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Area High Schools Prep for Fall Play Productions

 

The greater Falls Church area’s five public high schools launch their fall theater season next month with an array of offerings running from George Mason’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” McLean’s “You Can’t Take it With You,” J.E.B. Stuart’s “Anne of Green Gables,” Falls Church’s “Lend Me a Tenor” and George C. Marshall’s “Peter Pan: A Musical.” The first performance comes Nov. 11 with the launch of three nights of the Mason play.MaryPlay_GMHS1

The greater Falls Church area’s five public high schools launch their fall theater season next month with an array of offerings running from George Mason’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” McLean’s “You Can’t Take it With You,” J.E.B. Stuart’s “Anne of Green Gables,” Falls Church’s “Lend Me a Tenor” and George C. Marshall’s “Peter Pan: A Musical.” The first performance comes Nov. 11 with the launch of three nights of the Mason play.

 

George Mason High School

Little Shop of Horrors

 

In the meticulously-lit George Mason High School Theater, Sam Waters stepped into the foreground. Cast as Seymour Krelborn, Waters was rehearsing vocals for the upcoming fall musical, “Little Shop of Horrors.”

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George Mason H.S. readies itself for “Little Shop of Horrors.” (Photo: News-Press)

Theater director Pam Spicer said this year’s production is bursting with gifted acting, a strong chorus and a Cappie-nominated orchestra.

Thus far, the students have finished first act rehearsals, practicing two hours a day, five days a week, some weekends and over Columbus Day.
The cast includes 36 budding stars, with junior Sarah Johnson, playing the alluring Audrey Fulquard, senior Reilly O’hara portraying sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello, and senior Kaitlin Loftur-Thun playing Audrey II, the insatiable hybrid-plant who gives the story its name.
Spicer said she was disturbed by the irresponsibility of main character, Seymour. She chose to alter the original message and replace it with a lesson of consequence. Spicer’s newly-invented character of dark omen is a shape-shifting narrator, played by senior Miles Butler.
Butler morphs throughout the play, fading in and out of scenes, with the help of trap doors, “ordering poetic justice.”
“Because we have such a large cast, we can keep consistent with the Faustian theme,” said Spicer. She said this type of theme focuses on the moral aspect of selling one’s soul to the devil and the imaginative, and sometimes graphic, effects that stem as a result.
John Ballou, their robotics architect, has been assigned a prop designer’s exhaustive dream. He and Spicer will blueprint and build at least three functioning puppets for Audrey II. This extensive construction is imperitive to show the plant growing in size and strength over the course of the performance. Ballou is starting with a seedling sock-puppet and ending with a dual-manned, sound emitting, microphone wielding, larger-than-life replica of the blood-thirsty bloom.
The choral director, Lauren Glass, and the band conductor, Mary Jo Webster, are working with Spicer, who is also choreographing the play.
“By using fun steps and rock music from the 50s and 60s, our actors cater to audiences in their own age bracket,” said Spicer, adding the play reminded her of her mother’s history as a lyricist in 1980 New York.
“She would come home with the most fascinating stories of ‘The Little Shop of Horrors,’ these guys, rewriting it as a musical,” said Spicer, who’s always wanted to reinterpret the 1960 American comedy film.
“Little Shop of Horrors” is set to debut Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the main auditorium of George Mason High School (7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church). The production also shows Friday, Nov. 20 and Saturday, Nov. 21. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students and children and are sold at the door. The show is just shy of two hours.

