Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of Cats
First introduced in Jupiter during a 2008 staged reading through a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fund, Academy was one of 13 shows selected from among 300 entries for a production at the 2009 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF). There the show received awards for Excellence in Writing and Score, and for Outstanding Ensemble Performance. In July Academy traveled to South Korea for the 2010 Daegu International Musical Festival. The show, one of 24 musicals presented during the 22-day festival, won the top award for Best Musical.
Academy tells the story of two high school seniors (Michael and Amory) at the exclusive boys prep school St. Edward's Academy. They make a seemingly harmless bet on whether they can influence an unsuspecting freshman (Benji) to break a few rules in order to secure his academic success. But when the transaction goes recklessly out of control, the boys become entangled in a fight for their own academic and personal survival. Inspired by Goethe's Faust, Academy addresses the themes of honor and truth in a way that is palatable to adolescents. This pop chamber musical, reminiscent of the style of Spring Awakening, is about boys learning to become men, and making choices which will influence who they will be the rest of their lives.
The 90-minute, one act musical features a cast of 21, including nine performers from its New York and Korean productions, and 11 local children chosen from hundreds during the Theatre's "First Step to Stardom" auditions. The music is well played by a live 10-piece orchestra. The only flaw in structure is relying on the staging of the curtain call for an uplifting ending, and waiting until then to introduce the most singable song in the show"Make Some Noise." The storyline woven with excerpts from the school play Faust adds just the right touches without being heavy handed in its analogies of the plots of the two stories. The opening number "Goodbye, Hello" is one of the strongest and best written in the show.
A handsome Wilson Bridges (Michael) adds a warmth and kindness to his character that makes us forget that Michael has willingly agreed to the callous wager that puts Benji at risk for the sake of his own personal gain. Corey Boardman plays the brooding and spoiled Amory with enough depth to make us nearly forget how shallow the character actually is, and sings "My Father" with acting conviction and pop vocal appeal. Alex Wyse (Benji) is wonderful in a demanding role. He creates believable layers in his performance, firmly establishes his relationships with other characters, and defines his moments with considerable skill. Other actors shine in supporting and cameo roles. Matthew Roscoe (Regan) is engaging as the football player who would rather be a ballet dancer. Antonio Addeo (Theodore) shows good comedic timing as a young character actor. Aaron Reisebeck (Pete) has one of the best vocal moments of the evening with his moving performance of the song "Perfect Day."
"This is just the beginning of an exciting journey for Academy," Andrew Kato said, "which will be presented next in Atlanta in 2011. We hope the show's mass appeal continues to inspire young audiences everywhere." The run of this production of Academy at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre is regrettably brief, but is surely just the beginning of a successful future for this well written show.
Academy appeared at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through December 19, 2010. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, FL. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
*Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
**Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.