Arts and Entertainment | Theater

Varsity Show delivers laughs, shows off array of student talent

  • Mike Discenza / Senior Staff Photographer
    Veesh | (Left to right) Olivia Harris, CC ’14, Jonah Weinstein, CC ’16 and Spectator arts and entertainment columnist, Rebecca Farley, CC ’16, Molly Heller, GS/JTS ’15, Skylar Gottlieb, BC ’16, Jessica Chi, CC ’15, and Paulina Pinsky, BC ’15, sing at a dress rehearsal for the 119th Varsity Show.

From start to finish, the 119th Varsity Show, “The Great Netscape,” is the most fun you’ll have in Lerner—or anywhere else on campus—this year. The talented principals and ensemble, the hilarious book, and the original score—all brought together under the direction of Chris Silverberg, CC ’13—make the show a testament to the talent found at the school and a hilarious skewering of its culture.

With lines like “Go down on me like Courseworks” and a performance by a boy band formed in Wien called N’Sink In My Room, the jokes punctuate and move along the plot, without distracting from it.

The plot centers around Kat, a School of Engineering and Applied Science student played by Rebecca Farley, CC ’16. Kat built her own computer, which isolates her from her friends, Millie (Molly Heller, GS/JTS ’15), a Barnard student who is deathly scared of leaving the Morningside bubble, and Julian (Jonah Weinstein, CC ’16 and a Spectator arts and entertainment columnist), a cross country runner who spouts ’90s references and can’t figure out how to adequately express his attraction to Kat.

Mike Discenza/ Senior Staff Photographer
VEESH | Scott Bacon (l.), GS ’13, and Cole Hickman, CC ’16, perform at this year's Varsity Show, "The Great Netscape."

When the Internet goes out—a side effect of University President Lee Bollinger’s secret weather machine, which he uses to make it sunny for Days on Campus—Millie and Kat have to figure out how to fix it, lest they have to actually interact with people. Throwing a wrench into their plans is Kat’s RA, Vivica (Olivia Harris, CC ’14), who coerces people’s attendance at study breaks with the help of her rider, Dylan (Ethan Fudge, CC ’15).

The quest to find the weather machine and fix the Internet is almost stopped by Kat’s feelings of inadequacy, which she sings in “Little Fish, Big SEAS,” and the Columbia bureaucracy, which prompts the most entertaining number of the show, “The Administrative Runaround.” “Little Fish, Big SEAS” is incredibly poignant, highlighting a common concern among Columbia students—not feeling as good as your peers—while still evoking laughter. “The Administrative Runaround” tackles the absurdity of dealing with administrators with spot-on satire that’s hilarious only because it’s so accurate, from the difficulty in getting straight answers to the ennui that possesses many a Columbia desk clerk.

Other high points include Kat and Mollie’s run-in with Alice (of Go Ask Alice! fame), Solitaire-solving Public Safety officers, and the hilarious ways the characters deal with life offline. One student, played by Cole Hickman, CC ’16, takes to selling Nutella on the black market. Hickman is a standout member of the ensemble, stealing every scene he’s in, especially when he reveals his trenchcoat lined with Nutella wrappers. Another student, played by John Fisher, CC ’16, can’t figure out how people found pornography before the Internet, but Alice helps him. Fisher, like Hickman, is another bright spot in an already bright ensemble. Other standouts include Paulina Pinsky, BC ’15, and Ankeet Ball, CC ’16, who bring big laughs with every different character they play.

Farley and Heller both gave fine performances, though at times it sounded like they were shouting into their microphones and singing louder than necessary, which sometimes translated to missed notes. Harris gives probably the best performance of all the principal cast members, displaying an impressive vocal range and just enough villainous laughter to cement her character as opposed to Farley’s and Heller’s cheerful ones.

The plot sometimes got bogged down in places it didn’t need to, like the unnecessary and short-lived break between Kat and Millie in the second act. The writers, Eric Donahue, CC ’15, and Isabel Lopez, CC ’13, were smart not to dedicate too much time to the romantic subplot, focusing instead on packing the show with jokes, especially a greater-than-expected number of extra-timely ones (including a hilarious shoutout to columnist and former Spectator editorial page editor Lanbo Zhang’s column about merging Barnard and Columbia). These nicely balance out the more stale ones, specifically a reference to Robert, made infamous online for waiting by Alma Mater for a girl he met at 1020.

