lively dancing and crisp harmonies. Although occasionally lacking facial expressions, the entire cast conveyed the folksy style of the score, creating a unique flavor of sound and accentuating the bluegrass allure of the storyline.

The quality technical elements aided the transitions of time throughout the story. The set, costume, and hair changes, specifically for Alice, were well-executed and did not distract. The set did occasionally obstruct the audience’s view of the action onstage, most notably at the end of Act One on the train. The colorful lighting and the image of the moon helped to establish the mood shifts and created a visually appealing landscape.

Cardinal Gibbons’ uplifting production of “Bright Star” explored the depth of heartbreaking loss, the power of redemption, and the pure dominance of love. The miraculous tale of Alice Murphy is sure to leave you with stars in your eyes, a pulsating rhythm in your feet, and a shimmering melody in your heart.

*** *** ***

By Reese Abrahamoff of Cooper City High School

“I had a vision” where writers and soldiers alike gathered to create an inspiring tale of hope and ambition. Transcending boundaries of time and space, Cardinal Gibbons High School opened our hearts to the power of love and its path to redemption in their touching production of “Bright Star.”

Written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, the musical originated from their Grammy-winning bluegrass album “Love Has Come for You,” and made its world premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. After opening in 2014, “Bright Star” made its way to Broadway just two years later, receiving five Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. On a train headed towards the mountains of North Carolina, you’ll find two tracks. One side follows the life of Alice Murphy, a professional, hardened editor of a southern literary magazine. The other follows a similar name, just younger and more adventurous. Telling the story of this transformation and beyond, “Bright Star” invites us to explore untaken paths and challenge the idea of love.

Leading lady Darby Silverman did a wonderful job as Alice Murphy. Silverman excelled in demonstrating the contrast between her past and present life while also showcasing a wide range of emotions amongst both personas. With effortless vocals, Silverman grounded her performance through numbers like “So Familiar/At Long Last,” and “Please Don’t Take Him,” which certainly left a lasting impression. Alongside Silverman was Parker Greenblatt as Jimmy Ray Dobbs. Showing progression both vocally and emotionally, Greenblatt did a great job depicting his change from youth to maturity while also growing with Silverman in their own self-discovery.

Juliana Rios portrayed the role of Margo, the sweet and loving owner of the town’s local bookstore. With consistent energy and a lovely voice, Rios captured the hearts of the audience as well as Cameron Relicke (Billy Cane). Both Rios and Relicke established genuine connections and allowed each other to shine both together and individually, whether it be through voice or stage presence alone. An additional standout was Amber Arevalo as the sassy and strong-willed secretary, Lucy. With bold choices and precise comedic timing, Arevalo continuously livened the stage, most notably in the show-stopping number “Another Round.”

The ensemble as a whole was quite remarkable. From chilling harmonies to a constant southern dialect, the cast had clear motivations that never faltered throughout the production. While the cast overall had trouble staying together with choreography, Beatriz Arevalo showcased proper dance technique and told her own story through movement, which should certainly be recognized. The technical aspects of the production were executed very nicely. Stage Management allowed for a continuously flowing production with minimal faults and clean transitions. Costumes did an exceptional job differentiating the character changes as well as distinguishing the two time periods throughout the show.

Telling the true story of the life of Alice Murphy, Cardinal Gibbons High School’s production of “Bright Star” transports us into the harsh reality of the early 1900s where they proved that with a little bit of optimism, the “Sun’s Gonna Shine.”

*** *** ***

By Caroline Eaton of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Through every wrong path taken, there will always be an unpaved road just dying to be walked upon, so why not be the one whose footprints are set in stone? Cardinal Gibbons High School’s production of “Bright Star” shows audiences that you are the only one who can tell your story, and tell it truthfully.

Written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, “Bright Star” uses the story-telling effects of folk music to fully take the show back in time to the hick town of Blue Ridge, North Carolina, when banjos and cowboy boots were a thing of the present. The powerful story follows a teenage girl, Alice Murphy, and her life following a teen pregnancy, heavily frowned upon by her small town community. Observing her life through her adolescent eyes versus her adult perception provides a one-way ticket into Alice Murphy’s progression through life.

Playing the strong-willed and tenacious Alice Murphy, Darby Silverman embodied Murphy’s extensive capacity for love and vitality. With the challenge presented to her to shift between two different points in Murphy’s life, Silverman provided seamless transitions from her adult self back to her careless and free-spirited teenage years. Along with her brilliant take on the effervescent Alice Murphy, Silverman’s magnificent vocals enveloped the theatre in her rendition of each folk-themed song, most outstanding in “Please Don’t Take Him”. Accompanying Silverman’s compelling stage presence was the equally emotive Parker Greenblatt (Jimmy Ray Dobbs). Greenblatt ably supported his love interest, showing his complete devotion to Silverman throughout the production. Silverman and Greenblatt’s believable chemistry made for a convincing and heart-throbbing performance, especially conveyed in their reunification melody, “I Had A Vision”.

As the effervescent and light-hearted Billy Cane was Cameron Relicke. Relicke’s sprightly personality captured his character’s youthful persona. Relicke exhibited his impressive versatility on the stage, whether breaking it down on the dance floor or confessing his everlasting love through song to his long-time sweetheart, Margo, played by Juliana Rios. Rios and Relicke’s buoyant and young relationship perfectly juxtaposed the fierce and adult love between Silverman and Greenblatt.

Also worth mentioning was the comedic duo consisting of Amber Arevalo and Wes Morby (Lucy and Daryl, respectively). Between the most melancholy instances, Arevalo and Morby appropriately provided moments of comedic relief, never failing to appreciate an occasion of potential laughter. In addition, the ensemble of townspeople added immense energy and liveliness to each scene and musical number in which they appeared, managing to exceptionally execute the difficult choreography and harmonies given. A most notable performance in the ensemble was Beatriz Arevalo, displaying stunning technique and illuminating the stage with each stride.

Technically, the production was executed with extreme efficiency and professionalism. The costumes team, Megan Price and Madison Mishkin, exemplified a clear understanding of the specific color scheme and 1920s-40s time period, exceptionally taking an ordinary stage and transforming it into a world of color.

As life moves on, one encounters just about everything: the troubled times along with the joyous moments. It is important to understand that all of those moments are what makes your story your own, and Cardinal Gibbons High School’s cast and crew of “Bright Star” told every piece of this story as if it was their own.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Brighton Beach Memoirs at Coral Glades High School on Friday, 11/15/2019.


By Roie Dahan of American Heritage School

1937 America was in turmoil; the Great Depression was at its height, drying out the economy and citizen’s jobs and incomes, and tensions in Europe escalated to the peak of World War II. In Coral Glades’ production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs”, the problems the Jerome and Morton families faced were commendably played out, incorporating the broader historical dilemmas of the time.

Written by Neil Simon, “Brighton Beach Memoirs” tells the story of Eugene Morris Jerome and his family in their home on Brighton Beach, where they are not too short of familial and fiscal predicaments; not to mention Eugene’s own confusion about his new feelings. Simon wrote the play in a semi-autobiographical style, so many of his own adolescent experiences are woven into it. Opening in 1982 in Los Angeles, the show has since been on Broadway twice, won two Tonys, and made into a motion picture.

Playing Eugene, Matthew Dell-Hak brought an air of optimism and laughter onto the stage amidst the family’s tough situation. His impeccable comedic line delivery and fluctuations of speech brought a nice contrast to the heavy themes of the play, emulating Simon’s intentions of embedding comedy into hardship. Although Eugene gradually matured throughout the show, Dell-Hak was consistently able to implement his childlike demeanor and sense of wonder. Tai Beasley upheld the role of the brazen Kate Jerome with distinct poise and strength, which enhanced her eventual meltdown, helping to create a full character arc. She maintained a robust yet motherly presence that increased the believability of her character and had seemingly genuine connections with her fellow family members.

Joshua Flynn played Eugene’s pragmatic yet disheveled brother Stanley Jerome with a charismatic charm that gave way to a vulnerable, anxious center. He had a profound connection with  Eugene, particularly when he taught him about the wonders of puberty. His calm yet distressed temperament was enhanced by strong characterization choices that showed pronounced shifts in his personality. Playing the spunky Nora Morton, Julyette Vargas was always present on stage, showcasing Nora’s boldness and fierce independence. Her distinct intonation and understanding of her situation played into the credibility of her character and intensified her motivations and reactions .

Despite having some issues with momentum and heightened stakes during climactic scenes, the company was nevertheless able to present an engaging and heartfelt performance. Their notable chemistry with one another elevated the story, exhibiting a true family dynamic. Implementing the Mezuzah was a great way to encompass the family’s Jewish traditions.

Technically, the show must be commended for the amount of student input and historical accuracy, most prominent in hair, makeup, and costumes. They successfully emulated the style of the period with pin-up hairdos and colorful patterned dresses. Although somewhat lackluster in detail, the concept of the set’s design and construction served the flow of this production effectively.

Coral Glades’ production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” presented the complications of late 1930’s America while resonating with real family issues still being dealt with in today’s world.

*** *** ***

By Rylee Berger of Cooper City High School

Money is tight, war is brewing, families are fighting, jobs are hard to come by, and – perhaps worst of all for Eugene – he’s going through puberty. Thus sets the stage for Coral Glades High School’s hilarious and heartfelt production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

Written by Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright Neil Simon, the semi-autobiographical play is the first chapter in his Eugene Trilogy. After productions in California, “Brighton Beach Memoirs” opened on the Great White Way in 1983, where it enjoyed a three-year run, becoming the last non-musical play in Broadway history to have over 1,000 performances. Following the girl- and baseball-crazed Eugene, the coming-of-age comedy concerns his unusually hectic Brooklyn, NY household as they navigate changing family dynamics, the Great Depression, and world-wide political turmoil.

Matthew Dell-Hak delivered an energetic and memorable performance as the sassy-yet-sincere Eugene. His powerful performance showed great range and impressive development of his character’s arc. As the character also serves as the narrator of the play, Dell-Hak did an exceptional job differentiating between dialogue with other actors on stage and his asides to the audience. His clear commitment to his character shone through his choices in physicality and vocal delivery; his ability to allow his character to believably mature throughout the show was commendable.

Depicting Eugene’s worrisome, superhero of a mother, Tai Beasley (Kate) embodied her role with grace. Beasley balanced the mannerisms of a busy caretaker while still creating a character that, when pushed to her breaking point, delivered a persuasive and heart-wrenching performance. As Jack, the workaholic father who wants only for his family to be provided for, Caleb Ramey portrayed a highly convincing paternalistic physicality and authority when interacting with the other characters. His ability to evolve his relationships with his sons, especially Stanley (Joshua Flynn), was noteworthy. Flynn himself did an excellent job establishing a powerful and multilayered relationship.

Overall,  the entire cast did a stellar job in creating authentic family dynamics. Each relationship was distinct from the next. This was especially prevalent in scenes where the characters would argue with each other, showcasing their understanding of these complex relationships. Moreover, the pacing of the play was remarkable and transitions between the show’s several serious and silly situations were smooth. Though some actors’ facial expressions were lost, the blocking was clearly motivated and was fluid throughout.

The technical elements of the play were well-designed. The set provided a nice playing space for the actors and the props were believable and paid great attention to detail. However, the costumes could have better demonstrated the family’s economic status and the hair and makeup could have more sharply differentiated characters’ age. There were occasional microphone errors but the sound effects, however minimal, were effective.

With genuine acting and astonishing familial dynamics, Coral Glades High School’s production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” shows masterful balance between tragedy and comedy, accentuating that, even when it hurts, laughing is always the best medicine.

*** *** ***

By Savannah Correa of West Broward High School

Growing up is hard to do, especially as a 15 year old Polish-Jewish American boy in 1937 Brooklyn. In Coral Glades Drama’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, we follow Eugene Jerome (Matthew Dell-Hak) in Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical play based on his early teen years as he documents the trials and tribulations of all things awkward and uncomfortable.

Brighton Beach Memoirs is the first part of playwright Neil Simon’s autobiographical trilogy. In this coming of age comedy, we see the world from our main character Eugene’s perspective in his day to day life with a booming family of seven: strict mother Kate (Tai Beasley), widowed aunt Blanche (Shelby Stott), overworked father Jack (Caleb Ramey), older brother Stanley (Joshua Flynn), and cousins Nora (Julyette Vargas) and Laurie (Heidi Gruenbaum). It debuted on Broadway March 27th, 1983 at the Alvin Theatre, and was picked up once again in 2009 in the Nederlander Theatre. The play is the winner of Tony Awards including Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play and  Best Direction of a Play.

The actors in Coral Glades’ production of Brighton Beach Memoirs had a great sense of sibling dynamics, however the relationship between Stanley and Eugene was the most entertaining to watch unfold. Duet scenes with these two characters played an essential part in some of the most important parts of the story, but was also essential in Eugene learning about less family friendly topics his other family members would not be able to comfortably talk to him about. Dell-Hak’s portrayal of Eugene was more than immersive, providing most of the comedy in the show and was very convincing as a 15 year old boy. As the storyteller it is important to keep your audience intrigued and help the plot move along smoothly, and he did just that.

As for our supporting characters, Caleb Ramey was very convincing as his role of a father figure, from the authoritative tone in his voice to his mannerisms. Eugene’s father/Uncle Jack is a character the other family members appreciate and look up to due to his kind, hardworking, and generous nature, and Ramey did more than a good job of emphasizing those loving qualities. Kate (Tai Beasley) was extremely convincing as not only a mother, but as an overprotective older sister. One scene in particular that really showcased their ranges was a heated argument involving the three. The actors maintained their intensity with great pacing and physicality, as well as with minor details such as shaking hands and legs, and fidgeting.

For technical aspects, hair and costumes were very much time accurate. Though there could have been more costume changes to pinpoint economic status and indicate when time has changed, they still managed to add to the plot and their characters and made the setting more believable. Sound was inconsistent at times, but actors powered through with great projection.

Needless to say, Coral Glades’ production of Brighton Beach Memoirs was a home run. Tune up the radio and get ready to listen to a story you’ll never forget, and prepare to be entertained.

*** *** ***

By Max Hsu of NSU University School

In the words of Neil Simon, “If you can go through life without experiencing pain you probably haven’t been born yet.” Coral Glades’ production of Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs brilliantly brings to life the struggles and pains of a poor Jewish family in the Great Depression, while contrapuntally telling the coming of age story of a young boy discovering himself as he goes through puberty.

Brighton Beach Memoirs is the first of three quasi-autobiographical plays by acclaimed playwright Neil Simon. First taking the Broadway stage in 1983, it takes place in Brooklyn, New York amidst the Great Depression of the 1930s. The story centers around Eugene Morris Jerome, a teenager who is forced to juggle the insecurities and uncertainties of puberty with the hardships of the pre-war era. As he grows up, his family breaks down, and with a head full of fantasies of naked girls, playing for the New York Yankees, and being a professional writer, he learns to cope with the monotony of life.

The relationships between the cast as a whole felt incredibly real, as if these characters really were a family with years of history. In moments where the scene focused on one or two characters, those in the background remained in character, helping to immerse the audience into the world. Despite many issues with sound, such as recurring feedback throughout the show and issues with microphones, the cast handled it professionally such that it did not break the audience’s immersion.

Matthew Dell-Hak expertly portrayed the role of Eugene with all the innocence and curiosity that the role demands. While many actors in comedic plays tend to sacrifice believability in favor of humor, Dell-Hak perfectly balanced genuine teenage awkwardness with over the top hilarity. Dell-Hak must also be commended for the growth that he portrayed in his character, as it was evident that each event of the story made an impact on Eugene.

Tai Beasley as Eugene’s mother Kate brought a motherly sincerity to the role which helped to counteract the comedy of Eugene. Joshua Flynn (Stanley) displayed impressive range in his acting, having some of the funniest moments in the show as well as some of the most emotional. Caleb Ramsey as Eugene’s father Jack balanced cool-tempered maturity when talking to Stanley with fiery anger in scenes with Kate and Blanche. As Nora, Julyette Vargas had such a contagious enthusiasm that the audience could not help but root for her success.

Jamie Metoyer must be commended for her work on costumes, the period correct costumes were crucial to creating the environment of 1930s New York. The use of real food and real lit matches on behalf of props designer Brielle Bickford also helped to draw the audience in, and the student-designed set included some nice touches like a mezuzah on the door frame. The layout of the set was well thought out to serve the purpose of the story.

Whether two brothers are discussing their pubescent sexual awakenings or two sisters having a heated argument about the man across the street, Coral Glades production of Brighton Beach Memoirs remains consistent in its energetic, intimate, and thoroughly hilarious performance.

*** *** ***

By Jaime Happel of J.P. Taravella High School

Everyone has problems, but when we are blinded by our own troubles, sometimes it is easy to forget that we must take others into consideration. Amidst all the chaos, sometimes blaming those who surround us becomes easier than deciding to do the right thing. Coral Glades Drama’s production of the timeless classic, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” beautifully balances the harsh realities of life with glimmers of love and playful humor.

“Brighton Beach Memoirs,” a semi-autobiographical play by Neil Simon, dissects the familial struggles of a financially unstable Jewish family residing in New York during the 1930s. The comedy had its Broadway debut in March of 1983 at the Alvin Theatre, and won two Tony Awards later, that same year. The play is the first chapter of what is known as the Eugene trilogy – which also included Simon’s “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound.” Each play in the trilogy attests to Simon’s unique experiences throughout his early career and life.

Matthew Dell-Hak portrayed Eugene Jerome, a hormonal teen and dedicated Yankees fan that aspires to become a writer. Dell-Hak’s committed character choices, such as his quirky physicality and varying vocal inflection, made him an endearing narrator for Neil Simon’s memoirs. His strong comedic timing elevated interactions between Eugene and his family members, especially with his brother, Stanley (Joshua Flynn). The camaraderie between Flynn and Dell-Hak produced a believable sense of brotherhood that was both heartwarming and relatable.

Truly emphasizing the tension within the Jerome family is Eugene and Stanley’s mother, Kate (Tai Beasley). While Beasley’s captivating character develops throughout the production, her motherly intonation remains a pleasant constant. Kate’s sister, Blanche (Shelby Stott), and husband, Jack (Caleb Ramey), both exhibited powerful emotions accompanied by mature mannerisms in order to authentically distinguish themselves in terms of age. Julyette Vargas and Heidi Gruenbaum depicted Eugene’s cousins, Nora and Laurie respectively. Vargas’ bright energy drove each scene, and Gruenbaum’s demur demeanor complimented her honest character well.

The cast commendably functioned as a singular unit; even when their characters may have been consumed with their own conflicts, the strength of the family was still evident. The distinct relationships created between each pair of characters were furthered by their interactions in the background of scenes; the ensemble proved that they had a clear understanding of their roles and helped to communicate the riveting complexities of the characters’ family dynamic. There was a great attention to detail from both cast and crew. With the exception of some microphone issues, the show ran rather smoothly. While, at times, there was a lack of variation in lighting, the space was well utilized to invent both an indoor and outdoor environment and the overall atmosphere of the production was enhanced by clean, time-period-appropriate, student-made costumes.

Coral Glades Drama’s production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” reminds us that although sometimes the hardest decisions may be the most important to make, growing up may be confusing, and life may bring unexpected complications, through it all, family will always be there.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure at NSU University School on Saturday, 11/09/2019.


By Cristian Velasquez of Cypress Bay High School

The responsibilities of an adult are, at times, burdensome and taxing. The temptation of never growing up and being cared for by your mother seems alluring. These themes of growing up and responsibility are addressed beautifully in NSU University School’s whimsical production of “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure.”

With music by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure” opened in Copenhagen in 1996. Based on J. M. Barrie’s play “Peter Pan,” the musical illustrates the importance of motherhood and family as Wendy takes on the task of caring for the Lost Boys. Meanwhile, Peter continues to satisfy his constant craving for adventure, as he ignores the adversities of leaving your childhood behind him and growing up.

In his portrayal of the fervent Peter Pan, Evan Eiglarsh remarkably embodies the youthful spirit and infectious energy of his character. Eiglarsh’s impeccable comedic timing made his overall performance all the more compelling. Charmed by Peter’s charismatic disposition, Nicolette Nunziato must also be commended for her exceptional performance as the motherly Wendy Darling. Nunziato’s crisp vocals shone through wonderfully in her stunning rendition of “Just Beyond the Stars (Reprise).” Her characterization choices and consistency in her accent further immersed the audience into the world of Peter Pan.

Portraying the infamous Captain Hook, Anthony Langone’s impressive vocal range, demonstrated in his musical numbers, contributed considerably to his dynamic temperament. Langone flawlessly executed Hook’s physicality and intonation, vividly bringing his character to life. Gabriel Feldenkrais, portraying Smee, brought an infectious comedic aspect to the production in contrast to Langone’s generally serious disposition. Feldenkrais delivered a humorous interpretation of the character through his over the top gestures and comical dancing. The chemistry between the two rapscallions was especially prevalent in the song “A Pirate With a Conscience.”

An outstanding ensemble amidst the production was the Lost Boys of Neverland. Their primitive physicality complemented their boisterous natures, especially in their song “The Lost Boys Gang,” which the female ensemble must be commended for, as they sang it in the male key. A particularly notable performance was that of Alina Macaulay, the Storyteller, who commanded the stage with her excellent stage presence and clear delivery of her lines. Although energy was lacking at times, the chemistry between the ensemble members boosted it anew.

Along with the performance aspects, the technical aspects of the performance worked together remarkably as well. The costume and makeup designers must be accredited for their research on Native American culture, as their interpretation of the costumes and makeup for the Braves modernized the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in earlier productions of this show.  The crew and stage management must also be recognized for their fluid scenic transitions and accuracy on the numerous lighting and sound cues in the production, despite minor sound discrepancies.

NSU University School’s production of “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure” discusses the difficulty of letting go of your childhood and taking on the responsibilities of an adult through two hours of sheer entertainment and a journey “Just Beyond the Stars.”

*** *** ***

By Rylee Berger of Cooper City High School

Close your eyes – close them tight – and imagine. Imagine a world full of fairies, of sirens, of pirates and captains. Of the spunky young girl and the lost little boys as they set off in adventurous fashion. Find yourself at NSU University School’s production of “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure,” a noteworthy and original production filled with high-flying performances.

Based on J.M. Barrie’s beloved tale, the show opened in Copenhagen in 1996. It was later broadcast by the BBC and earned poor reviews until its well-received 2007 revision. Written by Willis Hall with music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the musical follows the title character (Evan Eiglarsh) and Wendy (Nicolette Nunziato) as they navigate their new friendship, Neverland, and the adventure of growing up.

As Peter, Eiglarsh embodied the iconic character with grace, showing vocal and emotional range. Eiglarsh had stellar comedic timing, bringing mischievous youthfulness to the boy who wouldn’t grow up. He had a commanding stage presence and clear commitment to his character which was showcased in numbers like “Never Land” and “The Cleverness of Me.” His spectacular chemistry with Wendy and the Lost Boys added a layer of believability to his already stellar performance. Nunziato’s Wendy was played with an unmatched conviction. Her outstanding vocals and clear understanding of her character shone, making for a remarkable performance. Both Eiglarsh and Nunziato were required to perform while being flown, a commendable feat accomplished with ease.

Dynamic duo Captain Hook (Anthony Langone) and Smee (Gabriel Feldenkrais) did not disappoint, adding hilarity and support to the production. Langone’s impressive vocal range was showcased in the song “When I Kill Peter Pan,” and his charisma was apparent throughout his portrayal of the pirate. Feldenkrais quickly established his relationship to Hook, creating a character with unparalleled energy and precision. His dance skills stood out in “A Pirate with a Conscience;” his commitment to his character was evident. Additionally, Peter Koltis’ portrayal of Gentleman Starkey deserves note for its focus and believability.

As a whole, the cast did an outstanding job in creating the whimsical, storytelling tone that is so necessary for such a production. The ensembles were distinct in their movements and motivations, providing entertaining and easily distinguished performances. This was aided by choreographer Bailey Busher’s use of movement motifs for each character group. Despite vocals that were occasionally inconsistent, the ensemble was focused and engaged, helping to create the magical world of Neverland.

Further contributing to this were efforts from the technical teams. Though all of the design elements were well-thought-out, the props team deserves specific praise for their attention to detail and innovation. The stage management team ran cues flawlessly and the seemingly effortless transitions added to the quality of the show.

NSU University School brings new life to a classic story in their not-to-be-missed rendition of “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure,” a production filled with extraordinary performances and original designs that is sure to remind you that life really is “One Big Adventure.”

*** *** ***

By Dylan Jost of North Broward Preparatory School

“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning,” off to Neverland! Filled with swampy lagoons, underground hideouts, and towering pirate ships, NSU University School’s production of “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure” brought to life a land of mirth and fantasy.

