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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.


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Willy Wonda - Riverside High School - Leesburg, Virginia - May 6, 2017

Claire Poirier

Loudoun Valley High School


The sweet taste of chocolate melting on your tongue. The excitement that follows when something magical unfolds right before your eyes. Nothing fulfills the fantasies of a young child like a factory with filled to the brim with nothing but an endless supply of scrumptious sweets. Delve into your pure imagination in the whimsical ride that is Willy Wonka.


Willy Wonka is the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's famous children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The story follows young, boisterous, and sadly impoverished Charlie Bucket when he wins a once in a lifetime opportunity to tour the famous chocolate factory of the mysterious and kooky Willy Wonka. As Charlie and his other caricatured winners, brat Veruca Salt, television obsessed Skye Teavee, food fanatic Augustus Gloop, and gum snapping Violet Beauregard, delve into the wonders and dangers of the factory, until only one lucky child is left.


The harmonies of the cast melded together like the sweet notes inside of the perfect bar of chocolate. The characters of the ensemble kept their energy consisted through the high stakes show, and created a spectacle for the audience to marvel at throughout the piece. Their love for the show was spread throughout strong musical numbers like "Candyman" and "I Got a Golden Ticket."


Leading the cast through the twists and turns and into the shadows was the quirky concoction known as Willy Wonka (Noah Hamadé). Hamadé mastered Wonka's token crazy eyes, and brought a skilled juxtaposition of playfulness and insanity to the character than made him the center of attention whenever he was on stage. His voice captivated the audience in numbers like Pure Imagination, and brought hints of darkness into the show during There's No Knowing. His young protégé Charlie Bucket (Jackson Anderson) brought bursts of energy to the stage and convincingly emulated the joy and wonder that is seen in younger children like his character. Attached to Charlie's hip was good old Grandpa Joe (Evan Gardner), who impressively maintained the old-man character voice through the show's entirety, and was the perfect companion and best friend for Charlie throughout his whimsical journey.


Wonka's band of ticket winners shone as brightly as the golden tickets themselves. Augustus Gloop (Jack Gutierrez) brought hilarity to his character whenever he waddled into a scene, and his commitment to character with his physical comedy brought him to life. Veruca Salt (Megan Hoehn) belted a strong tune, and Violet Beauregard's (Julie Pesak) southern belle with anger issues brought sass and energy to the stage. Skye Teavee (Sophia Grado) was the epitome of a teenage technology addiction, with strong vocals to back her up. Together, the band of fantastically flawed children played their characters with the fervor and commitment that they deserved.


No show would be complete without notable technical elements that brought the show to light, particularly with the orchestra. The orchestra was a dynamic balance with the voices of the actors, and the melding of the instruments enhanced the songs and enveloped the audience in the sweet musical tones.


Nothing can compare to the wonder and creativity one can experience when looking at things as if through the eyes of a young child. The unusual and imaginative world of Willy Wonka left everyone who saw the show with a satisfied feeling, the kind of feeling you might have after eating the perfect piece of chocolate.


Aubrey Winger

Loudoun Valley High School


Riverside High School's recent production of Willy Wonka was even sweeter than a bar of Whipple Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delight. Overflowing with delectable acting, tantalizing vocals, and scrumptious tech, this show was certainly one of "pure imagination."


Willy Wonka first introduced the world to his chocolate factory in 1964 through Roald Dahl's classic novel. This story gathered more acclaim with the release of the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, starring the legendary Gene Wilder. In 2004, a reinvention of this scrumdidilyumptious storyline premiered as a musical. Employing the use of several classic songs from the film and plot elements from the book, Willy Wonka follows the story of an impoverished young boy named Charlie Bucket who, when discovering a golden ticket in a bar of chocolate, goes on a journey through a magical factory beyond his wildest dreams.


Noah Hamadé exceeded every expectation as the titular character of Wonka. From the moment he stepped on stage, peering out from underneath his trademark top hat, he enraptured the audience with his mischievous glances. His vocals were as smooth as a chocolate river in the song 'Pure Imagination'. As the children met their untimely ends, his dark and twisted personality shone through, giving his character dimension and hinting at the somber undertones of the piece.


Jackson Anderson was a bundle of infectious enthusiasm as Charlie Bucket. His adoration of confections and his constant positivity brought light to the poverty-stricken Bucket family. His relationship with his father Mr. Bucket (Jack Darnell) was accentuated by their impressive footwork and clear affection for one another in the song 'Think Positive'. The elderly Grandpa Joe (Evan Gardner) contrasted his delightfully gruff character voice with a youthful love of bubblies and burping.


Veruca Salt (Megan Hoehn) and Violet Beauregarde (Julie Pesak) were both boisterous and bratty, providing excellent contrast to the altruistic Charlie. Likewise, Skye Teavee's (Sophia Grado) harrowed face, flippant attitude, and technology obsession transformed her into a parent's nightmare, making it even more satisfying when she became miniaturized.


The incessant flirting of Ms. Teavee (Catie Randolph) with Willy Wonka established her priorities as a mother, providing a clear explanation as to why her child was so horrid. In fact, the parent child relationships among all the ticket-winners were incredibly clear and distinct, communicating the distinctly Dahl-esque message that parents should be held responsible for the personalities of their children.


Augustus Gloop (Jack Gutierrez) relished in his comic obesity as he waddled around the stage with a ridiculous smile on his face. His fabulous German accent was highlighted with every enthusiastic "ya" and ecstatic hand wave. His mother Mrs. Gloop, played by Jillian Donahue, complemented her son with her voluptuous figure and nurturing personality. Her melodic voice shone in the song "I Eat More," serenading Augustus as he gobbled down meal after meal.


The Oompa Loompa ensemble was decked out perfectly by the costume team in matching suspenders, shorts, and light up shoes. They performed every dance with precision, adding an element of malign creepiness to their refrains. On the other hand, the town ensemble brought happiness and harmonies to all their numbers in Act 1.


The props used, especially the puppet used to represent a shrunken Skye, matched the absurdity of the factory perfectly. The colorful frames in the factory set contained immense symbolism, dimming when each character gave into temptation.


Overflowing with scrumptious fantasy, Riverside's Willy Wonka is a golden ticket to a night of nonsensical fun for all ages.


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