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School For Creative and Performing Arts' THE PLAY THE GOES WRONG (HIGH SCHOOL EDITION)

Review by Emma Dalton, Walnut Hills High School Creative Team

Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s production of Murder at Haversham Manor was an unmitigated disaster, marked by dreadful acting and a set that can barely stay together. No one should see this play. The same cannot be said for the School for Creative and Performing Arts’ production of The Play That Goes Wrong, because it went so thoroughly right.

The Play That Goes Wrong is the award-winning 2012 play by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre Company. It follows the Cornley Drama Society’s opening of The Murder at Haversham Manor. This 1920s whodunnit has much more standing in its way than the character’s secrets, with tumbling paintings, unconscious ingenues, and actors tripping over everything…including their lines. Hilarity ensues as the audience bears with the seemingly cursed production, battling against the odds to try and make it to the curtain call.

The Play That Goes Wrong is no easy feat, with incredibly complicated set pieces, acting nuance, and special effects. The cast and crew of SCPA’s production went above and beyond the call of duty, with brilliantly funny performances and awe-inspiring tech that left the audience in stitches.

Desperately trying to keep the play moving along, Colton Slade as Chris Bean/ Inspector Carter proved a fantastic lead with his nuanced acting choices and perfectly timed jokes. The electric performance of Cole Sherman as Cecil Haversham/ Max Bennett took physical comedy to a new level with his antics and offset Slade’s serious demeanor.

The Florences of the show, played first by Kelijah Houston and the stage manager character Annie Twilloil, played by Peyton Kirby, brought a wonderful dynamic to the show. Their over-the-top portrayal of Florence and WWE-worthy brawl over the spotlight were hilarious.

Trying to clean up the mess the actors kept making, the Stagehands for Murder at Haversham Manor proved to be terrible at their jobs, but their calamity and cohesivity made them a great ensemble. Making chaos seem real and in the moment is no easy feat, but they were up to the challenge.

A huge spotlight went on the technical aspects of this show due to its difficult nature, especially in the special effects department. Gyasi Henderson, Finley Manktelow, Jesse Mcdonough, and Christian Wetzel found innovative ways to safely execute much of the destruction of the set, including the falling paintings, walls, and even a whole platform. The chaos of this show wouldn’t be possible without a stage management team keeping everything controlled and clean. With each cue, Jamila Kitchen-Brown and her crew conducted their symphony of mayhem with due diligence and dedication.

Murder at Haversham Manor was a disaster. Still, SCPA’s production of The Play That Goes Wrong was hilarious perfection, with laughter echoing in the hearts of the audience long after the standing ovation.

Review by Ravyn Jones, Mason High School Critic Team

Props and set pieces falling over, actors forgetting their lines, missed light and sound cues- usually, that would be an actor's worst nightmare. But in SCPA's production of The Play That Goes Wrong, disaster is just part of the show.

The Play That Goes Wrong follows an amateur theatre troupe's production of a thrilling murder mystery. But as the night goes on, it's clear that the group is severely underprepared as the set collapses around them, cast members are severely injured, a dog is lost, and so much more.

SCPA's production was masterfully executed. The audience was immersed as soon as they walked into the auditorium and saw crew members scurrying frantically; making last-minute preparations or handing out missing dog flyers. From the moment when Chris Bean, the uptight and serious director played by Colton Slade, came onstage to give his pre-show announcement to the moment the lights went out on the disastrous final scene, every audience member was full of laughter and delight.

Cecil Haversham, played by Cole Sherman, took up the entire stage with his over-the-top acting. As he pantomimed his way through his monologues, the audience clapped and cheered at his hilarious mannerisms. Kelijah Houston as Florence Colleymore was another smash hit, whether she was playing the role of a dramatic socialite or fighting her understudy in a scene that was not only hysterical but impressively choreographed and executed.

Trevor Watson (R. Teancom Thacker) was another fan favorite. Trevor appeared throughout the play as the stage manager, always having something witty to say, but his time to shine came in the second act when he was pushed onstage to play the role of Florence, as both of the previous actresses had been knocked unconscious. His sarcastic charm captured the audience's interest and made him a fan-favorite character. Annie Twilloil (Peyton Kirby) found herself in a similar situation, forced from backstage to onstage in the first act to take the role of Florence from her unconscious original actress. Her frantic confusion was incredibly charming, and her spontaneous song and dance break had the audience singing along with her in laughter.

The technical execution was nothing short of professional. Sets (Lillia Babcock, Liliana Molina Maceo Moll Hooper, Sariah Schroder) faced the daunting task of controlling many pieces of collapsing scenery, making sure they were triggered safely and at the right time. Possibly the most impressive aspect of their work was the falling platform, which had to be controlled to fall at three different levels while keeping the actors safe. Nevertheless, in The Play That Goes Wrong, nothing went wrong thanks to the set crew's ingenuity and hard work. In tandem with them was the props crew (Symone Bell, Teyah Hampton, Julia Menendez-Aponte, Alex Powers), who created holsters, broken swords, a "paint thinner" bottle, and so much more to bring the show to life. Without their hard work, many of the show's comedic moments couldn't have been pulled off- they would have lacked the necessary elements to make the show feel real.

SCPA's The Play That Goes Wrong was not only a night of fun but a very technically impressive production. From actors executing physically difficult scenes, to crews that created dynamic scenery, the production was nothing short of professional.

