Come to the Cabaret: “Something’s Coming,” a Sophomore Showtunes Quartet
Don’t let the vaguely threatening title scare you away. “Something’s Coming” is arriving at the ’92 Theater this Thursday, and it’s really something to behold.
Spearheaded by a coalition of adorable sophomores, this cabaret-style survey of musical theater kicks off the Second Stage season in true showbiz fashion. At 8 p.m. this Thursday through Saturday, a “Sophomore Showtunes Quartet” comprising Beanie Feldstein ’15, Tess Jonas ’15, Alex Heyison ’15, and Paul McCallion ’15 will whisk audiences to 42nd Street and back.
When asked about the motivation behind this self-directed project, Feldstein attributed inspiration to the predominance of straight drama on campus.
“Musical theater is alive and well at Wesleyan,” explained Feldstein. “That’s totally the point of the show. Everyone thinks that we don’t really do that here, but there are people that do.”
“And four of them will be on the stage singing these songs,” Jonas added.
The cabaret’s eponymous opening number from “West Side Story” foreshadows 90 minutes of unabashedly glitzy musical theater through jazzy harmonies and swelling crescendos worthy of Gershwin. The number effectively addresses the audience’s apprehension about the nauseating campiness characteristic of a lot of musicals (or my apprehension, at least). In combination with veteran musical directors Simon Riker ’14 and Matt Leibowitz ’14, the team has compiled a refreshingly contemporized set list that is infectious in its theatricality without veering toward the obnoxious. Exhibiting a discerning ear for songs that won’t drive its audiences insane, the quartet favors showtunes influenced by jazz, easy listening, swing, and occasionally R&B.
That said, you might encounter a “Glee” arrangement or two.
In keeping with “Sophomore Showtunes’” cross-genre tendencies, the group’s rendition of “My Strongest Suit” from Elton John’s rock-musical “Aida” packs a soulful punch. Jonas acts as the J-Hud to Feldstein’s Beyoncé as these four Dreamgirls demonstrate their vocal chops.
The performances that follow are brimming with verve, vigor, and enough vibrato to satisfy your musical theater appetite for the rest of the semester. Individual solos dispersed throughout the program give each singer the chance to show off his or her musical prowess, while playful group numbers like Feldstein and McCallion’s duet of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” stay true to the feel-good spirit of the show. From invigorating choruses to tear-jerking power ballads, the quartet hits every note. Even barbershop-style finger snapping—a universal crowd pleaser—weasels its way into the choreography. Believe me, these kids are cuter than the baby animals you upvote on Reddit.
The first in a series of duets, “In His Eyes” from the musical “Jekyll and Hyde” features the musical stylings of Jonas and Feldstein in addition to their ridiculously wide belting ranges. Feldstein’s subsequent performance of “Rain on My Parade” commands the theater with sass and skill, while Jonas goes on to hit impossibly high notes and perform consistent vocal acrobatics throughout the show.
Heyison turns on the charm with a classic Rogers and Hammerstein soliloquy from “Carousel.” Though the gooeyness of his smooth baritone may inspire a trip to the Whey Station truck post-performance, for these ninety minutes, let Heyison be your grilled cheese.
McCallion’s glimmering vocals eventually confirmed my suspicion that there isn’t a weak link in the cast. Each well-trained performer projects without a hint of stridence, balancing powerhouse vocals with a controlled finesse of softer sequences. Not a breathy note was to be heard.
Things take a turn for the ironically self-referential when Jonas and Heyison poke fun at the requisite cheesy love duet to which every musical inevitably succumbs. The quartet then finishes up the act with enough step-touching to make you want to stay through intermission. (Which, of course, you can and will do.)
While the cast members are unanimously excited to share the fruits of their labor with the Wesleyan community, Jonas made sure to qualify expectations with an unnecessary disclaimer.
“Don’t make it sound too good,” Jonas warned, fearing a James Cameron-esque failure to live up to the hype. “Maybe fair to poor. Room for improvement.”
If what I saw is any indication of what’s “coming” to the ’92 this weekend, “Sophomore Showtunes” doesn’t need much in the way of improvement. So bring your friends. Bring your family. Stop pretending you don’t secretly love musical theater. This is a show you don’t want to miss.