February 4, 2005

Randel & Co. color the Great White Way maroon

It's a gangster story. It's a romance. No, it's actually a musical whose score is almost exclusively to the tune of "La Cucaracha."

While it isn't going to win any Tony awards any time soon, last Saturday's "Revels '05" showcased the University's finest thespians—and reminded campus why Broadway is a thousand miles away. The show integrated an aura of small-town adult community theater with understated University pride and self-flagellation.

The play, written by Andy Austin and Ted Cohen, begins in Pumpkin Creek, where young Emily decides she wants to go to the University of Chicago. But father and Aunt Em—dressed á là American pastoral—object to Emily's big city plans.

We now meet Emily's soon-to-be-suitor, Little Rocco, who wants to enter the University of Chicago to study in the Committee on Social Thought. Rocco (Divinity School student and Blackstone Resident Head Cabell King) seems a tad old for the young Em (Ali Beyer, a high school junior at the Lab Schools).

King's operatic singing talents, refined at a Dartmouth College a cappella group, made his performance less "silly" than that of Michael Behnke, who played his mob-boss father. Behnke, vice president of University Relations and College Enrollment, tried so hard to make a mobster accent that spittle would occasionally dribble from the side of his lips. The spittle dribbled as Rocco decided that he would expand his mob ring into the sleepy South Side, flooding the Midway to create a waterway for a riverboat casino. These plans exasperate his fresh-faced son, whose desire to be left alone is almost as convincing as Behnke's accent.

Fast forward to the Duchossois Center, where nurse Procrastinación Malada—also known as Alison Boden—chides any ailing person who dares to see a doctor. Among the likes of a 10-month pregnant woman and another patient wearing a 6-foot sombrero (who wears a 6-foot sombrero to the hospital?), Emily and Rocco come one step closer to falling in love.

The star of the show, however, was Sara Paretsky, lecturer in the Department of English. Paretsky played the detective determined to shut Rocco down. Perhaps the high point of the show was when she burst into a stirring rendition of "Dier holle rache," from Mozart's Die Zauber Flote. Mozart has nothing on Paretsky, who breathes life into the song in a "special" kind of way.

Other stars of the show included federal judge and Chicago Alum James Zagel, who convincingly—hmm, we wonder how—played Judge Bagel. In a star-making turn, Zagel loudly proclaimed that the case against Rocco was "squashed," as he slammed a large winter squash on the table.

In the end, of course, everything works out—those young newcomers to the University sort out their differences, Nurse Procrastinación finds love with a gangster, and—best of all—President Don Randel does a spiffy little dance move. Now that's reveling in some good, old-fashioned fun.

The show only ran for two nights, with a preview night on Friday of last week and a gala dinner on Saturday. Therefore, those who want to see the show will have to wait for next year's performance. We suggest a Disney medley, with a Hyde Park twist (the Point is, after all, "A Whole New World." And at the Med, they insist that you be their guest—and put their Mexican Chocolate milkshakes to the test.)

All in all, the show was amusing, in a laugh-at-your-professors-right-before-they-fail-you-on-your-midterms kind of way. But another dance by Randel would have been nice. Maybe next year he'll belly-dance to "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?"