Review by Katie Berich, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team

From the moment the curtain rises to the final bow, chaos takes center stage in The Play That Goes Wrong at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. With slapstick comedy, technical magic, and hilarious performances, The Play That Goes Wrong left audiences laughing out loud long after curtain call.

The Play That Goes Wrong utilizes the classic play-within-a-play format to poke fun at amateur theatre, following the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society as they stage a murder mystery titled The Murder at Haversham Manor. However, everything that can go wrong does during the production, leading to a series of comedic mishaps including malfunctioning props, missed cues, and forgotten lines. Despite the chaos, the amateur actors valiantly attempt to salvage the performance with varying levels of success. The show ends with a literal bang when a whole wall of the set collapses.

SCPA invited audiences to step into the world of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society from the moment they walked through the door. Clever use of audience interaction before and during the show built a camaraderie between performers and spectators. Actors were seen not only on stage, but in the aisles and on the catwalk, which put audiences right in the middle of the action.

The success of The Play That Goes Wrong owes much to the exceptional talent and comedic timing of its leading actors. Colton Slade, playing both Chris Bean and Inspector Carter, delivers a triumphant performance that anchors the production with impeccable comedic delivery. Stephen Lambert shines as Perkins, captivating audiences with his poised physicality and use of dialect. Jaemir Whitfield brings a delightful quirkiness to the role of Thomas Colleymore.

Cole Sherman earned numerous rounds of applause with his spunky, physical portrayal of Cecil Haversham. The ensemble of stagehands (Gene Abron, Rosie Kipperman, Ginger Hickerson, Carma Jackson, and Sami Miller) were crucial to the success of the production, greatly aiding the physical comedy of the show.

It’s no secret that The Play That Goes Wrong can be a technical nightmare, but the crew at SCPA was up to the challenge. Maceo Moll Hooper’s detailed set design brought Haversham Manor to life with bold wallpapers and dark wood tones, while also including considerations for Special Effects by Gyasi Henderson and crew–the set is adorned with various magnets and pulleys to safely create the calculated chaos in the show. Holding it all together was stage manager Jamila Kitchen-Brown, who kept extensive documentation to ensure clear communication to cast and crew, as well as calling cues with professional-level precision.

Every element of The Play That Goes Wrong reflected the dedication and talent of the cast and crew at SCPA. From skilled designs to madcap performances, The Play That Goes Wrong was a brilliant display of talent on all fronts.

Excerpts From Other Top Reviews

"The set, designed by Maceo Moll Hooper and Symone Bell, played an integral role in the production. Its versatility in design and appearance combined with its functionality allowed for a complete immersive experience between actors and audience. Working closely with Special Effects(Gyasi Henderson, Finley Manktelow, Jesse McDonough, and Christian Wetzel), the partnership resulted in perfectly accomplished disruptions throughout the production."

-Nyla Shahanavaz, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team

"Colton Slade brought a hilarious level of seriousness to the role of Chris Bean, the director, voice coach, dialect coach, fight choreographer, casting director, costume designer, and lead role of The Murder at Haversham Manor. As a character with such high stakes in the play's success, Slade contrasted the other characters’ ridiculousness with a strong desire for the production to go smoothly, making everything even funnier. Kelijah Houston played Sandra Wilkinson, the leading lady of the play within a play. Houston played Sandra with a comedic diva energy and relentless ability to keep coming back after being knocked out."

-Kendall Davis, William Mason High School Critic Team

"Kelijah Houston and Peyton Kirby took on the characters of Sandra Wilkinson and Annie Twilloil, and these two were able to present a different type of comical presence through their facetious chemistry. It was through cold glares and stiff mannerisms that Houston and Kirby created a hysterical underlying tension, and when this agitation erupted into a brutally physical fight in the final scene, Houston and Kirby invented a recipe for pure entertainment."

-Ali Lewis, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team

"In addition to the cast, the technical elements were just as marvelous. The set, designed by Maceo Moll Hooper, was nothing short of grandiose. From before the show started to after the show ended, the set was in action as the actors sprinted to all different parts of the stage. Additionally, the costumes, designed by Ariel Tatum and Lusayra Velasquez, added the finishing touch to the show that made it reach the next level."

-Clark Sayre, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team

"Now, for everything to go wrong, everything has to go right. In this case, pictures have to fall at the right time, floors have to collapse under actors’ feet just right, and when the wall comes crashing down, it can’t hit anyone. This whole set was so technically impressive and visually appealing, and there is no one to thank for that except for the amazing crew behind the show. With such a highly coordinated and fast-paced show, it is important to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible, and stage manager Jamila Kitchen-Brown and her entire crew, did a phenomenal job of helping to make this show the masterpiece it is."

-Emily Merica, Ursuline Academy Critic Team

"One exceptional performance was Cole Sherman’s portrayal of Cecil Haversham. With a character in love with performing and audience appreciation, Sherman did an excellent job of incorporating the audience’s laughter and cheers into his character and scene work. Another remarkable character was the loveable butler Perkins (Stephen Lambert). When actor Dennis Tyde who played Perkins (Stephen Lambert) had a hard time remembering his lines, Lambert’s portrayal of this forgetful actor sent the audience into a fit of laughter during this repeated scene."

-Reese Heidrich, Ursuline Academy Critic Team

"Overall, The School for Creative and Performing Arts’ difficult production of The Play That Goes Wrong was tackled with seeming ease. As it, ironically, did not go wrong and was a masterful showcase of a brilliant comedy filled with emotion and laughter."

-Henry Weghorst, Highlands High School Critic Team

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