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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.


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.


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.


Into the Woods, West Springfield High School, Springfield, Virginia, May 5, 2018

Jennifer Stoughton

Poolesville High School


Though the story starts with the words "once upon a time" and a few simple wishes, West Springfield High School's production of Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" is anything but your typical fairy tale. With stunning costumes, a wonderful set, beautiful harmonies, and captivating storytelling, West Springfield's students drew the audience into the woods, then out of the woods, and home before dark.


As many in the musical theater community are aware, Sondheim is renowned for his difficult music and complex characters, such that even professional actors and musicians struggle with it. West Springfield's Into the Woods Orchestra more than handled the tricky score; they navigated it with an ease and confidence that is even more impressive for the fact that it came from a student orchestra. Stand-out vocalists in the cast also include the Baker (Stephen Perkins) and the Baker's Wife (Eila Nash), who navigated the difficult music impressively.


Though the story of "Into the Woods" takes a sharp turn for the tragic in the second act, West Springfield was able to bring a consistent sense of humor that brought light to even the darkest times. The cow Milky White, though usually simply a prop, was played with great comedic timing by Madeline Howard. Brandon LaBarge brought a perfect balance of childishness and gravity to the role of Jack, and the two Princes (Brooks Todd as Rapunzel's Prince and Brenden Blackwell as Cinderella's Prince) never failed to get a laugh from the audience.


The technical aspects of the show also shined throughout. An ingenious set design that made story books the landscape of the play was cleverly modified into according sets, bringing the characters out of their respective stories and onto the stage. And from the earth-shaking steps of a giant to the light twittering of birds, the sound design was remarkably well-implemented.


Though not every character gets to live happily ever after in this story, every actor, tech, and member of the West Springfield High School Theatre and Chorus Departments got to live out a musical theater fairy tale: an amazing show. Impressive range and technical capability was exhibited throughout the production, and it was a pleasure to watch.

Julia Tucker

Westfield High School


Classic fairytale stories collide in a world where a simple wish can transform into a full-scale catastrophe. From wolves devouring people whole to angered giants stomping down houses, the beloved characters learn "the woods can be a dangerous place".  Last weekend, West Springfield High School challenged the classic fairytale ending in their marvelous production of Into the Woods.


Into the Woods is a musical featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine. The musical originally debuted in 1986 in San Diego before being moved to Broadway in 1987, winning multiple Tony Awards. Since then it has gone on multiple tours and revivals and was adapted into a Disney film in 2014.


Into the Woods follows the plots of multiple Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, intertwining their stories by adding a baker and his wife who have had a curse placed upon them that prevents them from having a child. They are given instructions from a witch to retrieve four items from the woods, and if they get them to her in three days' time, she will lift the curse. Eager to gather the items, the baker and his wife go to the woods, not knowing how the impact of their seemingly innocent actions affect the world around them.


Stephen Perkins as Baker amazed not only with his acting but with his wonderful voice. He flaunted strong vocals for the entire show, evident in the songs "It Takes Two," and "No One is Alone". The Baker's wife, played by Eila Nash, also had outstanding vocals. She hit every note with ease and used facial expressions with her singing to add depth to her character. She and the Baker had outstanding chemistry that made the end of the show even more painful.


Lovably adorable Jack was played by Brandon LaBarge. LaBarge perfected the airheaded young boy character, making the audience cackle with laughter when he would make a silly comment. His remarkable voice shined in the songs "I Guess This is Goodbye," and "Giants in the Sky". His friendship with Milky White the cow, played by Madeline Howard, was endlessly cute and endearing. The catalyst for the story, the Witch, was played by Jane Schwartz. Schwartz had such a clear difference between being old and young that it would have been evident even if she hadn't changed costumes. Like the rest of the cast, she displayed strong vocals, shown in the songs "Witch's Lament," and "Last Midnight".


West Springfield High School's theatre department has remarkable talent not only on stage but behind the scenes as well. The set was made of fairy tale books when, turned to the side, revealed the set for a certain story. This design choice created the whimsical mood that added to the fairytale plot. To fully make the fictional world come alive, the crew members were wearing costumes (Sonya Leon as Peter Pan and Colin Jones as Pinocchio). The story had no breaks in it because no blackouts were required, which was exciting and interesting to see.


Among the wreckage of all they have ever known, the people of "Once Upon a Time" find a glimmer of hope for a fresh start. West Springfield's production of Into the Woods reminds people that even in the worst of times, "No One Is Alone".


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