When 12 men put on heels and skirts and get on stage to belt puns and sexual innuendoes, it’s bound to be a good night. Hasty Pudding Theatricals has known this for 219 years, and the company did not disappoint in its 166th production, "Victorian Secrets," which will run until March 9 at Farkas Hall. The show includes a chock full of religious sexual puns—"I don’t have a cross, but I’m still getting nailed"—a love song rife with chemistry pick-up lines, a human-sized sea urchin, five minutes of banter based solely off of mythical creature puns, and a finale with high-kicking men in sparkly heels. All of the elements are in place, and with an incredible cast and unfailingly witty lyrics by Ian D. Nightingale ’15, the production is an indisputable hit.
The play begins with the murder of Mona Lott (Tony T. Oblen ’14) in a brothel owned by Harriet Upinthere (Jonathan K. Stevens ’14). As the pseudo-detective Billy Club (Sam B. Clark ’15) bumbles through crime-solving, a Jewish mother (David A. Sheynberg ’16) is resurrected from death and a street urchin (Robert A. Flitsch ’15) dreams of getting rich. There is no end to the ridiculous plotlines, but the script—written by Brian J. Mendel ’15 and Petey E. Menz ’15, an active Crimson editor—contains some banter that falls flat. The fault in these lines is not so much the actors’ delivery as the writing—a few of the jokes were trite and not funny. However, the complex construction of the plotline, in which the murder mystery seems to be solved by intermission, is a welcome variation on the traditional comedic mystery structure.
The music, composed by Dylan MarcAurele ’16, is quite sophisticated and accommodates an impressive number of musical styles from tango music to rap breaks. MarcAurele’s score works very well as a comedy since many of the numbers draw themes from different musical genres as well as other notable musicals. While "That Would Be Rich," a charming duet sung by Filtsch and Reed S. Silverman ’15, has thematic echoes of "Wouldn’t It Be Lovely" from "My Fair Lady," the big "Bustin’ Out" number takes musical snippets from "Les Misérables" to heighten the over-the-top comedic effect. As the show progresses, the deep male voices coming from feminine figures becomes normal, and each ballad goes off without a hitch thanks to the solid score and the talent of the performers.
Indeed, the actors were so invested in their heavily costumed characters that it is easy to become engrossed in the plotline. Each strut and facial expression is perfectly calculated for optimal laughs. Some of the best expressions onstage have to be Clark’s wayward eyebrows and his character’s odd tic of opening and closing his jaw. Max R. McGillivray ’16 as Baron Wasteland thrusts his pelvis so far forward that his pillowed stomach threatened to break loose. Ella Mental (Karl C. Kopczynski ’15) moves across the stage with her rubber-gloved arms straight in front like a robotic, female version of Dr. Horrible.
One of the star performances of the night, though, is Sheynberg’s powerful performance as Rose Fromthedead. Rose’s daughter, budding mad scientist Ella Mental, hooks Mona Lott’s dead body up to a Frankenstein-like contraption and transfers her mother’s mind to Mona’s body (don’t think about it too hard; it’s a musical farce, after all). Sheynberg emerges from a stupor in a surprising rap break that is part Matisyahu, part Yiddish Yenta, complete with a Jersey accent and a dose of Jewish guilt for her daughter Ella.
Individually, each actor is of professional quality, and when combined with the glamorous set and costumes that are part of every Pudding production, the show—produced, written, and performed by students—has no equal on campus. It’s simply an incredibly good time and when actors, pit members, and the creative team are all having fun, the enthusiasm seeps into the audience. This year’s Pudding production is a screaming success; there’s no secret about it.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: Feb. 26, 2014
An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of the greedy nobleman played by Max R. McGillivray ’16. In fact, the character's name is Baron Wasteland.
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