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Avi Schwarzschild for Spectator

Cast members of the 120th Varsity Show perform in the West End Preview at Havana Central on Tuesday night.

Nothing smells more like spring than the Varsity Show. This year marks the show’s 120th anniversary and, as expected, the annual West End Preview at Havana Central provided a teaser on Tuesday night that left viewers begging for more.

The preview gave audience members a 40-minute sneak peek at the 120th Varsity Show in the back room of Havana Central, transforming the Senior Night hot spot into a performance venue filled with song, dance, and humor.

Since the Varsity Show script is revised and kept under wraps up until opening day, May 2, the creative team’s goal for the West End Preview is to showcase the cast’s talent and provide a sample of what’s in store without giving away the plot. 


The opening number was a spinoff of New York City’s most commonly used moniker, “The City That Never Sleeps.” The cast members joined together as they sang their own rendition, replacing “city” with “campus.” The number was both witty and delectable, expressing all things Columbia from girls drinking for free at Senior Night to the kid stuck in Butler on a Thursday night while all his friends are out on the town (read: at 1020).  

The preview continued with a scene featuring Sam Balzac, CC ’17, and Lindsay Garber, BC ’16, who cleverly portrayed two friends—who are possibly more than friends—as they shared sandwiches on a rooftop looking over campus. Tipoff to all those “Titanic” fans out there: This act replicates a scene from the film that will simultaneously melt your heart and have you falling off your seat with laughter.

One of the scenes exhibits an entertaining and honest look at the struggles of students stuck in their residence halls during a snowstorm. Alex Donnelly and Michael Carter, both CC ’14, were hilarious in their depiction of two roommates who lead completely separate lives and never see each other, despite the fact that they live together.

The supporting characters also delivered impressive performances. Whether it was the riotous portrayal by Ellie Beckman, CC ’16, of a girl who passes the time by watching with binoculars as her friend gets intimate with her boyfriend in bed, or the wonderfully sharp imitation by Emma Grueskin, BC ’17, of an RA ordering a sexiled student to return to his dorm, these scene-stealers kept the show alive. 

However, the standouts of the night were Sean Walsh, CC ’14, and Kyle Marshall, CC ’17, as they took on the formidable roles of University President Lee Bollinger and Dean Pipstein, the fictional incoming dean of Student Affairs. Their incredibly strong vocals and astounding acting skills led to a phenomenal number about the lack of sophistication among modern day Columbia students in comparison to the “blue-blooded” Columbians who used to roam campus.

The night concluded with a finale that could have easily been seen in the theater district, with the cast thanking everyone for showing up and the obligatory jazz hands for good measure.

Though there will still be changes to the show—and a solid preview doesn’t always mean a well-received finished product—it should be interesting to see what the 120th Varsity Show has in store and if it can deliver on the promise seen Tuesday night. | @ColumbiaSpec

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