When I think about The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the first things to spring to mind are probably Clint Eastwood being macho, the impeccable shootout scenes, and of course Ennio Morricone’s fantastic soundtrack – often regarded as one of the finest of all time. Something along those lines was what I expected, but I was both surprised and awed with what I actually saw. This year’s Band Revue left me completely floored with its profound short narratives, top quality music, and amazing comedic performances.
The revue sticks true to its namesake, despite the easy-to-miss pun, by opening with an authentic Texas-style arrangement of the theme of the aforementioned 1966 film. Yet, it quickly and delightfully deviates from Western cowboy jangle, opening up to a stunning variety of musical numbers ranging from old-school Americana to the very latest hip-hop styles. It’s amazing how the directors and musicians managed to convincingly replicate all genres with such ease and authenticity. Songs by The Lonely Island, Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes, John Denver and many more, both contemporary and classic, made their way into the production. Even though some of the tonal shifts were a little jarring – such as the transition between Country Roads and the Ghostbusters theme – the music maintains a kind of intuitive flow that was always fun and engaging.
The revue not only features great music, but a surprisingly compelling narrative as well. The plot opens with a particularly sticky situation in which the local sheriff, who loathes the rest of the cast, arrests the drummer of the on-stage band. The remainder of the runtime is filled with hilarious vignettes in which the rest of the cast attempts to set them free. Just as the musical repertoire was defined by its variety, so are these sketches: several jokes revolved around Jazz cliches and musical in-jokes, such as the infamous ‘lick’, while others parodied existing commercial properties such as Harry Potter.
Another highlight was the confidence with which the actors and actresses carried themselves, despite what seemed like minor slip-ups. Being a musician and actor myself, I know it’s a demanding challenge to get everything just right, especially in such a complex production. Compound that with the stress of an opening night, and things always seem to go south at one point or another. Indeed, there were moments in the show where there was perhaps a lag in delivery, a delay in transition, or a line which didn’t land. However, every cast member played along and turned every mistake or error into an enjoyable and memorable moment – exactly how a performer should be up on stage! There was a constant sense of audience interaction and participation, including several unplanned instances of back-and-forth heckling that left both sides of the theatre in tears of laughter.
All in all, I walked out of the revue with goosebumps from how much I enjoyed the experience. The cast must be congratulated on their success in combining a diverse set of musical genres with a constantly evolving script that never once felt like a mismatch in tone. This, alongside the playful, witty, and unpredictable nature of the performances, really edged this revue above other similar productions I’ve seen. Although it was by no means a perfect show – the stripped back set, for example, left a little to be desired – the rag-tag, light-hearted nature of the entire gig made it all the more charming.
SUDS Presents: Band Revue! The Good, The Band & The Ugly! is on for one more night at The Cellar Theatre on campus. You can buy tickets for the February 1st session here.