College: The Musical
nytheatre.com review by Zachary Fithian
September 19, 2008
It is only fitting that a musical written by two college kids and starring mostly college kids should be called, simply, College, and play to an audience of mostly college kids. With such a combination, a show can be expected to deliver, if nothing else, boatloads of energy, and College certainly comes through on that front. And, quite frankly, the obvious amounts of passion and dedication that the cast and creative team contributed to the piece are sufficient enough to fill the holes left by other parts of the production. What results is an unexpectedly entertaining night of theatre.
I must of course acknowledge my status as a recent college graduate and admit the possibility that those who did not attend an American university in the days of text messages and video games might not appreciate some of the more topical humor. (Has Red Bull really only been around for ten years?) But there is still the more widely accessible portrait of the struggle to make the leap from adolescence to adulthood, one that should speak to everyone.
The way College is constructed, the show is more a revue than a standard chronological story. Sure, it starts at a college party and progresses to the day after, but it quickly becomes clear that the location and individual events of the show are not really that important. All of the characters get an individual song or two and most are involved in the big group numbers, though there are two on whom the show eventually focuses. There is little plot to speak of, and the story that exists is largely driven by the dormitory's security guard, Officer Agnes, in what should simply have remained a quirky subplot. But the songs still form some sort of cohesive whole, and the show contains enough good humor to make you forget that you wanted any plot in the first place.
The stand-out moment is far and away "Alcoholeluia." Memorable music and wit (from co-creators Drew Fornarola and Scott Elmegreen) coupled with Boo Killebrew's adorable choreography and strong performances from a diverse cast of talented character actors combine to create an ode to everybody's favorite pastime: drinking. Also notable is "Click, Smash!" a hilariously clever song about video games. In fact, the thing that both of these numbers have in common is that they both involve a large percentage of the cast. It is in these group numbers that the show really shines, and if there are any low points of the show they come in some of the more heartfelt solos. (That isn't to say that there aren't good solo numbers; "We're Who I Am" is an eerily accurate and downright scary portrait of young love and co-dependence.)
In all, College is at its best when it's being funny (which, thankfully, is often). You may not learn anything new about life, but you'll certainly leave the theatre with a smile on your face, which is good enough for me!