What started out as a stressful day for Stone Bridge High School drama teacher Glen Hochkeppel turned into an evening of celebration as Stone Bridge took home the top award at the seventh annual Cappies gala June 11. The school was awarded Best Musical for its production of "Seussical the Musical."
Earlier in the day, Hochkeppel was trying to transport the large hat that the performers needed to use in their performance of their show's opening number, "Oh, the Thinks You Can Think" when it ripped away from the rings that hold it together.
"It wouldn't fit in my car, so I tried to secure it to the top of the car" he said, "but I guess I didn't tie it down well enough because about 10 minutes into the trip I heard this horrible flap, flap, flap sound."
Hochkeppel tried as best he could to reattach the hat on the side of the road, but it took some quick work and a lot of safety pins to get the hat show-ready.
"I think I took all of the bad karma away from the kids," Hochkeppel said.
In addition to being awarded for Best Musical, Stone Bridge senior Mace Sorenson was named Lead Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of the Cat in the Hat and juniors James Cook, Christopher DuGuay and John Manning won Best Ensemble in a Musical for their portrayal of the Wickershams.
Stone Bridge was nominated for 15 awards for "Suessical," the most nominations for a single school in Cappies history.
THE CAPPIES AWARDS, which honors the best in high-school theater, was held Sunday night at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Nominees from 58 schools from throughout the Washington-metropolitan area donned their finest formal attire and cheered for their friends and classmates while eagerly awaiting the announcement of each winner.
When the 3 1/2-hour ceremony was done, Stone Bridge and H-B Woodlawn in Arlington county walked off with the two top awards, the first time the counties had won in those categories. Woodlawn won for Best Play with "The Marriage of Bette and Boo."
"The actual ceremony was so much fun," Hochkeppel said. "There was such a supportive atmosphere from the other schools and the other theater people."
Corey-Antonio Hawkins of Duke Ellington was Lead Actor in a Play for "The Laramie Project," and Abba Kiser of Chantilly High was Lead Actress in a Play for "Auntie Mame." Lead Actress in a Musical went to Clifton's Nicole Smith of Seton for "Annie, Get Your Gun," who joined Sorenson as a musical lead winner.
"A lot of hard work paid off. I'm very grateful," Sorenson said. "I never took lessons, but I've been singing in musicals since I was a little kid. I'm feeling very happy right now."
T.C. Williams in Alexandria won the award for Critics Team for the fourth year in a row. And Burke's Chelsea Cook, named Rising Critic, became the first home-schooled student to ever receive a Cappie.
U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-11), there to help present the Cappie for Props & Effects, praised the nominees in all the categories. "Each year, the level of performance just keeps getting better and better and better," he said. "Forget the Tonys; this is it, as far as I'm concerned."
THE FEELING OF winning for Best Musical is one that Hochkeppel and Stone Bridge will not soon forget.
"I started to get a little down because we had received all those nominations, but we weren't taking home any honors," Hochkeppel said. "It was a nailbiter to the end."
Hochkeppel said one of the things that made the process so nerve-wrecking was being able to watch all the other Best Musical nominees perform.
"We saw the best number from each of our rival shows and they were all really sharp and really well done," he said. "That made it feel so fantastic to get that [award]."
Stone Bridge students were thrilled at their victory and most attributed their win to the work of every single person.
"The ensemble was amazing and there was so much energy on stage, it translated into Best Musical," junior Sam Tutko said. "It was a group effort that really paid off."
"Oh, my God, it's such an honor," senior Ryan McGaughey said. "I had a gut feeling we would win, but I wasn't sure."
McGaughey attributed the win to "all the hard work and dedication everybody put into it."
When the award was announced, Hochkeppel said everyone involved in the show swarmed on to the stage.
"It was so wonderful to see them up there basking in it," he said.
SORENSON'S WIN FOR Lead Actor did not surprise Hochkeppel, who knew Sorenson had been working towards getting a Cappie award since the school year started.
"Mace gave such an energized and amazing performance," he said. "He filled every second with fun, interesting and exciting stuff. It was almost like he dared the critics not to vote for him."
As for the Wickersham brothers, they were amongst the most jubilant winner of the night.
"Words cannot explain [how I feel about winning]," DuGuay said. Putting an arm over the shoulders of each of his co-winners, he added, "These boys are definitely my brothers."
"I didn't get this part 'til a week before the show opened — and then, three days before it did — I split my foot open," Cook said. "They told me not to dance on it and now I have to have surgery, but it's totally worth it."
Manning, who was the starting left tackle on Stone Bridge's football team, was enthusiastic about his first high-school theater experience.
"We're excited about coming back next year and we'll hopefully get a role together," he said. "We wouldn't function as well if we weren't a group."
For Hochkeppel, though, the best moment of the evening came after all of the awards were given out, when the parents and crew who had worked behind the scenes at the gala came up to him and told him how positive and encouraging his students had been backstage.
"They said the Stone Bridge team was by far the most well-mannered and professional of the high-school groups," he said. "It was very important to me. I wanted us to be classy from beginning to end so that was really the icing on the cake."