The times, they are a-changin’.
Two years ago, I on a whim wrote an essay summarizing Westmont’s Spring Sing 2008 for some out-of-the-country friends. That year I was a side-mic; I was involved in Spring Sing to greater and lesser degrees all four years at Westmont, but this year I had the opportunity to exist entirely as an audience member. As I wrote previously here, I was excited about being able to see a show that I wasn’t a part of, and I have decided to again try my hand at mini-reviews so as to allow my friends far away an opportunity to read their way through this year’s spectacular theatrical omnibus.
Spring Sing 2010: The Whole Nine Yards was perhaps a very culturally important Spring Sing. It might not change the face of society at large, but within the framework of the school I forsee big changes on the horizon for future shows. Nine Yards saw a lot of changes to the Spring Sing I “grew up with.” It saw a lot less classic rock and a lot more pop/dance music. It saw fewer cross-dress costumes and a greater variety of home-made vestments. It saw a decrease in mass-screamed lyrics and an increase in precision solos and a capella harmonies. It saw fewer Spring Sing Commodity faculty cameos and more faculty newbies take the stage for the first time (at least in my memory). It even saw the dawning of a new era: the two-part skit. For all these reasons and more, Nine Yards provides a worthy and fertile field from which to till a whole crop of Wildies.
If you’re still confused as to what the Wildies are, check out 2008’s exegesis or just keep reading. Let’s do this.
Armington Women (Best Women)
The Breakdown: Dorothy runs into trouble as her audience with the Wizard coincides with those of the Jedi, Superheroes, and LotR hobbits, all of whom have lost their mojo. The Wizard is revealed to be Harry Potter, who joins forces with the disparaging protagonists against the evil but socially insecure Lord Voldemort, who just wanted to be Harry’s facebook friend. This was one of the better women’s skits I’ve seen, with original dances and jokes, great costuming, high energy, and a decided lack of the cutesy trappings that typically leave a sour taste in my mouth. Good choice of songs too, ladies.
Wildies Awarded: Best Use of Social Networking, Celestina Is Better At Being Led Zeppelin Than They Are Award, Jon Young Is A Little Too Good At Being Voldemort Award.
Armington Men (Sweepstakes)
The Breakdown: Let me tell you a story, Armington Men. A few years ago, this upstart group of students put on a Spring Sing show about pirates and old people. It won sweepstakes, and for years their director secretly believed that he had helped put on the best skit Spring Sing had ever seen, and that no other skit could top it. Guys, you have proven that director wrong. For those who missed it: Noah (quick-change artist Jon Young) builds an ark but the mythical animals including Bigfoot, Charlie’s Unicorn Pals, and others don’t buy into it, opting instead to build their own boat. Disaster strikes and they call on Noah for help, but the bearded sailor can’t help the doomed chimeras (but he does save Rod the custodian in a great use of Westmont staff). I am not lying when I say that I literally did not stop laughing for more than a few seconds during the entire eight minutes. From the opening chorus of “Circle of Life” to the final death throes of the drowning animals to The Killers’ “Human,” this show had the highest production value, the most energy, the smoothest dance moves, and the funniest lines. Well done, gentlemen.
Wildies Awarded: Spring Sing End Sad? Award, Best A Capella Disney Song, How Did You Guys Know I Love The Killers Award, When Will Kanye Interrupt YOU? Award, Best Spring Sing Skit I’ve Ever Seen.
Bonus Award to Armington Women and Men: High Caliber Showmanship Award. Both these houses simply put on their best possible show and let their results speak for them. They both were polished, snappy, and fun, and deserved both their awards and their hard-earned pizza party.
The Breakdown: Two socks about to be married in wooly matrimony are interrupted by the evil Lord of the Lint. Kidnapping the fair maiden out of jealousy over a long-past spin in the hot cycle, the LoL absconds to another part of the laundry room. Our heroic athletic sock, Jim, must travel to her rescue with the help of his friend Snuggle Bear and Tide. It seemed like there was slightly lower participation in Emerson this year than in other years, which may have contributed to what felt a little like a lack of energy on stage. The deus ex machina lint roller (Emerson RD Danny Clapp) was funny as well. It was by no means an acid trip skit of the kind that many expect from Emerson, but that’s by no means a bad thing.
