Off Broadway on Campus’ (OBOC) spring revue, titled “Into the Spotlight” comprised a series of mostly upbeat and energetic tunes which plastered smiles on the audience’s faces. An improvement in the show’s production quality was immediately evident from the opener, “Relativity.” As bright blue light flooded the stage and performers glided into the pool of color, a magical air suffused Strong Auditorium. Over the course of the next 17 musical group numbers and a beautiful tribute to the late Stephen Sondeim, I found myself bopping, grooving, and maybe even tearing up a little.
This feeling was in no way a one-off. Each number was its own, self-contained mini-story, a result of months of effort and careful attention to detail that went into this production. In particular, “Single Man Drought,” “Welcome to the Renaissance,” and “Wait For Me Suite” completely immersed all of us in their respective worlds. The club dragged an entire piano and the most enormous upright bass I’ve ever seen onto stage to create a fancy restaurant setting. Period-reminiscent costumes, complete with bodice, breeches, and Take-5 student Elena Robson’s striking vocals led us through the 15th century and into the underworld, where clever manipulation of directional sound projection and unsettling silhouetted choreography fully invested onlookers in a high-stakes test from Hades himself. The creative mise en scène left me eagerly anticipating where we’d be transported to next.
Much to my joy, one destination was the 1997 Disney adaptation “Hercules.” Although I missed Meg’s characteristic fiery attitude in OBOC Vice President Shannon Murty’s portrayal, it was still like watching a live-action version of the classic Disney movie. The costuming really sold the illusion, with complementary white dresses for the muses and Murty’s on-point purple gown.
Soloists Caitlin Fitzpatrick (‘23), Elianna Dunster (‘23) and Adwoa Ampiah-Bonney (‘23) put their vocal talents on full display in the show’s second Disney number, “Hakuna Matata.” Not only were laughs garnered from the audience, but this song was but one of incoming President Ampiah-Bonney’s multiple memorable appearances.
For his part, departing OBOC President Richard Nessler’s showmanship was on full display in numbers like “Sincerely, Me” from “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Therapy” from “Tick, Tick…Boom.” I heard whispers of unintentionally attending a strip show when Nessler performed a costume change on stage while announcing the club’s sponsors. One of the show’s funniest moments, in my opinion.
I couldn’t get over how professional the choreography was this time around, either. They really stepped it up with line dancing in “Tuba Song,” lots of visually stimulating formations, and even a delightful little dance off in “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).” Their use of props also greatly contributed to the show’s personality, with giant alphabet blocks and feathery blue and black folding fans bringing life to each number.
I was a bit disappointed that junior Judy Monickaraj, whose voice is discernible even in an ensemble, only had a few solos here and there. Even so, the show was lively, so much fun, and you could tell the cast was having the time of their lives.
A recurring theme of camaraderie weaved through the show, established from the opener and reappearing strongest in wholesome numbers like “Sincerely, Me,” “Two Player Game,” and the senior song, “A Little More Homework To Do.” In the interest of truthful journalism, I will admit that as a senior myself, I was too teary-eyed through the duration of this song to now properly review it.
At what is likely to be my last OBOC show, I personally appreciated the effort that went into staging such a production. I adored that the club threw themselves fully into the world of each song, leaning away from the UR-specific jokes and settings of the past. Even if it was a little weird at times (I’m looking at you, “Two Player Game”), I appreciated the chance to briefly escape the reality of graduating college and be whisked away by the performance. In a statement given to the Campus Times after the show, Nessler said, “It took a lot of resilience, but we are glad to have a show where members could express themselves, with or without masks.”