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The Cappies is a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders. Student critics vie to be published in local media outlets by attending productions at other schools and writing critical reviews.

THROUGH THE CAPPIES

Theatre and journalism students are trained as critics and attend each others shows. Cappies students discuss and learn about theatre production. Throughout the year, newspapers publish the reviews with the students' bylines. At the end of the year, Cappies student critics decide who among their peer performers and technicians should be recognized for awards at the end of the season with glamour and excitement.

HOW IT ALL WORKS

Each participating school selects a show to be attended, and also forms a team of 3 to 9 student critics and 2 adult volunteers in the fall. Shows may have between 20 and 90 critics in attendance. Critic teams and mentors gather in a private discussion room to perform pre, mid, and post show discussions. The technical and performance aspects of the show are discussed with provided documentation from the host school.

After each show, with adult oversight, the mentors and program director select the best written reviews to be sent to local press outlets. All the reviews are also sent back to the performing school.

At the end of the season, a Tonys-like celebration occurs, where all nominated shows perform a cutting or the critics' choice song, and the final Cappies awards are presented with a trophy by regional critics and peers.

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21Nov

Monty Python's Spamalot - George Mason High School - Falls Church, Virginia - November 17, 2017

Emma Shacochis

Oakton High School

 

Prepare your coconut shells and hop on your horse – it's off to the very silly kingdom of Camelot! George Mason High School's production of "Spamalot!" is a medieval madcap musical comedy, full of squabbles about swallows, ladies who linger in lakes, and nervous novice knights.

 

Based on the film, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", created by British comedy group Monty Python, "Spamalot!" similarly parodies the Arthurian legend. After debuting on Broadway in 2005, the musical achieved financial success and critical acclaim, winning three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

 

The show revolves around King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, a semi-competent collection of cavaliers, who are sent by God himself on a quest to find the Holy Grail. They'll have to dodge some flying cows, battle the Black Knight, and possibly put on a Broadway musical – but it's all in a day's work for these brave-ish knights.

 

The leader of the Knights is King Arthur (Miles Jackson), ruler of Britain and wielder of the sword Excalibur. Jackson brings Arthur to life with a brilliant straight-man delivery, and boasts an exceptional voice that soars in the ironic duet, "I'm All Alone".

 

Arthur is, however, never without Patsy (Will Langan), his servant and traveling companion. Langan, whether in the foreground or background of a scene, displays a hilarious variety of animated facial expressions, and is never without his coconut shells that act as Arthur's "horse". Jackson and Langan have a brotherly, amusing partnership, that shines in the upbeat number, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".

 

The Knights themselves are a farcical faction, each well-versed in physical comedy that endears their bumbling bravado. The "homicidally brave" Sir Lancelot (Michael Curtin) rules the stage in the high-energy "His Name is Lancelot", a disco number that offers plenty of hilariously energetic choreography from Curtin. Morgan O'Keefe's Sir Robin, the "not-quite-so-brave", dazzles with a strong voice, exaggerated piano playing, and a perfectly-parodied bottle dance in, "You Won't Succeed on Broadway". These cavaliers may be cowardly, but their charm is undeniable.

 

Additional standouts among the cast include Sasha Ronning's Prince Herbert, bearing a wildly amusing falsetto and breaking into song whenever he gets the chance; and scene-stealer Ciara Curtin as the French Taunter, who hurls ridiculous insults at the Knights while owning a gleefully over-the-top French accent.

 

The show was elevated by the effective use of ebullient ensembles –  a chorus of corpses, Finnish fish flingers, and the Lady of the Lake's perky pep posse. The entire company never lost spirit – their energy and dedication shone when the search for the Holy Grail spilled into the audience, with each member vigorously checking under the seats.

 

The production design features a stationary set (Shealyn Gillaspy, et al.) of twin turrets and an archway. Each piece is crafted with plenty of nooks and crannies for the cast to dwell in, while effective blocking lets each piece be reused for a different kingdom or forest.

 

The props (Josh Reitinger, Victoria Bysfield) include the typical musical theatre fare – sets of coconut shells, spare limbs that the unfazed Black Knight loses, and a supply of stuffed animal ammunition. Each is well-designed for the wonderful wit that ensues.

 

The Spamalot Orchestra shines – each number, whether the stylings are of a dramatic solo or a bubbly cheerleader chant, are executed with excellent enthusiasm.

 

If your quest is for an absurd yet astounding performance, look no further than George Mason High School's "Spamalot!" – the Holy Grail of musical adventures.


Anna Krelovich

Westfield High School

 

The trotting of a horse echoes as the audience sits in giddy anticipation for an augustly regal king to enter on his trusted steed; however, they are instead greeted by a lone man skipping on stage, trailed by his exhausted servant, clapping two halves of a coconut together in George Mason High School's production of the derisive parody of the legends of King Arthur, Monty Python's Spamalot.

 

Based on the cult-classic movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Spamalot features a book by Eric Idle and a score by Idle as well as John Du Prez. Opening at the Shubert Theatre in March of 2005, Monty Python's Spamalot earned a whopping 14 Tony nominations, winning three, including Best Musical. Monty Python's Spamalot played for 1,575 performances before closing in 2009; it has since gone on to have three national tours, as well as performances on London's West End and across the world.

 

Monty Python's Spamalot follows the infamous King Arthur and his menial Patsy on their journey to find knights to join his round table and their quest to find the Holy Grail. Along their path, the king and his consortium encounter hilarious roadblocks like the determined Black Knight, the demanding Knights who say Ni, and a menacing killer rabbit.

 

Playing the legendary King Arthur was Miles Jackson, who, with impeccable comedic timing and a regal baritone, left the audience roaring with laughter. Jackson was hilariously oblivious in the heartfelt ballad "I'm All Alone." Will Langan played Arthur's trusted servant Patsy, who perfectly pined for approval with bold physicalizing and hilarious facial expressions. The mystical Lady of the Lake was portrayed by the sassy Dede Colbert, who showcased impressive vocal range in her feisty elegy, "The Diva's Lament." As Sir Lancelot, Michael Curtin was fearlessly brash, but ultimately revealed a more flamboyantly loving side, as well as comical dance moves, in the sidesplitting "His Name is Lancelot."

 

Every story has a damsel in distress, and Spamalot's was none other than Prince Herbert, portrayed by Sasha Ronning. Ronning was idealistically longing for love while showcasing an amusing falsetto in "Where Are You?" Other standouts include Ciara Curtin as The French Taunter, who, with an uproarious French accent, perfectly mocked King Arthur and his knights. The show's ensemble was jocularly energetic, displaying astounding commitment in hilarious songs like the "Fisch Slapping Dance" and "I Am Not Dead Yet."

 

The cast donned handmade medieval garb that effortlessly set the era of the show, with few exceptions including the brightly peppy uniforms of King Arthur's personal cheerleaders, and The Lady of the Lake's cascading blue gown. The stage was simply set, with two impressive turrets on either side of the stage and a grand staircase cascading down center stage, and flawlessly colorful lighting exquisitely set the mood throughout the show.

 

The audience is whistling the tune to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" as they leave the show, and with dazzling comic actors and knee-slapping, classic jokes, George Mason High School's production of Monty Python's Spamalot certainly reminds them that the bright side is closer than they may think.

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