After 600 long days, Off Broadway on Campus (OBOC) returned to the live stage in a dazzling celebration of the grand reopening of Broadway — on campus. For the first time, the club booked interpreters to sign the entire performance to the audience. “We wanted to make the show accessible to both people of the campus and the community,” OBOC President and UR senior Richard Nessler, who helped direct the show, said.
Although the group is not wholly composed of innate performers, directors, and choreographers, OBOC’s members’ passion for musical theatre is evident in every number. Act One was packed with 10 high-energy student-assembled performances, which gave just about every OBOC member a chance to shine. OBOC newbie and UR junior Jasper Lemberg garnered laughs and cheers from the audience with his fun personality and standout debut solos. Eastman senior Alexander Nick and River Campus junior Caitlin Fitzpatrick, both directors, treated us to two very cute and lighthearted numbers about roommate rivalries and slumber party gossip, punctuated with tiaras, Baby Yoda, and a very strong duet.
The real showstopper of this act was the incredibly moving “Opening: The New World” from “Songs For A New World.” The number showcased an excellent use of props in collaboration with choreo — you wouldn’t believe what Nessler was able to achieve with just six chairs. In a stunning display of talent, I watched as six travelers traversed the seas and conquered new lands, all while singing their hearts out. The number’s grand crescendo of vocals met with woots from the audience and an extended applause.
Although Act One suffered from audio feedback issues, the performers handled it with professionalism, and the problem was sorted out in time for the seven-number Act Two.
Fitzpatrick stole the show in this act, belting out strong solos that had the audience holding their breath. I experienced a bit of whiplash as the sprightliness of “Pandemonium/Pandemonium Reprise” was immediately followed by “It’s Quiet Uptown,” arguably the most depressing song from “Hamilton.” Despite the juxtaposition, I was able to appreciate the somber respect with which the club performed this one, their haunting harmonies eliciting chills. The theme of heavy emotional content persisted in subsequent numbers “Good For You” and “Die Vampire Die,” conveying anger and a powerful message about crushing self-doubt. The show ended on a high note, though, seeing the entire club dancing in their finest suits and dresses for the closer “It’s Time to Dance” from “Prom.”
Compared to previous OBOC shows I’ve attended, this one was far more strongly theatrical, which made it all the more enjoyable. Numbers like “Cell Block Tango,” “Learn to Do it,” and “Pandemonium/Pandemonium Reprise” provided lots of personality and attitude, whether there were three performers showing off their acting chops on stage or 12. Lighting was also a real asset this time around, flooding the stage with color when necessary, or casting sharp silhouettes of the performers against a blood red backdrop when the story demanded it. The pit orchestra, expertly directed by Nick, was exceptional, seamlessly carrying us through the show despite, I’m guessing, the curtain not raising in time for them to be seen and applauded during the finale.
“OBOC Presents: Something About This Night” was a celebration of creativity and live theatre, which definitely garnered this audience member’s admiration.