All posts by Garrett Keidel

“The Wiz” – A Review of the Spring Musical

It’s that time of the year again! MSJ’s Spring Musical has concluded, and it’s time to go through and nit-pick everything that happened during the show.

DSC_6368Well, not really, but what I am going to do is give you all the highs and lows of this year’s show, The Wiz. The show ran through the weekend of April 16th starting Friday night at 7 PM and ending on Sunday at 2 PM, and I am basing my review on the Saturday night performance.

We can start with the actual Music/Pit Band performance. The music was great! The band was able to create emotions with their instruments to an extremely high degree. Shout-out to Chris Arreza, ’17, who did an amazing job playing the drums during the performance. If there were any negatives, it would be that the band played a bit too loud, making it hard to hear the actors throughout the performance.

On to our first role: Dorothy, played by MDSA junior Azaria Oglesby. She commanded the stage and the audience’s attention throughout the whole performance. Having a great amount of power in her voice helped her achieve this. One thing that I noticed was how committed she was throughout the whole thing, especially in the choreography. Never missing a beat, she danced in circles around some of the other actors, to her benefit and their deficit. Even while running throughout all of the Marion Burk Knott Fine Arts Center, she was able to stay  on beat and hit every note. Great job Azaria!DSC_6824_crop

We move on to the role of Aunt Em, played by MDSA senior Meghan Hanlon. In Cinderella, she was an A+ actress, but I think this role was a less than perfect match. Aunt Em seems to be a huge role vocally needing a huge range to sing. “The Feeling We Once Had,” which is a song in the very beginning of the show, is basically a solo. It is a very challenging song, and in my opinion, it was a little pitchy. However, her characterization and acting was excellent and reminded us of the great performances of past. Overall, it was a solid performance. She pushed through and gave it her all. Well done and good luck in your future performances Meghan!

DSC_7545Moving onto our first MSJ performer: Mark Haver, ’16. The role of the Tinman is one of the most important in the show.  Mark brought something to the MSJ stage that I had yet to see, tap dancing. In his introductory scene/song, “Slide Some Oil To Me,” he separated himself from the rest of the group when he broke out into dance. His voice was also the epitome of what a Broadway voice sounds like: vibrato, drama, and attitude.

“Steeeeeeeeeeeeeve” could be heard throughout the whole auditorium when MSJ fan favorite Steven “Big Steve” Alford, ’16, bowed to the crowd at the end of the performance. Steve was able to get the crowd laughing, especially with the line, “Imma get the hell outta here!” It was definitely cool seeing a 6’1″, 340-lb lineman on the MSJ stage (Yes Steve, I know you’re going to read this, and yes, I looked at your Hudl to get those stats, lol.). From his performance you would have had no idea that it was his first musical while in high school. There were some times though where the choreography seemed a little fuzzy,  but who am I kidding? It was awesome! Congrats Steve on a job well done, and good luck at McDaniel!

DSC_6612One actor that seemed particularly well-cast to me was senior Kyle Starling as the Scarecrow. He played the character with mindlessness and humor totally appropriate for the part. There were times when I lost Kyle on the stage, and that was a real shame. He had the most stage time with Dorothy compared to all the other roles, and I thought his solid performance suffered a bit simply by its comparison to Azaria’s star turn. Also, I felt like the acting like the Scarecrow couldn’t walk was way overdone. It was funny the first 2 times, but continuing to do so 3/4 of the way through got a little old. On the other hand, Kyle did use some excellent comedic timing though in his dialogue which really got people laughing and enjoying the show. Although mixed, I think it was a positive performance! Good luck Kyle in your future theatre productions!

DSC_7732_cropLet’s continue and look at the role of the Wiz, played by MSJ junior Connor Hurley. Again I felt mixed about this performance. I didn’t quite get this characterization/interpretation of the Wizard, which I think needed a little explanation. Just imagine Evel Knievel and David Bowie having a child. That’s what this was like. It wasn’t a major problem though, and I might be the only person who felt this way. The actual performance Connor displayed was very well-executed. He definitely made the most out of the time he was on stage. And Connor once again brought that great Broadway-esque voice that the MSJ stage has now heard for some time. Bravo!DSC_6708

Bridget Edmondson, my favorite actress from MDSA’s Cinderella, once again put on a performance for us that night. It wasn’t a very big role, but she definitely made the most of being Evillene (Wicked Witch of the West). “Shut Up!” rang throughout, and the laughter quickly followed. Bridget has great comedic timing which benefits her no matter how big her role is. Could I say it was enough to be a repeat of my favorite individual performance? The answer is no, it just wasn’t enough. If she would have had any more stage time, she probably would have stolen the show again for me. Way to go Bridget!

DSC_6982The Good Witches of the North and South were played by Seton Keough junior Pria Graham and MDSA senior Amelia Congedo, respectively. Both had pretty small roles but together did a great job in adding to the play. Pria was able to bring in a modern feel that just added to the performance and freshened it all up. Amelia sang a beautiful ballad while on stage and was visually captivating in an elegant costume to fit the part.

Other notably positive performances were that of senior Peter McKernan (Royal Gatekeeper), those who performed the Poppy Field Dance, and my dear friend Greg Rogers (Leader of the Winged Monkeys).

DSC_6398My expectations for this musical were pretty high. Coming off a great Winter musical (Cinderella), I thought that all of a sudden his would become a Broadway cast. And I also didn’t do my research. When I heard that this musical was written in an urbanized vernacular, I expected it to be 21st century, R&B or Hip Hop style music. The Wiz was written and originally shown in the 70’s, which explains why I felt like the urbanized feel I expected didn’t shine through. If I were to do one thing to improve the musical for today’s audience, it would be to update the music to a more modern style of R&B and Hip Hop, just so the modern idea of urbanized would show through and make it more contemporary.

