Arts and Entertainment

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

The Spectator reviewed Junior SING!.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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By The Photo Department

“Welcome to Vienna, where we, the people, wear rags, eat scraps, and share the same toothbrush.”

Coordinated by Liam Kronman and produced by Maddy Anderson, Ruth Lee, Jillian Lin, and Zoe Oppenheimer, this year’s Junior SING! brings us to Vienna, Austria, where revolutionary Joseph (Jonathan Schneiderman) and his four-man-crew are discontent under the oppressive rule of the monarchy, who denies them modern-day inalienable rights such as WiFi. Joseph struggles to infiltrate and take down the monarchy, while his peasant friend and love interest Violet (Stella Oh) struggles with her moral values at her new job at the palace. Though the plot line initially seems cliche, the humorous and modern elements alongside some outstanding performances provide a fresh and genuine take on the theme of revolution.

The show begins with an impassioned speech by the aspiring revolutionary leader, Joseph. Just as he starts to gain momentum, he’s cut off by his phone’s failure to load the rest of his lines, immediately subverting expectations and undercutting the buildup of his monologue. His crew of fellow revolutionaries rush out to give him the news: the kingdom’s WiFi is down. The curtains open to a mob of angry peasants and a rousing rendition of “Holding Out for a Hero.”

The story begins in earnest with “Grievance Day,” when we are introduced to the cast of royals: King Alastair Tator (Alexander Lake), Queen Genevieve (Katerina Corr), and the aptly named Prince Benedict Tator (Ian Saint-Germain). Joseph and his band of peasants including Tess (Claire Shin), Klaus (Michael Russo) and Napoleon Bonaparte (Mimi Gillies), whom no one in Vienna seems to know or care about, are in attendance as is a large crowd of similarly angry commoners protesting the loss of their WiFi and imminent starvation. We are also introduced to Violet, the recently hired party planner for Prince Benedict Tator’s 23rd and a half birthday and one of Joseph’s few non-revolutionary friends. Against a backdrop of angry commoners, she argues with Joseph about the morality of working for the monarchy, shutting down his appeal for revolution and keeping her job working for the royals.

Violet then meets with Queen Genevieve, who relentlessly puts her down for her clothes and status, discusses her duties as party planner, and stresses, while half looking at the audience, the importance of giving Benedict’s poisonous lizards their allergy medication, as “the lizards have poisonous mucus, and one sneeze would leave a very bad ending to this story.” Launching into the musical number “We’re Wealthy,” Queen Genevieve undergoes a brilliant and unexpected on-stage costume change from the floor-length royal Victorian dress to a lighter blue sequin tap costume underneath.

From Queen Genevieve’s ornate Victorian royal gown complete with laced undersleeves and small pink ribbons to Prince Benedict’s ironic embellished green suit, which refers to his eventual demise by a lizard sneeze, the costumes crew shines in its attention to detail and outstanding designs, enhancing the luxury of the Austrian royals in particular. Though Joseph wears a beautiful black vest with golden detail, which does not suit a peasant, the slight is easily outweighed by the added aesthetic.

The intricate costumes complement the lavish set of the royal throne room, featuring majestic golden human statues and lampstands, as well as a regal portrait of the royal family in an elaborate golden frame. The natural backdrop is understated in contrast, with pastel purples and blues in the cloudy sky and mountains creating a serene, dreamy atmosphere.

The rest of the plot focuses on Joseph’s revolutionaries and his attempts to sway Violet to overthrow the monarchy. Though she rejects his initial proposal of sneaking them into Benedict's birthday party inside of a large cake, her experiences witnessing and suffering from the royals’ cruelty and her growing romantic relationship with Joseph create the internal conflict that is the crux of her character arc.

The play’s climax sees the revolutionaries infiltrating Prince Benedict's half birthday party, posing as chefs (bearing the names Linguini, Macaroni, Fettuccine, Ravioli and Mr. David Hanna) with Violet’s help. The resulting dance break is hilarious, with a room of people partying to classical music and a phenomenal performance by the Duchess of Wonderland (Saarah Elsayed), who sings an instrumental version of the opera “Queen of the Night.” alongside seamstresses played by belly dancers. After a series of blunders, the revolutionaries are quickly discovered, and Joseph engages in a noodle-sword fight with Benedict, culminating in Benedict’s lizard (Mx. Lauren Stuzin), as hinted at the beginning of the play, sneezing on the prince and thus killing him. After mourning his death, the King and Queen meet their own deaths by walking into a guillotine—dubbed an “IKEAtine”—ending the monarchy for good. The musical finale of “We Are the Champions” that follows is genuinely triumphant, with the red flag and accompanying music making for a powerful ending.

While the ending is stirring, it’s clear that throughout the show, the aim is humor above all else. This is not to say it doesn’t have serious moments, with Violet’s internal struggle setting up most of the serious character development. But with comedy so ingrained into the plot, the show fails to effectively build tension or emotional stakes, even during serious moments. Violet’s struggle feels detached in tone from the rest of the show, and her choices do not seem to have dire consequences when the resolution is based on lizard sneezes and Swedish guillotines. Similarly, the romantic subplot between Joseph and Violet, while charmingly awkward, lacks the emotional investment that one would expect.

That being said, the writing for Junior SING! is incredibly well done and absolutely hilarious. Worth mentioning is Lord Chad (Maxwell Kahn), who managed to steal the show with just a few lines of fraternity-boy humor. The same can be said for most of Joseph’s crew, with Klaus’s “IKEAtine” and Napoleon’s shrieks at the mere utterance of “Waterloo” serving as recurring jokes that add to the performance’s engagement. Despite lacking in stakes, the script manages to deliver as fairly compelling and above all, highly enjoyable and entertaining.

Though dance crews such as junior belly are well incorporated into the plot, other crews such as flow and step have unclear roles. Flow provides a stunning backdrop to the “Viva La Vida” duet between Violet and Joseph, but the dancers’ long rope-like lights, unique glowing frisbees, and the lit chandelier make the crew’s lack of purpose in the plot apparent. Step, ambiguously suggested to be revolutionaries, feels out of place, with no movement of the plot occuring during their sequence. But despite their sudden performance, junior step manages to impress, with a polished routine and clever use of poppers to add flair to their rhythmic performance. In spite of a few other abrupt dance performances, the dance crews are exuberant, with junior modern performing difficult and jaw-dropping aerial tricks during Violet’s rendition of “Someone You Loved,” possibly representing her inner turmoil. Junior tap dancers are accompanied by Queen Genevieve, who they also carry on their shoulders, highlighting her higher status and a seamless example of cast-dance integration.

Junior SING! came out big this year with a polished performance, talented cast, and brilliantly written script. Through a willingness to insert comedy into every facet of their show, the juniors told a story that, while not exactly the most emotional, remained humorous and memorable.