This weekend, the 45th annual HBS Show, Harvard Business School’s long-running satirical look at life on campus, opened to raucous applause, adoring crowds, and maybe even some kudos for taking up the mantle of the #MeToo movement.
This year’s show, entitled “The Need-Based Fellowship of the Ring” and (very) loosely based on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, features EC Katy Kasser as protagonist Heidi Roizen, a young woman who quickly becomes disillusioned with her male classmate’s sexual advances, and decides to forge an engagement ring to ward them off.
As Roizen’s career takes off, her ring gains a reputation for having magical powers (“How else could a woman accomplish so much?” her classmates ask) and ultimately falls into the hands of naïve RC Frodo Baggins, played by EC Billy Strobel. Frodo and his friends – Samwise, Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas (ECs Colin Murphy, Gil Valdes and Tabitha Strobel, and RC Shannon Wood, respectively) – learn to navigate their RC year while harnessing what they think are the ring’s powers, and the five of them are eventually deemed the “Need-Based Fellowship of the Ring” by Dean Gandalf Nohria (played by RC Anisa Moolani). Hilarity and chaos ensue, especially when HBS scribe Screebel (RC Dilan Gomih) determines to get her hands on the ring.
Kasser delights as Roizen, combining a raw channeling of feminist anger with musical talent to deliver a performance that draws the audience in from the opening note. Strobel and his cohort are thoroughly enjoyable – a bumbling, merry band of clueless RCs, finding strength in each other as they take on HBS. The added twist of Gimli and Legolas being gender cross-cast (Gimli is written as a female and played by Valdes, while Legolas is a male played by Wood) opens the door for a cavalcade of jokes and double entendres that further lighten an already buoyant mood.
Through lush stage craft meticulously envisioned and directed by EC Ayse Baybars (with help from RCs Meghan Mahajan and Matt Poreda), exceptionally-crafted musical parodies directed by EC Raphael Roesler, and a book chock-full of raunchy humor and social commentary written by a team of HBS students led by EC Jess Zhao, “Need-Based Fellowship” deftly carries its audience through a minefield of potential #MeToo controversy, often by stepping on the mines and seeing what happens. There’s plenty in it to make the administration nervous enough to try and turn people away, which will hopefully only boost turnout. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
The Need-Based Fellowship of the Ring, directed by Ayse Baybars with musical direction by Raphael Roesler and produced by Maci Wang and the HBS Show Club, is playing at the Boch Center’s Shubert Theatre in downtown Boston (265 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116) from April 1-3. Tickets ($45) can be purchased at the Boch Center box office (866-348-9738) or at www.buyhbsshowtickets.online.