Late last night, Bwog was ushered into the back room of Havana, usually reserved for drunken revelry and awkward hook-ups, for a different sort of party—The 120th Annual Varsity Show’s West End Preview.
Although it still had its share of awkward premises and jokes that fell flat, we should note that we’re going to be holding The 120th Annual Varsity Show to a far higher standard than last year’s performance. A veteran Bwogger described last night’s show as “the best VShow preview in the past four years.”
Overall, the narrative skirted gracefully between enduring Columbian themes of administrative turnover, social awkwardness, and PrezBo’s quest to get to the top of U.S. News & World Report rankings, as well as recent events, with funny one-liners about Our Blue, the ever-interim Dean Martinez, and the House of Cards release. We quickly forgot about the choreography—and who would expect more than a bit of unpolished dancing in the preview?—but the music of Veesh veteran Solomon Hoffman, CC ‘14, was a refreshing break from V119’s underwhelming and confusing melodies.
The first song focused on Columbia’s nightlife and served as an expectedly general opener for the evening. While it didn’t really have a specific direction, and some of the references were strange, i.e., “Students are taking the swim test on Broadway,” it was a fun, short number that excited the audience. The writers devoted numerous lines to the cold and shitty weather; how nice that weather references were actually relevant this year. Even though the plot was not the focus of tonight, (remember, the preview has nothing to do with the actual show, other than showcasing the talent of the writers and performers), the preview managed to create some developed and interesting scenes, even if the transitions between them felt forced.
Notable moments of the night include the lyrics of the first scenario, with lovebirds Lindsay Garber, BC ‘16, and Sam Balzac, CC ‘17 becoming romantic on Mudd roof while eating HamDel sandwiches. Lines such as “Can you read the SUBtext?” and “My bottle of milk is white and tall, and it has always stood up for me” got the audience going, but unfortunately both Garber and Balzac are great performers whose talents were not fully utilized by the scene; we hope to see more of their abilities showcased in May.
Brittany Beljak, BC ‘16, also stood out (literally—she was standing on a chair) in her role as an angsty, articulate member of the Writer’s House. “The Core isn’t a curriculum, it’s a Corrupt-the-Young!” Audience members voiced their approval. This occurred simultaneously as a student locked up in her room was attempting to lead her dance troupe in practice via iPad. When her thread fell flat, we couldn’t help but think that perhaps the approach of having four scenes running at once contributed to the shallowness of some parts. Of course, it would be remiss to neglect the hilarious interaction between the Columbia Football player and his not-so-athletic roommate, meeting for the first time halfway through the year. It started out as an uncomfortable run-in, but their scene turned hot and heavy when they began to make out (or aggressively peck at one another’s faces). It was much appreciated by all.
The next song was the strongest of the bunch. Sean Walsh, CC ‘14, served as President Bollinger, who along with fictional Dean Pipstein a.k.a. Dean Martinez’s eventual replacement, recalled the way that Ivy Leaguers used to be. “It’s like we’ve become some common, vulgar Dartmouth,” and “now the students work all night in Butler when [back in the day] you had butlers do the work for you,” were crowd favorites. Walsh pleased the room with his dorky dancing and clever lyrics, leading to a long, hearty applause, even if his cut-off seemed a bit improvised.
The night ended with a protest song, of course, and a reminder to go see the real Varsity Show on May 2, 3, and 4. Both had catchy tunes and cute lines that delivered laughs, and were able to end the show on a high note.
We’ll be honest—the relatively quiet academic year hasn’t given the VShow writers that much to work with. However, the cast is one of the strongest we’ve seen in years; we hope Hoffman can work with that talent, and that writers Rae Binstock and Eric Donahue, both CC ‘15, can capture some spirit of Columbia. A glimpse of the latter was evident in the protest song, the Writer’s House thread, and the self-deprecating humor—“We’ll do what real New Yorkers do, and go to Glass House Rocks!” Now we hope to see it fully materialize in the May production. You have our high expectations, V120.