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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.


Best written reviews for “Anastasia” performed by Heritage High School in Leesburg, Virginia. Reviewed on April 29, 2022.

Gwen Ihde

Oakton High School


"There's a rumor in Saint Petersburg!" Russian citizens buzz in hushed tones about Princess Anastasia and her fabled escape from death. This rumor comes to life in Heritage High School's production of the musical Anastasia, telling a fairy tale version of the lost history.


Anastasia, with music by Lynn Ahrens and book by Terrence McNally, includes 6 songs from the original animated 1997 movie. However, this fresh take on the historical mystery of Princess Anastasia brings nuance and complexity. The story follows Anya, a young streetsweeper who suffers from memory loss. When rumors begin to spread that Princess Anastasia survived the assassination of the Romanov family, Anya is discovered by two con men and enlisted to imitate the princess. As Anya becomes more aware of her past, it is revealed that Anya may be the missing princess after all.


In the namesake role, Emma Healy graced the stage with sincerity and hopefulness while being able to portray Anya's troubled past as she shook with fear. The comedic duo of Jonathan Kirkpatrick as the confident Dmitry and Beau Dolan as the pompous Vlad Popov stood out in their song "Learn to Do It," as they bantered and humorously instructed Anya. While all characters showed depth, Tyler Kaplan as Gleb Vaganov was particularly emotive when he exhibited his inner conflict with his stiff manner and emotional outbursts. Another stand-out performance was Mia Sirinsky as Countess Lily Malevsky-Malevitch, who brought energy and fun with her lively tap dancing, powerful voice, and comedic gestures.


The cast as a whole created an accurate atmosphere for each scene. Beginning in Russia, ensemble members whispered and fought, both angry and scared. However, in Paris, they swapped their simple clothes for bright colors and sparkles (costumed by Gracie Cunningham, Jaz Camacho, Nina Magsi, and Eli Grivas). The stage was filled with excitement and flamboyance as the ensemble used kick lines, turns, and even flips. To add to the milieu, the Romanov family, in elegant white dresses and suits, hauntingly glided across the stage, spinning with blue glowing ghosts. Accompanied by an impressive 29-person orchestra, every dance number perfectly matched both the mood and time period of the show.


The moving set consisted of a grand marble wall and two revolving staircases (built by Atticus Gregory and team). Simple adjustments such as moving the staircases or changing the color of banners on the wall transformed the space. Every transition was timed perfectly, never disrupting the scene, thanks to Bree Nosrat and crew. Sometimes, entire set pieces would be moved on without the audience noticing. The lighting also helped facilitate storytelling alongside the set. As Anya remembered her family, the stage glowed with an eerie white-blue. The Russian officer Gleb was followed by striking red lights, intensifying his ominous solo "The Land of Yesterday".


With phenomenal acting, strong vocals, striking lighting, and excellent stage coordination, Heritage High School's Anastasia left the audience speechless, asking them: "Do you believe in the fairy tale of the surviving Romanov princess?"

Michael Hitchcock

Justice High School


Imagine flowing gowns, a sparkling tiara that catches the light, soft music playing in the background.


Then, a bang! Red light floods your senses, and the famed Russian Royal Romanov family is taken away to be executed.


In Heritage High School's production of the musical Anastasia, Anya didn't have to imagine. That was her reality. This story followed the possibly-lost-and-found grand duchess as she traveled through Bolshevik Russia with con men Dmitry and Vlad to Paris to meet up with and convince her grandmother, the stony Dowager Empress, that Anya is the real princess.


A timeless classic that waltzes across our dreams, Anastasia has lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. Heritage's first musical person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the theater into the icy yet heartwarming experience Anastasia the musical is.


The show's leading actress, Emma Healy, played Anya powerfully and was radiant on stage, much like the tiara she wore for the finale. Healy brought many emotional levels to Anya that added depth to the character. She was able to portray a hope-filled young girl when she first met conmen Vlad and Dmitry but was able to become a confident and strong woman when she faced the Russian officer, Gleb, as he pointed a gun at her head. Mia Sirinsky, who played Countess Lily Malevsky-Malevitch, was a triple threat. With her strongly supported belts, tap solos, and vulnerable acting, Sirinsky was able to make Lily a complex character who helped push the storyline forward. Some other actors of note were lead Dmitry (Jonathan Kirkpatrick) and supporting actors, Vlad (Beau Dolan) and Gleb (Tyler Kaplan.) All three excelled in acting, singing, and dancing.


From a technical standpoint, this show was a masterwork. The lighting, led by Minh Truong and crew Violett Greenough and Braden Bowman, was flawless. Attention to detail in this show was commendable; when the Romanovs lined up to take a photograph, the onstage lights flickered much like the bulb of a camera from the early 1900s. The set was used to create multiple spaces such as the Neva club or the Dowager Empress's foyer. Thanks to the stage crew, helmed by managers Josephine D'Arcy, Iris Small, and Bree Nosrat, the set changes were smooth.


Have you heard? There's a rumor in Saint Petersburg. For a wild ride of finding your true identity and self-worth, the directors of Anastasia at Heritage High School couldn't have picked a better show for their long-awaited return to musical theater.


Best written reviews for “My Favorite Year” performed by Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland. Reviewed on March 11, 2023.

Best written reviews for “My Favorite Year” performed by Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland. Reviewed on March 11, 2023.

Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland, presented “My Favorite Year” to the Cappies C...

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Best written reviews for “Once on This Island” performed by Clarksburg High School in Clarksburg, Maryland. Reviewed on March 11, 2023.

Best written reviews for “Once on This Island” performed by Clarksburg High School in Clarksburg, Maryland. Reviewed on March 11, 2023.

Clarksburg High School in Clarksburg, Maryland presented “Once on This Island” to the Cappies Crit...

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