ADHS production of ‘The 39 Steps’ wins big at the Cappies

by Pippa Norman

On May 27 the glamorous Cappies Gala was held to celebrate achievements of high school theatre productions in Canada’s capital.

Amongst a crowd of bigger, wealthier Ottawa-based schools, Almonte and District High School walked into the celebration with their 12 nominations held proudly above their heads. From props to lead actor, ADHS’s cast of The 39 Steps proved that they can perform both onstage and backstage, as they almost doubled their nominations from last year. Once the red carpet began and cheers erupted, it was clear to see that although small, Almonte was mighty, and ready to claim the night as their own.

The Cappies (Critics and Awards program), founded in 1999 by Bill Strauss and Judy Brown of Fairfax County, Virginia, was started as an effort to engage more students in the arts, and place a greater emphasis on encouraging their creative pursuits.

The fire behind this flame quickly caught, and by 2005 the first Canadian program (in Ottawa) joined the previously all-American organization, soon to be followed by Niagara, ON and Edmonton, AB. Now with a total of 13 local chapters and 8177 award recipients (and counting), the Cappies program has come a long way in supporting budding theatre and journalism students. The way the program works is, each participating school selects one show to be attended by critics, while also forming a team of their own critics to attend shows of other schools in their region.

After each show, discussions are held, reviews are written, and only the best are sent out to local press outlets for publication. At the end of it all, a Tony’s inspired celebration is held, wherein excerpts from the nominated shows are performed, songs rehearsed by the Cappies chorus are sung, and the final awards are presented by distinguished local guests. A Cappies night is to theatre kids what homecoming is to the football team.

Looking around the room of the 13th annual Cappies gala, you could take in the sparkling nominees, the dazzling red carpet, and the numerous shrieking fans beginning their inevitable journey towards lost voices by the end of the night. But as the audience eventually settled into the auditorium, a wave of amazement washed over the young thespians as they were reminded that this was indeed Canada’s largest stage. What is normally reserved for the professionals, would become their own for one entire evening.

ADHS began their evening on a sweet victory note, winning one of the first awards given out, for Stage Management and Stage Crew. The crowd was amused by team member Ryan Andrigo’s thank-you speech, in which he highlighted the fact that part of the reason he chose to work backstage, was so that he would never have to talk in front of such a large gathering.

The night carried on, guided by the comedic commentary of Mauler and Rush of HOT 89.9. As the audience was treated to a variety of excerpts throughout the show, from a somber tragedy to a rockin’ musical, the tension for which of these stellar casts would take home the ultimate prize was building.

Finally, nearly at the end of the night, a hush fell over the masses, as these words were uttered, “And the award for Critic’s Favorite Play goes to …” Before you could even comprehend what was happening, ADHS had rushed the stage and were claiming their long sought-after title of Critic’s Favorite Play.

With emotions running high, lead actor Callum LeRoy delivered a thoughtful thank-you speech that focused on their director Jennifer Sheffield. LeRoy shocked the crowd by proudly highlighting that she was in fact their chemistry teacher, because a drama program did not actually exist at their school.

With their heads held high, the cast and crew of The 39 Steps marched proudly out of the National Arts Centre that night. They came, they saw, and they conquered. There was nothing left to do but congratulate their stunning competitors, capture the moment, and rest assured knowing tonight they had proven that living in a small town does not mean you must have a small personality.

So what is there to look forward to? Rumour has it that ADHS’s director already has her eyes set on a specific, suspenseful but soulful production … ever hear of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?

If you would like to support this group of talented individuals, you can buy your own ticket to I’m Not Jewish But My Mother Is, being shown at the Almonte Old Town Hall this July! Use promo code ADHS and $5 of your ticket sale will support the ADHS Drama Club ‘s future productions!