The cast did a good job and I was entertained, and that’s all I can ask for. I rate it 4 stars out of 5.

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AP Human Geography: new course offers a new perspective

This is the first year AP Human Geography has been taught at the Mount. The course is offered to juniors and seniors (for juniors as a fulfillment of their Social Studies credit requirements, and to seniors as an elective). I decided to take the class because the subject matter interested me. Learning about other cultures, how they spread, and the influence of those cultures were some of the topics that really made me want to take the course.

I have enjoyed the class so far. It took me a little bit to get used to the pace and the expectations as an AP student, but since I got it, it has been an enjoyable class.

I was able to sit down with our teacher Mr. Campbell and ask him some questions about AP Human Geography. Here’s what he had to say:

How would you summarize this course?

“It’s a contemporary look at world issues through the lens of geography.”

What is the meaning/importance of this course?

“I think that we, as a country, are ignorant to ideas of geography, and this course will hopefully open the eyes of those gentlemen that are taking the course. Maybe it will get them interested in taking history or geography courses in college.”

How was this course introduced to the administration?

“It’s a new AP course; it’s only about ten years old. So probably for the last four or five years, Mr. Folmer and I have been trying to incorporate it here.”

How has it been teaching a class that has never been taught here before? Any growing pains?

“Fun, interesting… Other than students not doing homework? Yeah, that’s about it about it. I don’t think there are any growing pains curriculum-wise. I have two good classes, and that has been positive thus far.”

What has your experience been teaching this class?

“Positive thus far. The subject matter lends itself to current events in the world, and that is something which I was in favor of incorporating into any class.”

Do you see this course being very successful at MSJ? Why or why not?

“I see it being very successful in the fact that students like to talk about contemporary issues, and I think it lends itself to doing that.”

After I talked with Mr. Campbell, I talked to some of my classmates about their opinions of this class. Some were reluctant, fearing Mr. Campbell’s wrath, but many were willing to share with me. Many gave extremely positive reviews, some found some faults with the course, and one was pretty critical of the course (and wanted to stay anonymous).

When asked his opinion on the experience so far in the class, junior Isaac Scharbach replied, “The class has been fun, fast-pace, and entertaining.” However, another students said, “I have learned some themes, but overall have been disappointed.”

One of the most loved aspects of the course is the discussions. I too, love these discussions. Mr. Campbell brings an upbeat attitude to them that makes them fun and challenges you to make educated opinions and to defend them using real facts, not biases.

One student, though, has a different opinion. He said, “There are times in class in which students discuss nothing but news. I enjoy the occasional political discussion, but when these occur daily with no mention of the chapter, I come to question how much there truly is in the course and if the teacher is simply trying to kill time.” This just shows you how two different students can sit in the same class and have two totally different opinions.

My favorite discussions so far this year have been about the Syrian Refugee Crisis. We started the chapter when the crisis was on everyone’s mind and was the big story on every major news network. This allowed us to have discussions on our opinions of refugees, terrorism, and biases on Muslim people.

Another part of the course that students mentioned often was the questions on the tests. AP Human Geography has a lot of examples in the textbook. Many students commented that in order to get a good grade on a test, it would require them to memorize examples that might have been mentioned in a few sentences of the whole chapter. I agree with this point totally. That would be the one thing that I would change in this course.

When asked if he finds the course difficult, Junior, Gannon Conrad wrote, “Sometimes, attention to detail and examples are difficult.” Junior Will Hartman replied to the same question with, “The tests are hard, but the content isn’t to difficult to grasp.” Junior, Jay Dipietro also shared his opinion, saying, “It has been slightly difficult, but that is because there are many examples to memorize and use.” I feel the same about the class. At first I struggled a little, but after the first week or two, then I understood how to succeed in this class.

My final question asked my classmates if they would recommend the class to other students. Junior Johnathan Harrison answered, “Yes I would, because you will learn a lot of things that help you understand things that go on in life. It really helps you understand people and things.” Gannon also shared, “Yes. It’s beneficial for anyone to expand their mental horizons about the world around us.”

This class overall is an intensive study on multiple parts of humanity and culture through the eyes of geography. It is a well-taught, challenging, fun, and interesting class that makes you really think. Citing sources, defending answers, and discussions are all part of this class, and there are very few things I would change about it. It is that good of a class.

I want to thank everyone who let me interview them: Mr. Campbell, Gannon Conrad, Jay Dipietro, Johnathan Harrison, Will Hartman, Matt Hlavin, Isaac Scharbach, and the student who wishes to stay anonymous.

Spirit Week Interview with Nick Caporlette

MSJ Spirit Week 2014
MSJ Spirit Week 2014

Spirit Week in the past has been a favorite among Students, so changing things may be a risky move. This year, there are a lot of changes to the daily themes of Spirit Week. Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk with our Student Council President, Nick Caporlette, about this years Spirit Week.

What are some of the new themes for this year’s Spirit Week?

“Costume day on Thursday, Way back Wednesday, and Preppy Tuesday are some of the new Themes for this years Spirit Week.”

How were these themes introduced to the Student Council?

“I originally introduced some ideas for this years Spirit Week, then others would add some ideas to the conversation. Eventually we narrowed it down to these days.”

Anything special/new about this years pep rally?

“No, nothing really new this year.”

What aspect do you look forward to most during Spirit Week?

“I really like the pep rally. I am also looking forward to the Senior participation in this year’s Spirit Week.”

Personally, I am excited about the new themes for Spirit Week. The one I was looking forward to the most was today which is Preppy Tuesday. The new themes, I think, are pretty creative and are helping to keep Spirit Week fresh and exciting each and every year.