Chantilly High School
Gangsters who have a passion for Shakespeare. 1940's gowns hanging next to frilly collars and corsets. No, this show didn't contain a time machine, rather it told timeless themes of human nature. Herndon High school beautifully bridged two distinct eras of performance in their production of Kiss Me, Kate.
Opening in 1948, Kiss Me, Kate transformed Broadway with its revolutionary use of music specifically written for the plot. Penned by Bella and Samuel Spewack with lyrics by Cole Porter, the musical within a musical portrays the story of Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham, divorced Broadway actors who must play love interests in The Taming of the Shrew. The pair's real anger and passion begins to bleed through into the Shakespearean show, exposing the striking similarities between the characters and their true selves.
Hope Hill as Lilli Vanessi was a whirlwind force of feminine power. She commanded the stage with both her confident posture and unassailable voice. Hill nailed the arrogant strut of a Broadway star, adding a more vulnerable nuance when Vanessi interacted with her ex-husband. Hill's vocals were the star of the show. Her rich and dominant tone was gorgeous, expressing inflections that reflected the core emotion of each song. An impressive illustration of this being her stunning performance of "I Hate Men" where she flawlessly combined her breathtaking singing with an exasperated outcry at the end of each repetition of the title phrase. It was pure magic when Hill sang with Josh Wise as Fred Graham. Wise's deep and sonorous voice excelled at both harmonizing with Hill as well as magnificent solo performance. Wise skillfully took on the duality of his character, capturing the snobbish presence of a celebrity as well as the honest love that Graham has for Vanessi. The unique use of a student intimacy coach, Jenna Ainge, ensured each scene between Hill and Wise felt natural and genuine.
Andrew Landrum and Bo Chatterjee as The Gangsters were an uproarious duo. From their indelicate entrance bursting into Graham's dressing room to using their guns as karaoke microphones, there was never a dull moment when these two commandeered the stage. Landrum and Chatterjee were always up to something, whether or not the spotlight was on them. Their show stopping number, Brush up Your Shakespeare, was side-splittingly hilarious as they danced with top hats and back up dancers, highlighting the Gangsters' new-found love of show business.
Undaunted by the two vastly different settings in the show, the set team (Jefferson Escobar-Rivera, Henry Collins, Charly Olsen and Andrew Landrum) exhibited incredible ingenuity. For the 1940's, they created Graham and Vanessi's dressing rooms with a wall in the middle that allowed multiple scenes to take place at once, catering to the multifaceted nature of the show. When the stage was reconstructed for The Taming of the Shrew, the scenery was all the more spectacular. It featured a stained glass window, working shutters and an actively running fountain, displaying incredible technical skill.
Herndon High School's performance was a dazzling showcase that delightfully toyed with time, revealing that whether it is 1948 or 1548, human gravitation towards love and conflict remains the same.
Quince Orchard High School
Grab your bowler hat and pull on your breeches - it's time to "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" at Herndon High School's production of Kiss Me, Kate.
Kiss Me, Kate is a 1948 musical, with a book by Bella and Samuel Spewack and music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The original Broadway production won five Tony Awards, including the first for Best Musical. The show takes place on the opening night of a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew - which also happens to be the anniversary of co-stars Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi's divorce. With one miscommunication leading to another, and tensions between Fred and Lilli rising even faster than the temperature outside, it'll be a wonder if the pair can make it to their final bow.
Josh Wise gave a remarkably charming performance in the role of Fred Graham. Despite Fred's egotism and flair for the melodramatic, Wise's inexhaustible charisma made the character undeniably endearing. Playing opposite Wise was Hope Hill, whose brassy Lilli Vanessi was a diva through and through. Hill displayed an outstanding range of emotion, especially through song, from the sweet romance of "So in Love" to the comic fury of "I Hate Men." Together, Wise and Hill forged an authentic relationship both on and offstage, transitioning effortlessly from rivals to lovers and back again.
Also notable was Chloe Brokesh as Lois Lane, a nightclub singer making her theatrical debut. Brokesh's movement and vocal inflection were reminiscent of classic Broadway actresses, and made for plenty of comedic moments, especially during the solo "Always True to You in My Fashion." And not to be missed were the gangsters (Andrew Landrum & Bo Chatterjee), whose high-energy antics undoubtedly stole the show. The pair individually developed well-defined characters, while performing equally well as a team. Their uproarious number "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" was a standout performance, featuring creative use of props and lively choreography that earned many a laugh from the audience.
The show's technical elements allowed action to shift seamlessly from the 1940s to the 1500s. Crew members Lauren Tucker and Livie Godfrey provided a variety of vintage costumes, from dungarees to victory suits, as well as period-accurate Tudor garb, such as Lilli's handmade red gown. In addition, detailed set pieces, built by Jefferson Escobar-Rivera, Henry Collins, Charly Olsen, and Andrew Landrum, included comfortably decorated dressing rooms, as well as an Italian villa complete with stained-glass windows and a working fountain. Lighting design by Emmy Tublin and Chloe Thompson brought the world onstage to life, making use of both bright and muted colors to match the mood and setting of different scenes.
All in all, Kiss Me, Kate proved to be far more than just "Another Op'nin', Another Show". With accomplished actors and an excellent crew, Herndon High School's production is simply "Wunderbar".