Wildies Awarded: Mister Clean Mister Clean! Award, Best Use of Eye of the Tiger, Most Coherent Emerson Skit in Recent Memory
The Breakdown: Octogenarians and their fitness idol Richard Simmons (Michael Shasberger NOT singing a Queen song for a change) lament the closing of their gym to make room for a valley-girl-infested mall. The two demographics clash in a titanic battle of clapping and stomping, with the aging matrons finally reigning victorious over the spoiled teenagers. I really enjoyed this skit but I would have loved to see Dr. S in an expanded role, perhaps leading the grandmas to victory against their whiny counterparts
Wildies Awarded: YES Holding Out For A Hero Is Such A Great Song Award, Best Jabs at Both Westmont Tuition and Those Who Have It Paid For Them
The Breakdown: This show was my personal pick for Best Men. Sailors shipwreck on a Desserted Island whose sugary inhabitants are more inclined to eat than to be eaten. Delicious conflict seems certain until the sailors call for a parfait parley; the candied antagonists subsequently bring the man-candy interlopers to their leader, Lady Lala (a totally decked-out Luisa Gallagher in her last Spring Sing appearance). The trippy leader of the Desserted Island forges a new relationship between the two opposing groups that can only be summed up in one word: Bromance. Yes, Lindsey, I hate to say it but you missed the Bromantic Comedy of the year. After a parody of Lady Gaga (“Rad Bromance”: so subtle, so great.), the show launches into Bollywood Dance Finale with a raucous and hilarious Jai Bro.
Wildies Awarded: KABRO!!! Award, Best Use of Hindi, I Will Be Humming Rad Bromance Tomorrow In Church Instead Of Paying Attention To The Sermon Award
Bonus Award to Page Men: Professionalism Award. Not sure what happened with that missed lighting cue, but it took almost no time for the men to regain their momentum and press forward. Nicely done!
Van Kampen Women
The Breakdown: To escape the H1N1 virus (aka swine flu), Westmont residents take shelter in Emerson Hall’s basement where they find a time warp back to the prehistoric era. The dinosaurs, unprepared for such a virus, succumb to the flu and go extinct while the Westmonters worry about what to tell history. A really funny concept with pretty good execution by all. Good song choices and an incredibly good use of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, but as with Emerson, energy seemed a bit low. I kept waiting for a reference to Back to the Future, LOST, or even Doctor Who, but even without them the show was still entertaining.
Wildies Awarded: Not The Baby! Award, Best Use of an Infectious Disease, Wow You Guys Really Punched Those Dinosaurs Award
Van Kampen Men
The Breakdown: I think that any resentment that built up toward Van Kampen Men during my generation (piqued my freshman year – let’s not talk about that garbage) has begun to fade. I didn’t hear any hissing or booing when they were announced this year, and their show didn’t ooze the “We’re VK and we’re gonna win even with a subpar show” vibe that it has in years past. Instead they put on a hilarious story about the Prodigal Son Bee who squanders his father’s honey on reckless living in Insect Vista. Caught in a debt to the Yellow Jackets, all hope seems lost for the Son Bee when Beesus (Jay Visbal: Please be Jesus all the time in everything you do) sacrifices his golden stinger. Helen Rhee debuts as the Son Bee’s despondent mom in an awesome operatic rendition of Les Mis’s “I Dreamed a Dream” with Greg Tomlison on oboe
Wildies Awarded: Susan Boyle Award/Best Use of Oboe, Best Extended Pun on Gayle Beebe’s name, Best Use of Jesus
Clark Women and Clark Men
The Breakdown: I know that technically they were separate shows, but I really can’t treat these two houses as separate acts, because for the first time in Spring Sing history, they broke the mold and did a two-part skit with no resolution until the sixteenth minute. The plot? Clark King Mark (in his final performance at Westmont’s Spring Sing) needs to find a replacement and sends out five knights to accomplish the task. The knights try various options: a lion who King Of The Jungles them out of a screaming comrade in a moment of hunger, the King of Pop himself, Barney, and Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts. Alas, none of the hopefuls fit the bill. The knights despair of ever finding Mark’s replacement and the bitter Queen and royalty everywhere declare war, when who should save them but a rough-and-tumble world famous archaeologist and Resident Director Jon Young in a mind-blowing third performance of the night. With the day saved, Mark literally and figuratively passes on the Clark Crown to Jon. And there was much rejoicing.
