In the best tradition of the stage, Robert E. Lee High School went ahead with its production of the musical "MaKiddo," undeterred by the fact that snow canceled its dress rehearsal. The show must go on! And it did last weekend, one-half of a run that continues at the Springfield school tomorrow night and concludes Saturday.

Bill Strauss, co-founder of the Capitol Steps, rewrote the book and libretto for this teenage takeoff of "The Mikado," by Gilbert and Sullivan. The music credit remains with Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Under the direction of Trena Weiss-Null, Lee's Lancer Theatre Players took on the challenge of bringing this operetta to life without watching it spin out of control with its cast of 70-some teenagers.

"MaKiddo" takes place in Priti-Nu, a magnet high school of "Practically Perfect Kids," according to the opening number. A new student named Frankie-Who (Chip Hewitt) has just arrived and must find his place among the usual cast of high school suspects, among them: Squush, the head jock (Matt Berger); Zooba, the head of everything else (played by Jennifer Little); and Jessica, the school misfit (Columbia Hall-Long).

In the end, the students decide perfection isn't all it's cracked up to be, and Priti-Nu returns to being a regular high school.

The musical is well written and equally well staged by Lee students. The costumed orchestra was seated to one side, with a giant fan as a pleasant backdrop. Costumes and lighting were both kept simple, but they complemented the show nicely. The orchestra as well as the lead players pulled off the difficult score with ease.

As Frankie-Who and his love interest, Liz-Liz, Hewitt and Amanda Roadcap displayed lovely singing voices. Hall-Long gave a commendable performance as the quintessential teenage misfit, of which every high school class must have at least one. Little demonstrated versatility of character and a strong stage presence; her versatility also was displayed in another way: She choreographed many of the ensemble numbers.

The show was clever and witty, and worked well, giving many in the group a chance to shine. Though this is only the second time that "MaKiddo" has been produced--the first was at McLean High in 1997--it is truly a show that must go on!

Amelia Kallman

Chantilly High School

Teens complain about Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, getting into college and their social cliques. There, in a nutshell, is the core of "MaKiddo," the musical sendup of Gilbert and Sullivan now on stage at Lee High School.

The musical is subtitled "The Practically Perfect Kids of Priti-Nu," that being the name of the imaginary magnet high school that serves as the setting for this modern-day operetta. All the kids at Priti-Nu describe themselves as "practically perfect," until a newcomer, Frankie-Who, shows up one day, shaking up the status quo.

Lyricist Bill Strauss (of Capitol Steps fame) pulls off some nice moments, especially during the smaller numbers, particularly the trio of "Three Little A's," "A Budding Genius, I" and "Wintry Weather."

"Wintry Weather" is the high point of the show, as three Priti-Nu students explain why they can't possibly climb to the top of Mount Everest on an expedition paid for by the school.

The ensemble cast put forth much effort, especially Chip Hewitt as Frankie-Who and Columbia Hall-Long as Jessica, both of whom stood out vocally; and Jennifer Little and Lisa Ha, who made their mark comically as Zooba and Boopee, respectively.

Little deserves special attention: Not only was she great as the multiple-personality-disorder-minded Zooba, but she choreographed the show with Matthew Thomas and Lara Rhyner--a commitment of time and effort that showed in her performance.

The chorus had some standouts as well, especially Lara Rhyner and Chelsea Caulfield.

By the end of the show, Priti-Nu is a Priti-Happy place, filled with love and acceptance. All of the characters are optimistic about what tomorrow offers and where their lives will lead them--just like real high school students. (Right!)

Jake Kamins

Herndon High School

STUDENT THEATER REVIEW

During the 1999-00 school year, the Weekly section will publish occasional reviews of high school theatrical performances in Northern Virginia, written by students from other schools under the guidance of professional mentors.

The reviews are part of the new High School Critics and Awards Program ("Cappies"), which aims to recognize the achievements of young performers, writers, directors, stage crew and critics. The program is co-sponsored by the Capitol Steps comedy troupe and NVTA (formerly the Northern Virginia Theatre Alliance), a coalition of three dozen artistic production companies from throughout the metropolitan area.

Nearly two dozen high schools in Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria are participating in the program in this, its inaugural season; each school has designated one performance for critical review. In the spring, the program will hand out its first Cappies, the high school equivalent of a Tony Award, to honor outstanding student talent in theater, dance and music. For more information, check out the Cappies Web site: www.cappies.com.

Today, our reviewers critique Robert E. Lee High School's performance of "MaKiddo," a parody of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Mikado." A satire of modern-day high school life, "MaKiddo" has a two-weekend run, which concludes with performances tomorrow and Saturday evenings. The lyrics for "MaKiddo" were written by Bill Strauss, a founding member of the Capitol Steps.

The Weekly also is publishing a list of upcoming school productions. Any area high school--not just those in the Cappies program--may submit a listing by e-mailing us at schoolplays@washpost.com.

Please include the name of the production, the school where it will be performed, the date or dates and a phone number for additional information.

CURTAIN CALLS

JAN. 27-29

* "Playground," Chantilly High School, 703-222-8182.

JAN. 28-29

* "MaKiddo," Lee High School, Springfield, 703-924-8430.

JAN. 29 and 31

* "Jenny Saint Joan," Signature Theatre/Wakefield High School, Arlington, 703-820-9771.

CAPTION: Trena Weiss-Null, above, directs members of the Lancer Theatre Players in "MaKiddo" at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield.