Review: SOON at Highwood Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes with no intermission

We have a tendency to think we are invincible and every day, we let special moments slip by us and we postpone what’s important because, in our heads, we’ll get to it “soon.” We do this not thinking that sometimes “soon” is too late and that we have to think of the present as precious because we are not guaranteed a tomorrow and there’s a chance that “soon” will never come. The Highwood Theatre’s latest production SOON with Book, Music, and Lyrics by Nick Blaemire and Directed by Cate Caplin, with Vocal Direction by Jade Brooks-Bartlett, concerns itself with this question. What happens when you deny yourself those special moments or let the important things slip away day to day? It’s not a question we think of in the moment, but maybe it should be.

Julia Capizzi and Andrew Overton. Credit: The Highwood Theatre

In a nutshell, SOON is about a young girl, Charlie, who has recently become a shut-in and watches the world end before eyes through the television. Apparently, Wolf Blitzer on CNN is running stories about how the seas are rising and the land is burning. She stops going outside, because of fear, and though the people around her, including her mother, Adrienne, her roommate, Steven, and a new love interest, Jonah go about their business like nothing is happening, she tries to explain how serious their predicament is but, they don’t seem to understand and the relationship that Jonah is trying to build is being thwarted by this fear of the inevitable. But is the end of the world what it seems?

The story itself is a very clever story and well structured. It’s easy to follow and Nick Blaemire weaves a very charming story with witty dialogue and a great arc that is important for any story. Blaemire is an able musician and his tunes fit the piece perfectly and are placed nicely but I’m wondering if this wouldn’t be more successful as just a play instead of a musical. The script is good enough to stand on its own so the music, at times, seems like fluff or filler. That’s to say the musical aspect of this piece is bad, because it isn’t. His style shines through and the tunes are pleasant.

Set Design by the team of Fiona Lipczenko, Dante Stasio, and Simon Ellerbe is impeccable. They really capture the coziness of a small New York apartment and the attention to detail is superb with a living room, and small kitchenette, including a sink and refrigerator. According to the program this team is made up of students from 5th grade, 7th grade, and 11th grade and, I must say, this is quite impressive for such young designers. The authenticity of the set adds great value to the production and Lipczenko, Stasio, and Ellerbe should be applauded for their efforts.

(l-r) Andrew Overton, Julia Capizzi, and Daniel Westerbrook. Credit: The Highwood Theatre

Ashlee Albertson’s Vocal Direction is superb as this cast does sound just about flawless. It’s always a challenge as there is rarely a reference recording but Albertson has managed to help the ensemble capture the essence of each song. Going along with the music aspect of this piece, the pit orchestra consists of only two able players, including Kevin Kearney on Piano and Cecilia Russell (9th grade student… wow!). It’s worth mentioning this is a phenomenal duo who gives a brilliant performance and remarkably backs up this ensemble.

Cate Caplin takes the helm of this piece and she has put together a very smart production. She seems to have a good grasp of the material and keeps the pacing on point. She keeps it simple and guides this able ensemble to relatable characters with whom the audience can connect.

(l-r) Andrew Overton as Steven, Julia Capizzi as Charlie, Daniel Westerbrook as Jonah, and Karen Harris as Adrienne. Credit: Highwood Theatre

Moving on to the performance of this piece, this four-actor ensemble works well together and off of each other to tell this story clearly and with 100% effort.

Andrew Overton who takes on the role of Steven, Charlie’s carefree roommate who seems to just want to have a good time with his rich boyfriend, and though Overton takes it over the top to the point of camp, he still seems to understand the character and pulls him off authentically. He does have some very touching moments with his cast mates and makes Steven a likeable character. His presence is strong and he is confident in the role making for an admirable performance.

Jonah, the hapless love interest of Charlie, is played aptly by Daniel Westerbrook, and his transition from awkward delivery boy to confident boyfriend is commendable. His character is trying to break through walls of another and Westerbrook plays this subtle frustration that comes along with that very nicely. Vocally, Westerbook seems to be challenged by the higher notes in his register, breaking into falsetto, often, but he still gives a strong vocal performance that is to be applauded.

Charlie, our apprehensive and anxious heroine, is played beautifully by Julia Capizzi and she knocks it out of the ballpark with this role. She completely embodies this character and one can see in her face and gestures she is really feeling these mixed emotions and trying to figure everything out. This character seems to be the only one concerned about the end of the world and that urgency and anxiety are very apparent in this performance, as they should be. Capizzi’s standoffishness toward Jonah is clear and her change of heart toward him is presented gradually, adding to the authenticity of her performance. Vocally, she’s a powerhouse who makes one take notice in each number in which she is featured. Overall, Capizzi gives a strong, confident performance that is an absolute highlight in this production.

Last but not least, we have Karen Harris who takes on the role of Adrienne, Charlie’s brash and brassy mother, and she too is a highlight in this particular production. Harris has this role down pat and is natural and confident in its presentation. It’s clear she’s comfortable in this role because of the ease in her performance and she plays Adrienne as a funny, yet complex character making for a phenomenal performance. Her vocal performance is just as impressive as she acts through her songs nearly effortlessly, especially in her featured number “Bohemian Paradiso” in which her storytelling and vocalese is highlighted. All in all, Harris’ performance is solid and not one to be missed.

Final thought…SOON is a touching look at how one individual copes with her own mortality by escaping into her own imagination and twisting it. It’s a funny, poignant, real look at how we deal with death or the knowing of our demise in terms of months or days and Highwood Theatre’s production is well put together and simple, allowing the material to shine through with impressive performances of a small ensemble.  The story is engaging, the script is intelligent, and the music is appropriate but left me with no hummable tunes whilst leaving the theatre. However, it’s new theatre and well thought-out and executed superbly so it’s definitely worth checking out.

This is what I thought of The Highwood Theatre’s production of SOON… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

SOON will run through April 29 at The Highwood Theatre, 914 Silver Spring Ave, Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

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