With a captivating book by Willis Hall and dazzling music and lyrics by Geroge Stiles and Anthony Drewe, “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure” opened in Copenhagen in 1996. Based on J.M. Barrie’s classic play, the musical chronicles the story of the mischievous Peter Pan and sweet Wendy Darling, recruited by the former to nurture a gaggle of kooky Lost Boys. On their journey through magical Neverland, the heroes must work together to navigate the dangers presented by the malicious Captain Hook and his crew and, ultimately, address the omnipresent part of childhood – growing up.

In the titular role, Evan Eiglarsh delivered a solid performance as the spirited Peter Pan. Encapsulating the naivety of his character, Eiglarsh’s voice was laced with youthful innocence as he spoke with clarity. His stage presence was graced with boundless energy epitomizing Peter’s state of eternal childhood. Nicolette Nunziato was wholly convincing in her portrayal of the kind and gentle Wendy Darling. She provided a calming presence, all the while maintaining an air of authority over her charges. Nunziato’s vocals were also commendable, particularly in “One Big Adventure.”

A performance that must be mentioned is that of Anthony Langone as Captain Hook. Langone seamlessly alternated between brutal buccaneer and whimpering coward, with mannerisms that were appropriately exaggerated and highly entertaining. Langone’s vibrato and timbre were engaging and memorable, particularly in “A Pirate with a Conscience.” Alongside Langone was Gabriel Feldenkrais as Smee, Hook’s sentimental and often mistreated first mate. Feldenkrais mastered the use of physical comedy through his hilarious portrayal of the bumbling Smee, while also managing to exhibit his sensational dancing skills.

The musical also found strength in its ensembles. The Lost Boys offered consistent comedic relief with their uncivilized remarks and absolute devotion to Peter and Wendy. Their enemies, the Pirates, created a thick atmosphere of unsavory brutality and evil through their use of chants and accents.

Technically the show was masterfully executed. The marketing and publicity were accomplished exquisitely, with very creative posters and promotional campaigns being utilized. The show was excellently choreographed by Bailey Busher, who remarkably conceived sixteen original dances and taught this complex choreography to other students. One of the most noteworthy technical accomplishments was the frequent use of flying in the show. The special effects team aided in the installation of all of the flying equipment and the tech crew seamlessly attached (and unattached) the actors to the system multiple times throughout the show. The hair and makeup were also well done, especially in the case of Wendy’s wig, which flawlessly remained sturdy throughout the show.

NSU University School encapsulated the fleeting innocence and utter beauty of childhood in their superbly executed production of “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure.”The cast delivered an enchanting, enamoring performance that served as a reminder that while the years may go by, sometimes stories, and one little boy, will never grow old.

*** *** ***

By Ashley Valent of Cypress Bay High School

Tick, tock goes the clock. Never stopping for anyone or anything, the progression of time is inevitable. The clock will continue to tick, the world will continue to turn, and with this, we will continue to grow. Epitomizing this idea, University School’s production of “Peter Pan” showed that while inevitable, a youthful presence lives within everyone, no matter the age.

Originally based on J.M. Barrie’s play of the same name, this adaptation of “Peter Pan” first premiered in 1996 in Copenhagen with music by Stiles and Drewe. Similar to their other works such as “Honk” and the 2006 Broadway revival of “Mary Poppins,” the show evokes a playful nature through its score and use of magic throughout its entirety.

Portraying “the boy who never grows up,” Evan Eiglarsh aptly embodied the childlike persona of Peter Pan and showcased his versatility with precise comedic timing and moments of heartfelt sentiment. His character remained chiefly consistent even while soaring above the stage. Complementing his performance was that of Nicolette Nunziato as Wendy Darling. The two exhibited tremendous chemistry throughout the entirety of the show: never losing sight of their characters’ contrasting philosophies, but instead, learning through their differences.

The standout performances of the night were that of the dynamic duo of Captain Hook and Smee played by Anthony Langone and Gabriel Feldenkrais, respectively. Together, the pair displayed immense energy and commitment to their mischievous characters and juxtaposed one another nicely.

Bringing the storyline to life, each ensemble group demonstrated great diversity. While there were occurrences of dialect inconsistencies, the company remained engaged and invested in telling the story. Among those were the company of the Lost Boys, who portrayed the innocence necessary to aid in their likability.

Creating the magical spectacle, the technical aspect of the production did not disappoint. The choreography by Bailey Busher brought movement to the show that was effective and complementary rather than distracting. Worth commending was the stage management team led by Liberty Lapayowker, Jennifer Holz, and Erin Miller. With several cues, including those involving a flight system, the crew was successful in making the show cohesive.

As we grow and mature, we eventually lose sight of the simple joys that encapsulated our young lives. NSU University School’s breathtaking production of “Peter Pan” re-illuminated this youthful presence in all those watching and showed that you can stay young forever, as long as you just believe.

*** *** ***

By Lauren Ferrer of Calvary Christian Academy

“Take the second star to the right and straight on ’til morning!” With magical fairies, menacing pirates, and daunting adventure NSU University School’s production of Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure told the timeless tale of the boy who never grew up.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure is based on J.M. Barrie’s play “Peter Pan.” With a book by Willis Hall, music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the musical first opened as a New Years Eve concert in Copenhagen in 1996. It then played during the Christmas season of 2002-2003 where it received negative reviews. Stiles and Drewe then revised the show, which then played in the Christmas season of 2007 where it received positive reviews. The musical follows the story of the Darling children, whisked away by Peter Pan, who then takes them to Neverland, a magical island full of pirates, mermaids, fairies, and most importantly – adventure!

Evan Eiglarsh executed the role of Peter Pan wonderfully, highlighting the characters immature persona with his strong vocals and physicality. Eaiglarsh’s witty mannerisms contrasted the sophisticated character of Wendy Darling, played by Nicolette Nunziato. Nunziato’s consistent British accent and clean vocal execution made for an exquisite performance. Moreover, she achieved a balance in the youthfulness as well as the poised motherly figure Wendy is well known for.

Another stand out actor was Anthony Langone portraying Captain Hook. With a wide acting range and outstanding vocals, Langone commanded the stage. Working alongside Hook was his faithful accomplice, Smee, played by Gabriel Feldenkrais. Feldenkrais fueled the show with comic relief. His impeccable comedic timing and energetic mannerisms made for an incredible performance. Although some ensemble members lacked energy, the Lost Boys filled the theatre with boyish charm. Their clean, energy filled dances worked well alongside the childish Peter Pan.

Technically, the show ran beautifully. With smooth scene transitions and timely cues, the stage management team and stage crew is to be commended. The special effects team, Bailey Busher and Jennifer Holtz, completed the difficult task of putting actors in flight with ease. Using ensemble members during transitions in and out of flight showed that the performers as well as backstage crew knew how to use the difficult flight system. Having multiple characters in flight at the same time added to the difficulty of the process. Although some of the old age wrinkles were washed out by lights, the make-up crew did a great job distinguishing the different character groupings.

With starry nights and endless flights NSU University School’s production of Peter Pan; A Musical Adventure took its audience off to Neverland to experience a heartwarming adventure of fun, fear, and friendship!

*** *** ***

Reviews of Luna Gale at Somerset Academy Charter School on Wednesday, 10/30/2019.


By Alonso Millan of South Plantation High School

Any social worker will tell you the same thing – the child’s well being is always the top priority. And in Somerset Academy’s gripping production of Luna Gale, just what that means morally, ethically, and professionally, is heavily tested.

Luna Gale, written by Rebecca Gilman, made its debut at the Goodman Theater in 2014. The play follows the story of Caroline, a social worker who is assigned the case of Luna Gale. Luna’s parents, Karlie and Peter, are meth addict teenagers, but who truly love and want the best for their daughter. Luna falls into the care of Cindy, Karlie’s religious mother, and Caroline is faced with the difficult task of deciding Luna’s future. Everyone believes they know what is best for Luna, but ultimately, it is Caroline who must navigate through the complex moral and professional matters of Luna’s case.

To tackle such a heavy and relevant piece of theater is no easy task, and Somerset Academy’s cast and crew shine in this production. Performed in an intimate black box setting, Somerset Academy transports the audience into the world of Luna Gale for a night, through strong performances and impressive technical elements.

In her portrayal of Caroline, Mariana Sierra gave a mature and well rounded performance. Carrying the breadth of the show on her shoulders, Caroline’s character is faced with difficult decisions and intense moments, and Sierra rises to the challenge wonderfully. Victoria Vitale must also be commended for her superb performance. Vitale disappears into the role of Karlie, giving a raw and honest performance that was a highlight whenever she appeared. Delivering lines with both overwhelming intensity and subtle emotion when needed, Vitale must be commended for her phenomenal job as the troubled mother.

The cast as a whole gave well acted performances, notably Daniel Calderon as Luna’s father, Peter. Providing the occasional comedic relief, Calderon gives a subtle but potent turn as the loving and dedicated father. At times, some cast members lacked chemistry amongst each other and energy in their performances, but overall maintained strong portrayals throughout the night.

The technical aspects of the show were quite impressive. In an intimate setting like a black box theater, even the most minuscule of details did not escape the props team of Garcia and Co. The props immersed the audience into the world of Luna Gale, being designed and executed masterfully. The costumes by Fadekemi Tella and Natalia Fernandez further helped to build the world of the play, through the clever way they showed the progression of Karlie and Peter from struggling addicts to parents determined to get their daughter back.

Somerset Academy’s production of Luna Gale was full of memorable performances and well executed technical aspects, and made for a compelling and powerful experience.

*** *** ***

By Madeline Finkelman of North Broward Preparatory School

As the fate of a hospitalized baby lies in the balance, the broken adults surrounding her search for answers in the dark corners of drugs, religion and the social welfare system. The baby is Luna Gale, the title character in Somerset Academy’s poignant and powerful production that explores the disturbingly real issues of addiction, abuse and apathy.

The gripping story of Luna Gale, written by Rebecca Gilman, had its world premiere at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2014. Gilman is known for plays that shed light on current problems in our society, and Luna Gale is no exception. Set in present-day Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the story begins in the lobby of an emergency room. Lights up on a teenage girl frantically and frenetically pacing while her partner lays passed out on the waiting room seats. This meth-addicted pair are the parents of Luna Gale, the baby who has just been hospitalized. When social worker Caroline steps into their world, what seems to be a textbook case slowly evolves to reveal the tortured pasts and troubled lives of all of those involved.

Leading the cast with excellence was Mariana Sierra as Caroline. Sierra created a believable balance between Caroline’s no-nonsense, work-focused attitude and her sensitive vulnerability when dealing with her past and the memories that still haunt her. Sierra carried herself with a great sense of maturity and with her exemplary portrayal, helped further propel the other characters and the plotline of the play.

Victoria Vitale brilliantly portrayed the complexity of the drug addled teenage mother Karlie. Vitale brought honesty and truth to her performance, creating an impressive character arc as her past traumas are uncovered, going from frenzied meth-addict to sympathetic teen-mom. Vitale handles the mature subject matter fearlessly, delving into the varying stages of drug addiction and the true struggles of withdrawal. Playing Peter, her lovesick and drug-sickened boyfriend, was Daniel Calderon. Calderon added a sweet sincerity to the troubled Peter, especially in his subtle comedic moments, which starkly contrasted with Vitale’s neurotic portrayal. Vitale and Calderon created a well developed dynamic of the defeated and demoralized couple, highlighting the devastating effects of addiction and its impacts on a family. Another notable performance was Nina Alonso as Karlie’s faith-driven mother Cindy. Alonso excellently portrayed the nervous energy Cindy conveys in her attempts to impress social worker Caroline, a facade later unmasked when the story shows the truth behind who she really is as both a mother and caretaker.

The minimalistic technical elements in the production perfectly complemented the complex plot and performances in Luna Gale. Washes of blue light in transitions helped set the tone for each scene and the commendable choice of adding red light for the more explicit moments showed great attention to detail made by the student technical crew. The simple set pieces and costuming worked to put the actors and the story front and center for the audience, both physically and emotionally.

The Somerset Theater Factory players’ meaningful and melancholy take on the tale of Luna Gale gives a glaring glimpse into the lives of people forced to deal with the consequences of bad choices and the hard decisions they have to make because of them.

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of J.P. Taravella High School

A young 19-year old girl anxiously examines every aspect of the dreary hospital waiting room, while pummeling the ground with her frenzied foot. She is awaiting information about her young baby’s health, which is instead replaced by the dreadful news that her child will be placed into kinship care. This heart wrenching story follows two drug abusing teens and an evangelical grandmother fighting for custody of the title character, Luna Gale. Somerset Academy’s compelling production of “Luna Gale” superbly  displayed the unfiltered trenches of the modern world.

Premiering at the Goodman Theatre in 2014, this passionate play, written by Rebecca Gilman, tackles mature themes of religion, substance abuse, death, sexual abuse, and teenage pregnacy.  The story is primarily shown from the perspective of the veteran social worker exhausted by her overbearing boss, traumatizing past, and the relativity of her current cases. As her clients’ familiar backstories are unveiled, the social worker’s sympathetic tendencies reveal her own truths.

Mariana Sierra portrayed Caroline, the methodical and meticulous social worker.  Sierra steered the production by unfolding each layer of her entangled subplots with great attention to detail. Her superb maturity and great variation of mannerisms, dependant on her setting, aided in her captivating performance. Embodying the misguided mother and dependant addict Karlie, Victoria Vitale captured the intense content through her brilliant facials and distinct physicality of a drug abuser. Vitale’s  smooth development into her manic breakdowns enhanced her vulnerable performance. Accompanying Vitale with his well executed comedic relief, Peter, played by Daniel Calderon, provided a sense of optimism amidst the somber tone of the show. Vitale and Calderon showcased outstanding chemistry through their complex relationship as teen parents.

Cindy, the religiously guided grandmother and opponent in the vicious custody battle was portrayed by Nina Alonso. Alonso’s mature intonation and remarkable character development demonstrated the intensity of her realistic circumstances. The remaining performers populating the production assisted in the portrayal of the  dimensional storyline through their varying characterizations.

The cast of this production depicted the mature content with ease filtering in well-timed moments of comedic relief.  The company adapted their performances to the confined space seamlessly with their personalized emotions and vulnerability. Although there were minor inconsistencies in energy, and some actors portraying older characters periodically reverted back to their teenage mannerisms, overall, the actors each established dimensional and diverse characters.

The simplistic and creative technical aspects of the production effectively established the minimalistic environment. The costume changes were precise, however, some costumes could have been better adjusted to the characters’ ages. Although the set changes could have been more efficient, they were compensated for by the great use of multipurpose set pieces and the detailed props.

When ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances face impossible decisions of moral quandary, paths of good intent  and secret prejudices intertwine. Somerset Academy’s captivating production of “Luna Gale”  will tug at the core of both your heart and mind.

*** *** ***

By Savannah Correa of West Broward High School

Each person has a story, but not everyone is willing to tell theirs. Some stories are easier to tell than others. But what if telling a not so easy story could change somebody’s life for good?

Luna Gale is a straight play written by Rebecca Gilman. The story follows social worker Caroline (Mariana Sierra) and clients Peter (Daniel Calderon) and Karlie (Victoria Vitale), two teenage drug addicts,  after they are accused of neglecting their infant daughter, Luna Gale. After the child is placed within the care of Karlie’s mother, Cindy (Nina Alonso), Caroline begins to unravel more and more information about Karlie and her family’s past, proving that this is no ordinary case.

Luna Gale was dark, heart wrenching, and raw, and brought up very sensitive topics not usually touched upon on your typical high school stage. The production left many audience members at a loss for words, and in deep admiration of the young cast’s maturity towards such issues and their respectful portrayals.

The lead actors were very convincing in their roles, paying attention to detail in order to make the portrayals more convincing.  During scenes of high intensity, Vitale and Calderon would often show how the way their characters react under stress and how it differed from how healthy people would act by performing nervous ticks (fidgeting, biting nails) and stumbling over their words. Vitale would often sell her breakdown scenes by portraying them in a “manic” manner, showing the decline in her mental state given the stressful scenarios she has been put in, as well as the result of substance withdrawal.  Peter provided some of the very few bits of comedy the play had, providing some tranquility to audience members.

As for supporting members of the show, Nina Alonso performed her role as Cindy to the best of her ability, providing strong character development for one of our few antagonists. She went from a sweet, concerned grandmother who was abandoned by her rebellious daughter, to her true self being revealed, the side of her Karlie had known all too well. Much like Peter, Cliff (Kenneth Ninomiya) was also responsible for comic relief within the show and gave the audience a moment to laugh in between such intense scenes, despite not being written as a comedic character. Supporting and leading characters alike added depth and livelihood to the story, but diction could have been stronger at times, and lines could’ve been delivered much more naturally and with more emotion.

Sound for this production was done wonderfully. It was consistent, clear, and never faded out once. The cast made a wide rage of their own sound effects to make the experience of the whole show more immersive, which definitely worked in their favor. Though costumes were not essential to the plot, there were times in which certain characters were not properly dressed for their age, or were not fitted as best as they could be.  Makeup was also simplistic and done well, but could have been used to help define the age of certain characters. However, makeup and costumes did a good job in showing the character development of our leads, giving them cleaner clothes and more fresh faced looks as the plot progressed.

The story of Luna Gale not only touched hearts, but left a window open for discussion about such dire issues affecting our society today. Join the discussion and see Somerset Academy’s Luna Gale at the NSU Black Box.

*** *** ***

By Kaitlyn Tully of Calvary Christian Academy

Oftentimes, we wonder if what we fight for is worth it. We wonder if redemption can ever be attained in situations that seem too far gone. And often, life proves that redemption does not come in the way we expect. This redemption manifests itself in Somerset Academy’s production of “Luna Gale”.

Premiering at the Goodman Theatre, “Luna Gale” was written by Rebecca Gilman and has won the ATCA New Play Award. “Luna Gale” focuses on the journey of a social worker, shedding light on foster care and on the debilitating situations in the world today. As Caroline, the social worker, tries desperately to help a set of teenage parents reunite with their baby, she addresses her own inner demons in the form of abuse and drug use. Perfect redemption is never obtained in the story; however, it continues to poke its hand through the broken cracks and pull characters out of the brokenness they have found themselves in.

This message was further emphasized by the energy of the actors. The raw emotion in this piece seemed to grasp each actor by the hand and make them better than they ever were before. The emotion and insecurity of the character of Caroline (Mariana Sierra) shone through every action, every word, and every expression. She never attempted to portray a social worker as glamorous or a hero, but rather as an exhausted, worried human, which, in reality, made the character more of a hero than if she had been perfect. However, this emotion was matched if not exceeded by Victoria Vitale (Karlie). She built up emotional breakdowns as if they were real, as if they were fires forming slowly inside of her until finally they burst, burning everything around them.She portrayed the true feelings of a helpless mother, one who needs someone else’s help to drag her out of the ocean she has found herself in. Other actors, however, were slightly less dynamic and convincing. Despite this,they still managed to add to the emotional pull of the story,forming a tale of redemption in every action.

Technically, the show remained simple in order to draw more attention to the story itself. However, small details in each technical aspect added even more intricacy to an already deep show.In terms of costumes, designed by Fadekemi Tella and Natalia Fernandez, the show was limited by its modern setting. However,they portrayed the journey of the actors in the clothes that they wore. As Peter (Daniel Calderon) slowly became redeemed, the clothes he wore followed that journey as well, going from dirty to clean.In set design, Callie Garcia utilized the same basic building blocks throughout the show, employing creativity to bring life to the various scenes.

Somerset Academy’s portrayal of “Luna Gale” served as a stark reminder that we are to fight for what we believe in. We are to fight for redemption and never give up on it, regardless of the outcome. Whenever we invest in a person, we reveal their inherent value and allow them to discover their own. As we tumble through this imperfect effort, everyone involved is sanded and polished to reveal their true selves. Thus, we find the lasting value in the fight for redemption regardless of the final results.

*** *** ***

Reviews of City of Angels at North Broward Preparatory School on Friday, 10/18/2019.


By Alex Scaff of The Sagemont School

The lights flare, a cigarette is lit, and the smooth jazz slowly sets in. Black and white graces your eyes and it feels as if you’ve traveled back to the 40s. In walks the private eye sending us on a sprawling story in a world now forgotten – film noir. Behind every story, however, is a writer trying to get his big break, and both the writer and his noir reflection captivate the stage in North Broward Preparatory School’s dazzling production of “City of Angels”.

As an homage to the elegant noir era of the 1940s, “City of Angels” tells the dual tale of Detective Stone’s suspenseful case contrasting the writer Stine, master of that fictional world. The duality between Stine and Stone’s world propels this 1989 Broadway show, written by Larry Gelbert, to fantastical heights. One finds themselves lost in the world that Stine and Stone inhabit, along with the rowdy cast of supporting characters that make the world feel alive. Along with suspenseful writing, the original musical had a mesmerizing score by Cy Coleman and lyrics by David Zippel.

As the gritty Detective Stone finding his place in the world, Evan Laufman transforms the stage into a stylish detective’s office of the past. His diction, almost perfectly capturing the caricature of a 40s New Yorker, really helped sell his performance. While not the complete center of the narrative, Laufman seized any opportunity he had to mesmerize and convince all that the film noir world was much more than simply fiction. Apart from nailing the caricature, the moments when Laufman had to show off his vocalizations demonstrated truly how perfect of a “Stone” he was for his production.

Just as Cy Coleman and David Zippel’s music shined in the original Broadway debut, the musical aspects of this show are the heart of both narratives. As captivating as Laufman himself, Luke Di Liddo’s performance as writer Stine delighted all. Di Liddo’s singing was awe inspiring and left lasting impressions on any fortunate enough to listen. Other members of the company, such as Madeline Finkelman and Daniel Haubner, both had some of the most memorable numbers in the entire production.

While the parallelism in the narrative was sometimes confusing, the cast’s ambitions must be commended. Along with this, for a musical known for its inspired lyrics and melodies, the ensemble at times seemed a bit lifeless, yet their costuming and makeup kept the film noir style thriving. The musical strengths of this play were strongest during Stone and Stine’s joint duet of “You’re Nothing Without Me,”  where the two young men’s chemistry truly shined. While sound was sometimes unclear, it was very clear how much effort was done behind the scenes through marketing and makeup to truly make an exciting and era-appropriate production.

As daunting a task as it may be to put on a production focused on a “play within a play,” North Broward Preparatory’s delightful and stylish production of “City of Angels” brought drama, intrigue, and much more.

*** *** ***

By Tai Beasley of Coral Glades High School

Jazz, love, and murder always makes for a cinematic masterpiece! North Broward Preparatory School’s enthralling performance of City of Angels did just that, unveiling the saucy and villainous film industry with a gripping story of two parallels.

With music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel, and book by Larry Gelbart, this musical comedy interlaces two storylines: the artistic struggle of Hollywood novelist Stine trying to bring his story to the big screen, and the fictional world which his writing births. Stine finds himself caught in the temptations of Los Angeles, and realizes that the promise of fame, lust of women, and pressure of unrelenting compromises cannot live in harmony with his truth. Meanwhile, his fictional parallel, detective Stone, tries to solve a case of a missing girl, with hell to pay. Paying homage to the alluring film noir genre of 1940s motion pictures, this musical separates the two plots with bright color, and the absence of it. City of Angels opened on Broadway in 1889, closing with nearly 900 performances. The musical also took to the West End stage in 1993 and the Revival in 2014, winning several awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical, and an Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival.

Leading men Luke Di Liddo (Stine) and Evan Laufman (Stone), exceeded expectations in their seamless character portrayal. Di Liddo completely embodied his role with detailed physicality and inflection, and successfully depicted his character arc from timid to undaunted. Laufman created a charismatic and bold character with seductive facial expressions and diction. Their chemistry and vocals shook the house with “You’re Nothing Without Me”.

Lead actresses Madeline Finkelman (Gabby/Bobbi), Natalie Langnas (Donna/Oolie), and Skylar Minett (Carla Haywood/ Alaura Kinglsey) fabulously brought their dual characters to life. Finkelman’s sultry vocals never faltered, especially in “With Every Breath I take”. Langnas added humor and zest to each of her characters, and fostered perfect duality in “What You Don’t Know About Women”. Minett sold her character with sassy facials and strong physicality.

The multifunctional set created depth to the story, while the use of various colored lighting enhanced the performance and helped separate the real world from fiction in a captivating way. Publicity for the show was incredibly done, with unique and inclusive methods of marketing. Makeup and hair were to time period and brought the characters to life. The ensembles added great energy to the plot. Although sound issues were prevalent and set changes could have been more efficient, the actors and crew did a commendable job in creating a great performance.

A round of applause is greatly deserved for North Broward Preparatory School’s beautiful rendition of City of Angels, for showing us that fame is nothing if you lose yourself to achieve it.

*** *** ***

By Roie Dahan of American Heritage School

The place? North Broward Preparatory School. The time? 1940’s Hollywood. The subject? The exuberant musical “City of Angels.” Grab some popcorn and find a seat because this picturesque show was a hit!

With a book by Larry Gelbart, music by Cy Coleman, and lyrics by David Zippel, “City of Angels” depicts the two-sided story of a mystery noir film accompanied by its struggling writer trying to keep control of his words amidst the glitz and glamour of Golden Age Hollywood. It premiered on Broadway in 1989 and won six Tony awards before transferring to the West End and West End tour. This show illustrates the behind-the-scenes of what happens in Tinseltown through two hours of laughter, song, and dance.

Evan Laufman captured the character of Stone, the charismatic detective, impeccably, reflecting the stereotypical noir private eye through his compelling characterization choices. Stone’s counterpart Stine, the timid yet ambitious novelist, was superbly played by Luke Di Liddo with his exemplary clean vocals and innocuous presence. When the two came together, their dynamic created a mighty force, most notably in “You’re Nothing Without Me”. Laufman’s character-infused portrayal complemented Di Liddo’s astounding vocal work perfectly to create a true powerhouse.

Playing Oolie and Donna, Natalie Langnas’ exceptional comedic timing and expressive facials played into both her characters commendably. Her robust vocal styling and commitment to character were righteously displayed through her solos “You Can Always Count on Me.” Madeline Finkelman, playing Gabby and Bobbi, dazzled audiences with her stunning voice and acting capabilities. Langnas and Finkelman brought the house down with their intertwined vocalization and powerful motivations in their duet “What You Don’t Know About Women.” Munoz, played by Daniel Haubner, rarely failed to get a laugh because of his perfectly timed comedy and overall humorous demeanor. Juliana Castillo executed her role as Mallory Kingsley stunningly, sporting intense vocal power and commitment in her song “Lost and Found,” and brought Avril Raines to life with her hilariously loopy disposition. The overall chemistry the cast had with one another electrified and elevated the entire performance.

The production’s ensemble admirably complemented the show’s over the top hilarity. Lacking bright facials and energy intermittently at times, they were nevertheless able to capture the essence of the show’s joviality and Broadwayesque style. A standout amidst the ensemble, The Angel City 6, despite some members carrying more than others, charmed audiences with their luscious harmonies and upbeat scatting. Although it did not translate as strongly off the stage, the hair and makeup team did an ample job of emulating the period’s style with its bold cherry lips and updos. The marketing and publicity team got the word out through inventive techniques like ticket giveaways and a social media page.

With its numerous unforgettable characters, vivacious musical numbers and comical plotline, it was hard not to fall in love with North Broward Preparatory School’s production of “City of Angels.”

*** *** ***

By Eva Daskos of The Sagemont School

In 1940s Los Angeles, it’s easy to get swept away in the glamour of Hollywood, while the hard crimes of the city get swept under the rug. What lies behind the starry eyes of every high-class lady? Murder? Love? Maybe it’s an unsatisfied author who thinks it’s all too cliché? Find out this and more in North Broward Preparatory school’s production of “City of Angels”!

It’s another colorless day in the life of Stone, a hard detective who’s looking for his next case, while the author writing his story, the exasperated Stine, is just looking for some creative freedom on his detective script. Stone and Stine represent the two worlds City of Angels creates, one the 1940s crime ridden black and white streets of LA, the other the bustling world of film production-where the biggest criminal Stine has to face is his boss, who’s more concerned with money than if Stine’s script has any substance. This show within a show is critically acclaimed with award winning music by Cy Coleman, and lyrics by David Zippel.

Stone, played by Evan Laufman, never broke his confident aura onstage. Stone’s hardened personality and wild, bloodshot, private eyes were always present in Laufman’s performance. Even while playing an older character, Laufman made a change in his own maturity with simple mannerisms and physicality, as well as a smooth deep voice that is iconic to film noir and perfectly fit Stone. Laufman consistently had strong chemistry with other performers as his character dodged in and out of relationships-as well as dodging bullets.

Stone’s life may be full of adventure, but that’s only due to Stine’s big ideas that his boss, Buddy Fidler, keeps shooting down. The cocky director Buddy Fidler was brought to life by Dylan Jost. who used this outrageous role to his advantage by making the most of Buddy’s time onstage with exemplary comedic timing and use of a hilarious pompous attitude. Meanwhile in Stone’s world, he’s shot down by the vixen club singer Bobbi. Madeline Finkelman as Bobbi served the jazzy sounds of the 1940s justice as her powerful voice hit every note and never faltered. Luke Di Liddo as Stine also gave a vocally compelling performance, translating David Zippel’s lyrics with power and vocal technique.

The publicity team of “City of Angels” used inventive marketing strategies in their spirted campaign for the show. Marketing and Publicity by Natalie Langnas & Company made fantastic use of the musical’s movie-making plot, planning creative events to publicize their show, including a movie trivia night that awarded the winner a free ticket to this standout production. Hair and Makeup by Christina McCabe and Company outlined the faces of actors well onstage, but was overly simple for the Hollywood theme they proposed.

North Broward Preparatory School’s production of City of Angels managed to create two compelling storylines on one stage, this standout production will prove the two worlds of story and author are nothing without each other!

*** *** ***

Reviews of Peter and the Star Catcher at Calvary Christian Academy on Thursday, 10/10/2019.


By Reese Abrahamoff of Cooper City High School

Somewhere between a sky full of stars and the sound of crashing waves lies Calvary Christian Academy, a powerful vessel whose crew of captains and pirates have conquered the sea. Set sail for a tale of self-discovery, unbreakable bonds, and a tiny bit of starstuff in their enchanting production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Based on a book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, “Peter and the Starcatcher” sailed to Broadway in 2012 earning nine Tony Award nominations, including Best Play. Written by Rick Elice, the story follows Boy, a nameless orphan whose hardened nature was the result of an oppressive childhood. Next on deck is Molly Aster, the feisty and determined apprentice whose sense of adventure shines brighter than any other. When Molly discovers Boy and his friends in the bilge of the ship, the audience is transported into a story of dancing pirates, hidden treasures, and a life-changing decision.

Leading the production as the initially fragile but eventually confident hero was Maxim Rose (Boy/Peter). From the moment Rose entered the stage, he reflected an earnest and genuine nature that never faltered. Rose excelled in encompassing his character’s physicality, but what was truly remarkable about his depiction was his sincerity and charisma. On a quest to uncover his own identity, Rose guided us through heartbreak and pain, allowing his performance to soar. Alongside Rose was Jenna McCoy as the fearless Molly Aster. Both McCoy and Rose worked well off one another allowing their inevitable separation to be both gut-wrenching and unexpected.

Terrorizing the seven seas in hope of finding a worthy adversary, Richard Egues delivered an outstanding performance as Black Stache. From his own animated musical number to his devious plan to conquer the “Neverland,” Egues’s flamboyant characterization was always met with a hint of malice. Erring on the side of comedy was Kelly Goenaga (Smee) who played the simple-minded first mate to Black Stache. With Goenaga’s high energy and dramatic nature, she was able to fully encompass her character, heeding the captain’s every whim.

Despite inconsistencies in accents, the cast as a whole was quite remarkable. With perfect pacing, clear unity, and evident commitment, the ensemble told a clear story from scratch, and for that, they should be commended. A standout group in the production was the orphan children (Maxim Rose, Soleil Escobar, and Gage Eller) whose connections were perfectly established from the moment the show began. Technically speaking, stage management did an exceptional job handling a large number of cues. Almost every call was executed nicely, allowing for smooth transitions throughout the show. Additionally, with only a few key objects, the props team was able to contribute to the plot in an extensive amount of ways.

As the sun sets and the moon comes out, we are left adrift on the ship of Calvary Christian Academy with the cast and crew of “Peter and the Starcatcher,” where they proved that not every star belongs to the sky.

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of J.P. Taravella High School

“Glowing! Ringing! Flying! It can only mean one thing:” a mystical quest is underway. Seafaring vessels have docked, filled to the brim with orphans, mothers, pirates, and sailors. So hoist the sails and swab the deck because our adventure begins with Calvary Christian Academy’s whimsical production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novel, “Peter and the Starcatchers,” Rick Elice’s stage adaptation, “Peter and the Starcatcher” tells the thrilling backstory of the beloved characters from J.M. Barrie’s “Peter and Wendy.” Set in 1885 under the influential reign of Queen Victoria, a young girl and apprentice starcatcher, Molly Aster, finds herself traveling with three mistreated orphans, aboard the slow and steady ship, the Neverland. Journeying on Britain’s fastest battleship, the Wasp, Molly’s noble father, an adept starcatcher, is embarking on a secret mission for Her Majesty; protecting the prestigious yet dangerous  starstuff. When his mission is compromised, Molly and her new friends find themselves entangled in a trek of tremendous tribulation.

Portraying the “insatiably curious, insufferably bright, and pretty much friendless” Molly Aster, Jenna McCoy embodied the role through her childlike essence and lively spirit. McCoy’s expressive intonation and animated facials conveyed her character’s tenacity and leadership during a period where girls are typically viewed as submissive. Dazzling Molly through his cryptic air, the nameless orphan and traumatized child was embodied by Maxim Rose. Rose handled the delicate subject of his character’s backstory beautifully, expressing his character’s stellar development from his harrowing beginnings to the confident boy who will never grow up. Rose captured his astronomical character arc through his stellar change of physicality and demeanor.

The nameless boy was accompanied by two other orphans, Prentiss and Ted, played by Soleil Escobar and Gage Eller respectively. The actors developed a visible camaraderie that created a compelling dynamic. Accompanying the children on their voyage, the ensemble of pirates and sailors enhanced the overall production with their expressive facials and well-rehearsed stage action. Although, the cast presented minor inconsistencies in their accents and periodically lacked range of expression, the overall production was cohesive and amusing.

The technical aspects of this production created a majestic world emulating the visions of a child’s imagination. Through the abstract use of set pieces and props combined with zappy lighting, one was overcome with the twinkling sensation only otherwise produced by the vigor of a playground. With few sound hiccups and minor lighting inconsistencies, there were no errors that detracted from the overall presentation and the cast handled any trivial mishaps professionally.

With actors shining brighter than starstuff and the playful enhancements of a child’s dream, Calvary Christian Academy’s captivating production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” will leave you flying past impossible odds.

*** *** ***

By Caroline Eaton of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Every story has a beginning. An origin story that defines each character’s destiny. The path they stroll along for the rest of their life. A prequel can be observed as a gift to the audience, closing the door on the uncertainty of a story’s past, and finally presenting the world with the answers they have been looking for. Calvary Christian Academy’s production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” took storytelling to the next level and told the tale of why Peter Pan never grew up.

Based on the 2004 novel, “Peter and the Starcatchers,” the story serves as the prequel to the world-renowned story of Peter Pan, the boy who could fly. This uniquely performed production develops the narratives of the original characters introduced in Peter Pan. Earning itself 5 Tony awards from 11 nominations, it took Broadway by storm, or more likely, by starstuff.

Playing the light-hearted Boy/Peter, Maxim Rose embodied Peter’s youthful spirit while skillfully maintaining the remains of his pain-stricken past at the orphanage. Rose showed a clear understanding of his incomparable life as an orphan. Through his ever-changing body language and tone of voice, he presented a true character arc upon laying eyes on the fiery Molly Aster (Jenna McCoy), transforming from a damaged soul into the capable leader of the island of Neverland. McCoy displayed Molly’s extreme love for adventure through her nonstop energy and lively physicality.

Black Stache, a cunning yet somewhat childish man with a “mouth brow” prominent enough to serve as his own name, was portrayed by Richard Egues. Egues triumphantly captured the carelessness of having to act like a true pirate, and the perpetual desire for one thing: treasure. Egues’s animated gestures and effervescent facial expressions obscured the reality that Black Stache was not the menacing pirate he wished everyone to see. Playing Black Stache’s right-hand man, Smee, was Kelly Goenaga. Goenaga’s unwavering energy and devotion to Egues illustrated her comprehension of Smee’s role in the world of Black Stache.

The rambunctious orphans of Ted and Prentiss (Gage Eller and Soleil Escobar, respectively), exhibited a perception of their specific roles within their small society: Prentiss being the leader and Ted following closely behind, at least until Molly showed up. Most notably, Eller’s steadfast focus on food, especially the unbreakable pineapple, ably made for the comedic relief in times of sorrowful scenes. Eller, along with Escobar, McCoy, and Rose cohesively formed a resolute front who, as long as they believed, could take on the world if need be.

The choreographed stunts and lifts were executed with grace and poise, especially when Peter gained the ability of flight. These moments of suspension were enhanced by the obvious dedication and rehearsal put on by the choreography team. The costumes and makeup attributed to each character, from the dirt of the orphans to the fish scales and tails on the mermaids.

With a story the whole world can relate to, Calvary Christian Academy’s “Peter and the Starcatcher” explored the meaning of love, adventure, and most importantly, friendship that can withstand even the toughest of pirates.

*** *** ***

By Rylee Berger of Cooper City High School

“There it is, Wendy! Second star to the right and straight on till morning!” exclaims Peter Pan in the classic 1953 film. But how did Peter Pan become such an iconic character? Why did he choose Wendy, of all people? And perhaps most pressing, how did Neverland come to be? Find out in Calvary Christian Academy’s dreamy production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Written by Rick Elice and based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, “Peter and the Starcatcher” opened on Broadway in 2012. The “play with music” concerns a young orphan known as Boy and the spunky Molly Aster as they navigate the tumultuous waters of hope, friendship, and love that are, naturally, plagued by pirates. When Molly’s father tasks her with protecting a chest full of precious cargo for the Queen, Molly and her new friends must dodge pirates and thieves to secure the treasure and save the world from evil.

Jenna McCoy’s natural talent radiated through her portrayal of the slightly insufferable but ultimately lovable Molly Aster. McCoy perfectly embodied Molly’s fearlessness and wit in her vocal delivery and physicality. McCoy made certain that Molly towered over peers and pirates alike through her captivating stage presence and her eye-catching energy. Her characterization served as a nice juxtaposition to that of Maxim Rose, playing Boy (who would eventually be given the name Peter). The innocence and playfulness of their relationship was evident, showing a clear understanding of their respective characters. Rose made highly effective choices in his mannerisms, standing out in his ability to communicate Boy/Peter’s emotional journey throughout the show.

Depicting the over-the-top, narcissistic, and downright hilarious Black Stache, Richard Egues was consistent in his accent, energy, and command of both script and stage. Complemented by the incredibly entertaining Kelly Goenaga as Smee, the dynamic duo brought new life and understanding to the legendary pirates. Goenaga was stellar in her comedic timing and delivery, providing a profoundly memorable performance. Other notable performers included Soleil Escobar (Prentiss) and Gage Eller (Ted), both of whom successfully portrayed their distinct characters while highlighting their similarities, resulting in a well-developed dynamic between the orphaned boys and Molly.

The ensemble skillfully tackled the complex script. Stunning stage pictures were prevalent, including those depicting Molly’s journey through the ship’s different rooms and the jungle on Mollusk Island. Though accents fluctuated and were difficult to understand, swift transitions and good pacing aided in the play’s effectiveness.

The skills of the actors were complemented by the impressive use of props and other technical elements, effectively creating the world of the show. Though lighting cues were often late and microphones were at times unreliable, most of the design elements were cohesive and compelling.

Carl Sagan once said, “We are all made of star stuff,” and Calvary Christian Academy proved just that. Their production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” invited audiences to experience the joy of storytelling and to remember that, “To have faith, is to have wings.”

*** *** ***

Reviews of Once Upon a Mattress at Monarch High School on Saturday, 3/16/2019.


By Susanna Ninomiya of Somerset Academy

Take an age-old fairy tale, a bench-pressing princess, an immature prince, a mute king, a plotting queen, and a pea and you will have Monarch High School’s laudable production of Once Upon A Mattress.

Bringing a modern twist to Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea, Once Upon A Mattress tells the tale of the moat-swimming and outspoken Princess Winnifred as she is put to one of Queen Aggravain’s impossible tests that must be passed before any princess is able to marry her son, Prince Dauntless. No one in the kingdom is allowed to marry until Prince Dauntless finds a bride, which makes a successful courtship a matter of urgency for all. Marshall Barer, Dean Fuller, and Jay Thompson wrote the show collaboratively with music by Mary Rodgers and lyrics by Marshall Barer.

Mia Prokop fronted the show wonderfully as the genuine but unrefined Princess Winnifred. With a powerful voice and an equally powerful stage presence, Prokop maintained an impressive amount of energy, physicality, strong characterization and comedic timing, instantly grabbing the audience’s attention in her song “Shy”. Allison Fowner turned in a commendable performance in the role of Queen Aggravain with sharp facial expressions and a devious personality as she made up antics to purposefully sabotage Winnifred. Playing the immature Prince Dauntless, Logan Draluck displayed believable child-like innocence and amusement as he feverishly awaited marriage and tried to help Winnifred pass the princess test. Draluck’s expressions were vibrant with wide-eyed expressions throughout the show and he had good chemistry and energy when interacting with Provok and Fowner, creating a good relationship with each.

King Sexitmus the Silent (Jason May) shone with his effortless physicality and clear, witty pantomimes: specifically during “Man to Man Talk”. The ensemble was actively engaged and dedicated in their roles, with several noticeable and entertaining individual moments from the Ladies of the Kingdom. Although they sometimes lacked energy, had staggered comedic timing, and missed some notes, the ensemble and cast were very successful in conveying their characters and made good use of body language. A noteworthy moment in the show was the number, “Song of Love”, with the energy, excitement, and comedy from the cast being at its highest.

Student-choreographed by Pooja Singh, the choreography was well designed, time-appropriate, and interesting, nicely complementing the show. The lighting helped set the mood of the musical and portray the emotions of the characters, with few issues.

All in all, Monarch High School’s production of Once Upon A Mattress, proved that anyone could have a happy ending, no fairy godmothers needed.

*** *** ***

By Bella Ramirez of American Heritage School

With heads racing over the constant stresses of current events and the state of the world, it’s easy to feel restless. In fact, approximately one in four Americans develop insomnia every year. So, most can relate to Princess Winnifred’s struggle when she simply cannot fall asleep in “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea,” this Tony nominated Best Musical started out as a short play in the Tamiment adult summer camp resort. After expanding into a Broadway-ready musical, the show kept its popularity throughout the years. In fact, it has spent time throughout the country, in a television adaptation and in a Broadway revival. Now, it remains a popular show for communities and high schools like Monarch High School. The musical tries to hold its own against the original tale by making Winnifred one of thirteen princesses coveting after Prince Dauntless’ hand and making Princess Winnifred someone a little less than “Shy.”

Monarch High School’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress” carried a hardworking ensemble who executed group numbers with fair precision. Although some of the blackouts were too long, the actors were able to keep the pacing smooth and on time. King Sextimus (Jason May) especially mastered this with his pantomime.

As the evident star of the show, Mia Prokop (Princess Winnifred), truly carried the production with her pleasing vocals and stunning stage presence. Prokop is clearly born for the stage. She made clear choices in her acting and committed to her character in a natural way. Her solos were some of the most enjoyable portions of the production. In scenes where she was not the center of attention, Prokop still managed to draw attention to her by reacting to the scene accurately.

Entering act one, some of the actors revealed low-energy and apathy on stage. Most of the movements were clear in scenes, however, they looked directed rather than decided. Even some of the chemistry on stage between couples and friends felt forced. Continuing further into the show, the energy began to pick up and both the leads and ensemble seemed more engaged in the show. While some of the vocalists fell a little flat, their effort in directions and committing to their characters helped make up for any missed notes.

Beyond the hiccups of the show, marketing and choreography excelled behind the curtain. Faith Joyce and Carlie Nussbaum created an Instagram with 112 followers, planned a flash mob for publicity and earned an article in the Coconut Creek News. Choreographer Pooja Singh also showed clear understanding of lyrics and properly showed motivations of characters while keeping the stage layout pleasing to the eye.

Monarch had some difficulty in mastering this medieval comedy, however, their tech and favorite Princess “Fred” carried them through the show and made for an interesting watch.

*** *** ***

By Rylee Berger of Cooper City High School

Once upon a time, in a far-off kingdom called Monarch High School, knights and ladies combined physical comedy, strong stage pictures, and powerful vocals to create an enjoyable rendition of “Once Upon a Mattress.”

With lyrics by Mary Rodgers, music by Marshall Barer, and a book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer, “Once Upon a Mattress” opened off-Broadway in 1959 before moving to Broadway later that year. Earning a 1996 revival, a West End production, and multiple adaptations for television, the musical comedy is based off Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea.” The timeless tale concerns a young prince named Dauntless and his potential bride-to-be, Princess Winnifred. Complicated by a controlling mother infatuated with her son, the many ladies of the kingdom try to win her approval. Enter the brash and unrefined Princess Winnifred, who steals the hearts of all but the one whose opinion matters most, the Queen. Ultimately, Winnifred and Dauntless triumph and, in classic fairy tale fashion, live happily ever after.

Leading lady Mia Prokop was energetic and genuine in her depiction of the feisty and outspoken Princess Winnifred. Her natural abilities and powerful stage presence, complemented by stellar vocals, were evident. These talents shone during numbers such as “Shy” and “Happily Ever After.” Prokop’s comedic timing was exceptional. Her facial expressions and physicality brought the young princess to life. Her relationship with Prince Dauntless (Logan Draluck) was both innocent and lovable. As the prince, Draluck was entertaining and had the energy of a young boy. His relationships with his parents (Allison Fowner and Jason May) showed a good understanding of his character and the show as a whole.

As Queen Aggravain, Fowner demanded attention while onstage and was poised in her delivery of both dialogue and lyrics. Playing the mute but expressive King, May brought hilarious comedy to the stage. His physicality and stage presence compensated for his character’s inability to speak, bringing about several hilarious moments, such as when he pantomimes the birds and the bees talk in “Man to Man.” May’s energy, facial expressions, and commitment to his character contributed to his stand-out performance.

The company as a whole did a commendable job of staying in character and helped to create storybook-like stage pictures. The energy and vocals of the ensemble, though often fluctuating and lacking diction, stood out in the show-stopping number “Song of Love.” Though the actions and reactions of some characters seemed forced or were anticipated, many actors did an admirable job of maintaining their focus.

The technical aspects of the show were well-executed The lighting design contributed to the overall mood of many scenes, such as when a pink wash was used in romantic moments. The spotlights were used with precision and the stage lights helped to create different locations within the castle. Though the timing of cues was inconsistent and there were a few microphone issues, many scene changes were done swiftly. The costumes and makeup were cohesive and added depth to the production.

Filled with romance, comedy, and politics, Monarch High School’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress” proves that anyone can live “Happily Ever After,” and won the hearts of princes, queens, and audience members alike.

*** *** ***

By Angie DeStefano of Calvary Christian Academy

She’s shy yet confident, strong yet sensitive, a princess from the swamp, she’s Princess Winnifred! With many mattresses and only one pea, she must prove herself as a true princess in Monarch High School’s whimsical production of Once Upon a Mattress!

The musical parody was written in 1958 with music and lyrics by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer and book by Jay Thompson. Composed as an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea, it opened off-Broadway in May 1959 and later moved to Broadway where it was nominated for two 1960 Tony Awards. The comedy follows Queen Aggravain’s search for a bride for her son, Prince Dauntless. At first sight, the prince falls for Princess Winnifred, an unconventional princess whose androgynous traits clash with the queen’s expectations. After much pleading from Dauntless, the queen agrees to allow them to marry if she can pass a simple test; detecting a single pea tucked under twenty mattresses.

Mia Prokop’s portrayal of Princess Winnifred was attention-grabbing and downright hilarious. While originally proclaiming herself as “shy,” Prokop commanded the stage and drove each scene with jauntiness. In her standout solo “Shy,” her use of exaggerated facial expressions and body movement defined her character and conveyed what exactly made her stand out from the others. With mention of exaggerated physicality, Jason May’s performance as the mute King Sextimus was enjoyable and farcical. In “Man to Man Talk,” the use of charades with Prince Dauntless (played by Logan Draluck) made the adult comedy shine while still keeping the show appropriate for all ages.

With very minimal issues, technical elements were carried out well. Lighting designs by Sophia Cheng, Evelyn Goldstein, and Yesenia Rodriguez suspended belief by creating different rooms of the castle. At many points, the excessive blackouts held on for long periods of time and felt unnecessary, despite this, the variety in colors and areas of focus enlarged the playing space for the actors. The hair and makeup designs were done well, yet the purpose behind many of the choices did not reflect the characters and were found very distracting.

Once Upon a Mattress at Monarch High School delved into the medieval world of knights and ladies while reminding us that not every princess falls into one category.

