Bwog squeezed in to Havana Central’s backroom for the much anticipated Varsity Show Preview. There was promise, pizazz, and no Operation Ivy League…

Last night’s 117th Varsity Show preview was executed seamlessly, but displayed no awareness of the insanity that went down last semester. Of course, we’re not asking for a laundry list style lampooning of the highlights (or lowlights), but save for one POTUS project reference, you could have copied and pasted last night’s script to fit any other year’s show. Still, we liked it—a lot!—and it seems the rest of the audience agreed.

The show started off strong with a punchy LLC skit, (“the Laughing Loving Center”). Elizabeth Power, CC ’13, perfectly played the over-eager RA. But the script stuck to tried and true jokes pulled from clichéd V-Show scripts of yore: Harlem is scary, international students exist. So do Republicans. But then good ol’ Frontiers of Science Cowboy, played by Sam Mickel, CC ’14, showed up all the way from the “Northwest…Corner Building,” and won us over with his scruffy swag. He served as a clever narrative device linking the otherwise disconnected scenes. Though his Columbia “campfire stories” provided a suitable framework for the short preview, the Frontiersman, even with his spot-on sound effects and corny-cute shtick, probably couldn’t carry a full show.

Then came the real winner: ManDate. The music, featuring a keyboard switched to a tropical vibraphone setting, buoyed the best lyrics of the show. Four guys (Issac Assor, CC ’14, Andrew Wright, CC ’14, Chris Silverberg, CC ’13, and Bob Vulfov, CC ’13) out at a bar fail miserably at picking up girls (“Your hair smells like juice!”), commiserate in four-part harmony, and embrace bromance. We genuinely welcomed the performers’ punny “mandate” to see the V-Show when our favorite tune was reprised in finale.

The next numbers fell short. In “College is Latin for Mistakes,” the Chicago-inspired tango music and animated choreography proved memorable; the content less so. By trying to appeal to universal college experiences, the lyrics lacked the incisive references of last year’s best one-liners (COÖP cult, lawn police). An ADP escapade (“and then we stole a few pineapples from Westside…”), delivered memorably by Alia Munsch, BC ’12, represented more of what we want to see: the specific, unpredictable, yet weirdly relatable.

V-Show added a new course to the core, DanceHum, which offered more opportunities to display their fancy footwork. Enter Prezbo, played by the ever-popular Bob Vulfov, CC ’13, who stopped by the classroom to wax rhapsodic about free speech. Bob’s clearly a crowd-pleaser, but his lines lacked any recognizable Prezbo-ness. We get it, he doesn’t care about undergrads, Manhattanville is a thing. But that’s kind of old news, let’s move on. Remember when he wrote that tome with the uncomfortably sexual title? Also, curiously, Prezbo was blond.

The last song urged something blandly motivational about “getting off the floor.” Granted, it’s tough to perform to a packed back room with Rihanna blasting next door, but many of the last lyrics lacked clarity. Chris Silverberg, CC ’13, has one of those velvety voices that just makes you swoon. Unfortunately the song didn’t do him justice, and it lost its luster towards the end.

We anticipate V117‘s vocal powerhouses, with a record 5 members reppin’ Nonseq, will nonetheless be revealed when the cast moves from a packed bar to a real stage. We were blown away by the uncommonly professional choreography and miraculous flexibility—special kudos to Elizabeth Power, CC ’13 and Victoria Pollack, BC ’12. The phenomenal composers, Eli Grober, CC ’13,  and Shira Laucharoen, CC ’12, avoided easy poppy chord progressions, delivering instead an inventive score with pleasantly surprising flute flourishes! Given the abundant wealth of talent we saw on display, we expect great things from the actual show. While it’s tough to get the content right, and we acknowledge that it might seem almost too easy, some things just have to be touched upon (what up Epstein!). V117, you have all the ingredients, and last semester spoon-fed you the spice. Don’t settle for comfort food—serve Columbia something zesty.