At this year’s West End Preview on Wednesday, the 124th Annual Varsity Show gave audience members a taste of what they can expect during the full performance in April.
The Varsity Show, a Columbia tradition, is a student-written musical performed in the spring that is meant to take a comedic look back at the past school year for all four schools. Last year’s show revolved around an imagined merger between Barnard and Columbia College, heavily featuring students from the two colleges. This year’s preview, performed in the Diana Event Oval, focused solely on Columbia College students.
“We are trying to balance having a cohesive show while also being inclusive, and that’s always a balancing act,” composer and lyricist Simon Broucke, CC ’19, said.
The Varsity Show is notorious for keeping its actual plot a secret until its premiere in April. For this reason, the West End Preview features a fake plot constructed solely for the purpose of the preview. Song lyrics are altered so as to not give away any major aspects of the final plot. The only aspect of the preview that is semi-consistent with the final product is the music, which, while still a work in progress, has a chance of being featured in the spring show.
The preview showed a Columbia College freshman struggling to situate herself within the larger student body. She faced the challenges of choosing a Columbia College Student Council running mate and deciding whether or not to sit with her COÖP group or Delta Gamma sorority sisters in the dining hall.
Regardless of plot, the Varsity Show aims to capture what it describes as the “tone” of the overall student body. Recent events have made this tone difficult to summarize.
“I think there are a bunch of different tones around, because obviously this is a very big year in terms of politics and general understanding [of] how we interact and move forward with the administration. I think it’s a year with a lot of ideas of self-reckoning, and that’s something that we should think about,” Broucke said.
Choreographer Christine Sedlack, BC ’19, also relies on tone, as she must adapt her choreography to an ever-changing performance.
“I really try to listen to Simon’s music without looking at the lyrics and seeing what’s the tone that I get and where the show’s headed,” she said.
Both Broucke and Sedlack feel optimistic about what’s to come.
“I think I’m most excited about being able to watch a group of people who are not only passionate about the performing arts, but passionate about Columbia as a place and a community. Really just watching them share our story of Columbia with the audience ends up having the school year end with such a positive note,” Sedlack said.