V118 Preview Review

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Bwog squeezed in to the back room of Havana Central last night for the Varsity Show preview. Always willing to yield an unsolicited and uninformed opinion for just about anything, we summarized our staff’s general consensus in the following review.

The preview kicked off with an immediately stale #OccupyButler themed musical number, and we were quickly flooded with visions of recycled Barnard jokes and clunky dance numbers. Fortunately, however, as the preview continued, promising writing performed by appreciable talent broached genuinely interesting and controversial topics. This coming Varsity Show might follow the tired narrative path of an alternative, rebellious girl and a straight-edged, buttoned-down boy finding love, but, if the more topical bits of the preview prove a reliable indication of theme, the final show will feature a welcome confrontation of Columbia’s recent Dean-drama.

The preview, as explained by the various presenters who introduced each of the five acts, is purposefully kept vague so as to obscure the plot. However, we feel invited to make assumptions about the story’s direction and thematic concentration based upon the chunks of story available. This can work to the show’s benefit as with the expected Deantini subplot, and it can certainly work the the show’s disadvantage, as with the inclusion of been-there-done-that Columbia jokes. Especially in light of the recent Columbia meme fad, it seems nothing short of lazy for the Varsity Show to again be littered with jokes simply lifted from the inebriated Saturday night rantings of Alma-drunk NSOPers.

Fresh jokes should not only be appreciated, but expected. Columbians prove themselves brilliant and clever in so many capacities; we hope to see that wit in our campus’s largest theatre production. It’s not that this show was particularly guilty of any flagrant borrowing, but we hope for a final show that satisfies the audience with topical and biting humor, and refrains from the traditional two-hour procession of set-ups and one-liners. We would gladly go a year without being reminded that Barnard girls are all jewish sluts, or that frat guys are little better than Neanderthals on the hunt.

In keeping with that plea, it is our sincere hope that the Deantini subplot proves a mainstay of the show. Easily the biggest laugh of the night was when the Dean claimed that, “I got my job by killing Moody-Adams.” So much potential! Is it too much to ask for a Wizard of Oz redux? The lazy #Occupy number could be transformed into the munchkin lollipop dance, and the Emerald City could be Manhattanville. Boom. Just wrote V119 right there.

In all seriousness, we were ecstatic to see that the VShow team chose to cover last semester’s Dean controversy at all, and we sincerely hope for a deeper exploration of the Dean Moody-Adams controversy. Maybe we’re alone in our muckraking obsession, but it would be entirely understandable and forgivable to take that plot down a safer, diplomatic route. The doofy Valentini character promises to provide a barrage of quality laughs on his own.

On the musical side of things, the V118 preview was thoroughly enjoyable. The lively, yet light, accompaniment was a welcome departure from last year’s rockier orchestration. The vocalists shone despite being hindered by awkward choreography. Eleanor Bray, BC ’14, particularly stood out for her strong stage presence and versatile voice, though we have reservations about her character’s generic rebel spirit (“I don’t give a fuck what my parents think!” seems to unironically channel Community‘s Britta when they might be aiming for the more self-reflective, yet no less rebellious, Lindsay from Freaks and Geeks). Hopefully, the final show will bring the audience a more balanced character.

The quality vocal talent was showcased during the closing number—a rousing a capella “Roar Lion Roar.” The harmonious voices provided an energetic and joyous exclamation point to the performance. We are genuinely excited at the prospect of clear and full-bodied ensemble numbers, unlike the muddled and poorly mixed songs of V117. With extensive capital and time to spend setting up in Roone, V118 has the potential to really put on a show.

When concluding our staff’s meeting about the VShow preview, a disappointed freshman qualified some of her criticism by saying, “I guess I just went in with high expectations.” General laughter and a quick, “Well there’s your problem!” followed. The more experienced staffers, however, posited that this VShow, if developed correctly, just might have the talent and material to live up to expectations. We wish the VShow cast and crew the best of luck, and wait in anticipation for the April show.

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  1. Woah  

    Way too harsh, bwog. I was entertained.

