Cary-Grove High School is known for the excellence of their fine arts programs. I’ve seen several of their shows before and have always come away marveling at how close to professional they seem. They certainly pulled out all the stops on this one. In my opinion, 75% of the scenes could have been presented on a stage in downtown Chicago or even NYC! The crowd was buzzing in the lobby before the show started. I noticed a different vibe than I’m used to at school or community shows the minute I hit the front door. Great to see parents and friends that excited.
OPENING NUMBER: Thanks to one of my students, I was lucky enough to get a ticket in the fifth row, center stage. The opening number “Jailhouse Rock” left me breathless! I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were 25-30 boys on stage…they could all sing AND they could all could move! It had to be the best show-stopper I’ve ever seen. No joke. Blake Nolan as Chad set the tone and everybody chimed in. Man.
PIT BAND: Tell you what…every great musical starts with a solid pit band. Cary-Grove certainly had one. You know they’re good when it rivals a recording and you don’t notice anything “off.” The singers had to be grateful for such solid support. Pit made them sound especially good!
CHAD: Blake Nolan totally understood the musical style from one song to the next. His acting was as good as his singing. Every nuance, glance, vocal inflection, pointed look…were absolutely perfect. He was on stage for nearly every scene, but he didn’t miss a beat. The kid nailed it.
NATALIE: Emma Ambrosia had a wide open, perfect sound for musical theatre. She wasn’t intimidated by any song, no matter what challenge it presented. She had a sweet mid-range and her head belt lacked even a hint of strain. It was so pleasant to listen to someone who really knows how to sing.
DENNIS: Nathan Ancheta’s portrayal rivaled some of the best comics on Broadway, taking every opportunity to make the crowd laugh. He had a rubber face, geeky voice, and the stereotyped mannerisms all down pat. My guess is that he probably improvs as much as he can get by with! He surprised everyone with some fantastic belting too. The audience chuckled every time he walked on stage. Talk about a lovable character.
SYLVIA: This girl could be on Broadway someday. She sounds good enough to be there right now. Alysha Brezina has a powerful belt that refuses to be denied by anyone. She’s great on stage, playing every line to the limit. Some of her one-liners couldn’t have been better. A week later, I can still remember the ring in her voice. I wanted her to sing more!
LORRAINE: Victoria Nakian provided strong support with her role. She didn’t always have a lot to work with, but made the most of what she had. Her singing was spot on and she created a sweet, likable character.
MISS SANDRA: Kailey Krigas looked the part and added to her believability with a demonstrable vocal growl a few times. (She probably used the technique a little too often.) It seemed like she was trying a bit too hard. Her vocals were spread, but her character solid.
ENSEMBLE: This was one of the tightest ensembles I can ever remember. 75 students electrified the stage every time they came on. Their singing, dancing, and acting was just plan strong. Harmonies were no problem for them. It was really a joy to watch them. The stage was very full! I’m sure many of them are members of the well known swing choir at Cary-Grove. What a great training ground for them.
SMALLER SUPPORTING ROLES: These roles were decidedly the weakest part of the show. Lauren Henriques was the exception, with a very good job as Major Matilda. Her head belt was really high and powerful, albeit overly nasal, even for the character.
SETS: There were a lot of scene changes, but the crew made them look easy. The layout was well designed with a lot of spacing options. The three-piece stair sectional for the fairgrounds was used in every way possible. Multiple levels made action engaging.
LIGHTING CREW: Lighting doesn’t usually get too crazy in a school show, but this crew would have none of that! Lighting made its own statement throughout the entire show with vertical spots, cone spots, colored edisons on portable sets, and twinkling lights with changing colors on the fairgrounds/amusement park backdrop to provide perspective to the stage. The cone spots timed with different vocal queues were my favorite.
PROPS: The audience “oo’ed and ah’ed” whenever the motorcycle came on. They also used a bike mounted on a platform so that you could pedal it to create action. Everything else served its purpose.
COSTUMES: Costumes weren’t difficult to put together for the most part. My favorite had to be the high-water-pants look that Dennis sported during the show. Each of the statues that came to life in Act II were also amazing!
CASTING: Cary-Grove does not double cast. My guess is that it’s not for a lack of talent at the school! The quality and integrity of their fine arts program is of primary importance to them there. They put together the best cast they can for the best experience they can offer an audience. A lot of schools double cast to give more students the opportunity to perform. That obviously has merit, but I like the idea of healthy competition even more. You want a part, work for it!
THEATRE: This is a great little theatre. The acoustics are good and seats are pitched so that everyone can see well, no matter where they are sitting. Get a ticket, any ticket, any time you can!
TICKETS: If you’re not a CG family, unfortunately it’s next to impossible to get a ticket. They sell out every show. What a nice dilemma to have! They do seven performances over the course of two weekends. I would love to see them add at least one more performance so that ticket sales could open up to surrounding communities. Other students and production teams need to see productions of this caliber. I think it would raise the bar all around in the northwest suburbs.
~ Jeanie Carter