On Friday night, the Greek community held its 30th annual Songfest philanthropy event in the Bren Events Center. This year, the event raised over $30,000 for the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer program, burying Songfest’s goal of $25,000. Each fraternity and sorority at UC Irvine paired up in fall quarter and for the entire year rigorously rehearsed 12 minutes from a play of their choosing. The end result is three hours of singing, dancing and choreography. Past Songfests have included segments from plays such as “Wicked” and “All Shook Up.”
Over 2,000 students crowded the stands and floor in the Bren on Friday night. The event promptly began with Alpha Phi and Sigma Phi Epsilon’s presentation of “A Chorus Line,” a play about a Broadway director bringing to the fore the personality strengths of 14 Broadway hopefuls. The jazzy choreography was reminiscent of that used in the actual play, utilizing classic aspects of the world of Broadway while the actors skillfully portrayed the unique characteristics of the characters portrayed in the play.
Alpha Epsilon Phi and Sigma Pi took the stage afterward and performed a colorful summary of “Hair,” a 1960s rock opera that follows the immersion of Claude Buleowski into the pacifist counter-culture during the anti-Vietnam war movement. Sticking to true hippie fashion, actors were dressed in vests, headbands and loose pants with flowers in their hair and anti-war slogans painted on their backs and chests. Lighting such as revolving floral patterns bolstered the choreography and gave it a natural psychedelic feel.
Next up was Kappa Kappa Gamma and Sigma Nu with their rendition of “Urinetown,” a comical play about a Gotham-like city in which water has become scarce and citizens must pay to pee. The performance carried an air of moodiness accentuated by its gloomy lighting and sauntering music, but was perforated intermittently with jovial scenes about rebellion.
Much of the choreography was simple but creative; in one scene, the stage went dark and policemen rhythmically twirled and waved their flashlights in the dark. Another smoothly transitioned in and out of a choir practice.
Delta Delta Delta and Sigma Chi presented their 12 minutes of “Footloose” next, a stylish and funky performance about a high schooler, Ren, who can’t keep his feet still in a town where dancing is outlawed. The performance was built around witty conversations and electric dancing strung together with impressive choreography. Ren quite literally never stopped dancing, and much of the singing was clarion and clear.
Afterward came Alpha Epsilon Pi and Pi Beta Phi’s performance of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” a play about two con men, one a rich playboy, Lawrence, and the other a drifter, Freddy, who fight for the affection of a woman, Christine, who they try to con out of $50,000. The actors played their parts well and underscored the differing personalities of the two con men, which led to many hilarious and silly instances that carried the play when they fought over Christine.
Delta Gamma and Phi Kappa Psi presented their “Mamma Mia” performance next, a bubbly and at times sensual rendition of a daughter’s efforts to find out who her father is before her wedding. The lighting and dancing gave it more of a “Havana Nights” feel than necessary, but the choreography was well put-together.
Gamma Phi Beta and FIJI (Phi Gamma Delta) came on stage next to perform “Rent,” which follows the experiences of young impoverished New Yorkers living with AIDS. The characters were blunt and down-to-earth in their interactions as they sang moodily. Coupled with the relaxed choreography, this caused the singing to be somewhat underwhelming, but the use of props was spectacular; rooms changed from an apartment into a strip bar within seconds.
Kappa Alpha Theta and Pi Kappa Alpha took the stage afterward with “Avenue Q,” a peculiar but charming play involving the use of muppets to tell the story of a group of friends who search for their purposes in life a decade after they’ve left college. The muppets looked authentic, as were the cartoony voices the actors gave them. The props used, such as an entire street of buildings and signposts, were perhaps the most elaborate in the show. The entire experience, which at times seemed very professional, felt like an adult, slightly risqué and very silly rendition of Sesame Street.
The last performance by Alpha Chi Omega and Kappa Sigma presented “In The Heights”, a bold and in-your-face play that follows a day in the life of a storefront owner who dreams of moving to the Caribbean and a sizzling hairdresser who just dropped out of college.
The choreography used aspects of many different dancing styles, transitioning seamlessly from salsa to hip-hop. The singing followed suit; one song had actors singing in a rap flow while others simultaneously sang with the atmosphere of a death knell, creating a pleasantly haunting effect.
The night was capped off with a performance by the ever-awe inspiring Kaba Modern, whose complex choreography served to instill a feeling of a rhythmic high in the audience.
The winners were announced afterward with “Footloose” winning best choreography while best vocals went to “Mamma Mia.” Overall, “Footloose” took first place, “Mamma Mia” came in second and “Urinetown” won third. While only three performances won awards, the entire Songfest was a hugely unique experience, like always, and all the performances served to entertain wonderfully.