*** *** ***

By Jade Russian of Somerset Academy

“I’ll put twenty downy mattresses upon her bed, and beneath those twenty mattresses I’ll place one tiny pea. If that pea disturbs her slumber, then a true princess is she.” Monarch High School shows us what it takes to be a true princess in their most recent production, “Once Upon a Mattress”.

With the book penned by Marshall Barer, Dean Fuller, Jay Thompson; music written by Mary Rodgers and lyrics by Marshall Barer, Once Upon a Mattress opened off Broadway in 1959. Based on classic, “The Princess and the Pea”, Once Upon a Mattress later on moved to Broadway and gained rising popularity. Once Upon a Mattress centers around a young prince who desires to get married, but the queen doesn’t seem to find a princess suitable enough for the position. The only concern is that while the prince is not married, no one else can marry, leading to the search for the perfect princess and the test that determines her validation.

Mia Prokop, playing Princess Winnifred, also known as Fred, did an exceptional job portraying the princess from the swamps adjusting to the new palace lifestyle. Princess Winnifred was looked down upon by the queen, played by Allison Fowner, because she was different from the other ladies of the kingdom. Prokop showed off her talent not only through her acting, but also her singing. Fowner embodied Queen Aggravain through her demanding, strict personality. The Queen’s presence was surely felt on stage as her character required much attitude and demeanor.

Other cast members worth mention are Logan Draluck as Prince Dauntless, Jason May playing King Sextimus, Gabriella Almonte as Jester, and Daniel Rueda as Minstrel. Jason May, Daniel Rueda, and Gabriella Almonte had very good chemistry portraying an energetic trio. Logan Draluck did a great job as the young prince desperate to marry. The Ladies of the Kingdom also contributed to the production in a favorable way adding energy to certain scenes and keeping their vocals in tune and blending well with each other.

Although the play kept good energy and had committed cast members, certain aspects of tech could’ve been better. Blackouts pertaining to some scenes were off in timing and some were widely extended. Sound wasn’t consistent; mics would cut off at times and some actor’s lack of articulation did not benefit the muffled sound the mics were already projecting. A good part on tech, however, was makeup being very noticeable on stage as they used a variety of color to fit their scheme. Despite the minor technical difficulties, the cast still worked through it bringing on a satisfactory production.

Bringing back the classic essence of “The Princess and the Pea”, Monarch High School showed many what it really takes to be a princess. The audience surely left wanting to go to bed to the sound of a nightingale’s lullaby, sleeping at peace knowing that the prince and the princess got their happily ever after, and that the mouse finally devoured the hawk.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Chicago at American Heritage School on Saturday, 3/16/2019.


By Reese Abrahamoff of Cooper City High School

“Roxie, relax. In this town, murder is a form of entertainment!” While this may have been true in the past, the students of American Heritage provided a different interpretation of entertainment in their “Razzle Dazzle” production of the hit musical, “Chicago.”

Transporting us into an era of revenge and the effects of the media, “Chicago” danced its way to Broadway in 1975 and has acquired the title of the longest-running American musical. With music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, the show was based off Maurine Dallas Watkins’ 1926 play of the same name and has undergone numerous adaptations including a 2002 film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. “Chicago” follows the story of Roxie Hart, whose intentions of stardom are more important than her sense of well-being. After murdering her secret lover, tensions arise, individuals are tested, and characters are faced with decisions that could change their lives forever.

As pretty as she is self-centered, Roxie Hart was remarkably played by Alexa Lopez. With stunning vocals and clear character development, Lopez was able to show that although her search for fame and glory were relentless, her character’s selfishness was not exactly what prompted her fall from integrity. Portraying the fierce vaudeville performer Velma Kelly, Jordyn Allen delivered a truly vigorous performance full of intensity and soul that never faltered throughout the duration of the show. The dynamics between Allen and Lopez were extraordinary to a point where the heated rivalry between the characters seemed both realistic and sincere. Frederick Bredemeyer played the role of Billy Flynn, the manipulative and devious lawyer who Velma and Roxie hired to represent their murder cases. His phenomenal stage presence and charismatic nature contributed to his character’s mischievous persona that was always consistent.

Although Amos Hart may be seen as invisible by society, his portrayal by Jonah Warhaft went anything but unnoticed. From the moment he entered, Warhaft never failed to capture the audience’s interest, especially in his solo, “Mister Cellophane,” which left them completely invested in his heart-wrenching reality of always being looked down upon. An additional standout was Irene Newman (Matron “Mama” Morton) whose vocal prowess and mature physicality contributed to her character’s representation of how flawed the justice system really is.

The ensemble was nothing less than brilliant. Although at points there was a lack of facial expressions and energy in certain dance numbers, the ensemble as a whole remained focused and synchronized allowing for a fascinating performance. Technically speaking, the Pit Orchestra exceeded all expectations for high school talent. Despite some technical faults with the microphones, the students made clear adjustments in regards to their volume rather than simply playing through it, and for that, they should be commended. The stage management team also excelled as each cue was smooth and had perfect transitions.

Bob Fosse once said, “Live like you’ll die tomorrow, work like you don’t need the money, and dance like nobody’s watching,” and the cast and crew of “Chicago” at American Heritage did just that. Upon the curtain closing to a standing ovation, the audience was left with one thought, “If you’d have been there, if you’d have seen it, I betcha you would have done the same.”

*** *** ***

By Jaime Happel of JP Taravella High School

When you’re trapped in one of the world’s most illustrious cities where people can walk right by you and never even know you’re there, it’s easy to vie for attention. Headlines are always changing and if you don’t give ‘em the ol’ razzle-dazzle, your stardom is sure to fade away. Those are the grounds for American Heritage School Center for the Arts’ “Chicago” – “a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery.”

Chicago peers into the intriguing lives of celebrity criminals as based on true events reported by Maurine Dallas Watkins in her play of the same name. The vaudeville style musical features music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. Originally starring Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera, Chicago premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre in 1975. The 1996 revival was much more successful, as it took six Drama Desk Awards and Tony Awards into its custody and inspired a film adaptation.

Alexa Lopez portrayed the beautiful and ever-cunning Roxie Hart. As the show progressed, Lopez gradually transformed from an immature young woman to an egotistical miscreant who craves notoriety. Accompanying Lopez’s outstanding character development, were her rich, melodious vocals. Velma Kelly, depicted by Jordyn Allen, is Roxie’s fierce criminal competitor. Allen’s bold physicality, sarcasm, and tough disposition showcased her strong understanding of the character. The two murderesses dream of vaudeville and quickly become tied up with the idea of fame, despite the corruption it may expose them to.

To help them reap the benefits of, what they believe to be, their well-deserved glory, the women hire the best soliciting lawyer in Chicago, Billy Flynn (Frederick Bredemeyer). Bredemeyer discovered an incredible level of comfort onstage, which allowed him to successfully encompass the pretentious, suave manipulator with charm and appealing confidence. Irene Newman’s deep sultry voice and collected composure abetted her characterization of the Cook County Jail’s deceitful warden, Matron “Mama” Morton, another one of the women’s allies. Jonah Warhaft authentically portrayed Roxie’s devoted, “Funny Hunny” husband, Amos Hart. Warhaft vulnerably represented the only character with selfless motives by constantly tugging at the audience’s heartstrings, most notably in his endearing solo, “Mister Cellophane.”

While energy levels were sometimes inconsistent, the ensemble’s sharp isolations, intricate formations, and clean execution captured the essence of Fosse’s challenging choreography style. Euphonious harmonies were produced with evident emphasis on vocal dynamics; however, diction and projection were lacking at times. Although technically, sound faced microphone difficulties, the orchestra impressively adjusted to the needs of the performers. Key and featured moments were prominently highlighted with smooth light cues and were additionally elevated on the towering black set, complete with jail-cell-like bars and the names Roxie, Velma, and Chicago in lights.

People will do anything to change a world of “no” into a world of “yes,” and it’s not always about playing square. American Heritage School Center for the Arts is unafraid to cue up the exit music on anyone who can’t keep up with the corrupt greatness and grandness of life “Nowadays.” “And that’s showbiz … kid.”

*** *** ***

By Nicole Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

The Jazz Age. The Age of Intolerance. The Age of Wonderful Nonsense. The Roaring Twenties signified a time when marquees glared, jazz music blared, and no liquor was spared. American Heritage School’s captivating production of “Chicago” stressed corruption in the 1920s criminal justice system and the sensationalization of murder as an entertainment form.

With lyrics by Fred Ebb, music by John Kander, and a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, “Chicago” is based on a 1926 play about crime and criminals by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins. “Chicago” depicts two fiery murderesses, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, as they vie for fame and stardom. Their relentless rivalry intensifies as the two murderous headliners compete for the aid and attention from their slick lawyer, Billy Flynn. Featuring choreography by Bob Fosse, the original broadway production of “Chicago” opened at the 46th Street Theatre in 1975.

Playing the seductive and sarcastic vaudeville performer, Velma Kelly, Jordyn Allen embodied the spunk and frustrations of Chicago’s former “main attraction.” Allen’s striking confidence and bold physicality assisted in the establishment of a strong and well-developed character. Roxie Hart, the death-row murderess in search of public recognition and ultimate glory, was portrayed by Alexa Lopez. Lopez exquisitely captured Roxie’s growth throughout the musical by genuinely depicting her fears, discoveries, and triumphs. Both Allen and Lopez displayed magnificent vocals and built a biting chemistry as they established a competitive relationship rooted in jealousy.

Portraying the suave lawyer with a knack for constructing celebrities out of his clientele, Billy Flynn, Frederick Bredemeyer depicted Billy’s manipulation and money-making mentality through his clear characterization and clean vocals. Matron “Mama” Morton, played by Irene Newman, is the warden of the Cook County Jail with a tried and true philosophy of “reciprocity.” Newman displayed chilling vocals and an air of sass and fearlessness. Playing Roxie’s innocent husband, the woefully average Amos Hart, Jonah Warhaft epitomized the good nature of his character through his adorable characterization and wonderful vocals, specifically showcased in his sweet number “Mr. Cellophane.”

While at times lacking some energy, the ensemble displayed incredible dance technique and polished numbers. The cast did a superb job executing the essential Fosse-style isolations, adding a sense of intrigue, seduction, and precision to the production as a whole.

The incredible orchestra maintained lively energy and a beautiful quality of sound, highlighting moments of importance throughout the show with musical dynamics. While the sound occasionally went out on some microphones, the lighting, sound, and scenery served to establish the presentational “vaudeville” essence of the show and the overall mood.

An alluring tale of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery, American Heritage School’s production of “Chicago” emphasized the scandalous nature of the booming 1920s. “Chicago” captured the horrors of fame, the trials of the era, and the splendiferous circus that goes into the making of the superstar celebrity criminal. And that’s show biz…kid!

*** *** ***

By Avery Anger of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

How do you get away with murder? The answer to this age old question lies in the corrupt hands of two sensational criminals, a scheming Matron Morton, and a crooked lawyer. Ladies and gentlemen … presenting … American Heritage High School’s take on the dark, yet acclaimed, musical phenomenon “Chicago.”

With original choreography by Bob Fosse, roaring music by John Kander, clever book and dramatic lyrics by Fred Ebb, it’s no shock that this musical masterpiece has “razzle dazzled” its way to six Tony awards and has been named the second longest-running Broadway show to date. “Chicago” follows the story of a ruthless chorus girl, Roxie Hart, who murders her lover in cold blood. After her immediate arrest, Roxie arrives at the Cook County Jail, where she meets fellow inmate Velma Kelly, a murderous celebrity criminal. Thanks to the corruption and immorals of the 1920’s criminal justice system, the pressure in this satirical musical becomes immense as Velma and Roxie fight for their lives, fortune, and fame.

Jordyn Allen masterfully portrayed the devious murderess, Velma Kelly. Her infectious charisma, amplified by her wide array of lively facial expressions, allowed the energy on stage to acquire an electric quality. After Roxie, embodied by Alexa Lopez, stole Velma’s beloved spotlight, Allen flawlessly executed her character’s development from the cocky, deadly diva to the jealous and desperate famous wannabe. In contrast, as the other determined and diabolical diva, Lopez immaculately illustrated Roxie’s overnight transition from desperate wannabe to cocky, deadly diva.The two “scintillating sinners” displayed their breathtaking vocals in their duets, “My Own Best Friend,” “Nowadays,” and “Hot Honey Rag.” Their voices complimented each other beautifully and blended with ease, which secured and solidified the spectacular chemistry between the dynamic duo.

Depicting the overworked and overlooked husband of Roxie was Jonah Warhaft as Amos Hart. Warhaft developed a consistent and admirable character through his brilliant delivery, vocals, and stage presence; all of which were evident in his solo, “Mister Cellophane.” Billy Flynn, portrayed by Frederick Bredemeyer, was quite committed to his role as the slick, crooked, and money hungry lawyer. Bredemeyer’s dedication to the role enhanced his superior acting skills, fluid movements on stage, and his powerful chemistry with Lopez, especially in the musical number,” We Both Reached For The Gun.”

Although the overall vocal volume was low for the amount of people on stage, the ensemble redeemed themselves with complex, innovative, and sensational dance numbers. The cast as a whole must be acknowledged for the impressive professional quality of the show. Flashing lights and all, the technical aspects of the show only enhanced the already professional quality. The use of dark colors greatly contributed to the overall sophisticated and eerie mood, as did magnificent set and lighting cues.

The level of talent demonstrated by the cast of this production was so professional, it should be considered a crime. The name on everybody’s lips is gonna be…American Heritage School for their brilliant and inventive rendition of “Chicago.”

*** *** ***

By Madeline Finkelman of North Broward Preparatory School

Welcome to 1920’s Chicago where the glitzy veneer of vaudeville disguises the deplorable seediness of sinners and their sins. With remarkable razzle, delightful dazzle and a cast that makes you root for murders and manipulators, American Heritage School’s production of Chicago danced stylishly and salaciously through a story of corruption, greed and all that jazz.

Chicago opened on Broadway in 1975 with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, who also choreographed. The show was revived in 1996 and is the second longest running show in Broadway history. Chicago tells the story of two dueling divas – Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart- who, after committing crimes of passion, find themselves behind bars. They each experience their moments as “the name on everyone’s lips”, but with the fickle nature of fame, learn how hard it is to stay there.

The vivacious vaudevillian Velma Kelly was commandingly brought to the stage by Jordyn Allen. With compelling characterization and a fierce persona, Allen added intensity and intrigue to Velma’s story, infusing her performance with magnetic maturity. Alexa Lopez excellently portrayed the cloying and conniving wannabe Roxie Hart. With a beautiful vocal quality, Lopez ably embodied her character’s turbulent journey from anonymity to notoriety and back again. Allen and Lopez artfully created clear contrasts between the two murderesses, making their conflict and competition feel powerfully palpable. Inserting himself into the three-ring circus of their lives was money hungry lover-of-love Billy Flynn, brought to life by Frederick Bredemeyer. Bredemeyer created a charming yet contemptible character, best displaying Billy’s puppeteering pompousness in the song “We Both Reached For the Gun”.

Let’s not forget about Andy! I mean, Amos Hart, sincerely and sweetly portrayed by Jonah Warhaft. While Amos’s sad-sack doormat of a character was overlooked by the world, Warhaft created a performance that could not be ignored. Capturing some of the nights most genuine and gut-wrenching moments, Warhaft wowed in his song “Mr. Cellophane”. As the corrupt yet caring jail warden Matron “Mama” Morton, Irene Newman’s powerhouse vocals and bold bearing on stage were both striking and skillful.

The ensemble of dancers added a dark yet dazzling effect to the show, performing the Fosse-esque choreography as if it was wordless dialogue. Standouts among them were Israel Del Rosario and Madison Flanagan. Every foot slide and toe tap propelled the story with style and substance. Another notable performance was that of Michael Guarasci as Roxie’s doomed lover Fred Casely. Even after his death, Guarasci’s incredible intensity and unending energy gave the show life.

The show’s technical elements enhanced and enriched every moment The student orchestra was a highlight, making the production feel like a true night at the cabaret. The pit showed professionalism and prowess, adjusting their volume when an actor’s mic didn’t work. With a stunning yet stationery set, lighting was instrumental in defining the scenes, constantly and consistently highlighting mood and movement. Even small microphone glitches could not dampen the overall seamlessness and harmony of the production.

From the tantalizing trombone opening, to the fringe-filled finale, the audience sure had it comin’. In a musical journey illustrating the fine line between fame and infamy, the cast and crew of Chicago executed a show worthy of having its name up in lights.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Honk! at St. Thomas Aquinas High School on Friday, 3/15/2019.


By Dylan Redshaw of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Why fit in when you were born to stand out? With their undeniable wit and touching, universal story, St. Thomas Aquinas High School makes for a fun-loving night at the theater with their utterly enjoyable celebration of what makes each of us special in the heartwarming musical, ‘Honk!’.

Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, ‘Honk!’ had its England debut on the West End in 1999. The family-friendly story follows the ceaseless journey of naïve, yet loveable, Ugly, who, on the outside, looks quite a bit different from his darling duckling family. Danger lies around every corner within the barnyard, usually in the form of a mischievous Cat, but Ugly perseveres against all odds and, to everyone’s surprise, beautifully transforms into his true self: an elegant swan.

Leading the production with admirable energy and a clear understanding of his innocent role was Michael Ryder as the unique duckling, Ugly. Throughout the entirety of the show, Ryder convincingly depicted Ugly’s endearingly genuine persona with his bashful mannerisms and easily confused persona. In his first solo, “Different”, Ryder effectively showcased his beautiful vocals, as well as the compelling, overarching themes of acceptance and individuality. Brianna Braun, portraying the loving mother duck, Ida, effectively created a mature and maternal presence as she faithfully searched for her lost baby, Ugly. Braun masterfully embodied Ida’s sweet, yet steadfast persona and delivered impressive vocal quality in songs such as “The Joy of Motherhood.” Ryder and Braun together illustrated a wonderfully refreshing mother-son dynamic that ultimately reflected the musical’s compassionate resolution.

Dominating the stage as the sly, cunning, and HUNGRY villain, Cat, was James Lawlor. Lawlor’s performance was engaging with his clear antagonistic motives and amusing feline energy, most notably as he chases down Ugly in the manipulative solo, “You Can Play with Your Food.” Another standout character was Vicente Tome as the optimistic and self-confident, Bullfrog. Tome successfully captured the frog’s undeniable charisma as he comically bounced around the stage and immensely heightened the show’s overall energy. Jade Wagner as the young and lovely swan, Penny, delivered a captivating dance sequence and created a memorable character on Ugly’s journey.

Although sometimes lacking stamina, the ensemble of farmyard characters worked magnificently together to create distinct, animalistic relationships. From adorable ducklings to dancing frogs, the cast as a whole certainly captured the fanciful spirit of the animated, but truthful production in multiple amusing group numbers, including “Warts and All”.

Technically, the show was executed brilliantly. Costumes, by Anna Liendo & Co., almost always established the appropriate animal onstage through subtle, recognizable designs and remarkable attention to detail. Furthermore, the colorful lights, contrasting with numerous dim spotlights, by Megan Mondek & Co., properly fit the polished production and thoroughly enhanced the delightful ambience of every scene.

All in all, the cast and crew of St. Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Honk!’ truly brought the barnyard to life, and with their sparkling wit and touching heart, reminded audiences and animals alike that what makes us different makes us beautiful, always and forever.

*** *** ***

By Zoe Larson of Calvary Christian Academy

Different: not the same as another; unlike in nature or form. Differences, regardless of how big or small they are, have the power to shape society and the behavior of those in it. St. Thomas Aquinas’ production of Honk! beautifully demonstrated how differences can be painfully distorted, and the redemption that comes when seeing one for who they truly are.

Based off of Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Ugly Duckling, Honk! first opened at The Watermill Theatre in 1993. It tells the tale of a swan – mistaken for an ugly duckling – that is desperately trying to find his way back home, and documents the many animals he meets along the way. The West End production opened in 1999, and Honk! went on to win the 2000 Olivier Award for Best New Musical. It made its U.S. premiere in Nyack, New York, where the script was adapted to fit the new American audience. Since then, the show has frequently been performed in schools throughout Britain, the U.S., and Canada. The cast and crew of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Honk! embraced the fun and truth of the tale and prepared a delightful production.

Honk! was led by Michael Ryder as Ugly, who performed the heartbreaking role with honesty and love. He remained a positive light in the production, though enduring many hardships throughout the course of the plot. Stunning vocals and committed acting revealed the raw talent within Ryder, making him a true pleasure to watch. Alongside Ugly was his dedicated mother, Ida, played by Brianna Braun. Clear as crystal is an understatement in describing the sheer beauty of Braun’s voice. Each time she opened her mouth the audience fell more in love with Braun, and drew further into Ida’s plight. Though struggling with the acting in some more emotional scenes, Braun brought poise and charm to the mother duck.

The technical elements in Honk! the musical were wildly impressive, and brought vibrant life to the black box space. The sound team took on a few challenges, most notably balancing live orchestration with full cast of mic’d performers. However, these tasks did not seem to be challenges at all. The production was blended seamlessly, and if the balance was off even slightly, the sound team worked quickly to resolve it. Beautiful gobos used throughout Honk! created a magical nature ambiance in each scene. While some issues with spotlights occured, they were infrequent and did not severely distract from the production. It is the stage management team to thank in regulating the execution of cues for the previously mentioned elements. The strength of lights and sound only adds to the credibility of the stage management skills.

St. Thomas Aquinas’ Honk! was an exciting production that revealed profound truth through song and dance It taught audiences that each person is different, and that is where true beauty is found. After all, “Out there someone’s gonna love ya, warts and all!”

*** *** ***

By Julia Musso of NSU University School

It was once said by a wise young swan that “different could be swell”, and on a similar note, St. Thomas Aquinas’ delightful depiction of “Honk!” entranced and entertained audiences with a farmlike flare.

A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Ugly Duckling” that went on to win the 2000 Oliver Award for Best Musical, “Honk!” follows the story of young Ugly’s journey to self-discovery and acceptance in the face of judgment from his fellow farm animals regarding his unique appearance. Shedding light on the larger issue of bullying through a childlike lense, “Honk!” successfully sugar-coats these deeper themes by teaching us that only through perseverance and kindness can we put an end to society’s toxic tendency to judge a book by its cover.

Leading the production with endearing naiveté was Michael Ryder (Ugly), who convincingly encompassed Ugly’s innocence and inquisitiveness through purposeful choices and physicality. From beginning to end, Ryder remained engaged and let his facials do the talking even when he wasn’t, a skill that is to be commended. As the ducklings’ motherly matriarch, Brianna Braun (Ida) demonstrated beautiful vocals throughout, most notably in her cheery rendition of “The Joy of Motherhood”. Ida’s headstrong husband Drake was beautifully brought to the stage by Vicente Tome. The chemistry he had with his feathered family was impeccable, as was his comedic timing. Additionally, his undeniable energy and enthusiasm was refreshing and brought life during some of the blander moments of the performance.

Despite their limited stage time, Vicente Tome (Bullfrog) and Cristal Romano (Queenie) both made impacts on the story in a powerful way. Tome’s animated facials and side-splitting execution of showstopper “Warts and All” left audiences with both ends of their mouths pointing north. Romano’s hilarious voice inflections and cat-like mannerisms made her performance particularly enjoyable to watch, especially when paired with her cynical sidekick Ava Rodriguez (Lowbutt), who raised chuckles from all whenever she opened her mouth to speak.

Although Ugly may have been described as “aesthetically challenged” by the others, the technical elements certainly were not! Costumes (Liendo, Schneider, Tome, and Davis) effectively captured the distinct characteristics of each animal through distinct color palettes and patterns, most animals of which were easily identifiable just from what they were wearing. Lighting (Mandek, Bomar, Jevizian, Petruska) was charming and homey, emoting the tone of the barnyard wonderfully. Although the use of spots was a bit excessive, each of the cues was well executed and added a new level of dimension to the stage and characters alike.

Comparable to Ida’s brood of darling ducklings, St Thomas Aquinas’ heartwarming rendition of “Honk!” was “truly a triumph” from the moment the oveture began to the final bow!

*** *** ***
By Dylan Jost of North Broward Preparatory School

Feeling ugly, unlovable, or out of place? Who hasn’t had those moments when the world seems to turn against you? St. Thomas Aquinas High School’s production of “Honk!” tugged at the heartstrings by tapping into the universal fear of being unwanted, as well as the joy of finding love and acceptance.

“Honk!” – so named for the very un-quack-like sound made by its protagonist – was written by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles as a musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling”. The musical premiered in England in 1993 before opening on West End in 1999. “Honk!” tells the story of Ugly, an awkward and unattractive duckling who is isolated by all except his loving mother Ida. Lured away from the duckyard by a sly cat, Ugly struggles to find his way back home, encountering a variety of farm animals along the way.

