Pictured L-R: Natalie Morales, Madeline DeFreece and Christine Cox (Vanessa Gelinas, Oakton Theatre Arts Director)

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Drew Holcombe, a student at West Springfield High School , reviews “Suite Surrender” performed by Oakton High School  as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

When it comes to stage divas, celebrity gossip, and bitter rivalries, some things never change. Oakton High School brought all these aspects of 1940s America to life in their uproarious production of “Suite Surrender”.

Written by Michael McKeever, the play follows celebrity singers Claudia McFadden (Christine Cox) and Athena Sinclair (Natalie Morales), bitter rivals, as they prepare for a benefit concert in the same hotel. To avoid an inevitable fight, hotel manager Mr. Dunlap (Spencer Waters) and his dopey bell boys, Francis (Raphael Ortiz) and Otis (Justin Pirocchi), plan to place the stars on opposite sides of the hotel. But when a mistake leads to the two divas being brought to the same suite, the hotel staff must struggle to meet their demands while keeping them from seeing one another.

As Athena Sinclair, Natalie Morales easily stood out. Carrying herself above others, Morales skillfully captured her self-fulfilled character. Christine Cox, as Claudia McFadden, provided a humorous contrast to Sinclair, utilizing an effective nasal character voice that clearly portrayed her older age. The two shone individually in brief solo songs before coming together for their climactic duet, which they refuse to speak the title of beforehand. Morales’ powerful, jazzy voice, reminiscent of the late Judy Garland, contrasted strongly with Cox’s lighter soprano, making the song a highly interesting number.

The standout comic performance of the night came from Madeline DeFreece as Dora del Rio, a nosey reporter hoping the two stars will meet and provide an exciting story for her gossip magazine. Every aspect of DeFreece’s character, from her bold walk to her impudent voice, made her an entertaining role that added a number of extra humorous moments to the already hilarious show. DeFreece’s perfect comic timing made her performance all the funnier, distinguishing her as a clear audience favorite.

Providing an interesting contrast to the obnoxious character roles was Spencer Waters as Mr. Dunlap, the frantic hotel manager trying to keep the situation under control. Maintaining an effective character voice throughout the show, Waters offered the most true-to-life performance of the night, easily making him the most sympathetic character. His descent from uptight and detail-oriented to overwhelmed and frantic was accurate to reality, but Waters’ delivery nevertheless established him as a strong comic character as well.

The production also proved strong in its technical aspects. The hotel suite was expertly crafted to accommodate for the many moments of physical comedy during the show, standing up to many punishing moments with little damage being dealt to it. The makeup also was highly effective, especially when wounds were quickly added to actors backstage, portraying a variety of injuries such as missing teeth, massive bruises, and severe burns. The variety of difficult makeup adjustments throughout the play was expertly done and significantly enhanced the show.

Despite some occasional exaggerated reactions and lines lost through laughter, the cast expertly utilized incredible energy and excitement throughout the show while maintaining their characters, making for a massively entertaining and “suite” production.