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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.


Chicago (High School Edition), Chantilly High School, Chantilly, Virginia, October 26, 2018

Elizabeth DeProspo

Stone Bridge High School


In the dazzling, competitive world of Chicago's murderesses, innocence can easily be manufactured with a sharp-tongued lawyer, a sob story that outshines the rest, and a whole lot of "Razzle Dazzle." Complete with dastardly divas, killer vocals, and husbands that couldn't seem to catch a break, Chantilly High School brought the 1920s to life onstage with an unforgettable performance of Chicago.


Chicago, adapted by Fred Ebb and master choreographer Bob Fosse from a 1926 play of the same name, acted as a commentary on the Chicago media's infatuation with female killers in the 1920s. The musical centers around Roxie, a young woman who is distraught at the possibility of being hanged after murdering her lover. After arriving at Cook County jail, Roxie begins a bitter feud with fellow jailbird Velma, and the two find themselves competing for the attention of the media and their lawyer, the money-hungry Billy Flynn. Roxie quickly realizes that her reason for firing the gun matters far less than her ability to put on a captivating show in the greatest theater of all - the courtroom.


As the curtain rose and welcomed the audience into the 1920s jail, murderess Velma (Elise McCue) instantly seized the room with her dynamic rendition of "All that Jazz," complete with twirling flapper dresses and flashing multicolored lights. Throughout the show, Velma maintained a mocking and dark demeanor, while Roxie's (Lauren Spiers) starstruck and shy personality melted under the heat of the spotlight to reveal her inner thirst for fame. Roxie's husband Amos (Suryanshu Kommoju), the only honest and well-intentioned character in the musical, expertly worked raw sadness into his emotional standout number "Mr. Cellophane." Meanwhile, lawyer Billy (Alex Yee) played the stark opposite of honest Amos by suppressing any ethical concerns and smoothly playing Roxie's conniving puppeteer in "We Both Reached for the Gun."


In addition to the strong characterization and vocal skills of the main characters, the members of the ensemble mastered the ability to respond to events with genuine and convincing reactions, especially when Roxie was on trial and the court appeared completely enthralled as she acted out her new and heavily modified version of the murder she committed. With the help of victim Fred's (Jun Ito) slapstick comedy, Roxie clearly had the jury, which was comprised of sympathetic men and popcorn munching women, wrapped around her finger.


Although Chicago is filled with fast paced scenes, the precise management of the characters' microphones ensured that not a single line was missed. The colorful lighting and cleanly designed multi-level stage contributed to an impressive level of professionalism in songs such as "Cell Block Tango," in which silhouettes danced in front of glaring red lights on the second level of the stage as a spotlight illuminated each murderess as she reenacted her crime.


Each actor had a masterful grip on his or her own style of manipulation, as well as clear character motivations in mind. From the very first gunshot to the very last note, Chantilly High School utilized every element of the stage to craft a lively, well-rehearsed, and thoroughly enjoyable production of Chicago.

Shira Fink

Clarksburg High School


"Chicago (High School Edition)" at Chantilly High School was full of razzle, dazzle, AND all that jazz! With music written by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, Chicago is the second longest-running show on Broadway and has won an outstanding six tony awards. Following Roxie Hart's murder of Fred Casely as she goes from timid fangirl to rising celebrity, the 1975 satire criticizes the corruption of the US legal and justice system.


The show opens with triple-threat, Velma Kelly (Elise McCue). Her on-point vocals were strategically aligned with that of Velma and her acting never strayed from her seductive, villainous character. Roxie Hart (Lauren Spiers) shined during her spotlight debut, "Funny Honey" and conveyed superb acting in "We Both Reached for the Gun" as she depicted a puppet being controlled by her money-hungry lawyer, Billy Flynn, the ventriloquist. Her character arc was well rooted in her glitzy portrayal. Billy Flynn (Alex Yee) had a commanding presence and delivered solid and consistent vocals throughout. Andy...I mean Amos (Suryanshu Kommoju) won the audience's heart and had the audience aww-ing every time he stepped on stage. His song, "Mr. Cellophane" is the only truly sincere, heartfelt song in the show and he carried it out with flying colors. Fred Casely (Jun Ito), though only a featured character, established his scene, a slapstick showstopper, with his comedic timing and hilarious physicality.


If the audience's eyes were to wander into the background, they wouldn't be able to find a single ensemble member who was not fully involved. Their energy was infectious and much appreciated. From eating popcorn in the courtroom to aesthetically pleasing tableaus, each little touch had a booming impact. Notably, the "Cell Block Tango" sextet killed their iconic number delivering a strong resemblance to that of the original Broadway production, offering a much-appreciated homage. The dancing was impressively choreographed by students who did a spectacular job incorporating accurate Fosse techniques. Additionally, being that it was a high school edition, the cast marvelously embraced it and playfully emphasized their language for comedic effect.


With a flashy, over-the-top show like Chicago, the lightning had to be amazing and the crew certainly lived up to expectations. The cyclorama was lit with the perfect colors to reflect the mood of the scene and created gorgeous silhouettes and shadows. The spotlight intentionally forgetting about Amos, the circling lights during Flynn's entrance, and the use of staircase lighting were all well executed. Sound was practically perfect. There was not one song cue missed, forgotten mic, or feedback issue which is a truly enormous feat for a high school production. The intelligently designed set, the countless blingy costumes and the genius prop construction cannot go unmentioned. Also, having the cast move set pieces in a dance fashion was brilliant.


The show's energy at times would build to great heights, but then fall a bit flat, leaving the audience wanting more. Despite this, the show was nothing short of outstanding. Chicago at Chantilly High School left us all saying "If you'd have been there, If you'd have seen it" you would have loved it too!


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