    • Also  

      why do you review a PREVIEW of Varsity Show when you so regularly miss actual performances of other student groups? And why review it so harshly when you regularly give plot summaries called reviews for other shows? Let's be honest - you're only "always willing to yield an unsolicited and uninformed opinion for just about anything" when you think it is buzz worthy enough to generate a large number of comments. Unfortunately I've fallen into your trap.

    • Anonymous  

      bwog don't gotta be nice

  2. Anonymous

    Stick to what the fuck you're good at, Bwog: posting pictures of squirrels.

  3. Anonymous  

    YES! Bring on the theater butthurt!!

  4. Anonymous

    The review was a little harsh. Can't help but sense some vshow trolling here, though.

  5. Honest Opinion

    I thought this review wasn't harsh enough. It's biggest problem was that it dodged real criticism to copy the snark styles of NYMag's Vulture.

    Does anyone remember any of the songs from last night? Besides, Roar Lion Roar of course, which isn't exactly the most original song...

  6. Anonymous  

    Why does posting a review that says negative things as well as positive always get panned as "harsh." This review argues that the preview had a lot more to recommend it than it had cause for concern. Stop selectively reading for parts that aren't unconditionally endorsing with lots of exclamation points and actually consider what the post is saying! Which is overall pretty good!

  7. Cody Haefner CC'12

    My biggest issue with these "reviews" continues to be their anymous nature. After dozens of individuals put hours into and their names on a creatize piece that is often more intensely scrutinized than any other creative product produced on campus, the least you can do is put your names on your uninformed writing. Fine, have opinions, but don't ruthlessly criticize without opening yourself to the same criticism.

  8. Still hating  

    on 117, I see. Damn, yo. Move on.

  9. 73312  


    Your crippling ability to embrace the factual inaccuracies you apparently desire so greatly to perpetuate is truly amazing.

    Although your limited understanding and appreciation of the Varsity Show tradition may prevent any future production from gaining your approval, rest assured that, almost against all odds, you have once again lived up to our exact expectations.

  10. Anonymous  

    I tried to be all theater butthurt-y about this, but honestly this is a pretty decent review. The criticisms are legitimate, if a little strongly worded. My only disagreement with the review is that I don't think using a few Columbia stereotypes and the old standby Columbia jokes is all that bad. When it comes to the Varsity Show, I'll take funny over groundbreaking any day. If you want high art, go home and do your LitHum reading.

    But still, props bwog for noting pretty accurately the high and low points of the preview. "Lions Unite" killed; "Occupy Columbia" could use a round of revision. The scene with Deantini was golden; the scene outside Koronet was funny, but many of the jokes were expected (I only differ in thinking that their expectedness doesn't make them significantly less funny). The only big oversight, imo, is failing to mention Sean, who was fucking hilarious.

    I agree with one of the earlier commentors: this isn't a bad review! It's a little snooty, but trying to write a review without sounding snooty is almost as hard as trying to write a Varsity Show without any Barnard jokes. I think---and this is what I took away from the review as well---that if the C-team and cast continue working at the level of quality we saw in the Preview, they'll end up with a very enjoyable show come April.

    Side note: why has no one mentioned the biggest problem, which was that the band's amps were up so high that you could barely hear the (unmiked) performers?

  11. bc13  

    there actually were not any barnard jokes in the preview last night...i kept my ears open and heard no mention of the b-word. so already doin a great job "honestly reporting" or whatever by getting facts wrong in the first paragraph! maybe get some people who know about theatre and writing reviews to write theatre reviews. i think you people go in to these shows expecting disaster, and even if its great, you still pan it--i actually laughed watching this, and the songs were so catchy--but this preview of an unfinished show was not acceptable for you (who may as well be ben brantley for all i know!) bravo bwog on voicing your uniformed and uneducated opinion!

  12. Honest Opinion

    "Children Will Listen" from Into the Woods.

    Also there's a difference between VShow and a Sondheim musical. Mainly, V-Show IS trying to be an entertaining musical with memorable numbers and jokes that people continue to quote. I can still hum "Man Date" from last year, or the Milano song from two years ago. I don't think a Sondheim structured musical would do well in Roone.