While many of the songs were excellent,  the standouts were concentrated largely in the middle and end of the first act, with the first song, “Columbia Let’s Connect,” trying to do too much exposition work to really take off. “Or Else” would have similarly fallen flat if it weren’t for Harris’ singing. And while some songs try to do too much with plot, the music, composed by Max Druz, CC ’15, and the lyrics, by Nick Parker, CC’14, never fall short.

“The Great Netscape” comes to a satisfying conclusion, with everyone but Vivica getting what they want. Though the show packs in the comedy, it doesn’t overwhelm the main thrust of the play: that nothing on the Internet can connect you with your peers quite as well as actually spending time with them.

Correction: An earlier version of this article listed the incorrect class year for Skylar Gottlieb, BC ’16. Spectator regrets the error.

david.salazar@columbiaspectator.com | @davidj_salazar

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CC '13 posted on

this was a really kind review. show is mediocre at best.

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Anonymous posted on

Good job!

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Um posted on

Did you see the same show I did?

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Anonymous posted on

really? This vshow sucked... extremely boring. Don't know what show you saw...

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Anonymous posted on

Farley and Heller are two of the most trained vocalists in the entire cast. Their "shouting" is called proper projection. Whereas Harris will probably lose her voice by the end of the run by her improper speaking/singing techniques. You should be blaming the sound designers for not adjusting to the correct levels. Also the composer seemed to give both of the leads unnecessarily complex melody lines that sound like "missed notes" to any untrained ear. Don't mean to sound like a jerk, but this review sounds like it comes from a amateur who should not speak about aspects for which they are not qualified. Stick to transcribing jokes that made you chuckle since that seems to be the basis of this review.

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Cool, bro posted on

except Olivia was actually amazing and seeing as the "run" is all of three days, the tradeoff between being the best performer in this show and losing her voice isn't much.... I don't even know her personally, but she did such a good job.

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David.... posted on

Come on....

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Correction posted on

Skylar Gottlieb is BC '16.

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come on spec posted on

give it a real review. this was nothing compared to last year...

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Great Review posted on

I especially enjoyed the 1020 advertisement before intermission. No jokes, with drink and price listing. Maybe next year they can do a song on how affordable HamDel is.

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Anonymous posted on

"[blank] delivers laughs, shows off array of student talent." More or less, the headline and content of every fucking spectator theater review. Just a series of platitudes from someone who's afraid to piss people off.

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Anonymous posted on

The irony is that you kind of seem pissed off.

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Anonymous posted on

That's not irony.

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Anonymous posted on

Someone being pissed off by a review that isn't intended to piss anybody off is an event caused by an incongruity between the expected outcome and the actual outcome. Irony.

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Anonymous posted on

Way, way too generous.
The fact that the Spec gave last year's show a negative review but this year's such a resounding sound-up is unbelievable. This year's show was not half as entretaining, poignant or, fuck, even well-casted as last year's. Come on, Spec.

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Keep in mind posted on

Different people wrote last year's review than this one... so I'm not sure that's a fair comparison.

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Anonymous posted on

Very well-done entertaining despite the fact that it centered around a weather machine

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Anonymous posted on

V-Show is usually much more polished than this. Way too many of the songs and jokes were about how hilarious it is that college students can't talk without the internet. It wasn't horrible, but it felt much more like a one-semester-of-prep show than previous years.

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Anonymous posted on

The title of the V118 review was "Rethinking the Core: The 118th Varsity Show amuses, but doesn't always go the extra mile," and then you give this show a rave review?

What the actual fuck, Spec.

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Anonymous posted on

Someone was in the 118th Varsity Show.

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Anonymous posted on

And *someone* is involved in this year's show.

Anyone who saw both productions knows that Spec has produced laughably out-of-touch reviews of each.

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Anonymous posted on

If you're not brave enough to call a flop a flop, why even pretend to review it? Although I wouldn't really know how good the show was. Serious sound issues, I couldn't hear half the lines.

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Anonymous posted on

amazing show. the jokes were relatable and fun and the music is still stuck in my head!

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Anonymous posted on

The acting and singing weren't stellar but the music was phenomenal! The compositions were really well done and the pit orchestra deserves more recognition.

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