Review by Iris LeCates, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
“That is church music. Changed.”
The lights flash out on Simon Kenton High School’s auditorium, quieting audience chatter mixing with the slow crescendo of a calliope. Dissonant chords fill the space as the lights rise on a typical suburban neighborhood, beginning the nightmarish journey through Ray Bradbury’s "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
Bradbury’s play adaptation of the 1962 novel, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" tells the story of two midwestern boys, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, and the carnival that comes to their town in late October. As the boys explore the carnival and inquire about the men who run it, they find that the mysterious Mr. Dark is capitalizing on fear to suck the life from the people of the town and power his twisted attractions. Set around World War II and written during the Cold War, the play examines how fear creates power and how questioning our belief in enigmatic terrors can be enough to quell them.
Trevor Lee and Teddy Neltner, in the leading roles of Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, respectively, were a successful duo. Funny and boyish, their friendship was charming. Lee, in his role as Will, was especially convincing in more serious moments with his father (Keegan Wood), and his naivety was an excellent foil to his father’s old age.
Caroline Nitardy’s performance as the Dust Witch was most excellent. Easily one of the most spirited and convincing performers onstage, Nitardy channeled an almost Shakespearean energy. Although she had relatively few scenes and only appeared in the second act, her verve managed to create some of the only fear-inspiring moments of the show.
Although a well-acclaimed horror piece, this production capitalized on some of the humorous, although brief, moments. Luke Howell, in his role as Robert, seemed almost a caricature of young children in horror movies, and Hunter Kerzee, in his role as the Lightning Rod Salesman, played off his all-too-obvious foreshadowing with comedy.
The technical elements of the show were equally successful. The carnival makeup, designed and executed by Alex Mastin, Heaven McCroy, Haley Jenkins, and Abby Lucas, was a nice touch that helped to individualize members of the carnie ensemble. The white contact lenses for the Dust Witch were particularly convincing. The set was dynamic and creative, containing everything from period street lamps, to an electric chair, to the facades of Jim and Will’s suburban homes. The creation of a spinning carousel was impressive, and it did manage to come apart during the final scenes as the carnival fell to pieces. The sound was also excellent, utilizing the original compositions from the 1983 movie and well-placed sound effects to effectively craft the eerie atmosphere.
At times spine-chilling and at times endearing, the cast and crew of Simon Kenton High School’s "Something Wicked This Way Comes" put on an enjoyable show that captured the terror of Bradbury’s classic novel.
Review by Nadya Ellerhorst, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes,” and come it did in Simon Kenton High School’s spine-tingling production of “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
Adapted from science fiction mastermind Ray Bradbury’s 1962 novel of the same title, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” centers on the sleepy locale of Green Town, Illinois, which is visited by a seemingly normal carnival. However, cotton candy and sideshows aside, the carnival brings with it a sinister force that best friends Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade set out to stop. As more and more townspeople succumb to the carnival’s evil, Will and Jim enlist the help of Will’s father, who must likewise look beyond his outward age to find his inner power as the trio tries to put a stop to the mysterious Mr. Dark and his motley of diabolical carnies.
Trevor Lee and Teddy Neltner, as Will and Jim, respectively, lent abundant humor and a charming valiance to the play, maintaining impressively convincing juvenile dispositions as they gamboled across the stage and gaped in horror at the carnival’s sinister mirror maze and carousel. Lee’s high-strung, squeamish Will served as an excellent contrast to Neltner’s rational, dry Jim, and both were an amusing, likable duo. Likewise, Keegan Wood, as Mr. Halloway, offered an empowering performance as a good-hearted man coping with the inevitable process of aging. His initial frustration at his age-related limitations and ensuing realization that age is simply a number were inspiring, as were the multiple, lengthy monologues he delivered without skipping a beat.
The show’s array of supporting cast members featured immense talent. Notable was John Micheal Wardrop as the menacing Mr. Dark, whose silky delivery of lines and looming stares contributed heavily to the play’s overall chilling air. Caroline Nitardy, as the Dust Witch, must also be lauded. Despite her role’s limited appearances on stage, Nitardy’s performance was captivating, with a spine-tingling voice and gliding movements establishing her character as one of the most haunting. In spite of occasional mic failures and elongated scene changes, every cast member adroitly persisted completely unfazed, making their evident dedication to the show apparent.
Acting talents aside, the spookiness simply wouldn’t have been complete without the remarkable efforts from behind the scenes. From the unsettling, pale eyes of the Dust Witch to the chilling, blue complexion of the Ice Woman, the production’s hair and make-up, researched, designed, and carried out by Alex Mastin, Heaven McRoy, Abby Lucas, and Haley Jenkins, was frighteningly realistic. The sound, designed and implemented by Faith Mischke, cleverly utilized the score from the 1983 film version of the original novel which effectively generated both ease and tension throughout the plot’s ups and downs. From Frederic Chopin’s "Funeral March," played in reverse to the sound of shattering glass, the show’s music and sound effects were always on point in timing and significant in establishing an eerie mood.
Something sinister indeed arrived on stage in Simon Kenton’s production of “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” However, along with it came an enduring reminder that the power of friendship and potency of love are our greatest weapons in facing our worst fears.
