Spring is in the air, which means that local high school students are on the stage. All five Falls Church area high schools are putting on plays and musicals in the next few weeks – and one school is even tackling two productions this month.
From modern comedic musicals to a tragic Shakespearean classic, this season’s high school theater productions run the gamut, giving audiences the chance to laugh, cry, and in some cases even sing along.
McLean High School
‘Rent’ and ‘Our Town’
McLean High School Theater will open the spring season tomorrow night with “Rent: School Edition,” an age-appropriate adaptation of the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical about struggling artists in New York City and how their lives are affected by the spread of HIV and AIDS.
While the musical deals with some hard-hitting issues, McLean Theater Booster Lynne Lawhead says this production’s focus is the “no day but today” theme of the musical in a high-energy performance replete with a dance squad added by the student actors.
“It will be a happier show that explores some of the emotions that are relevant to high school students,” Lawhead said.
“Rent” closes Saturday, but the stage won’t be dark for long as McLean Theater will stage “Our Town” later this month. Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” tells the story of the residents of the little town of Grover’s Corners through time. A narrator, the Stage Manager, leads the audience through the story; Lawhead says that play-within-a-play quality will be the focus of the McLean High production.
“We want to make the audience feel the value of art and character struggles as they relate to the human condition,” Lawhead said.
Putting on two plays in the same month is “a welcome challenge,” Lawhead said, and provides more chances for students in the school’s large theater program to be involved in a production.
“Rent: School Edition” runs April 4 – 6. Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m., with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on April 6. “Our Town” runs April 25 – 27. Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m., with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on April 27. Both plays will be performed at McLean High School, 1633 Davidson Road, McLean. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students and seniors for each production. For more information, visit mcleandrama.com or call 703-714-5700.
Marshall High School
‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’
George C. Marshall High School Theater students will christen the school’s newly renovated theater next week with a production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” Like the beloved 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, the musical version follows sorority girl Elle Woods as she enrolls in law school to try to win back her boyfriend and, despite roadblocks along the way, finds herself uniquely qualified in the field of law.
“The music brings a new sense of life to the characters and really drives the message home,” said Marshall Theater Booster Keith Conway. “The message(s) being that you have to work hard in order to achieve what you truly want. Things don’t always turn out as you planned, but that’s not a bad thing. Appearances can be deceiving.”
Conway says senior Sarah Chapin, a Marshall Theater veteran who will play Elle Woods, “delivers a powerful performance blurring the line between outward appearance and what lies within.”
The musical comedy promises fun and excitement with high-energy acting, but also moments that tug at the heartstrings and get the audience thinking about the underlying message.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” runs April 11 – 14. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. from April 11 – 13, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on April 13 and 14. The play will be performed at George C. Marshall High School, 7731 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors. For more information, visit theatreatmarshall.org or call 703-714-5400.
J.E.B. Stuart High School
‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’
J.E.B. Stuart High School Theater will be breaking Charlie Brown and the gang out of the comic strip next week for a performance of the musical comedy “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Freshman Samuel Williams will play the title role of Charlie Brown.
“He has a certain ability to look within Charlie Brown, the humorously introspective underdog, and he can do that very well,” Theater Director Shannon Lynch said.
Lynch said she’s leading her actors away from the stereotypes of the characters from the “Peanuts” comic strip. Lynch explained that sometimes portraying the characters too closely makes a caricature instead of a character, and distracts audiences from the story and its meaning.
“I wanted them to be real,” Lynch said. They won’t be wearing the trademark costumes of the Peanuts characters, but rather updated, hip clothes. Lucy is a blonde and not a brunette. But the actors will bring to the stage the spirit of those characters as they learn about life through their youthful escapades.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” runs April 11 – 20. Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 11, 12, 19, and 20, with a 2:15 p.m. matinee on April 13. The play will be performed at J.E.B. Stuart High School, 3301 Peace Valley Lane, Falls Church. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors. For more information, visit stuartdrama.org or call 703-824-3900.
Falls Church High School
‘Little Shop of Horrors’
It’s been three years since Falls Church High School Theater has put on a musical, but singing and dancing will return to the main stage next month when “Little Shop of Horrors” opens.
Musicals are demanding, Theater Director Valerie Karasek says, but Falls Church High Theater committed to putting one on, giving its “triple threat” students the chance to shine.
“Everyone is rising to the challenge, and it has been an enjoyable and rewarding process,” Karasek said. “We look forward to sharing the fruits of our efforts with the community.”
The musical tells the story of florist Seymour Krelborn and his attempts to woo his co-worker Audrey while his romantic pursuits and more are endangered by his newly acquired Venus flytrap, a back-talking plant named Audrey II with a taste for human blood.
It’s been no small feat to bring the plant to the stage, Karasek says. A puppet of the plant rented from a local high school needed repairs, and the Falls Church High Theater tech crew had to get the prop – and its carnivorous mouth – back in working order.
“We are happy to report that Audrey III, as she is now affectionately called, has been beautifully renovated and is ready to continue destroying mankind,” Karasek said.
A musical led by a singing, man-eating plant could be overly campy, but Karasek says her actors balance the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the story with portraying honest characters facing some incredible circumstances.
“Little Shop of Horrors” runs May 2 – 4. Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. The play will be performed at Falls Church High School, 7521 Jaguar Trail, Falls Church. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. For more information, visit fchsdrama.org or call 703-207-4000.
George Mason High School
Next month, George Mason High School Theater will stage William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” the tragic tale of a prince’s plot of revenge against his murderous uncle, the man who killed Hamlet’s father and took his place on the throne. Senior Ryan Ogden will play Hamlet.
“He is an enthusiastic performer with an incredible work ethic, which is absolutely necessary to perform this massive role,” Theater Director Shawn Northrip said. “He studies the text day and night, sending me questions all the time. Like Hamlet, he is a true academic – all thought.”
The lengthy play has been distilled with a focus on its action-packed essence, with ghostly visits, swordfights, heated encounters, and deaths. The action of the play will be set to a score written by senior Tyler Waters performed live by a band.
“This is an action play at heart,” Northrip said.
Students are generally biased against Shakespeare’s plays and think of them as dry and academic, Northrip says, but he hopes that students and audiences alike will see the merit of The Bard’s work through this production.
“There is a reason his plays are still performed today, versus his countless contemporaries whose work is still out there but lesser known,” Northrip said.
“Hamlet” runs May 2 – 4. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The play will be performed at George Mason High School, 7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. Tickets are $7 for general admission and $5 for students. For more information, visit fccps.org or call 703-248-5500.