Michael Ryder excelled in the lead role of Ugly, the sweet misfit who wants only to be loved, bringing both joy and pathos to his performance. Ryder’s childish enthusiasm and adorably oblivious innocence won over the audience immediately, and his boundless energy fit the character perfectly as he rollicked around the stage. His painfully vulnerable moments were displayed with equal skill. Alongside Ugly was Brianna Braun as Ida, his caring and devoted mother. Braun created a tender and believable chemistry with Ugly that was evident in songs such as “Hold Your Head Up High”. Braun’s vocals were of particular note, as she impressively utilized her falsetto and vibrato throughout the production.

Vicente Tome brought his deep, gorgeous voice and strong presence to two distinct characters, each with its own energy and brand of humor. For each, he established a unique character choice, keeping the characters distinct and memorable, and his resonant vocals helped him stand out among the sizable ensemble. His hilarious facial expressions and accent as the Bullfrog were highlights of the second act, particularly in the song “Warts And All”. As Drake, he displayed wonderful chemistry with Braun, which aided in the overall authenticity and believability of their relationship. Though articulation and volume caused occasional difficulties for ensemble members, sound mishaps were handled with composure. Another notable performance was Jade Wagner as Penny, Ugly’s love interest. Wagner’s sweet composure and demeanor made her seem endearing and charming.

The technical aspects of the production were well executed. Costuming was inspired by the original production, which did not dress the characters as animals but rather used clothing with colors evocative of the animals each character portrayed. This concept was well executed, as the costumes were well-selected and creative in the sense that each character’s costume fit their animal well. Sound was also well done, which was impressive considering the show was performed in a black box and mics were used, yet never seemed to be too loud.

This winsome show reminds us that though life is harder when you’re odd, you never know what lies in store; different can be beautiful. Furnished with feathers, charm, and plenty of cheer, the actors of St. Thomas Aquinas High School created a plucky and pleasant production of this poultry tale.

*** *** ***

By Madeline Finkelman of North Broward Preparatory School

When the sun comes up on an idyllic barnyard, that’s when the fowl language begins! Telling a timeless tale of what is means to be the odd-bird-out, St. Thomas Aquinas’ Honk! eggs-cellently took flight with a swan in a million cast, and humor and heart by the duckload.

Honk! is a musical with book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, music by George Stiles and a concept based on the classic story The Ugly Duckling. This charming retelling was first hatched in 1993 at The Watermill Theatre in Newbury, England and soon waddled its way to the West End in 1999, winning the 2000 Olivier Award for Best Musical. The story follows the plight of Ugly, the runt of the nest who is mocked by everyone except his mother. When Ugly strays from the yard, he endures a journey of self-discovery, meeting a flock of characters who help him see that being different is not as bad as it seems.

With sweet sincerity and a strong vocal quality, Michael Ryder gave a cygnet-ture performance as Ugly. With a beak only a mother could love, Ryder swimmingly showcased Ugly’s heartache of being the bullied bird, but also showed a persistent sense of hope in his efforts to find his way back to his mom. Ugly’s determined and devoted mama duck, Ida, was played by Brianna Braun. Wondering waddle she do without her baby, Braun used her stunning vocals to convey Ida’s unstoppable desire to be reunited with her son. The two actors displayed a genuine and engaging mother-son relationship, working like two birds of a feather in their song “Hold Your Head Up High”.

When Ugly comes into the world, he is instantly dissed and dismissed by almost everyone on the farm. This includes Vicente Tome’s Drake, his hapless and hands-off dad. Tome makes Drake’s eventual transformation from absent father to Mr. Mom humbling and humorous. Tome later befriends Ugly when he hops into the role of Bullfrog. Tome created a lively and likeable character with commendable comedic timing and leaping liveliness in his splashy and splendid song, Warts And All.

With plucky personality and physicality, the gaggle of ensemble members put the live in livestock. Though their harsh treatment of their brother may have ruffled some of the audience’s feathers, the ducklings’ notable performances were effective and energetic. Also noteworthy were Cristal Romano as Queenie the spoiled sassy housecat and Ava Rodriguez as possessive and pompous chicken, Lowbutt. The ensemble strutted their stuff in the show’s many dance numbers, Jade Wagner a standout among them. From soaring leaps and graceful technique, the dancers and their choreography were nothing short of poultry in motion.

Adding depth and detail to the delightful tale, the tech elements were everything they were quacked up to be. Subtle costume pieces like a bird’s black-billed cap, a cat’s fuzzy sweater, and a red turkey wattle bow tie helped to anthropomorphize the actors without using masks or heavy makeup. Lighting was also used to great effect, fitting the mood of each scene and helping further develop the converging journeys in the story.

“The duck yard would be so boring if everyone looked the same”. STA’s cast and crew gave top billing to the moral and message that embracing each other’s differences helps us all spread our wings.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Hairspray at West Boca High Drama Department on Thursday, 3/14/2019.


By Nicole Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

With a beaming grin, thick skin, and a fight to win, Tracy Turnblad, a plump teenage-dreamer with a passion for dance, lands a spot on a local TV dance program: The Corny Collins Show. Her endless optimism, progressive outlook, and the assistance of the electrifying cast of West Boca High School’s “Hairspray,” allow her to illuminate the importance of equality and integration. And she does it all without denting her “do”!

Featuring a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, “Hairspray” takes place in 1962 Baltimore, Maryland. The lively music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman punctuate the fun-loving nature of the show and capture the musical’s lovable zest. “Hairspray” earned eight Tony Awards in 2003, including one for Best Musical.

Playing the high-spirited and “free as the wind” Tracy Turnblad, Samara Shavrick embodied Tracy’s vibrancy through her expressive facials, bold physicality, and glowing confidence. Tracy’s eccentric parents, Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, were portrayed by Alec Schwartz and Noah Fineman, respectively. Schwartz and Fineman captured these larger-than-life characters through their impressive comedic timing and befitting physicality. Their chemistry served to produce hilarious, yet endearing, moments, especially in their duet “Timeless to Me.”

Playing the charismatic Seaweed J. Stubbs, Lamaur Lindsay executed smooth dance moves and vocals with a sense of ease and coolness. Velma Von Tussle, the snobbish Corny Collins Show producer and former “Miss Baltimore Crabs,” was portrayed by Jessica Balton. Balton excellently exhibited ongoing frustration and cockiness as she conquered the stage with chilling vocals and a demanding presence. Playing R&B record producer and mother to Seaweed and Little Inez, Motormouth Maybelle, Maya Petrie displayed deliciously soulful vocals and an inspiring maternal nature, marching the children into a whole new era.

Although the vocals occasionally sounded unblended, the ensemble displayed clean and exuberant dance numbers.The production was elevated by abounding energy from the ensemble. While some of the characters lost authenticity due to a lack of motivation behind their actions and line delivery, the cast displayed expressive facials and remained in the moment without cessation, boosting the production’s entertainment factor.

The orchestra energized the production with its quality sound and power. Nearly seamless set changes maintained the pace of the show and the flashy set captured the productions’ sparkle. The costumes, makeup, and hair fit the 60s era and accentuated each character’s specific personality.

With radiance and energy as high as their hair-dos, the cast of West Boca High School’s delightful production of “Hairspray” put on a show brimming with bubbling vivacity. “Hairspray” serves as an excellent reminder to toss away those old fashioned fears and embrace your rich uniqueness.

*** *** ***

By Dylan Jost of North Broward Preparatory School

Memorable times are often characterized by the juxtaposition of challenging political movements and dynamic social developments – the 1960s exemplify this phenomenon. In their production of “Hairspray”, the cast and crew of West Boca High School skillfully captured the turbulence and excitement of this rapidly modernizing era through a combination of peppy choreography, vibrant sets, and soulful acting.

Based on the 1988 John Waters film, “Hairspray” was brought to the stage in 2002 and went on to receive eight Tony Awards and culminate in more than 2,500 performances. With music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, and a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, “Hairspray” centers around Tracy Turnblad’s dream of appearing on the popular TV dance program, “The Corny Collins Show”. She wins the role despite the protests of the venomous Amber Von Tussle and in doing so wins the affections of a teen heartthrob, Link Larkin. Using her new-found celebrity status, she starts a campaign to integrate the show, which illustrates the musical’s most important message: acceptance.

Filling the auditorium with her unabashed vocals, Samara Shavrick (Tracy) led the show with aplomb and grace. From her optimistic “Good Morning Baltimore” to her lovesick “I Can Hear the Bells”, Shavrick portrayed the unstoppable ambitions of a headstrong girl admirably. Grooving his way into Tracy’s life, in the role of Link Larkin, Zachary Bouras embodied Elvis Presley with his suave physicality and crooning ballads. Together Shavrick and Bouras created electric chemistry, which made for many moving moments.

A performance that must be mentioned was Alec Schwartz as Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s loving and loyal mother. Schwartz’s depiction of Edna was boisterous and full of hilarious energy, as his commitment to the challenging role was quite evident. Schwartz gave the show its heart and delivered a nuanced performance through his use of physicality, vocal inflections, and well-timed humor. Vocally, two immensely impressive performances were those of Laumaur Lindsay as Seaweed and Maya Petrie as Motormouth Maybelle. Lindsay consistently delivered a strong vocal performance, with his prowess as a vocalist being quite evident in songs such as “Without Love”. Petrie’s vocals were nothing short of spectacular. Her show-stopping number, “I Know Where I’ve Been”, served as a poignant reminder to retain hope, even in times of struggle. She conveyed the heartfelt sensitivity of the song through her rich voice and smooth vibrato.

The technical aspects of the production were superb. The costumes were well selected and also fit the time period of the 1960s quite well, which added to the authenticity of the production. The props were also time period appropriate and creative in their execution. The orchestra, comprised of mainly students, was immensely magnificent. The orchestra never overpowered the voices of the actors, which is a difficult feat to accomplish.

With refreshing vigor, West Boca High School presented an entertaining rendition of “Hairspray” that served as both a nostalgic ode to the sixties and an inspiration to fight against inequalities in society, whether it be through dancing, protesting, or a combination of the two.

*** *** ***

By Olivia Te Kolste of Cardinal Gibbons High School

Featuring flashing lights, shameless shimmying, and hairstyles that touched the sky, West Boca High School’s laudable production of Hairspray posed a challenge to the status quo amidst a whirlwind of bright colors, notoriously catchy music, and ample amounts of hair product.

Based on John Waters’ 1988 film of the same name, Hairspray took to the stage in 2002 with its book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan and music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. It quickly ascended to popularity and became the recipient of 8 Tony awards in 2003, including that of Best Musical, in addition to the eleven nominations for Laurence Olivier Awards earned by the London production. In the heart of Baltimore in the 1960s, stout teen Tracy Turnblad dreams of getting the opportunity to dance on The Corny Collins Show – and when her dreams begin becoming a reality, her passion for equality manifests in a campaign for integration as she uses her newfound fame as a catalyst for change.

Portraying the effervescent and optimistic Tracy Turnblad herself was Samara Shavrick, whose powerful vocals and infectious energy lit up the stage as she shimmied her way through the sixties. Her enthusiasm was practically palpable as it manifested alongside her flawless execution of choreography and phenomenal voice, which were showcased in songs such as “Good Morning Baltimore” and “I Can Hear the Bells.” Acting alongside her was Alec Schwartz as Edna Turnblad; a standout performer from start to finish, Schwartz immaculately showcased Edna’s dual shy and bold personalities in addition to demonstrating immensely impressive singing

Also memorable were Brianna Quackenbush and Laumaur Lindsay as Seaweed J. Stubbs, respectively; Quackenbush’s flawless portrayal of a klutzy but earnest schoolgirl complemented Laumaur’s charisma and wit, allowing a beautifully-crafted chemistry to flourish onstage. Overall, though the cast exhibited difficulty with blending in addition to a lack of motivation, their high energy levels and good chemistry ensured the show was highly entertaining.

The technical aspect of the show complemented the performer’s efforts nicely. Eye-popping sets and flashing lights framed the entire show, and though there was some difficulty in transferring set pieces, the entire cast and crew overcame the obstacles admirably. Donning a plethora of brightly-colored costumes, the research behind both the location and the time period was evident in the 60’s-style outfits worn by the actors. The efforts of the prop team were also commendable; with bright, eye-catching masterpieces such as the scoreboard and hairspray cans, their vigorous efforts were abundantly apparent onstage. In addition, each lighting cue was executed flawlessly, demonstrating the tireless vigilance of the stage management team.

Overall, the cast and crew’s efforts came together in a dazzling conglomeration of sound and scenery. With perfectly-timed humor, dazzling dancing, and an abundance of zeal, West Boca High School’s production prove that with a little perseverance, dreams can become reality

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

Twist and shout into a world of high ‘dos and dancing shoes with West Boca High School’s electrifying production of “Hairspray.” Watch a spunky teen capture the hearts of even Baltimore’s most bigoted, one can of Ultra Clutch Hairspray at a time.

With music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman and a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, “Hairspray” tells the story of a plump teen, tormented for her appearance, as she scales her way to stardom when she advocates for equality in her discriminatory society. Based on the 1988 film of the same name, “Hairspray” shares the journey of the overnight sensation, Tracy Turnblad, as she soars to the top of the dance hierarchy while promoting a world of acceptance.

Portraying the ambitious dance enthusiast, Tracy Turnblad, Samara Shavrick captured the vivacity of the era with her unfaltering energy and personality as big as her ‘do. Shavrick incorporated her own flair to the iconic character creating a captivating performance. She showcased great devotion to her character along with powerful vocals and impeccable comedic timing. Embodying Tracy’s eccentric parents, Alec Schwartz (Edna Turnblad) and Noah Fineman (Wilbur Turnblad) exhibited hilarious chemistry with the addition of risque antics and consistently animated facials. Schwartz’s natural and maternal characterization accompanied by Fineman’s cheerful and uplifting nature created an engaging and dynamic relationship.

Brianna Quackenbush portrayed Tracy’s awkward sidekick, Penny Pingleton. She maintained her quirky physicality and distinct tone throughout the production. Complimenting Quackenbush’s unique character, Laumaur Lindsay (Seaweed J. Stubbs) commanded the stage with his clear vocals and smooth dancing. Quackenbush and Lindsay executed fascinating chemistry from their first encounter, which continued to blossom throughout their performance.

The strong ensemble presented infectious energy and executed the choreography nearly flawlessly. Although there were a few faulty harmonies, the majority were crisp and blended to perfection. The brilliant cast showcased immaculate commitment to their individual characters and unwavering consistency to their unique tones.

The technical aspects of the production created an immersive and vibrant setting, perfectly fitting for the era. The choreography, although occasionally repetitive, stayed true to the iconic moves of the 60s style The costumes, as well as the hair and make-up fit the time period magnificently. The vivid depictions produced by the colorful set and striking lighting complemented the liveliness of the production.

“With the lastest, greatest Baltimore sound” West Boca High School presents their vivacious production of “Hairspray.” Serving as a light in the darkness, the beating heart of this production will have you dancing out of your seat.

*** *** ***

By Charlotte Bacharach of Cardinal Gibbons High School

You gotta think big to be big! This is no debate at West Boca Raton Community High School, where the scintillating Sixties are vivified by the nicest kids in town through their invigorating production of “Hairspray.”

“Hairspray” made its Broadway premiere in 2002 – with lyrics by Scott Wittman, music by Marc Shaiman, and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan – based upon a 1998 film of the same title. Winning eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, “Hairspray” has expanded its influence across national tours, movie/live adaptations, and overseas recreations. Following the ambitions of heavy-set teen Tracy Turnblad, audiences are immersed in her journey to television fame via the popular dance program, The Corny Collins Show. With this comes Tracy’s impassioned social activism in hopes of integrating her beloved television show.

Leading lady Tracy Turnblad was portrayed by Samara Shavrik, encapsulating the difficult role with insurmountable zeal. Remaining in character throughout every scene, Shavrik complemented this with impressive vocals – belting to the high-Hairspray-heavens! –  in songs such as “Good Morning Baltimore.” Correspondingly, her skillful dance moves were infused with lovable, idiosyncratic effervescence, reflecting her quixotic nature. Wielding motherly acuity and 54-triple E’s, Alec Schwartz as Edna Turnblad crafted a genuine and well-developed relationship with Tracy as they bounced off each other’s snark with hilarious banter. Schwartz’s chemistry with husband Wilbur similarly exuberated endless comedy despite Tracy’s difficulties in addition to their own, apparent in laugh-out-loud pieces like “Timeless to Me.”

Spurring Tracy’s mission of integration was fellow detention-frequenter Seaweed J. Stubbs (Laumaur Lindsay). Enlivening his character with animated expression and precise comedic timing, Lindsay embodied debonair swagger with dynamic presence. Motivated intention was present both in vocal performance and fluent physicality, all of which were entirely “afro-tastic!” to Tracy. Seaweed’s mother Motormouth Maybelle was played by Maya Petrie, who inspired a wave of civil rights protest in her evocative solo, “I Know Where I’ve Been.”

The entirety of the cast of “Hairspray” embraced the challenge of ensemble numbers with ebullient confidence. Company-wide belters tackled difficult music with ease and captivated audiences in clean, cohesive dances. At times actors struggled with simultaneously maintaining vocal and physical stamina, though persisted through mishaps with constant energy and aplomb. A standout among the ensemble was Daniel Ortiz as council kid Brad, who executed each dance movement with laser-like precision whilst sustaining vibrant facial expressions throughout.

As West Boca’s auditorium was transported to the American Sixties, bursting with vivid pigments and vivacious ambiance, assiduous technical team were at work. Sets were transformed within mere seconds, with each lighting mount and backdrop more stunning than the prior, journeying audiences all the way from WYZT studio to the Turnblad residence with ease. Costuming by Jesalyn Trinkovsky complemented individual actors as well as the show as a whole, fitting to time period styles and coloring.

No matter if you’re big, blonde, beautiful, or anything in between, West Boca’s praiseworthy rendition of “Hairspray” shows that nobody can stop your beat!

*** *** ***

Reviews of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Sagemont School on Saturday, 3/09/2019.


By Mohammad Khalil of North Broward Preparatory School

A masterpiece by the Bard himself, the Sagemont School’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a hilarious tale of mix-ups and magic, with twists that you’ve never seen before that will leave you wondering, “Are you sure that we are awake?”

Set in the Greek city-state of Athens, A Midsummer Night’s Dream tells the story of four young Athenians, each in love with someone they can’t have for one reason or another. Their plights leads them into the woods, entangling them in the affairs of the fairy king, Oberon, and his loyal sidekick, Puck, who are in the midst of a plot to shame the fairy queen, Titania. Meanwhile, back in Athens, six actors are putting together a play to perform at the Duke’s funeral, when mischievous Puck drags one of the actors into fairy duo’s plot against Titania The play is full of hilarious twists, mix-ups, and some good old fashioned Shakespearean wit.

Playing the dual roles of Oberon and Titania was Marc Plaskett. Despite switching between the two roles, each one was clearly given extraordinary amounts of attention throughout the process, between physicality, voice, and personality. Alongside Plaskett, playing the role of his mischievous servant, Puck, was Eva Daskos Daskos was en excellent mover, which was clearly visible in her acrobatics and incredible use of aerial silks. She was also very proficient with the Shakespearean dialogue. The Plaskett and Doskos duo had a very special and unique relationship, which was clear onstage, and together, they were a formidable driving force of this production.

In the role of Demetrius, Aaron Cantu brought a lot to the table. He remained active and energetic throughout the play, particularly during a chaotic, yet hilarious four-way fight scene. All four actors involved in that particular scene were clearly enjoying themselves onstage, yet remaining committed and in character.

Along with Shakespeare’s already amazing writing and story, this production decided to add a little something more by setting this play in a world infected by zombies. Instead of the play being its usual show within a show, the audience got to be a part of a show within a show within a show. The zombie subplot added a layer of tension and suspense, although, while entertaining, it was at times distracting from the show at hand. Despite being a play, this show boasted some impressive choreography by Marc Plaskett, full of high flying silks, and low rolling tumbling.

We all know Shakespeare has a way with words, and with such rich and complex language, it’s not always easy to speak the words perfectly. There were times when the diction of some of some of the actors was unclear, and a few projection issues as well. However, considering the difficulty of the language, the actors did a relatively good job in their speech.

Chock full of salacious humor, Shakespearean innuendo, magical fairies, and of course, zombies, The Sagemont School’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream isn’t one you’ll forget very quickly.

*** *** ***

By Rylee Berger of Cooper City High School

The lights shone down on the stage, spirited music began to play, and fairies adorned in detailed costumes glided into the theater to begin The Sagemont School’s unique production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Written by William Shakespeare in the late 16th century, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and widely produced comedies. As such, the play has earned various adaptations for film, television, and the stage. Set in a forest just outside of Athens, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” concerns the love affairs of humans and fairies alike. The comedy follows four intertwining plots: that of soon-to-marry Theseus and Hippolyta; that of the passionate but down on their luck theatre troupe known as the Mechanicals; that of the love (or lack thereof) between Hermia and Lysander and Helena and Demetrius; and, finally, that of the fairy world, where betrayal and revenge were prevalent.

A stunning element incorporated into this production was the use of aerial silks. The silks were used in the traditional sense of flying acrobatics by the fairies, distinguishing them from their human counterparts. The silks were also used in unconventional manners to create impressive visual effects and stage pictures. Also unique to this production, the play within a play was complicated by an impending Zombie Apocalypse. Though the choice allowed for stunning special effects makeup and added entertainment value, it was ultimately unnecessary and detracted from the central action.

Populating the stage with boundless energy, Eva Daskos delivered a memorable performance as Puck. Daskos was clear in her character choices and obviously understood the difficult language of the play, delivering her lines with a distinct tone, volume, and rhythm. Most admirable was the physicality Daskos brought to the role. Whether it be gracefully manipulating aerial silks to soar above the crowd or bounding about the stage with an intense look of curiosity, Daskos consistently demanded attention with her stellar portrayal of the young and mischievous fairy. Daskos created believable and entertaining chemistry with Pucks master, Oberon (played by Marc Plaskett).

Plaskett, playing the passionate Titania as well as the cunning Oberon, was superb in his depiction of both roles. Plaskett rose above the challenge of performing two roles that consistently appear together onstage to deliver an energetic, graceful, and dynamic performance, Plaskett made outstanding use of physicality and vocal delivery to differentiate between the two characters. His focus was strong and made for a believable execution of his roles. Plaskett’s impeccable delivery of Shakespeare’s complicated language aided in the overall accessibility of the production.

The entire cast displayed a good understanding of their respective characters, though some actors could have varied their rhythm and overall delivery of lines. The actors’ skill in physical comedy was evident, especially when Demetrius (Aaron Cantu) and Lysander (David Morales) attempted to win the affection of Helena. Despite some pacing issues, the company was successful in conveying the plot to the audience. Actors tasked with multiple roles clearly distinguished them into two separate characters and maintained consistent energy throughout the play.

The technical elements of the show were exquisite. The hair, makeup, and costumes were cohesive and exquisitely complemented each individual character. The use of sound effects and projections made for an immersive theatrical experience.

Filled with strong acting and creative design choices, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at The Sagemont School was a mesmerizing production, proving that to love and to dream are one and the same.

*** *** ***

By Gabriela Coutinho of American Heritage School

Imagining “shadows” that appear in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one would never conjure a presentation interrupted by apocalyptic outbreak. Yet at The Sagemont School, students – through tech, special visual effects, and an almost complete telling of Shakespeare’s classic – somehow joined zombies and Shakespeare for a metatheatrical concept. Meanwhile, the actual play established great moments of stagecraft, bringing the verse to life through movement, energy, and even aerial silks.

For its frequent performances, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is arguably William Shakespeare’s most popular work, and countless productions set it across time and space. Often, changes do not drastically affect the script, but its nuance, and are made within the actual play – rather than the context surrounding its presentation. At The Sagemont School, however, the students took on the challenge of communicating distinct premises for the play, even while “The Dream” itself already poses the task of weaving three plotlines.

In it, actors stepped in for roles as previously casted actors were lost to the zombie epidemic. By this justification, most students unconventionally played two roles, most notably with Marc Plaskett playing Oberon and Titania. Plaskett’s vivid vocal and physical command of the stage merited his roles’ king and queen status. As shifts between the two proved smooth and comedic, his Titania held airs of seduction and drag, while Oberon bore traditionally masculine energy. The scene with Bottom in Act II (Aaron Cantu) was especially hilarious, as Cantu attempted to edge away from a completely infatuated Titania.

Another lead with captivating stage presence was Eva Daskos, who gave Puck the demanded physical lightness and playfulness. Not only providing comedic relief through bits interacting with the foolish humans, Daskos also honored the text through a clear, supported voice and delightful specificity. Her connection to Oberon and mysticism throughout the show – complemented by shadow work, blue lighting, and fairy music – distilled the supernatural element “The Dream” fancies. Other comedic moments in the show derived from scenes with the lovers, specifically players’ cruelty toward Hermia, and the mechanicals’ use of props (namely the hand sanitizer) when the epidemic escalated.

