By Harmesh Bhambra ‘16
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Boothies hate being in Hyde Park on a Friday. However, on Friday May 8th, old certainties were put on hold -- hoards of students scrambled onto the late afternoon Metra to Hyde Park, revelled at LPF and set foot on unfamiliar ground at Mandel Hall. The purpose? To celebrate Booth’s creative talent and indulge in hearty self-ridicule at Follies.
Follies has become an institution. And your correspondent, a rare sight at the Harper Center on Fridays, could sense the different air before the show. LPF turned into the ‘pre-game’ for many, with attendance so great that it felt like it was orientation again.
Students arrived at Mandel Hall to temperatures that were unreasonably high, with concomitant sweating occurring soon after. The outcome was not favorable: a source described the smell backstage as “awful”. No doubt some professor switched on the heating, using the audience for a natural experiment with findings to be released during next year’s ‘Managing in Organizations’. The absence of frosty beverages caused consternation, inhibiting the natural reaction to warm temperatures -- sipping an ice-cold beer.
The main show started at 7pm. Early arrivers were treated to music from the band ‘The Chicago School’, which performed crowd-pleasing songs such as 'Rolling In the Deep' and 'Stacey Kole Has Got It Goin’ On'.
As the show progressed, the night's most well-known actors were easy to identify, including YaoYao Wang and Jess Neufeld. Indeed, every time the stagelight shone on Neufeld, the audience’s adrenaline and excitement rose. Your correspondent’s highlight of the show was the Venmo skit, where Neufeld, along with Nour Schehade and Mike Brewer, scoured through Venmo feeds to identify original and amusing insights. In response, there was some understandable, nervous laughter from the audience and, no doubt, many phones were then engaged to delete risqué payment descriptions. The Venmo skit also featured the night’s coup de theatre, where two Boothie’s Venmo posts were flashed on screen and their identities were exposed. Lauren Mifflin and Neil Ramchandani were hauled onto stage, and took part in the ensuing debrief with good humor.
The standard throughout Follies was generally high although some skits suffered from a preponderance of clichés, jokes that were too close to the bone or kidult wackiness. A special mention goes to the brilliant Elena Stratigakes, whose standout performances in ‘Do You Wanna Build a Model’ and ‘Serial’ raised the bar for next year.
The most resounding applause was reserved for the dance elements. The salsa section dispelled any myths that Boothies do not have quick feet. Then the audience was transported to the African continent with a hypnotic three and a half minutes dance featuring many gyrations. The hip-hop dance earned hollers from the crowd and contained the night’s most singalong moment to Taylor Swift’s Blank Space. Bollywood made its presence felt with a classic Indian love story dance that featured the notorious excess of backup dancers.
In the end, Follies managed to bring out a smorgasbord of emotional responses: sweat, tears, laughter, shock. And in some sense, the audience all took something away -- your correspondent now understands the brilliance of gripping Serial. Follies, and satire generally, makes you learn as well as laugh.
Harmesh will pretend to be British at next year’s Follies