Instrumentalists, dancers, comedians and singers: the 2015 rendition of AFS Showcase “Rise Up” lived up to its name on November 21 and 22, exceeding my already high expectations in SHS’s auditorium.
Marie Matthias, Zach Lipo Zovic and Justine Spore, seniors, and Grace Anderson, Ellie Schmitt and Dayton Simenz, juniors, directed this student-run performance. The six students, with the support of Joe King, performing arts teacher, and Maylan Thomas, technical director, organized the two three-hour-long shows featuring a quarter of SHS’s student body and benefitting American Field Service (AFS).
These directors started the show off well, performing Faces’s “Ooh La La.” Each director played a personal instrument, whether it was a bass, tambourine or piano, harmonizing well and singing solos with an incredible execution.
The lighting was unobtrusive and enhancing to the performance, and the show began with an incredible first act.
From the directors’ performance to the concluding dance number, students’ talent shone. Remarkable pitches vibrated and intricate chord progressions echoed throughout every act. Ben Grabowski and Julia Clare Liegel, juniors, displayed this through their performance of “Lucky,” originally by Jason Mraz and featuring Colby Caillat. The duo initially auditioned with Grabowski on guitar, but after he broke his arm, the instrument had to exchange hands. Liegel’s mastery of the fingerings made this sudden change appear easy, and I admired Grabowski’s comfort without an instrument. Additionally, the harmonizing was absolutely amazing, and I sincerely hope these students perform together again next year.
Lipo Zovic and Alex Knitter, senior, also worked together as a talented partnership. As I have watched these two sing side-by-side since elementary school, this senior-year, conclusion-of-the-12-year-twosome performance was almost nostalgic. Their mash-up of “Marry Me” by Train and “Underwater Bride” by Passenger flowed together harmoniously, each individual voice complimenting the other. While this performance was tough competition for their Into the Woods duets in middle school, I’d say this was a top performance for the two.
Similarly noteworthy was James Ewing’s and Max Janairo’s, juniors, performance of the Mountain Goats’ “Wake Up New.” Janairo’s voice, which increased beautifully in volume as the song progressed, echoed through the auditorium with a talent that I had not known existed prior to the show. Additionally Ewing’s bass playing definitely made me accredit his accuracy of pitch. As a previous cello player who dropped orchestra because of an unfortunate lack of ability to play an on-tune note, I am forever impressed by his plucking precision.
Ella Curran, senior, however offered a great contrast to the boys’ folky style through her opera performance, singing “O Mio Babbino Care” by Glacome Puccini. With a singular spotlight and an enormous vocal range, this girl performed well enough to, in my opinion, make it professionally.
Additional group performances included that of Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango” and “Come on Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners, both of which gave two great, very different personas.
While the latter featured underclassmen in overalls and jeans who jitterbugged on stage and played lively brass instruments, the former featured sensual seniors singing about lust and murder. Both were beautiful and used an impressive number of overlapping lyrics, utilizing the technical crew’s sound, mixing talent to the utmost ability.
From country to pop to folk to rock, the performances this year were superb. My one criticism does not come down to any individual student, but instead the willing participants as a whole: the variety in type of act was small. The majority of the performances included music of some kind, whether it was a dance, song or instrumental, and the majority of these were performed by upperclassmen.
There was one comedy act in the entire show and the amount of 16-year-old-and-youngers was slim. These comedians and younger members – especially 12-year-old Alicia Obiaker, 7th grader, who performed an unbelievable rendition of “Hello” by Adele – were extremely talented; I want to see more.
With its final act being the fun and expertly choreographed dance battle by Shorewood’s reigning, supreme class of 2016, Showcase “Rise Up” concluded as an excellent show.
by Elena Cruz