Chantilly High's "The Man Who Came to Dinner" won three awards — including Best Play — Sunday night at the Eighth Annual Cappies Gala at The Kennedy Center. It also received Cappies for Sets and for Comic Actor in a Play, Jack Ashey.
Centreville's "Jekyll & Hyde" won two Cappies — one for Nate Rossini for Lead Actor in a Musical, and one for Best Song, "Confrontation." Westfield's "Macbeth" also garnered two Cappies — for Ensemble in a Play and for Lighting.
"WE WERE very pleased; they're a really nice group of kids," said Chantilly Theater Director Ed Monk. "There are so many good plays and schools, so it was a nice surprise."
He was also happy for Centreville Director Mark Rogers and Westfield Director Scott Pafumi. Said Monk: "It's very nice when we all do well because we all like each other and get along."
Overall, South County's "Thoroughly Modern Millie" received the most awards, four, including Cappies for Best Musical and Lead Actress in a Musical, Molly Dickerson.
Cameron Doucette of Lake Braddock won the Cappie for Lead Actor in a Play for "Hamlet," and Amanda Fernandez of Duke Ellington was named Lead Actress in a Play for "Glass Menagerie."
Some 55 high schools from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., competed, and 37 Cappies were presented. Except for the awards given to the critics, all the Cappies were based on the votes of 302 student critics.
A special highlight of the show was a musical tribute in honor of two of the Virginia Tech victims, Westfield grad Reema Samaha and Annandale grad Mary Read, whose pictures were projected on two large screens during the performance.
Westfield alumni Kevin Manship and Barry Armbruster sang a special adaptation of "Sunrise, Sunset" from "Fiddler on the Roof," and Westfield sophomore Alex Kruszewski danced.
SAMAHA WAS a featured dancer in "Fiddler" — which won the 2005 Cappie for Best Musical. Sunday's tribute also included a clarinet solo in honor of Read, who played clarinet in the pit band for Annandale's Cappies shows.
Accepting the award for Best Play, for "The Man Who Came to Dinner," Chantilly senior Meghan Griffith told the audience, "We hope Mr. Monk is proud — this was so much fun. Chantilly Chargers!" Backstage, afterward, she said she was overwhelmed by the honor.
"It was long-awaited and well-deserved," said Griffith, 18. "And it would have been great even if we didn't get the award — [our play] was that good."
Senior Carol Ashey, Jake's older sister, said she was hoping Chantilly would win, "but there was lots of competition; I was very nervous. Now, I'm ecstatic. I can't believe it — my senior year, we won Best Play!"
"Everyone did the best they could," said Brian Grandinetti. "And we worked together and had Mr. Monk as a great director and coach. He knew everyone's individual talents and strengths and he was able to pull together a great cast."
"I'm amazed," said senior Jack Folsom. "Both casts were the best Chantilly has to offer. This is incredible and I'm pretty thrilled."
Buffy Billone, 18, said the other schools had so much talent that she wasn't sure who would win. Said Billone: "I'm just in shock and so happy because it's our senior year."
Chantilly's Jake Ashey was equally excited about his Cappie for Comic Actor in a Play. "I'm ecstatic and overjoyed," he said. "It's a huge honor, but I tried not to think about winning beforehand. I'm proud of all the work I've done with the show, but I couldn't do it without my cast and director."
"Jake has done a wonderful job for us," said Monk. "And it's a good way for him to end his high-school career."
Laura Kim, Ben Pardo and Wes Vitale were also delighted that Chantilly won the Cappie for Sets, as was Monk. "The crew contributed to that [victory], so that's wonderful," he said.
"I THOUGHT we had a chance," said Kim. "But I'm very shocked, ecstatic, overwhelmed and, overall, excited." Added Pardo: "It's amazing; I'm shaking. We know how it feels to win now."
"We are phenomenal," said a proud Vitale. "We're weak-kneed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed." When asked where he was going to put their award, he replied: "I'm building a box for it in the tech booth so I can keep an eye on it."
Receiving the Cappie for Lead Actor in a Musical, Centreville senior Nate Rossini — who played both Jekyll and Hyde — said afterward, "I'm on Cloud 9. I can't talk straight or breathe, right now; I feel like Jekyll after he transforms."
He attributed his victory to the difficulty of playing two roles at once. Said a gracious Rossini: "It really was a challenge, but I congratulate the other nominees because they're equally talented." After graduation, he's considering attending NYU to major in theater and minor in musical theater.
Jan Lunsford, "Jekyll & Hyde's" musical director, was also pleased with his honor. "I am very excited for Nate to have achieved his goal of the characterization of Jekyll and Hyde," she said. "And I especially was impressed with the work of the whole cast because this musical is very challenging and, yet, very fulfilling."
However, Rossini said he was surprised that his song, "Confrontation" won the Cappie for Best Song because he was "completely blown away by the other nominees." So coming away with this award, too, he said, made him feel "elevated to new heights."
Westfield's Alex Merrill was also glad and excited to win the Cappie for Lighting for his school's production of "Macbeth." Said Merrill: "I'm proud of everybody I worked with and everybody who helped me through the stress of creating the show. And I thank Mr. Pafumi for working with me and putting up with me to create a well-lit show."
Chelsea Stenger, Jade Jones and Sarah Cowdery were overjoyed, as well, to receive the Cappie for Ensemble in a Play for their portrayal of "Macbeth's" Three Weird Sisters. "I'm ecstatic," said Stenger. "It's wonderful to know our peers appreciate our hard work."
"I'm so proud of my girls," said Jones. "It was a lot of work, but we did it." Added Cowdery: I'm just happy that I got to do it with Chelsea and Jade."
Westfield grad Barry Armbruster also praised the talented trio. "I'm just really proud of them," he said. "And I'm glad to see them get an award, and the show, rewarded, because it was so wonderful."
WESTFIELD DIRECTOR Scott Pafumi was also happy with his school's two wins. "Our previous productions of 'Godspell' and 'Hamlet' won for lighting, so this continues the tradition," he said. "And I'm really proud of the ensemble of the Three Weird Sisters because they were the heart of the show. Individually, they're special and beautiful people; and collectively, they're a powerhouse."
Some 24 high schools won at least one Cappie award Sunday night, and Chantilly's Monk said that's "really a testament to the program. It's not just one or two schools dominating; it's all spread out."
All in all, he said, "The evening is fun, and just having the kids be able to dress up, wear their medallions and walk in The Kennedy Center is special. The nominations are really nice, but winning is just luck, depending on who saw your show."