Introducing the Columbia Carnival Cruise! Climb aboard alongside the Varsity Show crew for a show filled with sadboi professors, fraternity reprimanding robots, and sea-men sirens (very subtle).
Lerner Hall’s Black Box Theater sold out Friday night for the 125th Varsity Show’s teaser performances of Columbia’s annual satirical production. Whether or not the sketches and musical numbers from the West End Preview will appear in the May performances, however, remains to be seen.
Typically, many of the sketches, songs, and dance numbers written in the winter are reworked by the creative team over spring break, after receiving feedback from the cast and crew. The preview is meant to introduce the year’s cast and give the audience a 40-minute glimpse into the development of the production thus far. In this year’s preview, two peppy nautical captains took on Columbia’s fun-deficient culture.
The Varsity Show began in 1894 as a fundraiser for the Columbia Athletics program. Each year, members of the University’s four undergraduate schools write, cast, produce, and direct what has come to be one of Columbia’s most well-known traditions.
The 125th Varsity Show, directed by Bernadette Bridges, CC ’19, has 100 students on its cast and crew. Of the 13 undergraduates that performed on Friday, six were first-year students eager to join the show’s impressive legacy.
The preview was co-hosted by two ex-cruise ship directors, played by Thomas Baker, CC ’22, and Dale Jackson, SEAS ’22, recently hired by Columbia to reevaluate the University’s approach to fun. In a series of sketches, the 13-person cast tackled entertainment in the dining halls, the classroom, and campus social life.
In the sketch on dining halls, the performance featured the all-male a cappella group “Ferris and the Booth Commons,” which sung the praises of Columbia’s nationally-ranked food while sporting Kingsmen blazers.
Next in line to receive a carnival cruise “fun-jection” was a romantic poetry class. The professor, played by Christian Palomares, CC ’22, pleaded with his furiously note-taking students to forget about grades and simply feel the emotion of poetry. The increasingly frustrated professor watched as his students broke out into an impressive dance number about academia and their conflicting thoughts on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”
Finally, the show’s hosts offered a glimpse into Columbia’s social life with a sketch satirizing a Beta Theta Pi initiation ceremony. The hosts introduced Columbia’s newest android, played by Adam Glusker, CC ’21, who had been designed to foster a culture of tolerance and peace on campus. The android interrupts the fraternity’s acts of hazing and instead rangles the group into singing about their feelings and confessing vulnerable secrets.
Each year, the Varsity Show tackles topics familiar to many members of the community and yet, finds ways to personalize the script to the unique experiences of the current school year.
This is made clear in the group’s mission statement. “We seek to tell a story that holistically captures the undergraduate experience of Columbia University students in the 2018-2019 academic year,” it states. “We strive to represent, critique, and connect the Columbia community through a few hours of cathartic entertainment.”
Friday night’s West End Preview accomplished this even on a condensed scale while leaving the audience hanging in anticipation for May’s full-length production.
Alexandra Aguirre contributed reporting.