A song dedicated entirely to bad dining hall food is just one of the gems found in Pauper Players’s show, “Broadway Melodies,” which opened on Friday and runs until Feb 4.
“Broadway Melodies” featured three student-written and student-directed shows — “Les Nor,” “Into the Games” and “Jurassic Pop.” The actors and directors only had two weeks to transform each musical, but from the high quality of the performances, the audience would have never guessed. The actors, many of whom play various roles between the three shows, transitioned seamlessly from character to character, giving fully-committed — and hilarious — performances.
“Les Nor,” which is a loose parody of “Les Miserable” set in Lenoir Dining Hall, follows the story of UNC student Hinton James’s quest to make someone fall in love with the dining hall food. The play was geared towards a UNC audience, with hearty references to campus life that any student would find comical and relatable. The actors perfectly-timed delivery of the lines only made the show more humorous. In the details, it’s easy to see the efforts and hard work that has been put into the production — especially through the lighting effects, which indicated how the audience should feel.
All of the songs were eclectic and were parodies from everything from classic Broadway numbers to pop songs to songs from Disney films. Although this was definitely entertaining, the variety of the songs and references strayed from the original “Les Miserables” theme, making the show confusing at times.
“Into The Games” is much easier to follow as it sticks to the plot of “The Hunger Games” and the songs from “Into the Woods.” And although the production was only roughly 30 minutes long, it does a wonderful job of consolidating Suzanne Collins’s novel.
In addition to satirizing the book, “Into The Games” also tries to highlight the more heartfelt moments in the story, like Rue’s death and Katniss and Peeta’s kiss. The actors, in particular Emily Ruffin, who plays Katniss Everdeen, and Drew Goins, who plays Peeta Mellark, fully embrace their characters and transition well from the funny, lighthearted moments to the more serious scenes. This surprising balance between fun and compassion is one of the best aspects of the whole production.
The last musical, “Jurassic Pop,” is set in a post-apocalyptic world where, after Carrie Underwood’s performance in NBC’s “The Sound of Music,” popular culture ceases to exist. Cast members portray paparazzi and various pop culture icons throughout the play. Mariah Barksdale, who portrays Oprah Winfrey, is particularly hilarious as she perfectly embodies the evil side to Oprah’s character.
Other celebrities that make an appearance include Dr. Oz, Julie Andrews and Ryan Seacrest. But with so many different celebrities involved, and with such an odd setting, the plot can get confusing, but the message about the ever-changing nature of pop culture is clear.
The show’s closing song, a parody of “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen,” is a perfect end to the play and the night as a whole. The number reminds us that pop culture isn’t something meant to be taken too seriously, but it is an aspect of our society that can and should be satirized because, at its core, the purpose of popular culture is pure entertainment.
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