  13. V-Show Alum  

    Bwog, in writing these reviews, I think you view the Varsity Show as this huge, bureaucratic institution whose "extensive capital" (which, by the way, usually doesn't manage to cover the cost of events like West End, using Roone, renting lights, etc) should be synonymous with beyond Broadway-style talent, Shakespearean-caliber writing, and choreographic brilliance that rivals Fosse. In assuming V-Show is anything like that, you couldn't be more wrong. 95% of the process is 18-20 students in a room, three hours a night, five nights a week, devoting their entire semester to a show whose SOLE purpose is to put a smile on the faces of Columbians and bring us together to laugh at ourselves. When you throw it in their faces (even if you did say one or two nice things, you ended this review with an image of bwog's whole staff sitting around and literally laughing at a purportedly naive freshman thinking the Varsity Show can be good) it hits a small group of students harder than you might imagine.

    Now, in assuming you know what the show is going to be about, you honestly have no idea. The Varsity Show in its current state is completely revamped in March, so that characters you saw at West End most likely won't even appear in the real show. Last year's West End had nothing to do with the real show, and I'm assuming neither does this one, so your Wizard of Oz allusion shows that your writing capacity is far beneath that of the V-Show's current writers. At least their jokes made sense.

    I think I'm justified in being disappointed in this. You preach for a more understanding, compassionate, less judgmental Columbia, and then (ruthlessly) attack a bunch of students for not writing a love story between Dean Moody-Adams and James Valentini. While your opinion is appreciated (although not taken seriously by anyone with common sense), you have to remember that a ton of people will read this, probably more people than will actually see the show in April, and you shitting all over it in such a pretentious manner turns people, particularly freshmen, away from one of Columbia's greatest traditions.

    tl;dr: Don't expect a Broadway performance out of a student theater performance in a bar, don't think you know everything about a show based on three songs and three scenes, and just do what you do with every other theater group: don't go to their show, or even better, write a summary of the show and leave the reviewing to literate people, aka Spec.

  14. On a slightly happier note!  

    Fact: Gray Henry is the funniest man on this campus.

  15. '12  

    I agree that the v-show should strive to be different and original, but at the end of the day, its new for half of the school who love reveling in "Columbia" jokes...there only so many universal jokes here...

  16. Also...  

    Can I hear it for the homeless guy?!

  17. Wow  

    A well written Bwog article? Never thought I would see the day!!

    Even though it's well written, it's wrong. The preview showed a lot of promise. How can you anticipate Broadway material in the back of a bar in a room that is filled over capacity? I applaud you V-Show 118 and I can't want to see what happens in April!

  18. Different VShow Alum

    I really hope you aren't planning on making theater a career. Getting anonymous and unfair criticism is kind of the staple of all arts these days.

    Also what happened to the days when VShow people knew better than to try and "defend" their work on an anonymous Internet comments board. Dear God people, we need another Vietnam.

  19. Anonymous  

    Adriana Aguilar is a radiant flower with the joy of 10,000 suns. Her choreography, so beautiful.

    • Anonymous  

      I completely agree that Adriana has too much talent for her little body, but I don't believe that she is challenging the actors enough physically. The numbers are currently made up of simple steps, I want to see them REALLY dance!

      • Anonymous  

        i think there will be more dancing, but i think due to the space (aka that there was none of it) and the numbers the actors performed, there wasnt a lot--it wasnt like they could do a real dance number in that small space. but knowing adriana, there is a whole lot of real dancing waiting for us in april

        • Anonymous  

          I disagree. Last year's cast had some really strong dancers, but I think it's clear that this year they went more for vocal talent. I think Adrianna's doing the best with what she's got, but I wouldn't expect to be blown away by the dancing in the show.

          • Anonymous  

            i think we will be able to tell the quality of the dancing after we see the real show! last year's west end preview didnt have any huge dance numbers, so for all we know, this years show may have dancers of comparable quality and talent!

  20. Vietnam Alum  

    I never thought I would see a day where they would wish Vietnam on kids- again! All those land mines were awfully unwarranted and those jungles stank. Keep your stupid comments in your pocket young man/woman!

