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FOCUS ON 21st CENTURY LEARNING

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.

THROUGH THE CAPPIES

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.

HOW IT ALL WORKS

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.

01May

Best written reviews for “Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical” performed by Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Reviewed on April 29, 2022.

Kaiya Mayhew

Quince Orchard High School

 

The house dims, and lights illuminate a bright blue set decorated with books. Children dance onto the stage and proudly declare themselves the "miracles" of their parents' lives, while the soon-to-be Matilda's mother reacts dismissively to learning she is nine months pregnant. In Mount Vernon High School's production of Matilda, the contrast between the innocence of childhood and the cruelty of certain adults comes to life in a performance that is simultaneously comedic and heartwarming.

 

Matilda the Musical is based on the book Matilda, written by Roald Dahl. It follows the story of a young girl named Matilda who is gifted with extraordinary intelligence and telekinesis. Despite her precocious abilities, the adults in Matilda's life continuously deny her the warmth and care that other five-year-old children may receive - all except her teacher, Miss Honey, who helps her unearth a mystery and take down the school's vicious headmistress.

 

The students of Mount Vernon High School gave this complex musical an admirable performance. The cast displayed consistent high energy and a wide range of emotion, which worked together with several clever technical aspects to make the production come to life.

 

Jamaya Edwards, playing Matilda Wormwood, effectively portrayed both Matilda's genius and her youth, creating a character that the audience could feel sympathy for and easily follow throughout the story. Yara Ammar and Bridget Snyder both gave captivating, powerful performances as their characters Miss Honey and Miss Trunchbull, respectively. Ammar especially managed to portray an impressive range of emotions in songs like "My House" and "When I Grow Up" that effectively communicated the subtle emotional subtexts of each song.

 

The supporting cast contributed to numerous comical or sincere moments during the production. Mustang Johnson and Julia von Fahnestock, playing Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, portrayed their characters in lively, humorous manners that kept the audience engaged and laughing.  Additionally, the ensemble captured the simplicity and innocence of childhood in the song "When I Grow Up." Keira Wankowski, cast as Bruce, gave an entertaining performance in the song "Bruce," getting a cheer out of the audience when Bruce finally finished the cake.

 

A number of clever technical choices contributed to this vivid production, including the use of bright primary colors in the set and the props. Sound effects and lighting were put to creative use in scenes like Bruce's burp, where a green light indicated the burp "traveling" across the room. Additionally, swings and skateboards during "When I Grow Up" and the childlike costumes from "Miracle" helped establish the theme of the musical as one that revolves around children.

 

The technical aspects and the strong acting of the cast tied together to produce a performance that was both humorous and touching. By the end of Mount Vernon High School's production of Roald Dahl's Matilda, the audience was cheering for Matilda as she received the happy ending she deserved.


McKenzie Phelan

Quince Orchard High School

 

Magic, mischief, and just a bit of mayhem - this is Kindergarten like you've never seen it before! Steeped in nostalgia and full of fun, Mount Vernon High School's production of Matilda the Musical proved that sometimes, you have to be a little bit naughty.

 

Matilda, a musical inspired by Roald Dahl's 1988 children's novel of the same name, opened on London's West End in 2011, earning a record-setting seven Olivier Awards, including Best Musical. The show centers on Matilda Wormwood, a highly intelligent five-year-old with the power of telekinesis, whose bright mind puts her at constant odds with her considerably dull family. Finding an ally in school teacher Miss Honey, Matilda sets about using her sense of justice and newfound magical abilities to put an end to Headmistress Agatha Trunchbull's reign of terror.

 

Jamaya Edwards approached the role of Matilda with innocent simplicity, standing in stark contrast to the rest of the production's larger-than-life cast. Edwards performed well in solo numbers, such as "Naughty", but truly shone in her interactions with other characters, especially Yara Ammar's Miss Honey, a kindhearted Kindergarten teacher who is the first to truly recognize Matilda's brilliance. Ammar's performance was laden with subtleties, creating a character whose warmth and kindness concealed depths of self-doubt and disquiet brewing just beneath the surface. Her remarkably well-controlled vibrato in songs such as "Pathetic" served to further communicate Miss Honey's anxieties, while the crystal clarity of "My House" revealed a wellspring of inner strength.

 

Not to be missed was Bridget Snyder as Miss Trunchbull, a former Olympic hammer thrower who despises children almost as much as she enjoys torturing them. With an air of deliberate wickedness, Snyder seemed to take genuine delight in terrifying both her students and the audience. The show's ensemble was filled with strong dancers, who performed eye-catching choreography (created by cast member Julia Von Fahnestock) with energy and determination. Actors also made creative use of the theater's space as they used the aisles for dramatic entrances and exits throughout the performance.

 

The show's primary-colored set, designed by Samantha Dresch and Lukas Wankowski, was decorated with alphabet blocks and countless bookshelves, evoking a sense of whimsy and imagination. The set was brought to its fullest potential in the charming number "When I Grow Up", where actors climbed up platforms, swung on swing sets, and rollerbladed across the stage in a delightful celebration of freedom. Also notable was the props crew (Ervin Arquiza, Eva Cate Greek, Jaden Harris, and Aubrey Kocen), who embraced the musical's absurdity with the use of inventive stagecraft, including a disappearing chocolate cake, a magically tipped water jug, and a flying child.

 

All in all, Mount Vernon High School certainly refused to let a little thing like "little" stop them! With energy, confidence, and just a bit of magic, these students turned an unassuming production into a lively performance that audiences won't soon forget.

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