Some of the most stunning, immersive aspects of the show were found in staging and technical elements. Visceral blocking, fights, and choreography for the fairies proved engaging in a very well-played tennis court layout. As aforementioned, tech surrounding the fairies emanated an aura of magic, especially when it came to impressive aerial silks. While the extrinsic concept detracted from the play itself, students’ commitment to both aspects was commendable, and their presentation of the iconic play-within-the-play was missed; the same team could have produced a more cohesive Shakespeare play or fun zombie play, but both ultimately fell short when put together.

Mounting a Shakespeare play is an immensely strenuous task, and combining roles and layering a unique concept only raises the difficulty level, thus making The Sagemont School’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream a particular feat – one undoubtedly requiring the bold risk-taking which manifested onstage. As Shakespeare noted on the nature of love, which may often appear a contagious disease fashioned to make humans go mad, the players were indeed “rough with love.”

*** *** ***

By Nya Hedman of South Plantation High School

What happens when a Homo Necrosis outbreak and Shakespeare cross paths? Find out in The Sagemont School’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – or nightmare.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, written by William Shakespeare, is a show within a show that follows the story of a love triangle, amateur actors, and feisty fairies. The comedy has seen many adaptations in theatre, film, and literature and is one of Shakespeare’s most popular stage works.

While the original plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one that has gained immense prominence throughout its history, Sagemont’s take on the Shakespeare classic was a little out of the ordinary. On top of the plotline that follows a show within a show run by fairies, Sagemont’s cast and crew added a new sub-plot that set the show during a Zombie Apocalypse. While the concept was unique and worked well with the casting, it often times added a bit of confusion to the already intricate and outrageous plotline and detracted from the fantasy world being painted.

Playing the roles of both Oberon and Titania was Marc Plaskett, whose performance was well beyond his years embodying both characters through incredible physicality and voice manipulation. Plaskett was able to switch between characters effortlessly, never leaving a moment of confusion as to what role he was portraying and always delivering a captivating performance. Alongside Plaskett was Eva Daskos as Puck, who brilliantly personified the fairy creature with resounding energy and an unparalleled physicality. Both of these actors stole the show with their exceptional performances.

The supporting cast worked extremely well together to bring the story to life. Some notable performances were Ariel Seligman-Delgado (Hermia/Tom Snout), Aaron Cantu (Demetrius/Nick Bottom), and David Morales (Lysander/Robin Starveling). All of these actors played multiple characters, requiring them to make clear choices to set them apart. The characters all had wonderful comedic timing and worked extremely well with one another.

The technical aspects of the show were equally as commendable as the performance. The costumes as well as the hair and makeup, which were entirely student made and produced, completely transformed the characters. The fairies in particular were especially praiseworthy, as the details in both of these elements were absolutely superb. The lighting and sound cues in the show were spectacular, never missing a cue and completely transporting the show from scene to scene. Both of these aspects were vital to setting the show as the production featured nearly no set and minimal props. However, the choreography of the show was the highlight as it heavily featured the use of silks by many of the cast members. This added element made the fantastical spirit of the show even more prominent and was an extremely tasteful addition.

The wonderful technical elements paired with a terrific performance by the actors, allowed for an extremely successful production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Sagemont School.

*** *** ***

By Stephanie Maestre of West Broward High School

Come get whisked away into the land of Athens! However, be wary as you make your way into the black box theater, for an outbreak of an infectious disease known as Homo Necrosis could leave you a zombie! Follow a journey of love, jealously and hate through a land of fairies, donkeys, magic and more. Be cautious as you enter the Sagemont School for their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream!

Originally written by William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows lovers Hermia and Lysander as they plot to flee an arranged marriage between Hermia and her suitor Demetrius. Just before escaping, Hermia tells her best friend Helena of their plot. Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, tells him of their plan to reclaim his love. The lovers enter the forest where other elements begin to come into play, such as the magical sprite, Puck, sent by Oberon, king of the fairies. Elsewhere in Athens, a group of “rude mechanicals” plan to put on a play for the wedding of Duke Theseus and Queen Hippolyta. However, one of the actors was infected by the zombie outbreak and had to be re-casted during intermission. As the show continued, people in the audience were infected and just as the show was coming to a climax, zombies invaded the theatre.

The show overall was intriguing and intense, keeping audience members on the edge of their seat. The actors keep good face and energy throughout the show, though at times they lacked diction and spoke quickly, leaving viewers lost in the already difficult language of Shakespeare. The choreography, makeup, costumes, and other technical aspects were phenomenal, bringing life and detail to the show. Although the creative liberty taken in adding the zombie sub-plot was interesting and well-executed, it didn’t add to the show, sometimes distracting from it as the crowd would anticipate zombies rather than enjoy the show.

Commanding the stage was Eva Daskos as the mischievous Puck. Daskos kept a wonderful stage presence, always moving and interacting with other characters. She held beautiful chemistry with Oberon, played by Marc Plaskett. Like Daskos, Plaskett kept a strong stage presence as he swapped between the roles of Oberon and Titania. His strong contrast between the characters helped distinguish one from the other perfectly. His comedic timing was impeccable as he kept the audience entertained with his wit and flamboyancy.

The beautiful Hermia was portrayed by Ariel Seligman-Delgado. Her chemistry with Lysander and hateful emotions towards Demetrius shone as she graced the stage with her high energy. Helena was played by Skylar Scorca whose pacing was maintained perfectly. Her love towards Demetrius was eminent throughout the play. Aaron Cantu took on the role of Demetrius and was an intense and emotional character. When playing Nick Bottom, he became a highly comedic character.

The ensemble of fairies danced across stage beautifully as they climbed the silk ropes. Their energy and stage presence were choreographed perfectly, especially with Oberon/Titania. They maintained good face and stage business for most of the performance. The lighting was effective in showing changes in plot or character, such as when Oberon switched to Titania. The use of space was well executed as the actors and sets could present to all sides of the room effectively.

As Shakespeare once said, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” As you enter the theater, make sure you have hand sanitizer at your disposal and remember the symptoms of Homo Necrosis, but don’t forget to enjoy a Midsummer Night’s Dream!

*** *** ***

Reviews of The Diary of Anne Frank at Deerfield Beach High School on Thursday, 3/07/2019.


By Gabriela Coutinho of American Heritage School

When humans’ wars, persecution, and genocide rage, Anne Frank’s words, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart,” resound for their striking beauty. Such was the atmosphere that Deerfield Beach High School students honored in their production of The Diary of Anne Frank In this glimpse into the lives of Jews hiding in a secret annex during World War II, the actors captured the frustrations arising from their precarious circumstances – as well as their hope.

Based on the true events described in Anne Frank’s beloved diary, published under the title The Diary of a Young Girl by her father Otto Frank, the play centers around her account of life in hiding – a continuous strain of tension and anticipation – and reflections. While she matures, the light of hope and optimism within her remain shining bright, even as life in the annex becomes more difficult and she grapples with her evolving perception of her world and self. The play has told Anne’s story since the 1955 Broadway debut, and its production proves more and more crucial as the Holocaust increasingly fades from the collective memory of younger audiences – as Deerfield’s choice to mount the play reflects.

Leading the cast, Tori Adame as Anne Frank exhibited her innocence through a vivacious spirit and youthful physical and vocal characterizations, while bearing the weight of bringing Anne Frank’s words to life during scene changes of narrations from her diary. Playing her father Mr. Frank, Alan Halaly was convincing as an older man and provided a vital fatherly figure to everyone in the annex, extending strength, moral support, and compassion. As his wife Ms. Frank, Alexis Freudenthal contributed to the tense atmosphere in the attic during clashes with the Van Daans, particularly in her enraged maternal reaction to the bread stealing. With particular physical commitment to the high stakes and stress of life in hiding for two years, Sarah Mellinger gave her Ms. Van Daan the overbearing, insufferable personality Anne Frank had described in her diary.

Despite some distracting background ad-libbing and missed moments of authenticity, everyone stayed in character throughout and successfully depicted what life in the secret annex was like. Together, the annex residents made an effort to cohesively establish the unusually extreme circumstances of their lives, namely standing out in the ensuing argument of the bread stealing, sigh of relief immediately thereafter, and terror when the Germans banged on the door at the end. The cramped feeling the set emanated and illusion of time passing through depictions of daily tasks in scenes and during scene changes further painted the play’s world.

From lights up on a delicate first scene of remembrance and trauma to the memories flooding back through the diary’s narrative, The Diary of Anne Frank allowed audiences to reflect on human nature when survival is on the line, as well as the monumentally devastating period in history which it revives. Deerfield Beach High School ultimately paid tribute to Anne Frank’s story and words, helping her to indeed “go on living, even after (her) death,” just as she had wished.

*** *** ***

By Tai Beasley of Coral Glades High School

“I want to go on living, even after death.” One of the most coveted goals in life, written by a young and vibrant Anne Frank. Her diary entries allowed some of the most personal details of the devastating effect of the Holocaust to be revealed and shared for generations. Deerfield Beach High School’s rendition of The Diary of Anne Frank tells the story of a girl during one the worst tragedies in history, and how with love, resilience, and unwavering hope, she lived even after death.

Adapted onto the stage from the book Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank premiered in 1955 at the Cort Theatre. Written by Frances Goodrich, this drama transferred to the Ambassador Theatre in 1957, and closed after 717 performances. The play then traveled the United States, and was nominated for several awards, winning a Tony for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The plot takes place in a Nazi- occupied Amsterdam in 1944 and 1945. Anne is given a diary for her thirteenth birthday, in which this amazing story is recorded. The Franks and the Vaan Dann’s are forced to take refuge in a basement to escape the relentless pursuit of the Nazi’s. Every day is a blessing, and every loud noise a question of whether life will continue another day. Tensions are high as cramped quarters, limited food, and speaking below a whisper causes problems for the families, but Anne’s spirit brings them together until the very end.

Star of the show, Tori Adame (Anne Frank) captivated the audience with her vibrant mannerisms and childlike, upbeat inflection. Adame’s bright facials captured the true essence of a young Anne, while her dominant and often sassy personality was perfectly portrayed by her bold physicality. Her incredible duality allowed realistic and unique relationships with every cast member to be formed. Alan Halay (Mr. Frank) successfully personified the leader- like and level-headed quality of his character. The duality of his stern yet caring personality was embodied by his character choices and especially emphasized in scenes with Anne.

Another memorable actress, Sarah Mellinger (Ms. Van Daan) completely commanded the stage with her shrill outbursts and bold character. Mellinger completely immersed herself in the materialistic and maternal mindset of her character, and consistently had great intonation throughout the play. Chad Chambers (Peter Van Daan) depicted a reserved character that blossomed as the plot went on. The progression of Anne and his relationship was successfully illustrated in his physicality and voice.

The multifaceted set was both a unique and effective way to move the story along. The “unpacking” of its parts as the play proceeded added detail and authenticity to the ‘slice of life’ plot. In addition, the use of audio of Anne’s diary entry’s for scene transitions created a beautifully nostalgic ambiance and fostered continuity to the story. The frequent audio issues were apparent, and the whispering from side scenes being caught on the mics was often distracting, however the cast and crew never ceased to push through them.

Congratulations to Deerfield Beach High School for their moving production of The Diary of Anne Frank, for not only teaching us the beauty and pain of impermanence, but the value of family and hope.

*** *** ***

By Kelly Taylor of American Heritage School

“I wish to go on living even after my death.” The profound dream of Anne Frank shines out of her time beaten diary. Decades after her death, Anne continues to live on, in accordance with her beautiful dream, through dramatizations of her tragic story. Fulfilling Anne’s wish, Deerfield Beach High School brought life to the innocent girl behind the wise words in their heart-wrenching production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Inspired by “The Diary of a Young Girl,” the book that preserves the words once written upon the pages of Anne Frank’s diary in an annex in Amsterdam, the play dramatizes Anne’s descriptions of life in cramped confinement during one of the world’s most devastating tragedies: the Holocaust. The production is set between the years of 1942-1944 in which the Franks, along with the Van Daans (another Jewish family seeking shelter from the terrors on the streets) and an elderly dentist by the name of Mr. Dussel, lived in hiding. Receiving a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for Best Play, this highly acclaimed stage adaptation by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett took to Broadway in 1955 with a subsequent tour of the United States in 1957.

Growing as Anne through the progression of time, Tori Adame (Anne Frank) made the transformation from an immature and somewhat petulant thirteen-year-old to a strong, independent, yet loving fifteen-year-old with a constant childlike energy that captured the innocent spirit of the character. From swinging her legs to tapping her foot, Adame put on a lively and animated performance that perfectly exhibited the ray of hope that was Anne Frank.

Embodying a highly mature and well-polished young lady, Gloria Mendez brought a distinct sophistication to her role as Anne’s sister Margot Frank. Mendez carried herself in a collected manner with a composed face and dignified posture. Her strict obedience and maturity placed an essential emphasis on Anne’s immaturity and defiance of the behavioral norms for women at the time.

Working as a unit, the cast remained in a state of perpetual motion keeping individual scenes going in each of the separate rooms that never overpowered the scene in focus. Although the unscripted dialogue would occasionally detract from the beauty of the script, the improvisations of the cast as a whole continually drove the story forward and eliminated any extraneous pauses that might distance audiences from the reality of the play. Demonstrating the depth of their connection to each other as well as the story, the cast worked together in a phenomenal save when Mr. Dussel’s kippah fell on the floor and, after another character naturally drew his attention to it, he kissed it, in line with the Jewish custom, before putting it back in place.

Highlighting the concept that her thoughts and dreams evolve with time, the insertion of voice-overs for Anne’s diary entries effectively carried the scene changes through the passage of days, months and even years. The shifts in lighting also contributed to this effect by actively guiding the audience’s focus between scenes.

Deerfield Beach High School’s production radiated Anne Frank’s hope and light granting Anne the opportunity to live on in the hearts and minds of audiences.

*** *** ***

By Michael Ryder of St. Thomas Aquinas High School

The Diary of Anne Frank at Deerfield Beach High School creates a poignant representation of the doleful and important story of Anne Frank.

The Diary of Anne Frank takes place in Nazi-occupied Netherlands during WWII in an attic. The play is a stage adaptation to the famous non-fiction book of The Diary of a Young Girl written by Anne Frank. The stage adaptation was written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and opened on Broadway in October 5, 1955. The show went on for 717 performances, first in the Cort Theater, but then finishing off its time in Broadway in the Ambassador Theater. The play received many accolades including winning Best Play at the Tony’s and getting nominated for Best Actress, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Director and Best Revival of a Play when it came back to Broadway in the Music Box Theater in 1997.

Playing the titular role of Anne Frank in Deerfield Beach High School’s production of the play was Tori Adame. Tori succeeded in playing the vital role of this play with a childlike innocence and a childlike petulance. Tori wonderfully showed the innocence that Anne Frank was known for in her diary, and perfectly captured the tension between her and Mrs. Frank (Alexis Freudenthal). At the main character, Tori Adame led the cast with joy and optimism throughout their time hiding in the attic. Her character was only made better by the complement of Mr. Frank.

Playing Mr. Frank in this show was Alan Halaly. Alan took control as the voice of reason in this play greatly. Alan was able to stand out as a main character while also supporting Tori and her conflict with her family. Alan delivered his lines with tranquility, only adding to the feeling of the voice of reason during parts of the show where the annex members fought among themselves over growing tensions based on fear and cabin fever.

Deerfield Beach High School had many other good qualities like how Gloria Mendez (Margot Frank) showed the maturity that her character is written for. The set design was commendable and gave the show a “slice of life” feeling. Actors stayed in character all the way through the show even when their characters were in the background.

The production ran into problems though multiple times throughout the show At the beginning of the show there seemed to be microphone problems that cut the audience off from lines that were said due to low volume, but was fixed and stayed consistent throughout the continuation of the show Actors would sometimes add awkward pauses and weird beats into the lines and added filler dialogue that would get uncomfortable and repetitious. Often were conflicts created out of nothing without enough build, and anger shown by the body was not shown with the voice and vice versa.

Even with these mishaps, Deerfield Beach High School’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank was a beautiful commemorative piece that was able to power through hurdles to tell the beautiful story.

*** *** ***

By Nicole Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

The Holocaust, a tragic era of genocide marked by constant fear and painful loss, is a recurring reminder of the lingering possibilities of present inhumanity guided by distorted beliefs. Deerfield Beach High School’s poignant production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” served as a chilling reminder of the viciousness of which society is capable. The history of this horrific event must never be buried. Thanks to the writings of Anne Frank, and other figures chronicling the terrors of the period, there will always be somewhere to turn for reminders of this unconscionable time in history.

Premiering at the Cort Theater in 1955, “The Diary of Anne Frank” is the stage adaptation of the book “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank. The play follows Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl in Amsterdam living under the Nazi regime, as she and her family are forced into hiding in the attic of a warehouse for two agonizing years. During this time, Anne kept a diary in which she discussed the struggles of her life as a budding teenager, as well as the perpetual fear she was experiencing.

Playing the inquisitive Anne Frank, Tori Adame captured Anne’s luminous spirit and ongoing optimism. Adame displayed youthful physicality and a beaming curiosity, aiding her honest portrayal of this well-known historical figure. Mr. Frank, Anne’s father and the person she most wishes to please, was played by Alan Halaly. Halaly built a believable and compelling chemistry with Adame through his comforting nature and their loving interactions. By offering an encouraging and fatherly attitude to not only Anne, but the entire cast, Halaly created a sense of stability within the Annex.

Portraying Mrs. Van Daan, Sarah Mellinger embodied her character’s overly anxious state of mind and possessive personality. Playing Mrs. Van Daan’s son, Peter, Chad Chambers displayed impressive character development, demonstrated in his relationship growth with Anne. As Chambers allowed Anne to break through his rigid exterior, he exhibited an excellent character arc.

The annex residents, consisting of the Van Daan and Frank families, developed powerful inner relationships and established a convincing chemistry as a whole. Although some of the ad-libbing and whispering was distracting to the scenes, the actors remained in character throughout the entirety of the production. Actors would occasionally turn their backs to the audience, creating a barrier that blocked the conveyance of emotion

Despite sound issues, including mics wavering in and out of speakers and some overpowering underscoring music, the show was technically solid. The set was visually pleasing and extremely functional, displaying the inside of all bedrooms as well as the general living area. The costumes, makeup, and hair fit the time period and assisted in developing characterization of every annex resident.

Deerfield Beach High Schools compelling production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” displayed moving themes of isolation, identity, and sacrifice. Anne Frank’s power of observation and reflection upon not only the brutality of the time period, but also her own self, allow people to digest the era and its immediate impacts through the innocent eyes of a young girl.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Mamma Mia! at Cypress Bay High School on Thursday, 3/07/2019.


By Julia Musso of NSU University School

An impending wedding day with no father to give you away. What could be worse? Welcome to the luscious islands of Greece, where the waves crashing on the shore are almost as intense as the drama on the horizon in Cypress Bay’s delightful depiction of “Mamma Mia!”

With a score composed of chart-topping hits from the 1970s Swedish pop group ABBA, “Mamma Mia!” tells the story of young bride-to-be Sophie’s tedious search for her birth father among three eligible bachelors from her mother’s past. Heartwarming, captivating, and sure to leave you humming as you leave the theatre, this jovial jukebox musical is filled to the brim with side-splitting humor and lovable life lessons.

Leading the show was the strong-willed Sophie (Daniela Osario), who wowed audiences with her stunning vocals and beaming presence. Osario did a wonderful job of encompassing the youthful and optimistic spirit of her character, most notably during her solo “I Have A Dream”. As Donna (Naja Brown)’s spunky sidekicks and fellow “Dynamos”, Kyleigh Jehlicka (Tanya) and Cristina Marine (Rosie) brought down the house with their exuberant mannerisms and impeccable comedic timing. Jehlicka’s consistently high energy on stage was awe-inspiring, especially during the showstopper “Does Your Mother Know?”, featuring beautiful belts and undeniable chemistry with her devoted admirer Pepper (Ricardo Morales). Whether it was cracking a joke or swooning over Tanya from a distance, Morales always remained in character and committed, even when the focus was not on him.

From the moment they entered, the Dancers/Greek Islanders ensemble saturated the stage with heavenly harmonies and lively facial expressions. Although occasionally drawing excessive attention to themselves during intimate scenes, the group made wonderful use of their space and established unique relationships with each other that emphasized the communal nature of the island. Catching the eyes of audience members alike was Katie Kanefsky (Dancer), whose high-flying tricks were a sight to behold.

Not to be outshined by the cast, the technical crew also executed their respective roles extremely well. Choreography (Valeria Jubes) was dynamic and brought a whole new level of enthusiasm and excitement to each of the musical numbers while also highlighting the extensive abilities of certain cast members. While not necessarily time-appropriate, the costumes (Lyon, Marine, and Morales) looked beautiful on stage and allowed for performers to dance and move around comfortably. Finally, the set (Perkins, Goldstein, Gill, and Oliveira) encompassed the relaxed vibe of a tropical paradise superbly, making all who watched feel like they were living on island time.

The “Super Trouper” lights must have found Cypress Bay High School’s spectacular performance of “Mamma Mia!”, because it was truly “shining like the sun” from beginning to end!

*** *** ***

By Aysha Zackria of NSU University School

Cypress Bay High School’s production of Mamma Mia! dazzled with dynamic characters and memorable music!

Sophie has gone her whole life without knowing who her father is. In the hopes of having him give her away at her wedding, she invites her three possible dads who she found in the diary of her mother, Donna. When they all arrive, Sophie has to grapple with the chaos she created for herself, her mother, and all three men. With songs by the Swedish pop group, ABBA, music and lyrics by Andersson and Ulvaeus, and book by Catherine Johnson, Mamma Mia! premiered on the West End in 1999. The 2001 Broadway production five Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards.

Daniela Osorio, as Sophie, used her expressive vocals to convey clear characterization. Her vivid facial expressions translated into unique relationships with every character on stage. Her connection with Donna, played by Naja Brown, grew and changed, ultimately becoming a powerful mother-daughter duo. Jason Rosenberg, playing Sam, had an air of poise and notable presence, which distinguished him. This made his age and past with Donna all the more believable. Especially while singing, he portrayed an impressive range of sorrow and joy.

Kyleigh Jehlicka, playing Tanya, expertly played the rich divorcee. Her condescension and charisma culminated in an extremely entertaining performance. The dynamic between her and Ricardo Morales, as Pepper, developed in “Does Your Mother Know”, an upbeat song about their relationship and obvious age difference. Morales’s sharp dancing and comedic timing amazed. Cristina Marine, playing Rosie, fearlessly portrayed a carefree, older woman with distinct physicality and unparalleled use of every moment to further her character. Jacob Fretwell, as Sky, and Kathleen Valent, as Lisa, both stood out as a result of their characters’ evident devotion to Sophie. Like the Dancers and Greek Islanders, their constant engagement and energy enhanced many large numbers. As a whole, the cast had incredible chemistry and clean harmonies.

Stage management, by Alexandra Tawid, was focused and organized. Cues were clearly marked, allowing for smooth transitions between scenes. Choreography, by Valeria Jubes, reflected the unique disco music of ABBA with period appropriate moves. Because the choreography was so animated, the ensemble had a lot of energy that sustained the show. Marketing and publicity, by Brown, Marine, Miller, and Valent, acted very effectively, particularly within the school itself. Through multiple social media campaigns, they engaged a large number of younger audiences.

Cypress Bay High School’s production of Mamma Mia! should be thanked for the music and all the joy it brought.

*** *** ***

By Grace Emery of South Plantation High School

Time to let the inner dancing queen shine in Cypress Bay’s production of “Mamma Mia!”. The whole cast perfectly captured the effervescent feeling of this iconic show through their lively movements, constant energy, and hypnotizing vocals.

“Mamma Mia!”, written by Catherine Johnson is a jukebox musical based on the hit songs of Swedish pop band, Abba. It first premiered in London in 1999, and moved to Broadway on October 18, 2001. It has had many touring productions and has played in six continents. The touring production won a “Touring Broadway Award” for Best Musical Score.

Opening the show was Daniela Osorio as Sophie, who had a wonderful presence onstage and expertly portrayed the youthfulness needed for her character. She perfectly embodied the naive and charming aspect of Sophie both through her acting and vocal performance.

The ensemble gave an enormous amount of life to this show. Although at times their presence was a bit overwhelming, they always added amazing energy to scenes that otherwise could’ve become dull.

The supporting characters really carried a lot of this production as well. Kyleigh Jehlicka played Tanya and was one of the most captivating performers onstage. She never wavered in character, energy and crisp vocals, which were showcased in her sassy solo, “Does Your Mother Know?” Her counterpart, Rosie, played by Cristina Marine was just as engaging. Her comedic timing was spot on, and her character seemed so natural it was easy to forget she was a high school student. The chemistry between the two was absolutely electric and made for some unforgettable moments.

