Cappies review gives “Amadeus” loud applause

By Surbhi Agrawal

Senior Noah Gavil (left) played Antonio Salieri and senior Sammy Zeisel (right) played Amadeus Mozart. Photo by Keegan Barber.

*By Devin Goodman of Wootton High School*

The curtains open. Dark shapes in traditional 18th century clothing fill the stage. One of Mozart’s pieces begins to echo off the walls of the theater. The figures dance as the stage bursts into spots of light and color. None of them can believe that Antonio Salieri (senior Noah Gavil)-an old and once respected composer-murdered Amadeus Mozart (senior Sammy Zeisel).

We soon meet the old man, however, as he comes forward to explain his crimes to the audience and prays for absolution. This sinister opening set the tone for Walt Whitman High School’s mature, moving and altogether outstanding production of “Amadeus.”

Aside from the play’s almost uncanny ability to seamlessly merge beautiful musical pieces with the phenomenal acting of the cast, its best quality was the exceptional, effortless use of every moment on stage. From scene changes to costume changes, every actor-with or without a speaking role-was able to project an image of 18th century poise, creating an almost delicate balance between frenzied chaos and high-brow artistry.

The two protagonists, Gavil and Zeisel were outstanding as Salieri and Mozart, Salieri’s fellow composer and more immature foil. Both truly understood their characters, and were able to bring across a thrilling performance, clearly depicting the transition from rage to pity or sanity to madness.

The nearly professional quality of their onstage interplay clearly reflects the level of work and dedication that went into making the delivery of each line perfect. Gavil’s scheming nature and horribly wrathful outbursts truly terrified the audience, causing them to question how far obsession can lead someone.

Zeisel’s almost childish nature in act one swiftly and naturally eroded in act two, as he flawlessly portrayed a genius driven to shame and madness, leading to a poignant and tragic conclusion.

Another standout was Mozart’s wife, Constanze Weber (senior Sarah Blush), who skillfully switched between a giggling school girl-esque façade and a concerned, yet frightened and bitter wife. Her facial expressions and emotional roller-coaster rides stood out as superb in an already excellent cast.

Although not customary in straight plays, the three unexpected vocal performances of the night (given by sophomore Grace Laboy, senior Haruka Nakagawa and senior Emma Rackstraw) exemplified the 18th century theme. The three arias were well prepared and extremely well delivered, especially considering the difficulty of the pieces involved.

Also uncommon in plays, the orchestra delivered everything from Mozart’s symphonies to his requiems with poise, finesse and skill.

Equally impressive was the lighting, sound and stage crew, who never missed a cue. Lighting was entirely mood-based, dimmed when necessary, brightened when needed or changed colors when the scene demanded a more visible tonal shift.

The sound team performed just as well. While the play required no sound effects, every person on stage had a microphone. The low level of audio feedback considering the circumstances is a work of art in itself.

On a more visual note, the clean lines of the set grounded the fantastical nature of the storyline, providing a solid base for each of the actors to use. With the use of projectors from either side of the stage, the set was incredibly versatile, going from ballroom to bedroom to library in the blink of an eye.

Overall, it was an incredibly enjoyable production, one the audience will not soon forget. Although Salieri will forever suffer under the burdens of mediocrity and anonymity, Whitman’s “Amadeus” will never be forced to do the same. It was, to put it simply, astonishing from beginning to end.

*The Cappies Critics and Awards Program is a program through which high school theatre and journalism students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, write reviews and have these reviews published in local newspapers and on websites including The Washington Post and ShowBizRadio.net.  Please check the following websites to read the reviews written by Cappie critics who attended schools in the National Capital Area.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/tomorrows-critics/

www.ShowBizRadio.net

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Photo 1: Senior Noah Gavil played Salieri.

Photo 2: Senior Sammy Zeisel played Mozart.

Photo 3: Mozart and Salieri pretend to enjoy each other’s company.

Photo 4: Sophomore Grace Laboy performed an aria.