On Friday, Jan. 31, the Susan B. Anthony Lower R.A. Staff hosted “UR’s Got Talent” at the May Room in Wilson Commons. Leave it to UR, the school that unashamedly exploits every opportunity to turn the letters “UR” into a pun, to showcase the talents of its students in a mock-reality show format. Like a cheesy pun, getting the most out of the night depended on giving yourself up to the dopiness – a feat that’s not so hard for the audience member as it is for the performer. As students put on smoky jazz interpretations of Bill Withers and neo-classical guitar shred fests, they were pitted against Dean Burns who made it his job to take on the role of Simon Cowell; Professor Estrada, who played the forgiving Paula Abdul; and Orientation Coordinator Matt Spielman, cast as the always-neutral Randy Jackson. What happens when you mix vulnerable student performances with goofy antics from the school’s most distinguished figures? As it turns out, you get a show that’s a lot of fun once you embrace the awkwardness of it all.
Silliness aside, UR’s Got Talent featured impressive talent from the UR student body. Some of the most memorable performances included freshman Reid Zuckerman’s solo guitar cover of Paul Gilbert’s “Curse of the Castle Dragon” along with senior singer-songwriter Ethan Lipkind’s folk original “Come What May”.
Of course, in a way, the judges were the central performers of the night. Dean Burns took the role of Simon Cowell to uncomfortable heights with his blunt comments, which included likening a student’s performance to “stepping on a cat’s tail.” On the other hand, Professor Estrada counterbalanced Burns’ harshness with her endearingly imaginative means of describing music in layman’s terms (after one performance, Estrada called the singer’s low notes “velvety”.) While the style of judging may have been jarring to audience members and performers anticipating a night of deep emotional expression, the judges ultimately helped in letting performers laugh just a little bit, and that’s never a bad thing.
Still, perhaps the most memorable performance was that of sophomore Minsoo Lee. Forced to perform after losing a bet, Lee’s performance of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was complete with sloppy guitar strumming and groans of agony as he realized just how much of the song was left before the final chorus. It was a stellar rendition, as Lee unpretentiously embraced the mediocrity of the moment. In a cruel but all-too-perfect twist, Dean Burns gave the performance a glowing review, leaving the audience with the message of the night: it never hurts to laugh at yourself.
For a school that loves bad puns, superhero themed orientations and pretty much all things cheesy, “UR’s Got Talent” offered an entertaining means for UR students to enjoy the talents of their fellow classmates. There might have been some cringing along the way as Burns doled out one brutal comment after another, but hey, sometimes a little uncomfortable isn’t such a bad thing.
Howard is a member of the class of 2017.