As one of the characters in the 1970 Charles Strouse – Lee Adams musical “Applause” prophetically says, “They should write plays about what goes on after the show.” W.T. Woodson High School recently undertook this difficult and rarely performed show, based on the film, “All About Eve.”
It is the story of Margo Channing (Jill Rizzuto), an aging stage star, who introduces the seemingly naïve, lovely and innocent Eve Harrington (Lauren Calhoun) to the wonders of the Broadway stage, only to be backstabbed and shoved aside by the talented, driven, scheming young star, who becomes Margo’s personal secretary as a means to eventually become her understudy and take over her role — and her life.
Rizzuto, following in the footsteps of legendary Lauren Bacall, who originated the role of Margo on Broadway, took on the difficult challenge of playing an older role, which offered her an opportunity to reveal her acting talent.
Calhoun, as the ambitious Eve, showcased her singing ability without sacrificing acting skill. The pair made sparks fly as they interacted with Margo’s fiancé Bill Sampson, played with passion by Ari Post, and with producer Howard Benedict (Colin Smith), who also felt the burn of Eve’s manipulations.
Most of the cast of supporting and cameo actors embraced their roles and created memorable characters. In particular, the wise backstage-manager, Bert (Robin Adams), showed a good understanding of his character and place in the story, creating a rounded character with very few lines.
Despite some strong performances by the actors and singers, the plot was difficult to follow because of sound difficulties and garbled lines.
Woodson’s rotating cubic set design was effective and extremely colorful, adding interest to their large and cavernous stage, but it proved a bit too large and unwieldy for the steadfast set crew to maneuver efficiently, despite their valiant efforts to do so.
Life in the theater clearly revolves around the applause, as the show’s theme reminds us. Woodson’s efforts gained them their reward.
(Cappies is a high school critics and awards program involving 50 schools in the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. area.)