I can’t say enough how glad I am that Clark chose to do their show like this. No, they didn’t take sweepstakes or the runner-up awards. Yes, that would have been very poetic. But I honestly believe that their decision to do a two-act endeavor will have a far greater impact on Spring Sing than any incredible single-act show could ever do. This year, Clark made a public statement that they weren’t going the status quo, and I don’t think they can be blamed if the current framework doesn’t necessarily support that kind of artistic choice. The show was funny, clean, and high-energy in both acts, with the men literally picking up exactly where the women left off in the same positions and costumes. Things don’t always go extremely well when new things are tried (cf. Armington Men of 2008), but without trial and error, there can be no advancement. I think that as the progenitor to an age of two-act shows Clark deserves a place in the Spring Sing City of Heroes. Clarksters and Mark: You put on your best show, you have changed the face of Spring Sing, and you have so much to be proud of. I hope this becomes as positive a memory for you as it will be for your audience.
Wildies Awarded: Best Narcoleptic Joke at Page’s Expense, Michael Jackson: Too Soon? Nahhh Award, Best Use of Mark The RD As Himself, Mark Would Make A Good Shadow Governor Award, Most Innovative Skit I’ve Ever Seen,
Bonus Award to Jon Young: Most Hardcore Spring Sing Participation Award. Even his quick change from Voldemort to Noah (totally different roles both flawlessly executed) was enough to garner respect, but his involvement with the Clarksters sets him above the bar for involvement in Nine Yards. I hope Armington and Clark residents alike are proud of their shows, and I hope Jon is proud of the work of both of the dorms in which he has a foot.
And that’s the show as it was, but I’d again be remiss in not talking about the behind-the-scenes committee members, the band, and the MCs, as well as the side-acts:
Band and MCs
The Breakdown: Dynamic father/son duo Ken and Kevin Kihlstrom kept us laughing all night with their jokes (mostly at each others’ expense), rolled the show along, and even managed a song at the end. Gayle Beebe moonlighted as an Oregon Ducks fan hell-bent (heaven-bent?) on assisting Ken and Kim in the God-ordained sacrifice of their son. The band was about the best I’ve ever heard it, flawlessly playing equally well such diverse tunes as Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” and Rihanna’s “Disturbia”. Each year the band gets a song of its own to play and it’s been great watching the different bands do different things; this year we saw John Ortberg shred the twelve-bar blues to pieces.
Wildies Awarded: Stellar Musicianship Award (Band), Booming Baritone Award (Kevin Kihlstrom), Better At Physics Than At Singing Award (Dr. K [who can no longer affect my grade, nyah nyah]), Best Blues Song About A Guy Who Doesn’t Know What’s Going On
Side-Acts and Committee
Nine Yards saw a higher caliber of side-acts than Spring Sing usually sees, a fact which the Kihlstroms noted. From a over-the-top Celine Dion reenactment to a couple of really well-done a capella songs (mixed choir “Viva la Vida” and all-men “Kiss the Girl”), the entertainment quality of the side-acts was above par and did great to refresh the audience between skits. Finally, I have to hand it to John Jefferson, Michele Mollkoy and the Spring Sing Committee to putting on a really high-production-value show. I’ve said before that the Committee has the nefarious job of being Spring Sing’s bad cops, but as an audience member this year I thought that John and co. did a great job of setting a fun tone tonight.
Wildies Awarded: A Capella For Everyone Award, Best Invocation of the NCMO, Every Show Needs a Celine Dion Parody Award, Biblical Mandate to Silliness Award, OMG THAT COMMITTEE MEMBER JUST KICKED OVER THE HEAD OF THAT OTHER COMMITTEE MEMBER DQ THE COMMITTEE Award
That’s it as far as the awards go. Again, this show did a great job of showing that the entity of Spring Sing is not a stagnant monolith but a vibrant, living, changing organism. Clark showed that change is possible and I think the rest of those involved would be remiss in not heeding the lesson. I’d love to see this event evolve along with its participants – some ideas that could be great are revamping the points system so that Emerson has a greater (read: equal) chance of taking home a meaningful award, doing away with Best Women and Best Men in favor of Sweeps, First Place, and Runner up, posting the judging results in the next week’s Horizon paper for transparency, and of course the aforementioned two-act show. Any number of changes could be made to induce growth in this event and I hope that the Committee, the dorms, and all those involved in Spring Sing continue to do their best to make it better. The goal is a night of glory to God, good times had by all, and skits everyone can be proud of, which is why Spring Sing is my favorite Westmont tradition – one, incidentally, that I’m happy to have continued in attending The Whole Nine Yards.