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Senior Nick Rush (right) and sophomore Brandon Gurrola (left) strum the tune of “Viva La Vida” while junior Austin Gowen keeps beat on the drums.
Photo provided by MU Theatre Society

Students and Staff Showcase Talents At Theatre Society Variety Show

Ryan Daine

A sizeable crowd consisting of both students and members of the surrounding community gathered within the walls of Cordier Auditorium last Thursday evening to take in an evening of talent and performance. The Manchester University Theatre Society’s first annual Variety Show proved to be quite a hit, providing the first spark that may ensure the shows annual continuance in the future.

The show began with a nearly empty stage, containing only a podium sitting at stage right and a small microphone adorning it. With the flashing and lowering of the house lights, the audience was quickly hushed and the festivities commenced. Sophomore Jeremiah Ford entered onto the stage first, walking up to the podium and addressing the attendees. He thanked everyone for coming to see the show and announced the first act of the evening. Kira Hawkins, the instructor of theatre arts here at Manchester, took the stage first to perform a very high energy (and high-pitched) number from The Drowsy Chaperone, a booze and antics-filled musical that she is directing for this year’s upcoming spring show season. Sophomore Elijah Philips took center stage next to perform an original song. He was accompanied by his fellow student Brandon Gurrola, who kept the rhythm grounded on an acoustic guitar. Phillips made an endearing and clear wish to the audience to seek him out and give him a follow on Soundcloud, where they can listen to more of his music at no cost.

Switching gears away from music, sophomore Ken Watson Haynes silently walked onto center stage, settling into a chair and wielding an open Macbook laptop. Haynes had prepared an original monologue, detailing the topic of internal depression. As she delved into the painfully poignant symptoms that accompany the affliction, the audience fell silent as everyone angled themselves forward to listen to the words being read from the screen. Haynes exited stage right silently, just as she had entered, as an air of reflection hung under the ceiling of Cordier. Theatre Society president Andy Vance then lifted spirits back up by waltzing into the spotlight to perform her rendition of “New York State of Mind,” by Billy Joel, also known as the “Piano Man.” Vance sang along to a pleasant instrumental backing track that highlighted her stellar vocal performance.

As the evening continued onwards, Jacob Rainer performed a series of magic tricks and mind games with various volunteers from the audience, followed by Gurrola returning to stage with his acoustic six-string once again, this time for a solo act. Gurrola performed Vance Joy’s 2013 smash hit “Riptide,” his performance made complete by the steady rhythm work being coaxed from the guitar as the song’s melody flowed forth. Offering a short reprieve from the music of the night, Brandon Egolf and Austin Gowen took to the stage to perform an off-kilter stand up-esque bit. The duo selected a random volunteer from the crowd to come up on stage and join Gowen in filling out an ad-lib game, while Egolf performed a hilariously vulgar short comedy show, packed full of sharp and witty puns and jabs that were sure to either offend, elicit laughter or both. Once the ad-lib was thoroughly completed, the paper was given to Egolf who read the jumbled responses, offering his own critique and judgement to each line and playfully belittling the volunteer on stage.

The evening was rounded out with the final two performances of the show, one of which was a lengthy dance routine performed by Manchester’s own Spartanettes dance team. The Spartanettes dazzled audience members as they moved skillfully on stage in well-rehearsed synchronization to a mix of various hip hop and R&B tunes. Adorned in bright red and black streetwear, the Spartanettes put on a very well executed performance.

The final act of the night involved previous performers Egolf, Gowen, Gurolla and Vance, along with senior Nick Rush. The quintet took the stage to perform Coldplay’s mega-hit, “Viva la Vida.” With a full drum kit, acoustic guitar, grand piano, bass and live vocals, the five pulled off a very pleasant tune and rounded out what was a very well done first attempt at a variety show of this nature. “I came to this show at the last minute when I heard that it was free, but I’m glad that I did,” said Alex Searfoss, first-year. “It was a very fun and worthwhile experience that showed off the interesting abilities and talents of my fellow students, many of whom I know.”

Sophomore Carson Thompson agreed. “The variety show was full of a lot of quite impressive acts that all had a broad range and hit on areas that I was not expecting to go to,” she said. “Singing and magic, the show really had a lot, and I cannot wait to attend next year’s performance once more.”

As the crowd dispersed after the show, the smiles were aplenty, the chatter was loud, and a buzz of excitement that typically exists after a successful and entertaining live performance was very much present; all good indicators of a fantastic show that can be expected to make a return for its second anniversary some time next Spring.