  21. Martha Willner  

    This review undercut most of its legitimacy when it failed to mention Sean Walsh’s stellar performance. The tired argument that the Varsity Show has to be some combination of Broadway and SNL because of its budget is ludicrous-anyone see Spiderman? And “the inclusion of been-there-done-that Columbia jokes”? Really? The point of the V-show is to make fun of Columbia! If you want a Baum-inspired social criticism, Varsity Show is not what you’re looking for. The preview was fucking entertaining.

  22. Anonymous  

    Another (related) fact: Gray Henry is a funny guy! He's a fun guy! He's a mushroom!

  23. oy vey  

    Why are people complaining about "originality" and all that, when the show they saw was 1) a less than 30 minute preview 2) a show designed to not reveal the plot of the actual show and 3) part of an unfinished show? For all you know, the show is totally original, has brand new witty amazing jokes and all that, and is completely different from any other Varsity Show ever. Make comments about things like that when you have a show with an actual plot!

  24. Anonymous  

    Jeff Stern is a radiant flower with the joy of 10,000 suns. He always knows exactly how many buttons to leave unbuttoned.

  25. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson  

    I am rolling in my grave to see this shift fest of a review. Literally, if I crapped in a bowl and then crapped it again (then blended it with the shit of pigeons outside Hamilton) this article would still be shittier- somehow. The preview was superb and very promising. I can't wait to see the show! In fact, I will probably be so excited about it, I will shit myself. This is a statement of fact.

  26. Anonymous  

    As has been said before, Bwog spends its time complaining about the lack of community on this campus, yet you criticize the one tradition that unifies this campus the most of all. The Varsity Show is one of the many aspects of Columbia, apart from just the Core, that really DOES unite us as a student body. Columbia is actually unique from other schools because of these unconventional uniting forces. Reviews like this make me wonder if the "cynicism at Columbia" is actually founded, or if it's just created by people like Bwog writers who are critical just to be critical. I am so proud to be a part of this community, and moments like sitting in Tuesday's preview and laughing at jokes the entire room can understand remind me of that. So Bwog, stop shitting on the things that make us a community with the very remarks that break it down.

  27. seriously?  

    muckraking obsession? c'mon, bwog.

  28. Anonymous  


  29. Anonymous  

    one time I tried to suck my own dick but I failed.

  30. Anonymous  

    I can't wait for the comment war on the real show.

  31. Dirty Vlad the V-Show Alum  

    Hey Bee-wog, if you're going to be so concerned "muckraking", why not start with the not-to-subtle-issue that you have with the V-Show and how this contradicts the entire premise of Bwog being a group that promotes cohesiveness within the community? We'll work our way up to the administration changes from there.

    Also you're name is stupid.

  32. Anonymous  

    HOW DARE YOU INSULT SONDHEIM!!! You're a fool! Enjoy your "June is Busting Out All Over". hummable dumbable

  33. Alum

    Gotta love the obnoxious of that last paragraph:

    "A disappointed freshman qualified some of her criticism by saying, 'I guess I just went in with high expectations.' General laughter and a quick, 'Well there’s your problem!' followed. "

    Ohhh snap! Are all your meetings ventilated with such breezy wit?

    "The more experienced staffers, however, posited that this VShow, if developed correctly, just might have the talent and material to live up to expectations."

    So what you're saying is, if the VShow does a decent job, it will be a decent VShow? You guys should start charging for these pearls of wisdom.

  34. Anonymous  

    I can't help but feel that the clearly listserv-called-upon-masses of this post wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than 100% it was awesome, great job.

  35. honest question  

    to all the members of the varsity show/theatre community who posted comments here, outraged - seemingly on principle - that bwog dared to give the varsity show a negative review:
    what do you expect to get from reviews? This isn't meant to be rhetorical. I always thought part of what made them meaningful is that they are an honest evaluation of your work, or at least one made by people who aren't involved with the show and therefore have, arguably, more critical distance. But many of you seem to think that any negative review of the varsity show is outrageous in principle, because e.g. we ought not to "criticize the one tradition that unifies this campus the most of all."
    If all reviews of the varsity show were positive no matter what the reviewers really thought, how could you still find it meaningful to read a positive review of the show? Isn't the whole point of a positive review that it could have been negative, but wasn't? If so, negative reviews shouldn't be so outrageous. Or do you really just want flattering words regardless of why they were written or what the author thinks?

