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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.


Mamma Mia!, Heritage High School, Leesburg, Virginia, May 4, 2019

Sophie Stapleton

Loudoun Valley High School


Gimme, Gimme, Gimme more of Heritage High School's production of Mamma Mia! The students had to "Take A Chance on Living" up to the iconicism of this world-renowned story, but they were right on the "Money, Money, Money." After a show filled to the brim with liveliness, laughter, and ultimately, love, the audience walked away wishing it had never ended.


Mamma Mia! The Musical is based entirely on ABBA songs, composed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, who were both members of the band. After the show debuted in 1999, a film adaptation was released in 2008, wand then a sequel in 2018. Mammia Mia!, the ninth longest-running show in Broadway history, tells the story of Sophie Sheridan and her mother, Donna. Sophie is about to get married to the man of her dreams, Sky, but cannot do so without knowing who her dad is. Unbeknownst to Donna, she invites three possible father figures to her wedding, and trouble ensues.


Carolina Kirkpatrick (Donna Sheridan) utilized her immense vocal and acting talent to express Donna's complicated, emotional character arc with ease and maturity. Her passion, focus, and commitment made the audience fall in love with the character and the show as a whole. Opposite Kirkpatrick was Lyndsay Snider (Sophie Sheridan). As a triple threat, Snider wowed the audience with her wide range of talent. Her spot-on technique and vibrancy commanded attention and deserves many praises.


Playing opposite the leading ladies were Michael Kellogg (Sam Carmichael) and Casey Tallungan (Sky). Though Kellogg started off a bit quiet, he truly started to shine when he began to sing. His clear, smooth vocals seemed to effortlessly fill the auditorium with warmth and meshed well with Kirkpatrick's stellar vocal work. Tallungan's boyish charm and enthusiasm won the hearts of the audience, and his chemistry with Snider brought the classic love story to life.


Though they did not have as much stage time as others, Joey Cianciotti (Pepper) and Alena Magsi (Rosie) created memorable characters. Cianciotti was adorably goofy as he pined after an older woman, and Magsi was awkwardly charming in her own search for love. Both performers left the audience in stitches every time they came onstage.            


Each lead and supporting character made the show spectacular, but what truly sold the performance was the ensemble. Their constant high energy and presence in each moment made for never-ending, joyous fun. Part of what made the ensemble's work so impressive was the incredible choreography, executed by Lyndsay Snider and her team. Perfectly styled for the overall show and each individual song, the stunning choreography and qualified dancers oozed professionalism.


Serving as the foundation for such amazing dance numbers was the pit orchestra. Their spot-on timing and impeccable listening skills allowed for near-perfect syncopation with the performers onstage. An orchestra can make or break a musical, and Heritage's pit certainly made this show.


Though the set was fairly uncomplicated, the run crew, dressed in white and beige to match the wait staff, seamlessly transitioned between each location throughout the show. Another impressive technical element was the lighting. Cyc lights were used to set the tone for each scene: harsh red for anger, light pink for love, cyan blue for the peaceful beach. Spotlights and colored washes were employed tactfully to direct focus to certain moments and ensure that actors were seen at all times.


Outrageously high energy, focused passion, and boatloads of fun made for an unforgettable, show-stopping performance. As ABBA says, "The Winner Takes It All" - let it be known that the cast members of Heritage High School's Mamma Mia! are certainly winners tonight.

Emma Shacochis

Oakton High School


Voulez-vous a musical that celebrates mothers and daughters, old and new romances, and the indelible tunes of ABBA? Then say, "I do, I do, I do," to Heritage High School's vibrant "Mamma Mia!"


"Mamma Mia!," written by Catherine Johnson, features a score of songs by 1970's Swedish pop group ABBA (composed by members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus). The original production premiered on the West End in 1999, before coming to Broadway in 2001. Boasting over 5000 performances, it is the ninth longest-running musical in Broadway history. A worldwide phenomenon, "Mamma Mia!" inspired a hit film franchise and continues to tour and be produced internationally.


On the idyllic Greek island of Kalokairi, Sophie Sheridan lives with her mother Donna and is preparing to get married. Determined to meet her father before the wedding, Sophie sends out three invitations to her mother's ex-boyfriends: Sam, Bill, and Harry. As Sophie scrambles to determine which man is her real father, Donna finds herself hesitantly falling for Sam once again. As the wedding grows closer, one question remains - will walk Sophie down the aisle?


Carolina Kirkpatrick brought humor and maturity to her performance as Donna. Kirkpatrick's powerful belt prompted numerous ovations from the audience, both in her shocked discovery of her ex-lovers ("Mamma Mia") and her anguished fight with Sam ("Winner Takes It All"). Kirkpatrick's reflective rendition of "Slipping Through My Fingers" on Sophie's wedding day was nostalgic and heart-wrenching.


Kirkpatrick got to let loose when Donna reunited with members of her old girl group, Donna and the Dynamos. Along with Tanya (Jordan Hebert) and Rosie (Alena Magsi), the trio's naturalistic chemistry elevated their lively numbers, "Dancing Queen" and "Super Trouper." Additionally, as Rosie, Magsi's physical comedy shone in her desperately flirtatious "Take a Chance on Me."


As bride-to-be Sophie, Lyndsay Snider exhibited a stunning voice from her first note in "I Have A Dream." Snider blended both sides of Sophie's youthful giddiness, from her elated gossiping in "Honey, Honey" to her conflict over her father's identity in "Name of the Game." Snider earns the title of "Dancing Queen" thanks to her prominent skill - "Lay All Your Love on Me" incorporates the sensational ability of Snider and Casey Tallungan as her fiancé Sky.


The trio of Sophie's possible fathers all displayed distinct and distinguishable personalities: divorced architect Sam (Michael Kellogg), Australian traveler Bill (Jarrod Bock), and the spontaneous Harry "Head Banger" Bright (Paolo Mancini). Kellogg's strong voice and chemistry with Kirkpatrick's Donna shone in "S.O.S.," as they wistfully recalled their youth together.


As a literal "Greek chorus," Heritage's ensemble showcased mellifluous harmonies in numbers including "Voulez Vous" and "Under Attack." A particularly impressive feat was the cast-wide dedication to the complex choreography (Lyndsay Snider, et al.). From the incorporation of hand towels and swimming fins to the disco-inspired moves in "Megamix" that the cast performed while clad in coruscating jumpsuits, every number featured style and syncopation.


The show's technical aspects brought the beauty of Greece to life. The bright lighting (Makenna Buhler, et al.) that differentiated between day and night on the island contrasted well with the whitewashed walls of Donna's taverna. The stage crew (Aparna Gupta, et al.) swept on and offstage to efficiently carry out scene transitions; these blackouts were cheerfully scored by the Mamma Mia! Pit Orchestra, who played each of ABBA's pop hits with unstoppable enthusiasm.


The emotion and talent of Heritage's cast of super troupers will make sure you dance, jive, and have the time of your life at "Mamma Mia!" - and my my, how can you resist that?


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