Although there were some technical moments that didn’t go as smoothly as planned, they were easy to overlook. The mics seemed to pose a bit of a challenge with some moments of feedback or completely cutting out throughout the show, however they always managed to get back on track. The lighting was beautifully done especially considering new lighting equipment was being used. Caitlin Nicholson and Jenna Pick should be commended for their excellent work, not only creating magnificent pictures but also successfully conveying the mood of every moment onstage.

Cypress Bay’s production of “Mamma Mia!” has all the flair and sparkle that is required of Abba’s greatest hits. This is most definitely a memorable show with an even more memorable cast and crew.

*** *** ***

By Emily Nardoni of Dillard Center for the Arts

“I Have a Dream”, of bright colors, infectious energy, and effervescent dance numbers; a dream that the students of Cypress Bay High School fulfilled stunningly in their production of Mamma Mia! The cast and crew gave a thrilling performance that captured the heart and soul of Greek culture in an uplifting experience enough to make anyone feel like a “Dancing Queen”.

The ABBA based jukebox musical was written by Catherine Johnson, with music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Mamma Mia! is set in a fictional Greek island, Kalokairi, based on the real Greek island Skopelos. Twenty-year-old island resident Sophie Sheridan is preparing for the wedding of her dreams, but to do that she must first discover a part of her that has been missing her entire life: the identity of her father. Chaos ensues on the small island when Sophie invites all three of her possible fathers to the wedding, provided by a peek in her mother Donna’s diary, but the search provides her with a bigger family than she intended, and some fun along the way.

Bursting with life were the show stopping dynamic duo Tanya (Kyleigh Jehlicka) and Rosie (Cristina Marine). The pair shared impeccable chemistry when on stage together, yet accomplished incredible personal character development and interpretation on their own. Jehlicka impacted the production with dazzling vocals in her number “Does Your Mother Know?” as well as executed a well-defined and consistent character throughout the production. Marine offered comedic brilliance to the piece with her impressive physicality and character development. The two built off each other’s energy providing each scene they were in with vivid life, as well as maintaining a realistic and organic bond. Sophie (Daniela Osorio) provided similar realism in character development. Osorio gave a genuine performance from the heart, building recognizable chemistry with each member of the cast during the performance.

Each musical number included flawless harmonies from the cast; most notable was that of Sam (Jason Rosenberg). Rosenberg’s vocals added a heart filled, yet skillful touch to every musical number he performed in. With a well-defined character arc, Rosenberg’s performance was honest and entertaining from start to finish. The comical genius of Pepper (Ricardo Morales) was not soon forgotten; Morales’s comedic timing and energy were the highlights of his powerful and humorous performance. The ensemble of Greek Islanders/Dancers were the production’s highest source of life and energy. The ensemble brought the audience into the island of Kalokairi in each musical number and scene. Remaining in character at all times, the ensemble kept a consistent stream of high energy that impacted the production in an eye-catching way.

The choreography provided by Valeria Jubes was clean, crisp, and visiually captivating. Numbers such as “Money, Money, Money”, “Voulez Vous”, and “Under Attack” were riveting to watch, full of sharp moves and traditional Greek culture. The overall production included minor falls in character and pacing, however cast energy never fluctuated, providing an enticing overall performance.

The cast of Cypress Bay High School’s production of Mamma Mia! provided a captivating performance full of high energy and unforgettable numbers that proved to be visually outstanding to experience. After all, “Without a song or a dance, what are we?”

*** *** ***

By Madeline Finkelman of North Broward Preparatory School

You are cordially invited to the destination wedding of young lovebirds Sophie and Sky. Grab your passport and playbill and join the exuberant cast as Cypress Bay High School takes you to the idyllic Greek Isles for a hypnotically high-energy production of Mamma Mia!

Based on the timeless pop songs of ABBA, Mamma Mia! is a joyous jukebox musical written by Catherine Johnson. In 2001, the show danced its way to Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre eventually settling in the Broadhurst Theatre. With almost 6,000 performances before it closed in 2015, Mamma Mia! holds the title as the ninth longest-running show on Broadway. The story follows taverna owner Donna Sheridan who on the eve of her daughter’s wedding gets three unexpected visitors…dot dot dot…three ex-lovers from her past. Little does she know they were invited by her daughter Sophie who hopes to learn which one of them is her father. What begins as a lively and lighthearted musical escapade evolves into a touching tale of love, family and acceptance.

The stubborn and fiercely independent Donna was played by Naja Brown. Brown ably carried the show and exhibited palpable emotion in her solo “The Winner Takes It All”. Donna’s sensitive and determined daughter Sophie was brought to the stage by Daniela Osorio. Osorio skillfully created connections with her three yet-to-be-determined dads that felt both distinct and believable.

Donna’s dynamic and adoring Dynamo duo, Rosie and Tanya, gave new meaning to the concept of best friends forever as her longtime pals and former singing soul sisters. Cristina Marine as the forward and fun-loving Rosie garnered some of the night’s biggest laughs, creating a convincingly comical character with her mature-minded physicality and boundless energy. Kyleigh Jehlicka excellently portrayed the lusty and lovable Tanya with the perfect balance of poise and promiscuousness, best showcased along with her stunning vocals in the song “Does Your Mother Know?” This woman-focussed story was both grounded and elevated by the three men in Donna’s life, Sam, Bill and Harry. Jason Rosenberg played steadfast Sam with sweet sincerity, while also demonstrating a smooth and sultry vocal quality. Alejandro Rodriguez portrayed suppressed rock-n-roller Harry with his consistent and hilarious delivery. Robert Goldstein was adventurer Bill, at his best in his comically complicated relationship with Rosie, best showcased in the uproarious song “Take A Chance On Me”.

The dancing Greek islanders brought unwavering energy and skillful movements to every scene. Particular standouts among the cast were Jacob Fretwell as the charming groom Sky and Kathleen Valent as Sophie’s bubbly bridesmaid Lisa. From the aisles, to the sides of the theatre, the effervescent ensemble made excellent use of every inch of the stage and beyond, making the audience feel like part of the party.

The good-time atmosphere was further accentuated by the show’s technical elements. The lighting was an excellent mood-setter and while some blackouts were a bit abrupt, the overall lighting design served the show well. The mediterranean inspired set pieces and backdrop helped to bring the fun and festive scenarios to vivid and luminous life.

From a young couple’s idealistic infatuation to the rekindled romance of long-lost loves, the heart and humor of Cypress Bay’s Mamma Mia! wonderfully wove 70’s pop hits through a captivating narrative, merrily moving you to laugh, sing-a-long, and above all else, to take a chance on love.

*** *** ***

By Nikki Nunziato of NSU University School

Never ending energy, powerful vocals, and deeply developed characters? Must be Cypress Bay High School’s production of Mama Mia!

Mama Mia! Is a passionate rollercoaster ride of love, humor, sorrow, and enigma. Sophie’s wedding is coming up, and she wants nothing more than her father to give her away to her beloved groom, Sky. One tiny problem: twenty years ago, Sophie’s mother Donna played around with three too many men, leaving it up to Sophie to figure out which of Donna’s lovers is her father! To no surprise, Mama Mia! Is the ninth longest running broadway musical of all time! Based off the music of the group ABBA, the show was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson and first premiered on April 6, 1999.

Leading this wild love story was Sophie (played by Daniela Osorio). Osorio developed an incredibly believable character by the end of the show. She was always invested in each moment and developed strong relationships with other leading roles. Tanya (played by Kyleigh Jehlicka) and Rosie (played by Cristina Marine) stole the show from the second they hobbled in through the audience. The due bounced off each other, fully encapsulating a hilarious friendship. Every moment they shared on stage from “Super Trouper” to small scattered stage business was memorable.

Thanks to every member of this production, there was never a dull moment. The cast commanded each and every waking second of the show with dedication and motivation behind their movements, expressions, and perfectly blended vocals. The dancers, especially Katie Kanefsky, glued the show together with their sharp and strong dance moves. At times the ensemble did overpower the leading roles and take away from intimate moments, but this is understandable due to the amount of people in the cast and the space available. That being said, the strategic use of space in the auditorium was commendable.

Technically speaking, the show went smoothly with very few minor hiccups. Although there were many abrupt blackouts that seemed out of place, the set combined with the many colorful and bright light cues throughout the show created fitting moods for each scene and a strong Greek vibe. Although most costumes failed to resemble time period appropriate clothing, The Greek aspects of Valeria Jubes’s choreography added a special sense of culture to the show that the costumes otherwise lacked.

The students at Cypress Bay High School really exemplified what High School theatre is all about. They told a beautiful story with passion in every move they made.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Curtains at NSU University School on Saturday, 3/02/2019.


By Gabriela Phillips of Cooper City High School

Travel back to 1959 with NSU University School’s production of “Curtains,” and experience the shocking truth behind Boston Colonial Theatre’s production of “Robbin’ Hood.”

The musical “Curtains” first premiered on Broadway on March 22, 2007. The original Broadway show got 8 Tony nominations and won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. Rupert Holmes and John Kander picked up the project of “Curtains” after both the original author and lyricist passed away. The show is a comedic whodunnit parody in which Lieutenant Frank Cioffi investigates a murder that occurs during the run of a theatre’s production of Robbin’ Hood. This show takes the audience through a tale of blame, fear, greed, and success.

Christina Maineri portrayed the character of Carmen Bernstein beautifully, her physicality remained consistent throughout the entire show. She tackled this difficult task with ease, since playing someone significantly older is challenging. Her vocal strength was showcased in “It’s a Business.” The dedication to her character was clear through her emotional devotion during all of her scenes and songs. Playing the Boston detective and theatre aficionado Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, Sebastian Rabassa did an exceptional job portraying the various levels of his character. When seen with his love interest Niki Harris, he often exploded with joy or nervousness which added a level of relatable humor. The relationship between Niki, played by Julia Musso, and Cioffi was truly exemplified in the song “A Tough Act to Follow.” The connection between Musso and Rabassa was very genuine, watching their bond develop from the beginning to the end was truly intriguing.

A standout performance was that of Anthony Langone who played the character Christopher Belling. Langone had phenomenal comedic timing and his energy never faltered. He remained engaging throughout the entire performance, and it was evident that he was incredibly devoted to the character of Belling. Another standout was that of Nicolas Barron who played the character, Oscar Shapiro. Even when Barron was not the center of attention he never failed to remain in character, through his small comedic accents he brought an extra level of humor to this production.

Fueling the show was the ensemble. Their harmonies were outstanding, there was never a time where someone was off-key. Although this faltered at times, the ensemble matched energy levels and had incredible facial expressions. Their reactions towards all the murders and threats occurring made it feel as if they were experiencing everything for the first time. This truly helped make the production seem much more real as if the audience was experiencing everything at the same time that the characters were.

Technically, the show excelled. The lighting was amazing, it aided in portraying the theme and mood occurring at the time, especially during the duet between Niki and Cioffi “A Tough Act to Follow.” The special effects team did an incredible job of making the wounds and shots seem very real. Their use of fake blood under their shirts helped make the production seem truly professional.

Having tackled the difficult themes as well as the challenging energy demand, NSU University School’s production of “Curtains” is going to be “A Tough Act to Follow.”

*** *** ***

By Dylan Jost of North Broward Preparatory School

“There’s a special kind of people known as show people!” Well, the “show people” at NSU University School definitely proved how special they are. Their production of “Curtains” was a captivating show full of knee-slapping comedy. From the scandalous storyline to the larger-than-life characters, this show was certainly “A Tough Act to Follow”.

First performed on Broadway in 2007, “Curtains” is a musical murder mystery with a book by Rupert Holmes and music and lyrics by the legendary songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb. Set in Boston in 1959, “Curtains” follows the cast of the critically detested musical “Robbin’ Hood of the Old West” when its dreadfully untalented leading lady is murdered on opening night. The mystery unfolds melodically when Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, a detective, and musical theatre aficionado, is called to the case.

In the role of Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, Sebastian Rabassa commanded the show with his authentic dialect, charming personality, and obvious commitment to the role. Notably, his vocals were commendable, especially in the songs “Coffee Shop Nights” and “Show People”. He seemed to establish a unique relationship with each person he interacted with onstage, showing his extensive understanding of Cioffi’s character. Rabassa and Julia Musso, who played the adorably spunky Niki Harris, created a relationship that kept the audience captivated with their undeniable stage chemistry. Christina Maineri showed off her strong vocal ability, mature characterization skills, and flawless comedic timing as Carmen Bernstein, the domineering producer of “Robbin’ Hood”.

A performance that must be mentioned is that of Jared Cohen as Aaron Fox. Cohen’s vocals, particularly in his solo “I Miss the Music” were fantastic. Cohen’s vibrato and timbre were engaging and memorable, and allowed him to deliver a performance that was superb As the flamboyant director of “Robbin’ Hood”, Christopher Belling, Anthony Langone gave a truly terrific comedic performance. From cracking jokes about the show’s late leading lady to patronizing the living members of his cast, Langone always managed to elicit chuckles. Gabriel Feldenkrais exhibited his sensational dancing skills in his role of the lovesick Bobby Pepper. Feldenkrais’s skill was particularly notable in his dance in the song “Kansasland”.

Technically the show was masterfully executed. Creativity was impressive, with Jared Cohen serving as the student vocal director and successfully teaching the other students harmonies. Hair and makeup were very well done, with wigs that flawlessly remained sturdy. The marketing and publicity were accomplished exquisitely, with very creative posters and promotional campaigns being utilized. Lightning was also smoothly executed, with colored gels being used in various instances to add to the overall mood of the scene, such as the pink gel used during “A Tough Act to Follow”. The special effects were creatively executed, particularly in the example of the blood capsules used to replicate gunshot wounds.

NSU University School expertly unraveled a murder mystery in their extremely well-executed production of “Curtains”. Transporting the audience to a theater laden with peculiar murders, elaborate and spectacular dance numbers, and love stories beyond one’s wildest dreams, the actors of “Curtains” proved that the show must always go on.

*** *** ***

By Nicole Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

In times of trying circumstances, thespians cope by uttering five simple words: “The show must go on!” In NSU University School’s delightful production of “Curtains,” this grand theatrical tradition was severely tested as the whimsical characters faced more mortality than just the deadly reviews.

When a mysterious murder takes place on the opening night of “Robbin’ Hood,” a new musical mounted by the Boston Colonial Theatre in 1959, Lieutenant Frank Cioffi sweeps in to crack the case and save the lives of these petrified performers Ultimately, he breathes life into the dying show one “stomp hop slap step slap stamp stamp stamp” at a time. With a hilarious book by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander, “Curtains” opened on Broadway in 2007 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Based on the original book and concept of the same name by Peter Stone, this hysterical musical earned 8 Tony Award nominations before closing in 2008.

Sebastian Rabassa, playing Frank Cioffi, the police detective and self-proclaimed musical theatre fan, wonderfully embodied the goofy and loveable nature of his character through superb characterization and well-executed comedic moments. Julia Musso, portraying the small-town starlet Niki Harris, consistently carried her sugary persona throughout the production, skillfully seeping this sweetness into her energetic dancing and delicate vocals. Rabassa and Harris displayed impeccable chemistry with one another, exhibited primarily in their lovely number “Tough Act to Follow.”

Playing Carmen Bernstein, the brash and bold producer, Christina Maineri showcased stellar stage presence, physicality, and characterization. Portraying the lyricist turned Leading Lady, Georgia Hendricks, Camden Stankus displayed beautiful vocals and a clear rendering of the character’s initial butterflies that dissipate into Broadway brilliance. Jared Cohen, playing Aaron Fox, the troubled composer, presented a charming sense of longing, accentuated by his splendid vocal ability

Although very infrequently lacking in the abounding energy and facial expressions demanded by this production, the ensemble remained consistently engaging. Their reactions and discoveries as new plot information was revealed captured the musical’s enthrallment. The cast created a commendable differentiation between when they were playing the “actors” and when they were playing their roles in “Robbin’ Hood.”

All technical aspects within the show were spectacular. The lighting gorgeously underscored each scene in a non-distracting manner and the scene changes were flawlessly executed. The hair, makeup, and costumes fit the time period and served to wonderfully capture the productions playfulness and light-hearted nature.

There was no magnifying glass necessary to see the pure pizzazz and sheer elation exuding from the students of NSU University School’s radiant production of “Curtains.” As the spotlight glowed, mysteries unfolded, and smiles beamed, the devoted cast reminded all performers what an honor and a joy it is to be in the wacky world of show business.

*** *** ***

By Madeline Finkelman of North Broward Preparatory School

Curtain up on an Old West tumbleweed town teeming with spirited locals cheering the masked hero who has saved their fair city. After a rousing, boot-stomping finale, the cast members take their bows. Just then, the show’s leading lady drops dead on the stage. And scene! So begins NSU University School’s Curtains, a riotous and rollicking murder mystery… within a musical… within another musical that shines a spotlight on the production of a 1950’s era show and the shady backstage shenanigans of its cast and crew.

Curtains is a whodunit musical comedy with book by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Fred Ebb and music by John Kander, with additional lyrics by Kander and Holmes after Ebb’s passing. Curtains premiered on Broadway in 2007 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, receiving eight Tony award nominations and running for over 500 performances. The story follows the cast and crew of the dreadfully corny western themed “Robbin’ Hood” after the sudden death of their talentless leading lady- but this death was no accident – dun dun duuuun. When a detective comes on the scene to investigate the murder, he realizes everyone is a suspect and sequesters the entire cast and crew. But the killer isn’t finished and that’s where the fun begins.

As the sweet-natured stagestruck detective Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, Sebastian Rabassa’s charm and charisma grounded the show while also helping it soar. Cioffi becomes increasingly more invested in solving the problems of the show’s troubled production numbers than of actually catching the bad guy. Cioffi’s blinding obsession with all things theater was a constant comedic highlight that carried the production. As the show’s strict and stressed producer, Carmen, Christina Maineri was consistent and convincing with her delightfully distinct dialect and purposeful and poised physicality. Maineri’s droll delivery of double entendres and hurled insults made her rough-around-the-edges character likable and fun. Another noteworthy performance was that of Camden Stankus. As Georgia, Stankus’ strong vocals and sweet persona believably took her character from lyricist to lovely leading lady.

The delightfully ditzy Niki was portrayed by Julia Musso. With bouncy and boundless energy, Musso’s movement made her a standout in every dance number. With bemused and bubble headed appeal, Musso created a simply sweet relationship with Cioffi, best conveyed in their mutual dream duet “Tough Act to Follow”. Aaron, the lonesomely lovesick composer was played with humble wholeheartedness by Jared Cohen. Cohen’s impressive vocals helped convey emotional depth and heartache in his song “I Miss the Music”.

Curtains’ effervescent ensemble breathed life into both the fictional show and the actual one. With high energy dance numbers and expressive facials, the ensemble acted as an elevating element helping to joyfully propel the plot’s unfolding mystery. Notable performances from Nicolette Nunziato as the bratty bitter Bambi and Gabriel Feldenkrais as the dashing dancing Bobby further amplified the entertainment.

From mood-enhancing lighting to perfect period appropriate costumes, the technical aspects of the show were virtually flawless. With commendable attention to detail, the cast and crew pulled off the potentially confusing show-within-a-show concept smoothly and seamlessly, transporting the audience from onstage to backstage with ease and artistry.

A humorous and heartfelt homage to old timey Broadway, it’s no mystery how NSU University School’s cast and crew used their soaring voices, skillful staging, and sensational choreography to make Curtains a show that was simply to die for.

*** *** ***

By Emma Sugarman of JP Taravella High School

Top of show, house lights are dimming and stage lights come up, but the life of leading lady, Jessica Cranshaw, has come to a complete blackout. As the curtains are rising, the death rates are as well. This opening night catastrophe will have you asking “whodunnit”, until the spotlight hits the culprit and the curtains can close on the conundrum. Uncover the mysteries when the drama unravels behind the scenes with NSU University School’s exhilarating production of “Curtains.”

Based on Peter Stone’s original book of the same name, this 1959, murder mystery musical earned eight Tony nominations before closing on Broadway in 2008. With a book by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander, and additional lyrics by Kander and Holmes, the show follows the story of a group of thespians quarantined into their theatre when the lead actress in their production of “Robin’ Hood” is murdered on opening night. Theatre enthusiast, Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, is enlisted to crack the case and save the show before it reopens.

Sebastian Rabassa lead the show as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, the endearing Boston detective. Rabassa displayed impeccable comedic timing accompanied by his stunning vocals. Along with many other cast members, Rabassa created a performance with a perfect balance between satire and authenticity. The bold Broadway producer, Carmen Bernstein, was played by Christina Maineri. Maineri’s comedic performance consisted of strong vocals and a well developed character. She did a magnificent job embodying a character much older than herself. From songwritwer to leading lady, Georgia Hendricks was brought to the stage by Camden Stankus. Stankus captured the charismatic role with her incredible tone and beautiful vibrato.

With her mind set on Broadway and her heart set on Lieutenant Cioffi, the pretty and innocent starlet, Niki Harris, was played by Julia Musso. Musso exhibited a consistently sweet character and high-pitched voice. Her clear vocals and clean dancing was showcased in songs such as “A Tough Act to Follow.” Anthony Langone portrayed Christopher Belling, the over the top director. Langone commanded the stage with his powerful accent and hilarious comedic moments.

Although occasionally lacking energy, every member of the ensemble displayed unique characterization. The ensemble was always engaged and showcased brilliant facials. The contrast between the off stage moments and on stage moments were evident due to the addition of the over exaggerated movements and facials.

The technical aspects of the production were very well done. The lighting was magnificent throughout the entire show but really shined in Niki and Lieutenant Cioffi’s duet, “A Tough Act to Follow.” Thanks to Jared Cohen’s student vocal direction the harmonies were lovely, and the vocals incorporated great dynamics.

In the theatrical world of “Show People” find out “whodunnit” in NSU University School’s thrilling production of “Curtains.”

*** *** ***

Reviews of My Fair Lady at West Broward High School on Friday, 3/01/21/2019.


By Leah Tomas of JP Taravella High School

“Wouldn’t it be Loverly” to sit “abso-bloomin’-lutely still” in the West Broward High School auditorium and watch their “loverly” production of “My Fair Lady”? The story follows Eliza Doolittle, and her journey to become a proper lady under the instruction of Professor Henry Higgins, a phonetics teacher who has made a bet with his colleague Colonel Pickering that in six months he will have taught Eliza, “a woman from the gutter condemned by every syllable she utters,” to speak proper English.

With a book and lyrics written by Alan Jay Lerner underscored by music composed by Frederick Loewe, “My Fair Lady” is based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” The hit musical premiered on Broadway in 1956 and held the record for the longest run of a Broadway show at the time. The production won a plethora of awards, including the 1956 Theatre World Award for Outstanding New York City Stage Debut Performance, and several Tony Awards. The original Broadway cast featured Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle and Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins.

Francesca Pinilla (Eliza Doolittle) led the production with a stunning voice and captivating characterization. She flawlessly executed both choreography and multiple British dialects. Carson Marc (Henry Higgins) provided excellent contrast to Pinilla’s character. He demonstrated smooth vocals and clear understanding of his character’s dynamics, with strong moments of both calm composure and furious anger. Both Pinilla and Marc showed immense character development throughout the production, as each character experienced a dramatic transformation in ideas, values, and behavior.

Angel Martinez (Colonel Pickering) clearly displayed strong acting and vocal abilities, as well as excellent focus. He flawlessly executed an eloquent British dialect, and his diction was excellent. Noah Levin (Alfred Doolittle) possessed a commanding stage presence and endless energy, along with brilliant execution of choreography and a cockney British dialect.

Kaleb Hobson-Garcia (Freddy Eynsford-Hill) demonstrated beautiful vocals and effortlessly captured the earnest nature of his character. Julissa Ciara Perez (Mrs. Higgins) delivered an engaging performance and did an excellent job portraying an older character. Though lacking energy and expression at times, the ensemble of this production provided strong dynamics to the overall cast, as shown in the high-energy “Get Me to the Church on Time” along with the elegant and disciplined “The Embassy Waltz.” Each member of the ensemble did an excellent job tackling the difficult and demanding accents required by this production.

The technical elements of this production were very well executed. The stage was decorated with beautiful scenery and transitions between locations were efficient and smooth. The lighting aspect expertly established the tone and mood of each scene through the illumination of the stage in a vibrant array of colors. The costumes, hair, and makeup effectively conveyed the Edwardian time period in which the story takes place, and clearly delineated each group of characters.

Themes of transformation, female empowerment, and discovery combine to create West Broward High School’s production of “My Fair Lady”, a story about “filling up the deepest cut that separates class from class and soul from soul” that will make you want to “Dance all Night.”