    • Anonymous  


      You seem to think your performance was perfect, and above any criticism at all. This is an overall positive review. Did you parents tell you you were too special?

    • Veesh Cast Member trolol  

      No, you're misunderstanding completely. This is a review of upbeat songs in a bar and tiny snippets of scenes, totally random and plucked from various points of the show to give people a quick chuckle on a Tuesday night. Thus, to say "a disappointed freshman qualified some of her criticism by saying, “I guess I just went in with high expectations.” General laughter and a quick, “Well there’s your problem!” followed." Is OVERWHELMINGLY douchey, 100% unwarranted, and a bit unfair. I'm sure if anyone said ANYTHING like this about the work YOU do on this campus, academic or otherwise, especially attacking something so insubstantial as West End Preview, as a Columbian I'm sure you'd make a million comments on every blog, tweet about it, facebook it, and call your mom and cry about it.


  36. Another Alum

    AMEN: "95% of the process is 18-20 students in a room, three hours a night, five nights a week, devoting their entire semester to a show whose SOLE purpose is to put a smile on the faces of Columbians and bring us together to laugh at ourselves."

    we do it for you, people. love it or leave it, but don't criticize an overall stellar performance just because you love to hate.

  37. Another Alum

    AMEN: "95% of the process is 18-20 students in a room, three hours a night, five nights a week, devoting their entire semester to a show whose SOLE purpose is to put a smile on the faces of Columbians and bring us together to laugh at ourselves."

    we do it for you, people. love it or leave it, but don't criticize an overall stellar performance of actors trying to make you happy just because you love to hate.

    • huh  

      Stop kidding yourself. You do it for yourself, your ego aggrandizement, and the resume enhancement, like everyone else chooses their extracurriculars in college.

      Theater people always say they do it for the love of the audience, but experience suggests that they do it for the love of the applause. Entertainers tend to be narcissists of the highest order - at all levels of the industry.

  38. Step off

    your high horse, Bwog.

  39. Honestly,

    the actor with the strongest stage presence was clearly and undeniably Sean Walsh. To not mention this - and to not mention him at all - is to overlook the best part of the night and the best performer in the preview. His timing was impeccable, he got laughs on and in between every line, and he was by far the most enjoyable performer up there. To say otherwise is to do a great disservice to the grand phenomenon that is Sean.

  40. Anonymous  

    Everyone here who is complaining about the review is probably a Columbia theatre kid, which they believe that anything that they shit out is creative genius. Seriously, the V show has so much potential for cutting satire, but instead replaces it with stock musical theatre love stories, worn out Columbia humour, and plots and characters that never really push the envelope. Seriously, Occupy Butler? So worn out. That girl saying "I don't give a fuck what my parents think!" made me vomit; it was anachronistic to the whole feeling of the scene and contained retarted levels of teen angst. And ending with the fight song? Such a cop out.

    • Anonymous  

      sorry you didn't get picked to be on the creative team!! maybe next year! then you can bring something totally new and radical to the varsity show, which is a commentary on a year at Columbia, in its minutia and its big important events! Feel free to write a dark, biting satire on how horrible life is here and see how much everyone agrees with you, because your musical will be poignant and reflective! I can't wait to see what sort of new Columbia humor you find.

      i agree with you, every single time I see ANOTHER musical number about a large protest (like omg there have been soooo many!), I just want to smack a puppy. Or when a character expreses how much she hates what her parents think, I just want to throw something at someone. And every time I hear the fight song intricately interwoven into a contrasting melody, I just want to vomit everywhere. This show was just sooooooooo lame! Its like they put nooooooooo effort into any of it! I bet you or a baby could have done a better job!

    • Anonymous  

      Next time you use an incredibly offensive word like "retarded", at least spell it right.

