The Varsity Show cast

The evening began informally with Olivia Harris, CC ’14, jiving around the small stage, which was enough to put any audience member in a good mood.  She sassily sang along to the classic songs the band was playing, making us wish we could have heard more of her voice later on in the preview.  When the full cast ran onstage the energy was contagious, and it was obvious the audience was already on their side. The actors showed their personality from the get-go, making them an endearing group of performers to watch.

The first song, “My Heart’s Content,” was admittedly not a winner.  There did not appear to be a strong melody, and the actors seemed to have trouble following the written vocal lines.  The charisma of the performers helped to remedy that, however, and it was quickly followed by a stream of relevant jokes.  The mention of the Arts Initiative issue was both funny and relevant as it addressed an important controversy; we hope to see the show explore and elaborate this in the main plot.  Brownstones, Hurricane Sandy, and Amigos all made small appearances. Overall, the jokes were on-point and up to date, leaving behind the recycled jokes we usually hear at V-Show previews.

Although all Varsity Shows are expected to be rife with Barnard jokes, this year they seemed to be funny and far less offensive.  To mock the tragic Housing Crisis, girls pretended to sleep in tents on Low Steps (“between the two non-functional phallus-fountains”). In the same way, the usual inebriated Saturday night did not take place in a bar, per sé: Mel’s was still a restaurant at the point the scene took place. However, the scene didn’t resonate with its audience.  Does anyone go on a date to Mel’s? Regardless, the acting talents (because there was no singing…) of Rebecca Farley, CC ’16, Jonah Weinstein, CC ’16, and Molly Heller, GS/JTS ’15, came through.  Farley has the facial expressions of an adorably quirky cartoon character and is undeniably magnetic, as are Weinstein and Heller. Special kudos to John Fisher, CC ’16, for his incredible dancing prowess—his skills are something we rarely see on the Columbia musical theatre stage.

The most unexpected joke throughout the evening was the reference to the FroSci fiasco, given that it happened only two days before the preview. A crafty Bwogger picked up pages of the evening’s script that someone had left behind and saw that the scene had been written as something else entirely, and was quickly shifted to mock the now-famous scene. Props for the quick turn-around. Though a good deal of the jokes fell flat, this addition was quite clever and must be commended.

The West End Preview is not intended to reveal the plot of the final show, so we cannot make out exactly what it will be.  However, the evening’s goal should be to hint at some of the big jokes and scenes and give the audience a taste of its music.  Unfortunately, this year’s preview did not achieve the second half; only two songs were performed, neither of which were very memorable.  The cast’s voices came through, but we wish we’d had more of a chance to experience the musical style.  We hope the songs are in the writing and look forward to hearing them in May.

Overall, the Preview was certainly entertaining, but lacking in the amount and quality of songs it performed.  Hopefully the numbers will eventually prove impressive, since the music is obviously intrinsic to the success of the show.   The cast is energetic and exciting to watch, and we look forward to seeing what the team comes up with in the next few months.