This year’s theme, “The Devil Wears Crimson,” was a theatrical buffet of pop culture, current events, sizzling scandals, HBS life and that most special of romances – section love. An engaging cast of 22 actors was supported by 23 high-energy dancers, 13 band members and a 40-strong crew of writers, producers, choreographers and directors all with one common goal: two hours of the funniest, liveliest entertainment this side of Broadway.
And from the first dimmed light to the final bow, the HBS Show did not disappoint. The plot loosely follows themes and characters from The Devil Wears Prada, Gossip Girl and the Twilight novel series, mixed with elements of the Global Financial Crisis, HBS Dean Jay Light’s impending retirement, the MBA Career & Professional Development office, and an ensemble of impersonated and guest-appearing HBS faculty and staff.
There were many stars on stage, from protagonist Blake Van der Woodsen (Andrea Ellwood, NC) as the “section girl” infiltrating HBS to unearth the true cause of the economic meltdown at the behest of Meryl Streep-esque editor-in-chief Rupa Murdoch (Ashley Marlenga, NI) to “fin-ance” whiz and Blake’s eventual “section-cest” love interest Mike Ebitduh (Ed Foy, ND). The characters were outrageous but awkwardly real – who doesn’t have a Juana (Edy Yang, NF) or Charity Imposta (Brooke J. Jenkins, OH) in their section? And it seems the likes of über-British-accented Philip Delves Broughton (Matthew Arth, NG) are only increasing as each semester goes by, not to mention an alarming number of midnight sightings of Count Dracula von Twilight (Mladen Svigir, ND) along the banks of the Charles. But the crowd favorite was definitely a command performance by Jeff Katzin (NH) as HBS Professor Joe Badaracco. Indeed, even Professor Badaracco, who was in the audience on Thursday night’s performance, couldn’t help outbursts of laughter as Katzin bobbed between mild-mannered Badaracco and a rough and tough Joey “Bada-bada-bada-racco.”
Blink an eye and one risked missing gags from Charlie Brown (Courtney J. Hyland, NC, as Harvard President Drew Faust), references to the Tiger Woods scandal and the occasional jab at Harvard Kennedy School and the Graduate School of Education. The all-student live band kicked off an opening medley leading into the first musical song-and-dance item “Go To Harvard,” inspired by Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” that set the hilarious tone with refrains such as “They tried to make me go to Stanford but I won’t go go go.” In total, 10 pop-song anthems based on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” a “Party with the MBAs” number inspired by Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas had the audience singing (or at least humming) along.
The show was a heartfelt goodbye to Dean Jay O. Light (PhD ’70), who retires this June after leading HBS since 2006. As the musical drama climaxed on an emotional high note, important lessons were learnt by the hundreds of students and the faculty, partners and parents in the audience about HBS community values, moral responsibility and section loyalty triumphing personal profiteering and a self-centric worldview. In the end, the boy does get the girl, because from Broadway to Bollywood to B-school everyone knows love conquers all.
Khelan Bhatt, partner (Ami Malaviya, NJ), was amazed by the amount of energy and hard work everyone associated with the HBS Show put in, but is glad to have his wife back after four months of hard work. Stuck in the “real world,” his favorite respite is to Party with the MBAs! (especially Section J: J or jealous, baby).