    • OMG


  41. Anonymous

    To all the vshow peeps, or for anyone else who cares: This is how it felt to be in one of the frats in Operation Ivy League. One of the worst days of your life — I saw west end, and I'm not saying I could do a better job, but the performance I saw clearly bombed — and the general reaction from everyone at Columbia is total glee at your misery. You're hearing about how this confirmed all the terrible things about you that everyone already knew, and about how maybe finally you're not going to be around anymore and how delighted that makes everyone.

    I'm not going to say people at Columbia shouldn't be so quick to rush to judgement because that's a meaningless, but I will say that there's something wrong with the amount of schadenfreude on this campus.

    • im sorry but  

      sir, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT ARE YOU DRUNK. this was probably not "the worst day of their lives" and how on EARTH is this anything similar to being "in one of the frats in operation ivy league?!" do you even know what the varsity show IS?!

      the show i saw did not "clearly bomb." (also, if it did and you couldn't do a better job, you must have NO TALENT WHATSOEVER). as far as I could tell, the audience at the show I was at was having a great time, laughing at everything, cheering loudly after the performances. i think this part of your argument makes no sense: "and the general reaction from everyone at Columbia is total glee at your misery. You’re hearing about how this confirmed all the terrible things about you that everyone already knew, and about how maybe finally you’re not going to be around anymore and how delighted that makes everyone." what? so everyone at columbia is thrilled that varsity show team is "miserable?" i know a few of them and they dont seem pretty miserable--more inspired and motivated to prove you ignorant people like YOU that the show is actually worth something. also are you implying that everyone involved with the varsity show is going to die/the show is not going to happen? and that everyone will be delighted at that? from the comments on this thread, it seems that people are more outraged with bwog than they are with the quality of the show, and are in support of everyone involved with the show. THANK YOU AND GOOD DAY.

  42. The Omission  

    Of Jenny Singer's golden voice in this review is a tragedy. Man, can that girl sing! I would say she has the radiance of 10,000 suns, but I see that metaphor (simile?) has been used. So, she has the brilliance of 12,000 moons.

  43. Anonymous

    Columbia football is presumably working with a level playing field with other teams, such that it is reasonable to compare the team to other Ivy League teams (to whom they consistently lose). So it is fair to criticize the team for failing to live up to that standard.

    The V-Show, on the other hand, is not working on a level playing field with musicals written by full-time professionals who have years to write, re-write and revise. So it is not fair to criticize it for failing to live up to those standards.

    In other words, the band doesn't make fun of the football team for sucking when compared to the Giants, the band makes fun of the football team for sucking when compared to Cornell.

  44. Anonymous  

    ...........it's **not** an overwhelmingly negative review. most of the assessment is positive, encouraging, or hopeful....

  45. Anonymous  

    random and totally unrelated.... but does anyone know the senior, i think is named nick, who looks just like chord overstreet? what's his last name?

  46. Anonymous  

    love you so much, eleanor. be mine for next valentine's day!

  47. Honestly...  

    what's with the virulent reaction to this review? it doesn't paint the current cast/creative team members and alumnae who've commented in a very positive light. reviews shouldn't be qualified by the circumstances of the performance or the stage of production of the piece as a whole. the title of this post isn't "V118: A Projection;" its a review of the preview! if the reviewers found fault with the preview it would have been disingenuous and unfair to everyone (performers and c-team included) to publish an artificially positive review. if the preview wasn't an accurate representation of the show itself, you can't blame bwog for not figuring it out.

    people are always complaining about how bwog theatre reviews tend to be too reluctant to step of toes in lieu of actual criticism, but at the slightest hint of constructive criticism people are ready to cannibalize the reviewer(s). it's ridiculous. vshow DEF is one of the great columbia institutions in terms of campus tradition and engendering a sense of community, but if the show is trite, or technically underdeveloped or just not that good the last thing the audience members will be thinking about is, "Wow, this may not be all that entertaining, but gee, let me consider the technical limitations and circumstances under which the show was produced!!!1"

  48. Anonymous  

    I don't understand why people are so offended by this review. Bwog is simply giving their opinion and trying to suggest ways that the show could be improved. Isn't the point of the preview to receive feedback? I think if I were writing the Varsity Show I would very much appreciate this review, even if it were significantly harsher than it actually is.
    All these violent angry comments seem simply irrational to me. Is there something I'm missing?

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