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Best written reviews for “Vocal Work” performed by McLean High School in McLean, Virginia. Reviewed on May 8, 2021.

Hayden Polsky

Quince Orchard High School


Well, it seems like the world is finally opening back up. And with it, the theatre industry. Broadway has announced a reopening date, and, across the country, the arts are making a comeback. But what about school theatre? When can that come back? According to McLean High School, the answer is now. McLean recently put up a spectacular production of "Vocal Work," a short play written by Ed Monk. This production was produced in person (masked and socially distanced, of course). However, this entirely student-produced show worked around the remaining barriers that the coronavirus presents, and masterfully put on a thoroughly entertaining full-scale production


"Vocal Work" followed Annie (Chloe Lahr), a manager of a local recording studio, working on one of the most stressful days of the year. The play showed her as she dealt with incompetent employees, incorrect schedules, and bad actors. But through all of her frustration, the audience saw the journey she took from hating her job to realizing how lucky she was, and how much she loved the art she produced.


Not enough praise can be said about the cast of this show. Each actor presented well-rounded characters, characters they each have obviously worked hard on understanding. Lahr, the standout of the show, flaunted her expert acting skills in her natural portrayal of the frustration of her character. Another extraordinary performance was given by Lyssa Bass, as the timid new voice actor, Alex. Bass tackled the huge challenge of making it look like you are really bad, which required a really good actor. Bass fit the bill. Bass perfectly captured the qualities of someone who obviously didn't know what she was doing and gave an incredibly believable performance all around. Other standouts included Will Chapman as Phil, the cranky sound engineer, and Graham Cole as Peter, a voiceover actor with a very memorable gig.


No show is complete without a talented crew, and McLean High School outdid themselves. The set, designed and built by Vivian Kreeb, beautifully captured the essence and vibes of a small-town vocal studio. The detailed, cozy set wowed the audience as soon as the lights came up and brilliantly complimented the performances the actors were giving throughout. The actors' costumes, designed by Zara Kidwell, were equally amazing. While the costumes were simplistic in style, they were exactly what this show needed. Each costume rounded out the characters and made them so much more believable. One standout costume was Phil's outfit. It was obvious Kidwell put a lot of thought into this costume, as it looked exactly like what a sound engineer would wear - raggedy, yet charming. The costume was amazingly paired with Tracy Waagner's hair design, with Phil sporting hair that looked like it hadn't been cut since 2002.


Overall, this play was spectacular. All aspects perfectly complimented each other, and the actors were working together to put on a great show. The story was engaging and entertaining, and the production team obviously worked a long time to really figure out how to tell it. It was obvious the performers were incredibly happy to be on a stage together, doing what they love most after a year of not being able to. We obviously have a long way to go, but McLean High School has shown us all that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that we'll all be back in a theatre soon enough.  

Kaitlin Molloy

Chantilly High School


They say doing what you love, never means working a day in your life - but is that really true?  McLean High School's production of Vocal Work proves that passion does not exactly cancel out hardship, but perseverance through those hardships makes it all worthwhile. 


Written by Ed Monk, the fast-paced comedy centers around frazzled sound studio director, Annie, as she navigates an increasingly chaotic day. Sometimes people have bad days: a missing schedule kind of day or an "I-need-to-record-five-ads-by-tomorrow-or-I'm-fired" kind of day and unfortunately Annie is having one of both. Dealing with uncast ads, family issues, and a voice actor that can't quite nail the script, Annie is thrown curveball after curveball. With time running out, the cacophony of catastrophes leaves Annie to single-handedly record the ads before the sponsors check-in the next day.


The epitome of an on-the-edge manager, Chloe Lahr could not have been a more perfect actress to embody the nervous and multifaceted Annie. Wielding a flawless mastery of how to do an outburst, Lahr oscillated between emotional peaks and valleys with precision and realism, always capturing the true feeling of ever-stacking odds. Lahr's unparalleled expertise in creating a one-sided phone call is to be lauded, with practiced timing and overtly realistic reactions producing a complete conversation. Coupled with her outstanding command of character, Lahr's minor mannerisms completed her extraordinary performance, adding minute intricacies to the establishment of her character.


Proving a fantastic foil to Annie, the easy-going sound designer Phil (Will Chapman) followed the flow of the chaos. Observing the onslaught of commercials, casting calls, and failed attempts at reconciling the schedule, Chapman's poignant occupation in the booth completed the studio's working facade. Constantly busy, Chapman interacted with his surroundings and castmates with ease, providing laid-back banter. Chapman's constant involvement in the scene, be it dialogue or movement, consistently engaged the audience without distracting from the focus on stage.


Perfectly complimenting the pair, the slew of voice actors rounded out the busy studio. Serving as the comedic meat of the show, the outlandish commercials and their actors delivered outstanding performances, creating realistic working environments and relationships with the studio staff and one another. The ensemble's collective affinity for the deliberate and zany radio-style voice acting proved phenomenal, making adjustments with Annie's direction seamlessly. The ebb and flow of conversation between the vying Mattress Queens (Sanjna Kaul, Kaitlyn Whitsitt, Avery Versaw) not only produced a dynamic atmosphere amongst the studio regulars, but also moved key plot devices effortlessly, making small developments digestible for comprehension.


The intricate set (Vivian Kreeb) brilliantly served as both decorative and functional, inventively hiding microphones. The two-room set embodied the atmosphere of the busy recording studio, complete with a sound booth and recording foam forming checkered patterns in the recording space. A constantly swinging door plastered with band posters added to the flurry of activity in the studio, swinging in and out with entrances and exits. Incorporating a hybridized model of performance, both live and online performers made up the cast - the seamless integration of virtual actors with live ones never once distracting from the action.


Even in our favorite things we face obstacles, but it is in these hardships that we truly realize the full scope of our drive to perfect our passions. McLean's production of Vocal Work flawlessly encapsulates the joy resulting from dedicating ourselves to doing what we love, even if it requires a little perseverance.


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