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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.


Little Shop of Horrors, Bishop O’Connell High School, Arlington, Virginia, April 6, 2019

Helen Ganley

McLean High School


When dark red spots spatter the linoleum floor, one can only hope that it's Hawaiian Fruit Punch and not… something else. However, when those spots are surrounding a carnivorous plant, it becomes apparent that something strange and interesting is occurring. Depicting the unusual events at a Skid Row florist, Bishop O'Connell High School's production of "Little Shop of Horrors" was as hysterical as life on nitrous oxide.


Originally a 1960s horror film, "Little Shop of Horrors" was converted into a musical in 1982 by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.  Since then, the show has been revived multiple times on stage and on television. "Little Shop" follows Seymour, a plant enthusiast who works at the failing Mushnik Flower Shop who, one day, finds a rare and interesting plant. Upon discovering the plant's blood-and-human-only diet, Simon must decide if fame, fortune, and love are worth the moral prices that he has to pay along the way.


Torn between the plant and the woman he loves, Ethan O'Donovan was delightfully vulnerable and well intentioned as Seymour. O'Donovan demonstrated Seymour's corruption by Audrey II, his man-eating plant, and clearly communicated his adoration of Audrey, his crush/plant namesake, through his facial expression and body language, distinguishing himself from the Skid Row lowlife as a genuinely good guy. A stranger to the nice guy, Kyleigh Friel was strong and sincere as Audrey. Friel's anxious body language channeled the abuse Audrey had suffered, while her longing for love in "Somewhere that's Green" was communicated through her crisp and clear voice. Together, the duo had intimate moments on doorsteps and in the shop, their connection emitting care and affection in "Suddenly, Seymour."


Strutting across the stage with a tunnel-vision focus on being fed, Audrey Somerville was powerful and manipulative as Seymour's plant, Audrey II. Somerville's brassy and commanding voice in "Feed Me" was equally intimidating and impressive. Although eventually ending up in Audrey II's mouth, Paul Ward spent most of his time in his patients' as Orin, the dentist. Thrusting and giggling his way through the show, Ward's brazen sadism and exaggerated movements drew laughter, but also drew sympathy for Audrey, his victim. Narrating the entirety of the show were Gwendolyn Zorc, Zoe Forino, and Olivia Oudkirk as the Doo-wop girls, their tight harmonies and clear voices laying the foundation for the entire show.


Paving the roads of Skid Row were the adept technical crews. The compact and multi-planed set was full of detail, from lighted signs to missing posters. Costumes defined each character: Seymour's nerdy sweater vest, Orin's bad-boy leather jacket, and the Doo-wop Girls' progressively higher quality dresses. Colored lighting reflected each scene's emotions, the green light indicating Audrey II's corrupting appearances and red light signifying deaths. The impressive orchestra backed the entire production, steadily and consistently driving the show forwards.


The average home gardener dreams of discovering a new species of plant: a flower, vegetable, fruit, or other foliage. That new species being bloodthirsty, however, isn't usually the first thing on the gardener's mind. Bishop O'Connell High School's production of "Little Shop of Horrors" had everyone glancing over at their gardens to make sure that they won't become plant food by the next morning.


Elizabeth Germain

West Springfield High School


A near-bankrupt florist shop seems an unlikely setting for a horror story, but Little Shop of Horrors, performed recently at Bishop O'Connell High School, demonstrates that horror can spring up in the most unlikely places. This horror comedy rock musical with music by Alan Menken and lyrics and book by Howard Ashman premiered Off-Off-Broadway in 1982 and is based on a 1960 film by the same name. The show tells the tale of a meek young florist named Seymour who discovers a strange new plant that he calls Audrey II in honor of the coworker he pines after. Audrey II seems at first to be a blessing, drawing new customers to the shop, but her unique appetite presents a challenge for Seymour. She wants blood—-fresh blood—-and she promises to bring Seymour fame and fortune if he provides it.


Ethan O'Donovan portrayed Seymour with an adorable awkward air that captured the audience's love from the moment he tripped onto the stage. He displayed vulnerability and a believable inner struggle as he slowly succumbed to the plant's talk of wealth and success. His beautiful vocals shone especially in "Suddenly Seymour." As Audrey, Kyleigh Friel gave a traditionally ditzy blonde character emotional depth, particularly with her lovely vocals in "Somewhere That's Green."


Audrey Somerville expertly embodied the Plant, displaying vocal control and power rarely witnessed on a high school stage. "Feed Me" was a show-stopper thanks to Somerville's stunning vocals, sassy attitude, and dramatic physicality. Another stand-out performance was Paul Ward as Audrey's abusive boyfriend Orin. Clad fully in leather, he strutted across the stage in "Dentist!" hilariously imbuing the number with an Elvis-like presence as he praised the profession that allowed him to indulge his sadistic tendencies. Colman Rowan's portrayal of Mushnik, the grouchy old store owner who raised Seymour, was genuine and amusing. Also of note were the three Doo-wop girls (Gwendolyn Zorc, Zoe Forino, and Olivia Oudkirk) who offered commentary on the events of the show with lovely choral voices, clean harmonies, and a touch of attitude.


The costumes by Minerva Martinez, Amethyst Gutierrez, and Campbell Hodges illustrated the characters' improving prospects. The Doo-wop girls went from wearing cute floral dresses with white neck scarves, to black dresses with red ribbons, to red gowns with white gloves as the Plant raked in more and more money for the shop. The Plant's green and red tulle skirt over a green bodysuit and green tights helped bring the character to life, as did her green hair and vibrant makeup. The props by Natalie Archer and Paul Ward were excellent, particularly the rusty dentist's drill, the dentist's gas mask, the portrait of Mushnik, and, of course, the Plant. As the puppeteer for the Plant, Aidan O'Donovan excellently timed the Plant's movements with Somerville's vocals. Also of note is Sarah Connors, who excelled in the role of student-director.


A star-powered cast, an innovative student director, and a dedicated technical team made Little Shop of Horrors at Bishop O'Connell a roaring success. From its ominous opening report of a terrifying enemy emerging "in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places" to its closing admonition, "don't feed the plants," Little Shop of Horrors offers both a hilarious and genuinely frightening message about the destructive nature of greed.


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