While most Friday nights at Nashoba are headlined by gifted student athletes, this past weekend offered an opportunity for the similarly talented Drama members to showcase their brilliance onstage. Led by inspired performances from Brooke Winsmann and Sean Bannon, Nashoba Drama’s rendition of the classic musical Kiss Me, Kate captivated a sold-out auditorium in their final production of the 2016-2017 school year.
The action began on Friday, March 24 at 7:30 in the evening, with the premiere showing drawing hundreds of parents, teachers, students, and community members alike. Saturday featured two performances, a matinee at 2 in the afternoon followed by the finale, again at 7:30. While the audience changed with each show, the quality of the cast’s singing and acting never once faltered. It was, quite frankly, jaw-dropping. The flawless cast, music, and choreography made Nashoba’s presentation of Kiss Me Kate one for the ages.
The musical follows the relationship between a pair of ex-lovers, Lilli Vanessi (Brooke Winsmann) and Fred Graham (Sean Bannon), who are now co-starring in the Shakespearean play Taming of the Shrew as husband and wife. Meanwhile, Lois Lane (Julia Thier) is constantly flirting with Fred, which further fuels Lilli’s anger. On top of all of this, Lois’s boy-toy Bill Calhoun (Danny Nagle) is in trouble with the mafia after his gambling leaves him $10,000 in debt. However, he leaves them an IOU under Fred Graham’s name, leaving him on the hook for the money.
With two mafia gangsters (Kevin Cote & Nate Draudt) after him, the ensemble try their best to let the show go on, but their emotions get the better of them as personal conflicts erupt on stage. Lilli goes off-script to insult Fred which leads to Fred spanking her in front of the whole audience and cast. Offstage, Lilli refuses to continue the play and calls Harrison Howell (Nick Mellis), her US Army General fiance, to come rescue her. Fred convinces the mobsters to “persuade” Lilli to continue the show so they can be repaid.
As the play progresses, the true emotions of the characters begin to show. Fred slowly reveals his love for Lilli despite their incessant arguments. Lois runs into General Howell and they show mutual, intimate feelings towards each other, but Lois claims to be loyal to Bill. Despite all that occurs, the play concludes with a kiss between both Lois and Bill, as well as Lilli and Fred.
There was no single scene that stole the show, simply because they were all spectacular. Junior Julia Thier’s performance of “Why Can’t You Behave” in Act I and Freshman Michael Kozloski’s performance of “Too Darn Hot” in Act II sparked thunderous ovations, while laughter roared through the building almost every time gangsters Kevin Cote and Nate Draudt appeared on stage. Also starring, of course, were Sean Bannon and Brooke Winsmann, whose brilliance every Nashoba Drama fan has become accustomed to.
“Sean and Brooke are two of the best actors to ever come through our high school,” said Psychology teacher Robert Griffith. “Don’t get me wrong, there have been some great actors over the years, but none compare.”
The most impressive quality that the co-stars share is versatility. Bannon has been involved in the arts, mainly film, for almost his entire life, but did not become serious about theatre or singing until high school.
“I never sang around people or in general until the day I auditioned for Les Misérables,” he said. “For real, I had never thought about it.”
Multiple scenes in Kiss Me, Kate featured Bannon singing solo on the stage, clearly confident and booming perfect notes out towards the audience. His role as Fred Graham proved to be drastically different from the shy, nervous high school teacher that he played only a month ago during his original class play, Day One, but Bannon’s versatility shone through his impeccable portrayals of both. He will be turning his talents to the screen by pursuing a degree in film next year.
Unlike her co-star, Brooke Winsmann has been performing in musicals since fifth grade. This past experience was evident in her portrayal of Lilli Vanessi as she brought the show to life. Winsmann captivated audiences with her passion and dedication to the role as both an actress and a vocalist. Her acting ability was unmatched; she could make the audience’s mood change within seconds. This unprecedented acting paired with her absolutely stunning voice led to a performance that will go down in Nashoba history.
“The most rewarding part of the show, by far, was working with a cast with such versatile talents,” said Winsmann, “being able to see such complicated dances like ‘Too Darn Hot’ gave me a sense of pride for what everyone was able to accomplish in this production.”
While the featured actors deserve limitless praise, no musical would be complete without an adept ensemble cast. Kiss Me Kate’s ensemble cast included Colin Delisle and Luke Piotte as Bianca’s suitors, Sam Mitchell as Pops/Padua Priest, Spencer Weijer as Baptista Minola, Max Mitchell as Ralph, Nolan Stocker as Gregory, Colby Story as Nathaniel, Zachary Stepp as Phillip, Sophia Mellis as Haberdasher, Will Moalli as Flynt, and Toni Day, Jessie Harmon, and Hannah Gould as Stage Hands. The character who really stole the show, however, was the unnamed donkey played by Casey Hannigan and Lea Markham.
For nineteen Nashoba Drama seniors, Kiss Me Kate marked the end of a long, memorable road.
“I will miss Nashoba Drama immensely,” Brooke Winsmann said. “Taking our final bows had all the sentiment you would expect from a group of seniors who have performed on that stage for four years.”
Nashoba Drama seniors ended their high school careers on a high note with Kiss Me, Kate, except for Sean Bannon, who ended with a low, baritone note.