McLean High School
You Can’t Take It with You

Smoke curled down the stage steps, but there was no cause for alarm: it was the McLean High School fall play rehearsal in full swing. This year, Highlander actors will be performing “You Can’t Take It with You.” They began rehearsing for the three-act play this week, allowing for plenty of practice.
“About 15 to 20 hours a week, per person, go into production,” said theater teacher and play director Denise Perrino. Including intermission, the play lasts about two and a half hours.
Eccentric Grandpa Vanderhof will be played by junior Elliot Duffy, dreamer Penny Sycamore will be played by Jamie Richards, and ordinary Alice Sycamore will be played by senior Amandin Thomas. Junior Ethan Stackpole has been cast as entrepreneurial Tony Kirby, senior Josh Boehm plays Father Sycamore and senior Julia Katz plays the character Essie.
Perrino said each are a part of the plan for McLean High to revive the 1930, Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy.
Senior-in-chief director Elaina Kaiser and stage manager Nikki Becher have ambitious plans for the stage, said Perrino.
Perrino said that because the story is set in delirious old New York, inside a home with eclectic character and an odd decorating scheme, “there is an enormous amount of prop design.”
“Our costume designer, Sarah Lauerhar, is very talented. She worked with us in Scotland, on ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ on ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ tons of stuff. She has a lot of experience. She’s really good at what she does,” said Perrino.
Continuing, Perrino said Martin Zavala, the technical director, is including a climactic fireworks display.
“They read the play last year and loved it,” said Perrino.
She said after having done such an outstanding job in the recent months and in Scotland, she let the students pick the play they would perform. As it turns out, it was a familiar curtain-raiser. “You Can’t Take It with You” was a play she directed at Oakton Middle School 25 years earlier.
“It’s such a good play, we are trying to keep it as close as possible to the original,” said Perrino, with the exception of casting. Perrino selected 25 young actors, ranging in age and grade as well as experience and seniority, which she said, guarantees a strong cast and different teenage personalities.
Performances are scheduled Nov. 19 – 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the main McLean High School auditorium (1633 Davidson Rd., McLean).
— By Mary Portner

J.E.B. Stuart High School
Anne of Green Gables

In November, J.E.B. Stuart High School’s theatre troupe, headed by theatre director Shannon Lynch, will be performing a Paul DeLaurier adaptation of “Anne of Green Gables.” Originally a best-selling novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery, it’s the story of a young, fiery orphan girl who has “a particularly brilliant mind, creative soul and great capacity for love,” as Lynch described. Anne is cast out into the world and lands in the home of middle-aged siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, whose lives are turned upside down.
“Anyone who has read the novel won’t be disappointed,” said Lynch. The play hasn’t veered far from the children’s book that stirs up feelings of nostalgia. Lynch admitted that she was surprised at how many people love this story about the collision of two worlds.
“Parents of students are ecstatic we’re doing ‘Anne of Green Gables,’” she said.
Lynch studied the chemistry between actors after assigning specific roles to them. At the end of the audition process, Lynch handpicked an outstanding cast.
Junior Rachel Frenkel plays the role of red-headed Anne. Despite the color of her brunette tresses, Frenkel possesses the same lively spirit and refreshing vitality as Anne.
Marilla is played by junior Jamie Ahlborn, a wise actress who brings a great deal of maturity and what Lynch called a strong “earthiness” to the stage.
Students have already started to create buzz for the play by making posters and spreading the word. The actors also plan to drop in on English classes to perform short vignettes to give the school “a little taste of the show,” Lynch explained.
She confirmed that the production is coming together well. “The next step,” she said, “will be to start putting the stage together.”
The play will incorporate a live quartet of string players who will perform during scene changes. Sound effects are various and will include the sound of a galloping horse and ringing school bells, for example.
Lynch expects the play to strike many chords within the audience.
“The story has such a big heart that people are always charmed, or moved or touched.” Lynch foresees the audience being particularly struck by Anne, “this wild creature’s need for a home and how the universe puts people in each other’s life at the right time.”
Opening night is on Thursday, Nov. 12 at J.E.B. Stuart High School (3301 Peace Valley Ln., Falls Church).

Falls Church High School
Lend Me a Tenor

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Falls Church High School’s Alex Rock (Tito Morelli) and Ian Mills (Max) act out a scene from “Lend Me a Tenor,” in which Tito attempts to teach Max how to sing opera. (Photo: News-Press)

