McLean High School
1954. The year you could tell the difference between a Ford and a Chevy just by looking at them, and everything had at least a little bit of chlorophyll in it. The year Fifth Avenue was a two-way street, and live comedy shows were the best thing since sliced bread. The peak of the golden age, and, most importantly, Benjy Stone's favorite year.
Albert Einstein High School's My Favorite Year flawlessly captured the uproarious charm of the Golden Age and brought with them a modern splash of unmatched electric energy. Following the story of Benjy Stone, a young sketch writer working for King Kaiser's live comedy show, his job of fetching coffee is turned upside down when he is given the task of looking after Alan Swann, his childhood idol turned drunk deadbeat father. As Benjy chases the unpredictable movie star around, he is roped into a series of shenanigans, involving his starstruck mother, dysfunctional fellow writers, and his unattainable crush, K.C. Downing.
The musical features a book by Joseph Dougherty, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Based on the 1982 film, My Favorite Year transforms an iconic movie into a heartwarming musical with devastating ballads, hilarious dance routines, and adorable slow dancing. First premiering on Broadway in 1992, the show closed quickly after with only 36 performances and 45 previews after receiving mixed to negative reviews. However, the lack of success of the Broadway musical was immediately overlooked as Albert Einstein revitalized this show with obvious passion and stunning talents.
Seger Ott-Rudolph, playing the charmingly awkward Benjy Stone, commanded the stage with an air of professionalism, beautifully displaying Benjy's emotional vulnerability and blind hope in the goodness of the world, which was quickly crushed by his childhood idol. His absolutely stunning vocals were impeccably consistent throughout the show, and his knowledge of musical dynamics made his hopeful ballads, such as Larger Than Life, even more poignant. Playing off his awkwardness, Tony Rivera, portraying Alan Swann, created a beautifully complex character, who on the exterior was a reckless movie star, but quickly became a devastating portrayal of a broken man who had constantly let down those closest to him. Rivera's delivery of the line "I've forgotten my lines" created a gasp of despair from the audience and an obvious appreciation for his knowledge of heart-rendering beats.
Amelia Beard, playing Alice Miller, created a light-hearted, hilarious character. With impeccable comedic timing, Beard's starring number, Professional Show Bizness Comedy, was an immediate fan favorite as she stomped and spun her way through the number.
The tech elements only enhanced this production. With countless different sets, Madz Maarbjerg and Dyllon Tran brought to life the many different scenes, such as the ladies' room and Benjy's household. The costume crew, led by Lorilee Soderstrum, perfectly displayed each character, from dainty K.C in a lavish skirt, to awkward Benjy, in an all-brown suit accessorized with a leather jacket.
Einstein's production of My Favorite Year was an extravagant display of absurd talent, hard-work, and a fanatical passion for theater.
McLean High School
Panicked employees bustling around, black-and-white cameras being shoved into faces, a dancing cigarette box, and some slicked back hair comprised all the chaotically charming features of a 1950's TV studio brought to Albert Einstein High School's stage. Sarcastic delivery, slapstick jokes, and the exaggerated attitudes of the performers, along with zany use of props and costumes, achieved King Kaiser's goal of being "funny, not funny."
"My Favorite Year" takes film to live performance, as Joseph Dougherty, Stephen Flaherty, and Lynn Ahrens's 1992 Broadway musical was adapted from the 1982 movie. Inspired by Mel Brooks's experience working on Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows," the story is set in 1954 New York with aspiring writer Benjy Stone (Seger Ott-Rudolph) employed at a live comedy production called "King Kaiser." With the titular boss (Langston Muller) demanding funnier and more entertaining content from the writers, they excitedly recruit the renowned Alan Swann (Tony Rivera) to stride into the studio, only for him to be drunkenly stumbling instead. Swann is a man who was so absorbed in his own alias that he became a stranger to his real name, a feeling that Stone discovers he perhaps may know all too well.
Ott-Rudolph's growth throughout the show was marked with straight posture and an assertive voice replacing his initially meek and hesitant tone. The volume and power of his smooth vocals reflected his inner turmoil and self-reflection, building with a final understanding of what he learned during his favorite year. In contrast, Rivera demonstrated a similar development albeit coming from a darker place. His poised air commanded attention onstage as every famous movie star does. His sophistication melted away with each glass of champagne, which Rivera skillfully indicated with a clumsy gait and dramatic slapstick falls. The juxtaposition between the two versions of Swann made the appearance of the human side of the glorified celebrity all the more tearful to observe.
The contrast between the silly antics of Langston Muller as King Kaiser and the dry wit of Amelia Beard as Alice Miller created a hilarious combative duo, complementing each other's immoderate styles. Muller fluidly embodied the egotistical and hot-headed character with crass volumes and gestures to their employees. Beard, portraying a woman determined to be in the comedy limelight during a time period when women were not, executed her role well with sharp timing through the bite of her jokes. Her vibrant presence shined through in her sassy vocals and dance movements in her showcased number.
The musical featured an orchestra of forty-one students, the live music providing an ardor to the songs. The impressive musicians represented a whole other cast member, bringing a level of liveliness and connection to the music often missing in canned tunes.
Cut to commercial break. The Maxford House coffee cups waddling out in front of the cameras, selling caffeine but instead gave laughter out for free. Lorrilee Soderstrum and the Einstein Costumes Team constructed these amusing outfits with wire, foam, tape, and spray paint. This attire contributed to the realistic depiction of advertisements in 1950's television. Deliberate thought and effort were put into the look of the musical, which was evident in how Eleo Aposporos (playing K.C. Downing) personally sewed all their costumes. Katrin Schrebler, Anjali Shah, and the Einstein Props Team added to the comedy with their wacky palm trees and the flipped dart board with the picture of Albert Einstein, which was a clever touch.
Albert Einstein High School balanced the comical aspects of "My Favorite Year" with the heart-wrenching realities of the industry. Their humorous production captured the feeling of "Professional Show Bizness Comedy."