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'Chicago' Named Best Musical

<bt>Madison High's "Chicago" took the trophy for best musical and Centreville High's "Rumors" was honored as best play at Sunday night's 2003 Cappies Gala at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Robinson Secondary School, Madison and Westfield High won five, four and three Cappies, respectively, to garner 12 — nearly a third — of the 35 total awards presented at this fourth annual event feting high-school theater. Robinson won for its production of "My Fair Lady."

Centreville's Eric St. Peter was chosen best lead actor in a play for his portrayal of party guest Lenny Ganz, and Emily Bever captured best lead-actress honors for her performance in the title role of Chantilly's "I Remember Mama."

Yasir Latifi was selected best lead actor for his portrayal of Julian Marsh in Hayfield's "42nd Street," and Margaret Long of Osbourn Park, in Prince William County, was honored as best lead actress in a musical for her role in "Camelot."

Under the auspices of the Cappies (Critics and Awards Program), nearly 300 theater students from public and private high schools in Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., attended each others' shows, wrote reviews for newspapers and TV and served as judges.

Except for the three critics awards, all Cappie nominations and awards were based entirely on the votes of student critics. Some 43 shows — 25 musicals and 18 plays — competed for this year's Cappies, which honor both actors and tech crews.

MATT STEWART and Mary Pauline Jones represented the Madison orchestra, which received a Cappie for its performance in the musical "Chicago." The awardees were only allowed six-word acceptance speeches and, for this honor, Stewart said, "Thank you — and all that jazz."

Stewart is a senior, 18. "It was extra special because I played trumpet in the orchestra and danced. All the hard work paid off — we're blessed, I guess."

Jones is a junior, 16, and plays saxophone. "I think it's really great. It's my first year in the jazz band, and it's cool that we could [win a Cappie award] in my first year."

Madison sophomore Laura Bacon, 16, picked up a Cappie for set design. She said the set was multi-level and had a good backdrop of the Chicago skyline. And the band was beneath the main platform in back.

"The coolest thing was two sets of stairs that moved, had Plexiglas in front and were backlit so they had a realistic look to them," said Bacon. "I'm so excited, I can't believe I won. The show was in May, and we started making the set in January. I designed it and helped build it."

Representing the entire "Chicago" cast, senior A.J. Cook, 18, accepted the Best Song Cappie for "We Both Reached for the Gun. "

"The best part was singing in puppet voice," said Cook, who, as lawyer Billy Flynn, was featured in the song. "We spent hours doing funny voices." However, he noted that "it took a lot of breath control to hold the final note at the end" of that song.

"I feel great," Cook said. "None of us could have put any more into it. My prediction was that 'Black Boys, White Boys' [by Duke Ellington] or '42nd Street' [by Hayfield] would win. I think this was the toughest category because every song in its entirety was an awesome number and every one featured both song and dance."

The pinnacle of the evening for the Madison students was the announcement that their production of "Chicago" was named best musical.

"We're one of the first schools in Virginia to do this show, so it's a big deal," said stage manager Stephanie Junkin, 17. "We had an incredible cast, crew and band — and our director, Natalie Vandever, is just amazing. Everyone put everything into it. I hoped [we'd win], but I really didn't know [how we'd do] because we were up against such great shows. It's incredible — I'm so happy. What a great way to end my high-school career in theater!"

Madison wasn't the only to Vienna area school to score a Cappie. Senior C.C. Guinot, 18, earned a Best Female Vocalist nod for her turn as Eliza Doolittle in Flint Hill's production of "My Fair Lady"

"I didn't think I'd win — not at all — because everybody I heard was so good," said Guinot of her first Cappie nomination. "I'm really, really honored. I've never been to the Cappies before — I'm blown away by this."