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Area High School Thespians & Theatre Students Receive Nods from ‘Cappies’

Two Falls Church-area high school musical productions, George C. Marshall’s spring show, “Company,” and George Mason’s “Brigadoon,” performed last fall, were nominated for multiple Cappies awards, and the winners will be announced this Sunday …Company-FCNP

Two Falls Church-area high school musical productions, George C. Marshall’s spring show, “Company,” and George Mason’s “Brigadoon,” performed last fall, were nominated for multiple Cappies awards, and the winners will be announced this Sunday at the 10th annual Cappies National Capital Area Gala, held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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WITH SEVEN NODS, Marshall’s production of Sondheim’s “Company” is a strong competitor. (Photo: Nathan Wunderlich)

The Washington area program is the oldest branch in the nation, a training ground for young theater critics and a reward for the actors and technicians who labored hard to earn the recognition in plays and musicals.

All five Falls Church area high schools received nods from the Cappies – Falls Church, Marshall, Mason, J.E.B. Stuart and McLean.

The body of high school critics, including nominee for rising critic Keith Boylan of Marshall and nominee for returning critic Julia Katz of McLean, voted for the 185 nominees across a variety of honors.

Marshall and Mason produced the most nominations out of area schools, with Marshall garnering seven nods and Mason three. Falls Church, McLean and Stuart each has one.

Besides Boylan, Marshall’s production of the Sondheim musical “Company,” directed by drama department chair Trena Weiss-Null, received five nominations for its actors and one for the stage crew.

The nominees include: Hannah Rak (Comic Actress in a Musical); Ellen Chapin (Featured Actress in a Musical); Michael Bradford (Lead Actor in a Musical); and Rak, Orla Conway and Meara O’Malley as “Bobby’s Girlfriends” (Ensemble in a Musical). The ensemble song “Side by Side by Side” is nominated for best song.

Shannon Brown, Jordan Butz, Brittany Harris and Lauren Smith comprise the nominated stage crew.

For Mason and its production of a magical Scottish town in “Brigadoon,” Miles Butler and Janine Baumgardner received nominations for best Male and Female Dancers, respectively. The Mason pit orchestra also nabbed a nomination.

Falls Church’s adapted radio play “The Water Engine” will compete in the “Props and Effects” category, with Alex Doak and Bill Miller receiving the nod jointly.

Lead singer Jon DeHart of Stuart’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” the timeless Broadway classic of a man-eating plant and its caretaker, has been nominated for best male vocalist.

This won’t be the first time for Weiss-Null at the Cappies. The first-year Marshall director had attended the very first Cappies years ago while working with the theater department at Lee High School.

Weiss-Null brought Marshall back into the Cappies for the school’s first time since 2002, beginning the frenetic drama season with Marshall’s runner-up performance of “Reflex Action” in the Virginia High School League Liberty District one act festival.

“Company” is one of the most difficult Sondheim pieces, said Weiss-Null, with seven-part harmonies and large-scale set changes, but the cast and crew “did an outstanding job.”

Weiss-Null praised the Marshall stage crew for its hours spent on preparing the musical’s set.

“They constructed two enormous wagons, one weighing under a ton, the other just over, and they had to shift them in a few seconds between scenes,” Weiss-Null explained. “They were very professional.”

Marshall’s ensemble will be performing a redacted version of the nominated song, “Side by Side by Side” for the Cappies audience Sunday evening, a novel undertaking in itself, Weiss-Null added.

“For the gala, we had to cut it down to four minutes, when in actuality it’s eight minutes and 15 seconds.”

Despite the pressure, Weiss-Null said the students are excited for Sunday night, juggling the primetime honors with a weekend of SATs and prom.

“It’s pretty cool for them to be in such a magnificent space looking out at 2500 seats,” said Weiss-Null.

For Mason’s pit orchestra’s nomination, music director Mary Jo Webster told the News-Press in an e-mail that she was “thrilled to learn of the Cappie nomination.”

“The award recognizes a group of extraordinarily talented musicians who had a terrific spirit, always going the extra mile to make sure their music was rehearsed,” said Webster.

Webster highlighted the musical leadership of bassist Philip Ambuel, who is graduating this year to major in bass performance at George Mason University, and senior trumpeter Taylor Demeter.

“Often times the orchestra in a musical is overlooked, as the actors receive standing ovations,” Webster explained. “However, this Cappie nomination was a well deserved accolade which recognized the orchestra’s terrific contribution to the success of the production.”