The 28th Annual HBS Show descended on Burden last week, and few were left standing. This glorious, galloping tribute to HBS life, love, and leatherette trousers took us on a magical tour through the warped but brilliant minds of the writers, feeding off the egos and clich‚s that make this place what it is.
Encompassing elements of West Side Story, Riverdance, Stomp, et al, the Show pranced through three parallel themes close to the HBS heart (we have one, surely): a self-doubting student, romantic travails, and ever-present expansion plans. Hostages were shot, not taken. Egos and clich‚s were exploded, and political correctness never seemed to have stood a chance. The Show was all the better for it.
Nadia Boulos delighted in the role of Maria McKinsey – singing, dancing and portraying to a tee the achingly true stereotype of the HBS world-conquering consultant. Rob Zeaske fitted into his role as bumbling John Deere even more snugly than into those fetching denim dungarees. With a natural advantage (coming from Iowa and proud of it), he played with the crowd, until we were crying in laughter and sympathy. We wanted more songs that stretched his talents. This country hick, rather than Tony Sarto, was the real Yang to Maria’s Ying-the was the self-doubter who lurks inside even the most polished consultant.
There were so many blisteringly good, polished performances, it is not possible to do them all justice here. Lenny Chang pulled off the Asian-Sicilian-Bronx fusion with gusto, and Ed Huang as Ben E. Hana was a revelation as the TOM-mad meat slicer. Imran Amed as the high-maintenance, French pseud was adorable and over the top-like all good Europeans.
Beth Ferguson thought to discount the offense that her portrayal of Lady Biltmore Spangler may cause, with a pre-emptive apology in the programme. She did a magnificent job as the rapacious Southerner, and together with Dean Mohrmoney (David Gile), were perfectly loatsome. For those that found it over the top, it was. Get over it. And remember: ridicule is the sincerest form of flattery. (That’s what my parents always told me, anyway.)
The puns and jokes came thick and fast, and if you missed one, there was another right there. Those around us in the audience were not prepared for the sheer quality of singing, dancing, choreography, costume design, and even props. Where did it all come from? Why can’t we have more? Backs and buttocks were shamelessly emblazoned with section insignia-as the thesps and dancers looked for love from their section mates. They got it in spades.
Lights under Bushels
“I had no idea how many talented people existed here at HBS” said Michelle Levene, a typical reaction from the debut performance. This sentiment was echoed by all we spoke to-what do they do with all that talent in the rest of the year, we wonder? The dancers were tasked with multiple complex routines-synchronized sweep throwing just one example. Emily Kranz, typified the unlikely heroes on stage-few had any idea of her dancing prowess before the Show, now we are in no doubt.
The show had few first night hitches – sound and vision worked a treat. Burden is not easy venue to play to when packed full of noisy MBAs, and Stephen Fleming’s talented ensemble would have benefitted from more amplification. The cheap seats missed some visual gags, but extra screens ensured the video props came across well. If W was planning on coming to graduation, best he doesn’t find out about this.
Backstage excelled -from the tidily edited videos to innovative use of lights, the technology was their slave. It’s unlikely that anybody from outside HBS understood more than 50% of the predominantly in-jokes, but that was part of the fun. The Show captured the Spring-is-in-the-air, my-God-we’ve-almost-made-it mentality, a pressure release marking the end of Winter. The trio of Margaret Lee, Frank Andrasco, and Jeff Gato can rest assured that they set the standard to beat next year. Judging by the enthusiasm in the crowd after the event, there’ll be no shortage of eager souls to attempt to do just that.