Mary Kate Ganley
McLean High School
With all the glamor of Cabaret, the energy of Oklahoma! and the sheer fun of Pirates of Penzance, A 16 Bar Cut: The History of American Musical Theatre is a fun yet informative spoof on all the things that made musical theatre the spectacle it is today. This witty show may not be well known, but Northwood High School's stellar performance is sure to put it on the map.
Originally a thesis project by Patrick John Moran, A 16 Bar Cut: The History of American Musical Theatre centers around the story of musical theatre--highlighting the Romans ominous chants, classical pop-musicals like Mamma Mia, and everything in between. The production draws from several classic shows that have worked their way into the American culture, such as Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan, Cabaret by Joe Masteroff, and The Music Man by Meredith Willson. Throwing witty reference to pioneers of the American musical, including Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Bob Fosse, A 16 Bar Cut: The History of American Musical Theatre is good fun for anyone who's seen a show or two before.
Supporting the story with magnificent vocals and superb acting skills, each member of the stellar cast, Lauren Black, Asha Burtin, Elaina Giaudrone, Raymond Ingram, Charlie Kretkowski, Mirsa Oporta Hernandez, Sophia Palacios, Joseph Scott and Sophia Willis held their own magnificently, meshing their acting together cleanly and interacting in a very natural way. For a show as technically difficult as this, these nine each blended seamlessly into their separate scenes as duos. Starting off the show with sonorous vocals, Burtin and Giaudrone's chemistry and humor successfully set the precedent for the rest of the production. Their free-flowing banter and ability to play off each other helped to lift the mood of the production from educational to downright entertaining. This same ability is demonstrated by Ingram and Scott as they bounce back and forth on the rise of tenors in the 90's, and by Hernandez and Kretkowski in their hilarious rendition of a heavily abridged version of the classical show, Oklahoma!
With each character committed to their roles, it becomes increasingly difficult to focus on just one. Coming on stage in pairs, one duo that shone bright was that of the combined killer vocals of Giaudrone and Willis and their outstanding ability to commit to any role. Their skills were highlighted best in The Operetta Opus. Belting the edited lyrics of the Major-General's Song from Pirates of Penzance, the duo executed outstanding breath control throughout their song, and their ability to blend seamlessly into any scene defined the duo's energetic and dynamic performance.
Backing the story with a minimal set, the stage crews laid the foundation for the well-executed show. With consistent and clear sound, the sheer star power brought by those onstage was able to shine through. With a minimal set, the utilization of lighting was important and beautiful. Whether displaying the colors of the French flag on the cyclorama when discussing Les Misérables, using direct spotlighting to draw one's attention to certain aspects of the stage in the classic Broadway fashion, or simply just dimming the lights as the decades overlapped, the lighting surely brought a fun and interesting aspect to the slightly non-sequential show.
From the development of past American classics to modern day hits, and an introspective look towards the future, Northwood High School's performance of A 16 Bar Cut: The History of American Musical Theatre showed that even the simplest past developments can have the most profound impacts on the present.
Poolesville High School
A 16 Bar Cut: The History of American Musical Theatre is an extremely creative way to do a thesis. Northwood High School's production of the show is classified as a play, but the performance involved plenty of singing and dancing. Written by Patrick John Moran and Rockford Samson, the show takes viewers through the development of theatre from the time of ancient Greek tragedies to the myriad of revivals of the twenty-first century. Mixed in are several original songs and many renditions of classics from well-known shows.
This show is difficult to produce, given the minimal amount of storyline and characters and the great variety in musical styles. Nevertheless, the cast (Lauren Black, Asha Burtin, Elaina Giaudrone, Raymond Ingram, Charlie Kretkowski, Mirsa Oporta Hernandez, Sophia Palacios, Joseph Scott, and Sophia Willis) gave a solid effort that got the audience laughing. Each of the nine cast members played narrators with their own first names, and they often split into pairings for specific sections. Willis was a standout performer, who hit every note perfectly and showed great dynamism while onstage. Her scenes were very engaging and enjoyable. Additionally, Black, who opened the show, was very amusing and fun to watch. The entire cast's voices blended nicely together, and each actor enunciated clearly, every word crisp and audible. The performers delivered a great deal of information-heavy material without stumbling, mastering their lines well.
The show came alive during the Oklahoma! segment, as the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was swiftly run through. Hernandez and Kretkowski had good comedic timing and comically played multiple roles with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. The whirlwind sequence was engaging, keeping the audience engrossed.
While movements around the stage were often done without motivation or intention behind them, the set was interesting and well-used by the actors, who moved adroitly around the Playbill-themed stepping blocks. The technical aspects of the show were all superb, particularly the sound and the lighting, with a projector put to good use in the song "Aquarius." The script contained some awkward jokes and segments, but overall the cast handled them well and dedicated themselves to their various personas.
The show was a tough one, but the Northwood High School cast did justice to the script and at times conveyed real passion for musical theatre. In simple black costumes (for the most part) and with a minimalistic but thematically apt set, the nine actors put on a fine show that kept the audience entertained throughout.