Applause from scores of Cappies Galas around the nation may have died away, but the actors commended for their work this season are anything but forgotten. They can be found in the D.C. area pouring their enthusiasm and effort into the Cappies National Theatre’s glowing production of Starz! A cabaret show featuring “Eleven Variations on Friar John’s Failure,” Starz! offered a series of vignettes exploring just what went wrong with the errant errand boy from Romeo and Juliet.
The “Variations” were undoubtedly the most shining part of this production. When Romeo and Juliet’s hapless Friar John (Will Cromartie) stumbled into another famous Shakespearean tragedy (the unlucky Macbeth,) trouble ensued when the infamous “double double” witches prophesize he will become king. He was joined by power-hungry Lady Macbeth, played by Hannah Lawler, whose skillful mastery of Shakespearean speech made her performance flawless. Lawler’s exuberantly mad aura made her “insanity” believable.
Chris Sears commendably displayed the kind of suave arrogance that audiences hate to love, as a “dreadfully virtuous” Robin Hood who foiled the Friar (Alex Herrera) in his attempt to get through the woods. Carlos Velazquez starred with much aplomb as William Shakespeare, gleefully contemplating and celebrating his own “genius,” helping transform Chris Adams’ Romeo from a wretched being to a silly, vapid boy in the “happy-ending” version of Romeo and Juliet. Adams’ ludicrous mannerisms and extravagant facial expressions made him a constant joy to watch.
Punctuating the brilliant acting, the musical portion of this show was a bit uneven, sometimes lacking that breathtaking energy the non-musical performers seemed to share. However, the opening number, “Face Book,” was vibrant. Two actors blessed with gorgeous voices, Judith Ingber and Marshall Nannes, sang “Before It’s Too Late," an exceptionally funny song that added musical pep to the show. The closing “It’s All About Love,” performed by the company, was remarkably fresh and energetic and made the perfect ending. Some other musical numbers felt rather nonsensical and flat.
There were minimal sets and simple lighting onstage, perfectly done so as not to outshine the actors. Scene changes were executed with agility and speed, despite one minor, hardly noticeable accident late in the show.
The Cappies National Theatre performers were Cappie honorees from throughout the country. They are the “crème de la crème” of America’s high school thespians. Starz! was a superlative display of talent, enabling these actors and actresses to keep that all that Gala applause going well after those curtains closed. There is a lot to be said for future generations of theater and entertainment, as several of these “starz” are certain to make a grand appearance.
Performance of the Cappies National Theatre will be "Playz!" on Sunday, July 31, at 2 p.m., at James Madison High School in Vienna, and Monday, Aug. 1, at 7:30 p.m., at the Kennedy Center Theater Lab; and "Muzical!" a workshop production of the new musical "The Yellow Wood," on Sunday, Aug. 7, at 2 p.m., at Madison High School, and Monday, Aug. 8, at 7:30 p.m., at the Kennedy Center Theater Lab.