This year, the Varsity Show took their aim outside of Morningside Heights, fostering school spirit by mercilessly lampooned other Ivy League schools in addition to our own Columbia University. The show aimed inward as well, with ingenious jokes about Wyclef Jean, C250, Orchesis, AEPi, Hewitt dining hall, and WKCR.
With a cast ranging from first-years to seniors, the students created ridiculous characters that made Columbia laugh at itself while also displaying the incredible talent of Columbia students.
The story centered around a plot by C251 Director Henry Lucifer Hale's plot to move Columbia to the "Upper, Upper, Upper West Side: Connecticut!" (Thus begin the New Haven jokes and the potshots at Yale University.) Paul Wright, CC '05, shone in his role as Henry Lucifer Hale, and demonstrated an ability to make an ordinary scene induce rolling-in-the-aisles laughter.
The hero was Professor Kenneth Jackson, of midnight bike-riding fame, who decides to lead the effort to stop the move to New Haven. Jackson was played by Ben Smith, CC '06, and Smith's performance was definitely one of the highlights of the evening. From tap-dancing to singing, Smith displayed surprising versatility and impressive talent.
Another equally versatile cast member was Varsity Show veteran Kate Berthold, CC '06. Berthold played an elderly life-long learner who kept people laughing every time she walked on stage. She also played a schizophrenic WKCR broadcaster with perfect comic timing, providing a fresh distraction between scenes.
Overall the level of talent of all the students on stage was impressive, from Berthold and Wright to the show's leads Blair Bodine, CC '06 and Jordan Barbour, CC '05. The soulful voice of Bodine on songs such as "Action, Jackson!" elicited verbal reactions from audience members. Likewise, Barbour lit up the stage with acting talent, comedic timing, and vocal perfection. Together, Jordan and Blair also had the opportunity to blend their voices in pieces like the sweet but almost too sappy "Love Song."
The storyline that followed Bodine and Barbour's characters was the low point in an otherwise strong show, as it was slightly too cliched and sappy to be believable. Luckily the skill of the two actors kept that plotline entertaining.
Perhaps the highlight of the show was the brilliant, creative and sexy song "Nightline." In the song the student-run helpline was converted to a phone-sex hotline while the chorus performed a Fosse-inspired dance complete with ROLM phones as props, choreographed by Sarabeth Berman, BC '06. The song was carried by a strong performance from Alana Weiss, CC '07, who in her role as a stereotypical Orchesis member and Barnard student stole the show repeatedly.
Still, the true show-stopper was Dean of Columbia College Austin "Q-Tip" Quigley, who made a cameo appearance at a sentimental tree-lighting ceremony just in time to join PrezBo on a campus jog.
The production was strong across the board and added an incredibly professional element to the show. Producer Paul Gelinas', CC '04, creation of the Low steps and imitation of the slanted view from Lerner ramps not only recreated familiar places, but also provided a striking backdrop to the show. Still, the show was held back by some technical problems, which made certain songs hard to understand, overall it was an impressive addition to the Varsity Show tradition.
While some students may object to easy jokes about Jewish people, Barnard girls, or Connecticut, the Columbia audience must acknowledge that the point of the show is satire and comedy. Without a doubt, the cast and direction of the Varsity Show induced side-splitting laughter each night. But, the Varsity Show unites the Columbia University community by satirizing different aspects of campus life. By preventing Columbia's move to Connecticut, the script writers reminded students of what makes Columbia University so special, and comical at the same time.