*** *** ***

By Susanna Ninomiya of Somerset Academy

“Wouldn’t it be Loverly” to see a timeless show about transformation mixed with witty humor, great dancing, and catchy tunes? Well you’re in luck with West Broward High School’s production of My Fair Lady.

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, My Fair Lady follows the story of Eliza Doolittle, a “flower girl” with a strong cockney accent, as she becomes the subject of a misogynistic and condescending professor’s bet. Professor Higgins attempts to mold Doolittle into a lady presentable to high society by fixing her speech in just six months. Along the way, Doolittle must confront the changes that come with her social class transformation. With book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, the show’s 1956 production became the longest running show of its time.

Leading the show with charisma and charm was Francesca Pinilla as Eliza Doolittle. Throughout the show, Pinilla gave it her all with her beautiful voice and dedication to her character’s progressive transformation. Her transition from a Cockney accent to that of an upper-class lady was impressive. Playing the ever-patronizing professor, Carson Marc did a commendable job tackling his accent, quick tongue, and fickle moods. Angel Martinez completed the trio by playing Colonel Pickering. His commitment to playing an older man shone through his physicality and maturity towards both Higgins and Doolittle.

Noah Levin (Alfred Doolittle) maintained high energy as Eliza’s carefree and stumbling father. Anthony Mejias had incredible energy and comedic timing as Professor Zoltan Karpathy, making a vivid impression that created an engaging character and greatly enhanced the show. The ensemble as a whole had good harmonies and admirable dedication as they were always engaged on the stage. With this particular story, accents are essential. Although some performers showed difficulty with the dialect, and some lines were lost with the accents, the ensemble overall turned in a believable performance. Even though energy and chemistry were lacking in some scenes, the wonderful number “Get Me to the Church on Time” brought the house down, showing the best of the ensemble and their dancing abilities, particularly with Noah Levin.

The lighting added to the moods of the show with great timing, emphasizing the bipolar nature of Higgins and showcasing Eliza’s conflicting feelings. With the direction of stage manager Gabriella Scott, the crew was swift and silent, hitting all the quick scene changes with ease.

West Broward took on the difficult task of performing this classic musical with stride and determination. “With a Little Bit of Luck”, you’ll get to enjoy West Broward High School’s production of My Fair Lady!

*** *** ***

By Reese Abrahamoff of Cooper City High School

“The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.” Taking us on a journey through transformation, gender politics, and class, West Broward High School’s enchanting production of “My Fair Lady” delves into the theme of self-discovery proving that it’s never too late to dance all night.

With lyrics and a book by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, “My Fair Lady” opened on Broadway in 1956, earning six Tony Awards, including “Best Musical”. Based off George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play, Pygmalion, this production, at the time, set the record for the longest running show on Broadway and was followed by several revivals and an eight-time Oscar winning movie. The story revolves around Eliza Doolittle, a young flower seller whose heavy Cockney accent keeps her in the lower rungs of an Edwardian society. When Professor Henry Higgins takes on the challenge of teaching her how to speak like a proper and classy lady, friendships emerge, relationships are tested, and characters are faced with life-changing decisions.

Leading lady Francesca Pinilla did an exceptional job as the stubborn, yet tough, Eliza Doolittle. Taking place in a time where lower class citizens were essentially always compared to the elite class, Pinilla excelled in showing the sharp variation between her initially rugged and improper persona to that of a classy, however conflicted, character. A standout element of Pinilla’s performance was her ability to show the contrast in her two accents. The shift from her cockney accent to a more formal and proper one showed the audience a clear distinction between her true personality and one where her public facade had masked her internal struggles. Alongside Pinilla was Carson Marc (Henry Higgins) whose authoritative figure and constant feeling of superiority led to the unsound relationship between his character and Eliza. Both actors worked well off each other, allowing their final reunion to be both heartwarming and genuine.

The role of Colonel Pickering was played by Angel Martinez whose charismatic and considerate nature contributed to Eliza’s arc of self-respect. Martinez’s earnest and positive persona allowed for a truly enjoyable performance. An additional standout was Anthony Mejias (Professor Zoltan Karpathy). Despite having a limited number of lines, Mejias never failed to humor the audience through his outgoing, energetic, and jokester attitude, evidently seen through his encounter with Professor Higgins.

As a whole, the ensemble’s performance was superb, most notably in the show stopping number, “Get Me to the Church on Time”. With endless energy, proper stage business, and consistent commitment towards the required accents, the ensemble was able to precisely transport us into the harsh realities of the early 1900’s where social division was not uncommon. Despite a lack of personal connections among certain characters, it was obvious that each cast member had a clear understanding of their roles, allowing for easy understanding of the mature components of this long-lived classic. The technical elements of the show were executed extremely well. The lighting (Alex Ortiz) was a strong contribution to the production. Matching each scene with lighting that represented the mood, each character’s emotions and inner struggles were clearly depicted, allowing the audience to grasp a complete understanding of each cast member.

West Broward High School’s heartfelt production of “My Fair Lady” not only challenges the period’s societal pressures of women, but proves that no matter who you are, an individual can only have control over oneself.

*** *** ***

By Jaime Happel of JP Taravella High School

Find your slippers, rehearse your words, and indulge in some chocolate as you prepare for a “jolly good” journey to Wimpole Street with West Broward Drama Program’s sophisticated and witty production of “My Fair Lady.”

Based on “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw, “My Fair Lady” features book, music, and lyrics from Lerner and Loewe. The award-winning musical premiered on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in March 1956. After a record-breaking 2,717 performances, The Broadway Theatre saw the show come to a close in 1962. The original production, starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison, became critically acclaimed and continues to render countless adaptions and revivals. The original cast recording became the country’s best-selling album and the show won six Tony Awards in 1957, including Best Musical.

Carson Marc portrayed the haughty phonetics professors, Henry Higgins, with tremendous animation. A crisp, lulling voice and eager physicality aided Marc in creating a clear contrast between the cultivated upper class and the nature of London’s gritty, impoverished dwellers. Higgen’s wagers he can transform an inarticulate lady, Eliza Doolittle (Francesca Pinilla), into a duchess of the highest stature. Pinilla exhibited a dynamic, “loverly” soprano register, most notably in her dreamy rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Expressive facials accentuated Pinilla’s discoveries and fostered her development into a “glorious girl” dawned in diamonds.

Angel Martinez (Colonel Pickering) showcased eminent focus and constant engagement throughout the production, illuminating the dialect-savvy associate’s intriguing reactions. Noah Levin, who commanded the stage with strong character commitment, brought Eliza’s boisterous father, Alfred Doolittle, to life. Little did he know, his daughter was being pined after by the debonair, Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Kaleb Hobson-Garcia) Hobson-Garcia exuded confidence with his broad stance and sustained velvety vocals in hopes of making Miss Doolittle swoon.

The ensemble braved a challenging classic by exploring various relationships between their vibrant characters. Communion was evident between ensemble members, commendably the Cockneys, as they took advantage of every moment by engrossing themselves in realistic, amusing stage business. Convincing accents remained consistent for the show’s duration, but at times too much focus was placed on them and articulation was lost. While some scenes lacked urgency, energy was prominent in large group numbers with clean partner work and pleasing harmonies, specifically “Get Me to the Church on Time.”

Lighting was wonderfully timed and corresponded with the characters’ moods. This clever idea greatly contributed to each scene’s overall atmosphere; however, a lack of variation caused the washes to become less impactful as the story progressed. The picturesque set was versatile, allowing for fast changes of the greatest efficiency. Set changes were plentiful and the crew’s professionalism was highly admirable. Rich colors and ornate furnishings abetted easily distinguishable locations and emphasized attention to detail.

To be proper is not defined by how you speak, but rather by the way in which you treat others. West Broward Drama Program’s production of “My Fair Lady” reminds us that perception is not everything and that at the end of the day, an ideal lady is a unique and independent one.

*** *** ***

Reviews of Eurydice at Coral Glades High School on Thursday, 2/28/2019.


By Peri Harris of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

What is it really like to be surrounded by the deep depths of the underworld? One can only believe in the myths until they see it for themselves. Discover the power of music and travel on an unimaginable journey with gravity defying elevators, death prevailing rivers, and even talking stones, in Coral Glades High School’s production of “Eurydice”.

The captivating greek myth adapted by Sarah Ruhl tells story of a soon to be married couple, Eurydice and Orpheus, and their journey to finding unity. Dying in the middle of her wedding, Eurydice takes a massive tumble down to the underworld, where she reunites with her father. In order to reconvene with her love, Orpheus, Eurydice traveled far and wide, and learned the hard way that all relationships are constructed by trust, and sometimes love cannot withstand forgetfulness.

Jerwayne Graham phenomenally portrayed Eurydice, as she graced the stage with believable hope and emotional commitment. Graham flawlessly embodied Eurydice’s immense struggles as she endured various obstacles in the underworld. Alongside Graham was her fiance, Orpheus, portrayed incredibly by Joshua Flynn. Flynn dissected the power of music throughout the production, as he evoked passion for the melodies of love that he constructed, and his stellar performance gave a raw insight to his character’s intense affection for Eurydice. Graham and Flynn’s chemistry throughout the show grew noticeably stronger as the story progressed, and they connected beautifully throughout the entirety of the production.

Derek Sands (Her Father) used his comforting tone and compassion to serve as Eurydice’s father figure as she traveled through the underworld. Sands shaded Eurydice from the haunts of death and the truth of reality, like the tree he described in the production. Felipe Gonzalez (Lord of the Underworld) successfully took on the challenging task of portraying two contrasting personas with the utmost professionalism.

Lindsey Beyda, Julyette Vargas and Hayley Hunt collectively embodied the Stone Ensemble, with individualized character choices and strikingly distinct mannerisms. Throughout each scene, the trio displayed animated facials and sharp physicality, as they reprimanded Eurydice and reminded her of the rules of the underworld. They truly displayed the reality of the dark side, and provided an apparent contrast between their sassy attitude and Eurydice’s hopefulness and humanity.

Despite some minor sound complications, the technical aspects of the production ran quite smoothly, from the realistic special effects to the intense makeup. The cast utilized their outdoor space flawlessly, while including the audience throughout the intense journey. The makeup design, by Dailyn Robaina, was masterfully executed with remarkable attention to detail.

Coral Glades High School’s production of “Eurydice” allowed the cast to embrace true meaning of love, loss and trust. They invited audiences to explore deserted paths, face the unimaginable, and left them wondering, “how does a person remember to forget?”

*** *** ***

By Annie Sudler of Calvary Christian Academy

If love is stronger than death, should we defy death in the name of love? This is the central question of the timeless play Eurydice. Though that’s a lot to wrap your head around, Coral Glades High School’s students professionally answered that question in their recent production of Eurydice.

The 2003 Sarah Ruhl play is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus. In the story, Orpheus, the world’s greatest musician, sees his wife killed on their wedding day and goes on a journey to the Underworld to get her back. Hades lets her go under one condition- as Orpheus returns with his wife in tow, he cannot turn around and look at her. Sadly, he looks, and condemns her to the Underworld for all eternity. The play features some changes to the original story. The story is centered around Eurydice rather than Orpheus and includes a new character, Eurydice’s Father, who helps drive the story. The show also includes Eurydice calling out to Orpheus, causing him to turn around, adding some dramatic conflict not previously seen.

Though the material in the play is very difficult to work with, the students did an amazing job with it. Eurydice (Jerwayne Graham) was a powerful actress. She commanded the stage with a control that seemed as natural as breathing and did a great job of showing all the sides of her character. Orpheus (Joshua Flynn) also had a strong performance. He was able to show emotions that might be foreign to many young actors with a very realistic touch that breathed life into his character. Her Father (Derek Sands) did a great job of showing paternal love and affection, equally amazing given the age of the actor. The small Greek chorus made up of Big Stone, Little Stone and Loud Stone (Lindsey Beyda, Julyette Vargas, and Hayley Hunt, respectively) gave the show energy and drive by showing the Underworld’s status quo with their sharp movements and dialogue. Finally, the Lord of the Underworld (Felipe Gonzalez) rounded off the small cast with his two-faced character. His hilarious moments as the young child perfectly contrasted with the severe and scary scenes spent as the grown Lord of the Underworld. Though no one was exempt from volume and articulation issues, especially in the many sob-laden soliloquies, the cast did amazingly as a whole.

A difficult show to stage, the bar was raised even higher by a jaw-dropping detail- the entire show was done outside. Braving the issues of technology outdoors, nearby noises, and limited staging options- not to mention South Florida weather- the immersion that this provided was spectacular. The set, though relatively minimal, featured running water and moving elevator doors that excelled at setting the scene. The props and costumes, done by Zoe Johnson and Jamie Metoyer, respectively, were beautifully tailored to the show, set, and actors. Though there were some issues with sound, namely balancing microphones, the sound crew (Juliette BeJune and Dailyn Robaina) fixed issues promptly and had the perfect music to fit every scene.

Though we’ve seen the story of love against death many times, no show has done it quite like Eurydice, and with such unique actors and staging, Coral Glades High School’s production was no exception.

*** *** ***

By Dylan Jost of North Broward Preparatory School

Classic Greek myths always come bearing a moral or lesson to offer. “To love, accept, honor, and help others” – these these are the vital teachings brought to life in this captivating production of “Eurydice”. The dedication and impressive skill set of the young actors of Coral Glades High School enabled them to truly bring the spirit of “Eurydice” to the stage.

A reimagining of the classic Greek myth of Orpheus, Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice” premiered at the Madison Repertory Theatre in Wisconsin in 2003. Ruhl’s version follows the character Eurydice through her romance with her husband Orpheus, her untimely death, and the rekindling of her relationship with her deceased father. The story seems to begin with a traditional love story: girl meets boy, they fall in love, and they get married, finally living their perfect lives together as two halves of a heart and soul. Soon, however, bookish bride Eurydice dies tragically and is whisked to the Underworld, a bleak landscape of forgotten souls and eerie Stones. Reunited in death with her father, and yearning to be back in the arms of her love Orpheus, Eurydice finds herself trapped in the Underworld, torn between the realms of love, life, and death.

By utilizing a small and skilled cast of seven, the characters of “Eurydice” fully drew the audience into their world. Led by the effective and believable performance of Jerwayne Graham as Eurydice, the entire cast capably fulfilled their roles. Graham’s performance helped balance the play’s comical yet dark tone. Graham’s childlike innocence lent an endearing quality to Eurydice that shone especially in her scenes with her father. She delivered both subtle jokes and heartbreaking monologues with ease. As Orpheus, Joshua Flynn’s stoic and restrained support provided the play with sorrow moments as he wrote letters to his deceased wife. Flynn displayed electric chemistry with Graham, particularly in the opening scene of the production where Orpheus proposes to Eurydice in a charming, captivating manner.

Particular praise must be given to the memorable, engaging performance of Derek Sands as Eurydice’s father. Sands’s perfectly balanced combination of hope and sadness brought authenticity to the production. His vulnerability was clear, particularly in scenes where he interacted with Eurydice. As the Stones, Lindsay Beyda, Julyette Vargas, and Hayley Hunt spoke in near perfect unison, creating an unnerving voice of the dead through the use of vacant stares, statuesque poses, and dark humor.

Technically the show was masterfully executed. The hair and makeup by Dailyn Robaina were particularly well done. The makeup on the Stones was artistically brilliant, impeccably designed, and allowed them to more believably portray the characters. The set was creatively designed, incorporating the style of a classic Greek amphitheater in an outdoor setting. This included the notable addition of an elevator complete with a pouring rain effect, which added to the authenticity of the production.

Coral Glades High School admirably told a story of love, loss, and longing in their well-executed production of “Eurydice” Transporting the audience to a world laden with talking stones, raining elevators, and hotel rooms made out of string, the actors of “Eurydice” proved that love is perhaps the greatest motivator of all.

*** *** ***

By Alonso Millan of South Plantation High School

Would you give up everything you have to be with the one you love the most? This is the question that Coral Glades High School asks in an emotional and powerful production of Eurydice.

Eurydice is based on the Ancient Greek tragedy of Orpheus. Told through Eurydice’s eyes, the show is a heartbreaking story of a pair of star crossed lovers and the challenges they face. Adding the character of Her Father and Eurydice’s conflict of choosing between the underworld with him and the world of the living with Orpheus, Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of the Greek myth was written in 2003. The show made its Off-Broadway debut in 2007, becoming a popular production since.

Coral Glades High School’s production of Eurydice is a wonderful student directed effort. Dailyn Robaina’s direction captures the raw emotion in the play. Strong performances overall from the cast were one of the best parts of the show, though at times some cast members suffered from poor diction. The stunning technical aspects of the show, markedly impressive given the production’s outdoor setting, greatly contributed to the experience of the show as well.

In her portrayal of the titular character, Jerwayne Graham is exuberant throughout the entire piece. Graham’s brilliant and mature depiction of Eurydice never falters, delivering a great performance. One particular highlight was Graham’s final monologue, where even through choked sobs her commitment to the character and striking emotional depth were ever present. Joshua Flynn’s portrayal of Orpheus must also be commended. Flynn displays strong characterization, and the two have clear chemistry throughout the piece.

The supporting cast in the show cannot be overlooked. As Her Father, Derek Sands gives an admirable performance. Throughout the show, Sands interacts very well with Graham, truly creating the connection that a father and daughter share. Felipe Gonzalez as Lord of the Underworld must also be commended for his performance. At times a bumbling toddler flirting with Eurydice, and at others a man longing for her love, Gonzalez expertly switches back and forth between these two distinct characters.

The technical aspects of the show were very strong. The show is unique in its outdoor setting, making some of these achievements all the more impressive. The sound by Juliette BeJune and Dailyn Robaina was extremely well done. Despite a few issues with microphones at times, the sound was heard clearly throughout the entire night, even despite the challenges that the outside setting might have brought up. The special effects by Dailyn Robaina and Vanessa West were one of the high points of the show. Used only when necessary for the fullest effect, the elevator and rain were special and innovative additions to the show.

Coral Glades High School’s production of Eurydice was a wonderful night full of both joy and sadness, and most certainly a night to remember.

*** *** **

Reviews of She Kills Monsters at Pompano Beach High School on Thursday, 2/21/2019.


By Nya Hedman of South Plantation High School

Dungeons and dragons and demons beware! The cast of “She Kills Monsters” at Pompano Beach tells the tale of sisterly love and epic girl power as it navigates the world of D&D and adulthood.

“She Kills Monsters”, written in 2011 by Qui Nguyen, follows the story of Agnes Evans, after finding her sister’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook. Through the notebook she learns her sister’s deepest secrets with the help of a teenage “dungeon master” named Chuck. While learning about her mysterious sister, Agnes finds herself at the center of this crazy fantasy world battling, fairies, demons, and (of course) dragons. The show was nominated for a Drama Desk award in 2012 for “Outstanding Costume Design”.

Playing the sisters Agnes and Tilly, were Gabriella Ribeiro and Jessica Romer respectively. Both actors showed good character development throughout the production and a wonderful sisterly bond with one another. Alfonse Mazzarella, was absolutely outstanding as Chuck, embodying the quirky character effortlessly with perfect comedic timing and unwavering energy throughout the entire show.

The supporting cast worked extremely well as an ensemble, making distinct character choices to set them apart from one another. At times the show felt a bit disconnected and the storyline seemed pieced together as opposed to one fluid narrative, however, each individual seemed invested in their character and brought an undeniable energy to the production. Some standout performances can be credited to Lexy Vagasy as Lillith and Mikaela Whitmer as Vera.

The technical aspects of the show were a bit inconsistent as far as the time period, as well as whether or not it was supposed to take a minimalistic approach. The hair, makeup, and costumes of the show complimented one another very nicely and brought the characters to life. However, other technical aspects such as set and lighting, while effective, were very minimal and contrasted with the realistic approach used in these other technical areas. Despite a few inconsistencies, the tech of this production was well executed and allowed the story to develop even further.

A dynamic ensemble, strong leads, and nicely executed technical elements worked together to create Pompano Beach’s production of “She Kills Monsters”.

*** *** ***

Reviews of The Three Musketeers at Somerset Academy on Wednesday, 2/06/2019.


By Eva Daskos of The Sagemont School

How do you protect your honor? Through dangerous duels, perilous adventures, or quests from the queen? However you prove your worth, Somerset Academy proved their honor in their fantastical rendition of “The Three Musketeers.”

The story of “The Three Musketeers” is well known for good reason; this classic story shows that with friendship anything is possible. The chosen version of this play was written by Ken Ludwig and adapted from the historical fiction novel written by Alexander Dumas. Ludwig’s interpretation of “The Three Musketeers” includes a strong female character and contemporary views on life in the 17th century to communicate the beloved story into today’s viewpoint. The story follows how one countryside boy proves his honor in order to be a part of the Musketeers. During his quest, he encounters treachery, true love, and hilarious mishaps.

D’Artagnan spent his days running from his sister on his family’s farm, but now he’s off to the precarious streets of Paris, with his little sister Sabine trailing behind him. Victoria Vitale, playing D’Artagnan, had the difficult task of playing a male role, which she accomplished with high believability as she changed small details to make a male presence. Vitale always brought a sense of pure energy whenever on stage, making up for some of the low energy points in the performance. Although this production had no microphones for the actors, Vitale used diction and projection to make sure every word of D’Artagnan’s story was heard.

D’Artagnan meets the Musketeers by accident and does not make a good first impression. The Musketeers are led by Athos, the most sensible in the group.  Daniel Calderon, playing Athos, took advantage of his comedic character but still displayed his wide acting range as he guided us through his character’s story. D’Artagnan’s eager little sister Sabine, played by Elena Ruiz, delighted the audience with her witty comedic moments. In Sabine’s fight scene with the evil Milady, played by Nina Alonso, both actresses exhibited a skillful stage combat routine that stood out amongst a very action-packed performance.

Somerset Academy only had two days to prepare this theater for their production.  The added difficulty of performing in an unfamiliar space explains some technical errors that this production suffered. Lighting by Maria Sierra & Co. offered suitable lighting to the production. Sound by Nathalie Collado & Co. had difficulty at the beginning of the show with volume, but they quickly noticed and adjusted the volume to a more suitable level. The tech crews of “The Three Musketeers” are to be commended for making the most of their circumstances.

The action-packed story of “The Three Musketeers” teaches audiences that through friendship you too can combine forces to fight evil and fight for your friends. Somerset Academy’s energetic performance of this well-known play is sure to be honored for ages and the teamwork they exhibited brings meaning to the phrase, “All for one, and one for all!”

*** *** ***

Reviews of Les Misérables at David Posnack Jewish Day School on Wednesday, 1/23/2019.


By Vanessa Morris of Deerfield Beach High School

Les Misérables is a harrowing musical about the triumphs of prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean, a humble man who was imprisoned for stealing bread for his family in 19th century France. It takes 19 years of slave labor for him to escape. It follows his rise to heroism during the French revolution. The musical is the 5th longest running Broadway Musical, making it a ubiquitous name in households. Because of this familiarity, it is harder to break from what the ‘industry standard’ calls for without some adversity. Les Misérables also happens to be one of the most difficult scores to sing. DAVID POSNACK JEWISH DAY SCHOOL had the onerous task of conquering such a difficult arrangement.

DAVID POSNACK JEWISH DAY SCHOOL worked very well under high stakes, acting with great enthusiasm and singing with passion. The dedication to singing the impossibly wide range of notes was meticulous and impressive. Actors had to both project and uphold stage presence. One actor that had done this stunningly well was Madame Thenardier, played by Ariel Fischer. She is probably the poster child for the term ‘stage presence’. There was never a dull moment when she was on stage and she amplified the energies of those around her. She was able to act the age of a Madame as well as serve as comic relief. Her vocals were also on point and she served well in alleviating the tension of a scene.

Jean Valjean played by Matan Dalal had carried what seemed like the world on his shoulders, upholding his stage presence and energy throughout a long show run-time, regardless of onstage time. His emotion was commendable and his vocals were unwavering through the whole performance. He was able to project while remaining passionate and rooted in character.

There was a constant battle that is known all too well in high school theatre. High tech Mic connection versus the modern day iPhone. The sound was being cut at left and right but the effort of actors to both project and readjust to the microphone cutting back in was beyond valiant. What lacked in sound tech was made up for in lighting. The way the stage was lit was incredibly beautiful and always enhanced a scene. Specifically the Epilogue. The song was not only beautifully lit, but it had also been sung and choreographed incredibly by the entire cast onstage. It was a strong finish to a strong performance.

Les Misérables is a daunting piece to approach, with its extreme note range, to its difficult parts to play, it would be easy to want to abandon ship. But DAVID POSNACK JEWISH DAY SCHOOL took a chance, took a leap of faith, and fared well under pressure. The production reinstilled why high school theatre should be celebrated

*** *** ***