The Harlequins perform musical revue in Bentley Theater

by Will Tackett | 1/24/16 6:22pm

This past Saturday an ensemble of students known as The Harlequins performed a self-produced musical revue in the Bentley Theater. Aptly titled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bentley” (a reference to the Stephen Sondheim musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), the revue was an intimate affair in which the cast, solo or in pairs, sang selected numbers from classic musicals such as “Grease” (1971), “Sweeney Todd” (1979) and “Seussical: The Musical”(2000).

The Harlequins are a student group that produce and perform their own shows.

Three students, Virginia Cook ’18, Virginia Ogden ’18 and Nicholas Vernice ’18, resurrected the recently less active group two weeks ago after Katelyn Onufrey ’15, the 2015 president of the group, handed them the reins. The performers chose their own songs.

The group required performers to select pieces from the musical theater genre, Vernice said.

They began auditioning and rehearsing for the show a week before the performance, performer Haley Reicher ’17 said.

Regarding the choice of the revue format, Vernice said, “TheHarlequins had previously hosted musical theater cabaretsand thusdecided that reviving that traditionwould afittingtribute to the group’s past, as well as an affirmation of its reestablishment on campus.”

The branding of the event as a “caberet” denoted a formal setting, but in reality the event was casual, attendee Ellyn Golden ’17 said.

“When I heard the word cabaret, I kind of thought 1920s,” Golden said. “I don’t know I thought everyone would be really dressed up or something and very over the top showmanship, but it was definitely more chill than that.”

The revue adopted a minimalistic style with performers in simple black clothing and chairs and a couple of phones and a wine glass serving as the only props. The conservative set allowed for the essence of the songs to shine through unfettered. This way, with the songs in their purest form, the full emotional impact of each song could be achieved.

Still, the select props used served a stylistic purpose.

“I really enjoyed the songs that had props more than the songs that didn’t have props,” Golden said. “Like I loved Doug Phipps’ song when he was sitting on the chair and there was more acting involved.”

The inclusion of these professional additions reminded the audience that these songs function as part of larger musical theater shows, Golden said.

The performance interspersed sad, heavy songs with more light-hearted numbers. Vernice and Eliana Kaplan ‘19 performed a humorous rendition of “Suddenly, Seymour” from “Little Shop of Horrors” (1982) which balanced the emotions of “For Good,” the bittersweet good-bye from “Wicked”(2003). The dejected “Grease” song, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” matched the playful “Notice Me, Horton” from “Seussical: The Musical”, in which performers Matthew Treiber ’18 and Jaclyn Pageau ’18 put a modern spin on the song’s lyrics with the Horton character (Treiber) unable to look up from his phone.

“I’m not super into musical theater but I loved hearing Dartmouth kids get up and sing really well,” attendee Abby Reynolds ’17 said. “It was kinda fun trying to recognize some of the Broadway plays.”

After Treiber delivered a rendition of the moving song “I’ve Been” from the Brian Yorkey musical “Next to Normal”(2008), Reicher lightened the mood with her rendition of “As We Stumble Along” from “Drowsy Chaperone”(1998).

As Reicher took the stage, the lights shifted to the pit, where she placed her stool and, wine glass in hand, launched into the number in a state of faux intoxication. As she stumbled along, she elicited laughs from the audience with her acting (at one point she entered the audience and confidently threw her arm around an audience member) and lyrics like “Barely knowing right from right / nor left from wrong.”

Many of the audience members knew the performers personally.

“The Harlequins pulled off a professional and entertaining cabaretperformancethat showcased musical theater talents off the mainstage,” audience member Anna Gottardi ’17 said. “Accompanist Andy Roninson shone as usual, and Virginia Ogden and Nick Vernice worked magicbehind the scenes to craft sucha successful show in the two short weeks since the club’s revival.”

While some who attended were very familiar with the pieces performed, that familiarity was not needed to enjoy the show, Reynolds said.

“I didn’t really know what it was going to be when I came, but one of my friends was performing in it and she would have liked the support,” Reynolds said. “So I came and I thought it was great.”

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