“I think we all need to laugh,” said Valerie Karasek, theatre director at Falls Church High School. And that’s just what audience members can expect when they watch “Lend Me a Tenor,” a comedic farce by Ken Ludwig that revolves around world famous tenor Tito Morelli.
Set in 1934, “Lend Me a Tenor” is a good example of what Karasek called the “madcap, screwball, farce comedies” characteristic of the time period. Not giving too much away, Karasek describes the play as a witty comedy that follows two young couples and the chaos that ensues between them.
The play will be presented exactly as it’s written, though Karasek warned “Lend Me a Tenor” is an adult comedy. The dialogue is full of innuendos and will require audience members to read in between the lines.
Karasek chose this particular play because she felt the very first show should be a comedy, given the economic climate.
Karasek said she was fortunate to be able to cast a handful of such wonderful actors. The process of filling the roles was a difficult one. “I think that’s my hardest job,” admitted Karasek.
During the first day of the open audition process, Karasek gave students scenes from the play and asked them to choose characters they related to or wanted to explore. For call backs, Karasek paired the actors up to find that je ne sais quoi necessary for the various relationships within the play. The positive energy was palpable during their first rehearsal.
“I really wanted to get involved [with theatre],” said freshman Erin Maines, who plays the role of Maria. “It’s a really fun thing to do and it makes my parents proud.”
Senior Alex Rock, known to Karasek as a “divo,” was born to play the role of Tito Morelli, a confident opera singer with a great baritone voice who commands attention. Junior Ian Mills, who plays the part of Max, is described by Karasek as a “charming, yet vulnerable young man” who possesses natural comic timing and who brings a certain believability to the stage. Other actors include senior Katie Gianturco (Maggie), junior Max Kosma (Saunders), Betsy Ryan (Julia), senior Madison Jennings (Diana) and freshman Ayinde Bray (Bellhop).
The play will be performed within a box set. “Once the curtain rises,” explained Karasek, “this is your set for the entire two hours.”
Therefore, it is crucial that the set is very detailed. Karasek is going for an elegant, 1930s art deco look; the troupe will recreate an elaborate New York-style hotel suite. The set will also have six doors opening and closing, with people coming in and out during the play.
While the show isn’t a tech-heavy production, Karasek promises a unique curtain call in which the actors will come out and recreate the entire play in 88 seconds to a frenzied piece of classical music.
Opening night is on Thursday, Dec. 10, with a Cappie performance on Saturday, Dec. 12. The production will take place at Falls Church High School (7521 Jaguar Trail, Falls Church).

George Marshall High School
Peter Pan: A Musical

“We have a reputation of doing edgy stuff,” explained Trena Weiss-Null, theatre director at George C. Marshall High School. This fall, however, the Marshall theatre troupe will broaden their focus and present “Peter Pan: A Musical,” what Weiss-Null calls a “classic piece of Americana” about a magical young boy who refuses to grow up.
Weiss-Null stayed close to the original long-running Broadway show. She knew she wanted to do a family-friendly production that was appropriate for children so the entire community can come and watch.
Weiss-Null also thought “Peter Pan” would be a good opportunity for her to utilize her strong female singers, including senior Ellen Chapin (Peter Pan), senior Meara O’Malley (Wendy Darling) and junior Hannah Rak (Mrs. Darling).
Chapin commands attention on the stage with her captivating voice and radiant energy. O’Malley, who plays the animated role of young Wendy Darling, is excited to play such a “fun character to explore.”
Now a senior at Marshall High School, O’Malley has been auditioning for every production since freshmen year. However, she thinks “Peter Pan” in particular is a production viewers can really “sink [their] teeth into.”
This music-heavy play will feature music that Weiss-Null describes as “very, very Broadway classic.” The play will include an impressive 63 pieces of music. Musical accompaniment will include strings, an electronic harp, bassoon, trumpet and a full-blown percussion section.
The theatre company has already started blocking and building the set. The next step for the actors will be to start memorizing the script and incorporate all of the singing and dancing. In fact, the play will feature many different types of dances, including the waltz, tarantella and even aerial ballet.  
Weiss-Null’s “Peter Pan” contains magical elements – fairy dust, flying and exotic animals like an ostrich, lion and kangaroo. The production will entertain the kids and tap into the inner child in every adult.
When asked what the audience should take away, Weiss-Null responded: “To never, never lose the child inside.”
Opening night for “Peter Pan: A Musical” is on Friday, Dec. 4 at George C. Marshall High School (7731 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church).
— By Sarah Carter

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