Review by Matthew Eggers, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
Watch in awe as the Strong Man swallows his sword whole, shiver in fright with the ominous foreboding of the Ice Woman's chill, and grapple with the existential fear that with each day, we inevitably become older… and older… and die. Sadly, one of these things is not so easy to swallow, and it isn't the sword. However, Simon Kenton High School’s production of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" tackles this fear with determination and heart.
"Something Wicked This Way Comes" is based on Ray Bradbury's 1962 novel of the same name. The play tells the story of young Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway who face ghastly horrors when Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show mysteriously comes to town. Through the ensnaring wonders of the carnival, Will and Jim must choose to remain true to themselves or give in to the sinister temptations that the fair offers. Thanks to the help of Will’s father, the boys are able to save the town and to avoid the incessant desire to change the inevitable passage of time. Simon Kenton’s production meets this classic coming-of-age tale with the determination needed to bring it to the stage.
With a show that has leading characters question life and death, it would be easy for each actor to stray away from confronting his or her character's relationship with age. However, Will Halloway, played by Trevor Lee, did a great job of bringing this complexity to his character. Lee utilized Will’s complex arc to provide a dynamic and honest performance. His development wouldn’t have been possible without Keegan Wood’s proficient portrayal as Will’s Father. Wood succeeded in maintaining a paternal character that lent itself well to being an empathetic and supportive presence that contrasted the more creepy elements of the play.
Although the carnies of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show are known for their horrible ways, their performances were delightful. In fact, Caroline Nitardy was absolutely captivating as the Dust Witch. With an extremely smooth, melodic voice, Nitardy made the witch's malicious curses feel as if they slithered through the aisles, catching the audience as her victims. Leading his evil carnies, Mr. Dark, played by John Micheal Wardrop, did a fantastic job. Wardrop utilized his magic tricks and creepy persona to elevate this production from a bumble to a buzz of evil excitement.
With an ensemble of carnies eerily dressed and styled as a ghoulish group of wonders, it is hard not to give a shoutout to costumes and makeup. Solely designed by Alex Mastin, the costumes of the carnies were quite sinister. The use of pre-40s fashion made the carnies feel out of place in the town’s 40's setting, thoughtfully amplifying dissonance. The Makeup and Hair crew (Alex Mastin, Heaven McRoy, Abby Lucas, and Haley Jenkins) did a splendid job of bringing these characters from concepts to the stage successfully. The attention to detail, portraying fair attraction tropes, allowed for each character to be instantly recognizable, thanks to his or her well-designed makeup.
Now that the town is at peace and the curtain has closed, the audience is left to question their mortality. Yet, Simon Kenton High School’s production doesn’t let you deal with this alone. This production lets you leave feeling closer to those around you with gasps, laughter, and wonder.
Excerpts from Top Reviews
“Trevor Lee effortlessly brought Will Halloway’s methodical nature and unsuspecting courage to life while combating the carnival's twisted powers. His captivating performance was only magnified by the repertoire between himself and Jim Nightshade, played by Teddy Neltner. Neltner convincingly illustrated his trouble with the darkness of the world as he attempted to escape the confines of childhood.”
-Charlotte Shores, Randall K. Cooper High School
“In terms of the technical aspects of the show, all crews showed great enthusiasm in executing the plethora of challenges this show presents. In their own creative spin, the set crew, made up of Diana Barbosa, Catherine Russell, James Adams, and Austin Shaffer, featured a multitude of candy-colored sets in the typically bare-bones play.”
-Clare Brennan, Walnut Hills High School
“Will's dad, Mr. Halloway, played by Keegan Wood. His story was a driving force and his presence on stage captivated attention. His ability to show a dad's sorrow for wishing to be younger and his drive to save his son from the hands of Mr. Dark, played by John Micheal Wardrop, showed how amazing a bond can be.”
-Lizzy Wheeler, Roger Bacon High School
“The carnival set was masterfully crafted by Diana Barbosa, Catherine Russell, James Adams, and Austin Shaffer, and it perfectly complemented the play’s sinister atmosphere. The most ambitious project the crew took on was the construction of a fully operational merry go round. Paired with a fog machine and a strobe light, the merry go round added a sense of authenticity to the paranormal carnival.”
-Anna Nappi, Saint Ursula Academy
“Mr. Dark, played by John Micheal Wardrop, was a mysterious character that kept the audience in anticipation and had a sinister stage presence. Mr. Halloway, played by Keegan Wood, gave a contemplative performance that left the audience to, surprisingly, ponder mortality.”
-Elayna Webb, Larry A. Ryle High School
“Make up, hair, and costumes also helped bring the characters to life, especially in the case of Cece Neltner as the Ice Woman and Caroline Nitardy as the Dust Witch. The Dust Witch, in particular, captured the audience’s attention with her phenomenal acting ability and eerie stage countenance, but her performance was truly made complete by the crew’s addition of an eye-catching steampunk dress and creepy-colored contacts.”
-Brooke Yates, Larry A. Ryle High School
“Will’s best friend, Jim Nightshade, played by Teddy Neltner, and Jim's father, Mr. Halloway, played by Keegan Wood, were the two characters standing by his side throughout the entire play. Both of these actors did a great job assisting Will in the carnival situation and through dealing with Mr. Dark, the antagonist of the play.”
-Erica Budde, Ursuline Academy
About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati
The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala. Find more reviews at CinciCap.com/reviews.