Fall show falls short

Queen’s Students on Broadway’s show had its moments, yet ultimately fell flat

Actors Keli Jay (left) and Sydney Kowal at a dress rehearsal for Queen’s Students on Broadway’s fall show Sex, Drugs, and a Proper Education.
Actors Keli Jay (left) and Sydney Kowal at a dress rehearsal for Queen’s Students on Broadway’s fall show Sex, Drugs, and a Proper Education.
Cliché, awkward and stagnant would have been a more fitting title for Queen’s Students on Broadway’s fall show Sex, Drugs, and a Proper Education.
The show, written and directed by Scott Forster, ArtSci ’16, tells the story of five students moving into a university residence for their first year, and the social dynamics that emerge.
The cast of characters include Don, the residence don, a fourth year English major who feels sad about dwindling time at university; Beth, a student struggling with manic depression; Emma, a highly sexual “mean girl” who struggles with rejection; Meredith, a high-strung student who’s suppressed by her mother’s high expectations of her; Logan, a laid-back stoner; and Andrew, the closeted engineering student and rugby player.
The show attempts to deal with hard-hitting topics such as academic stress, pressures to succeed, marijuana usage, drinking, sex, mental health and sexual orientation. For example, Emma and Andrew deal with unrequited love, while Meredith tries to balance being the good student with her wish to have friends and enjoy her life. 
Beth handles mental illness while juggling academics and a social life, while Logan mostly smokes pot and tries to convince Andrew, his roommate, to come out of the closet.
While these are valid and noble topics for a musical revue, the show lacked depth and often glossed over significant social issues with cliché lines and awkward jokes.
The show opens with an unmemorable rendition of Rent’s “Seasons of Love”. It then moves onto “Home” from Beauty and the Beast. Both numbers fell short in vocal strength, and sounded as if the performers had difficulty staying within the key of the song and supporting their vocals. 
Even with body microphones, it was hard to hear their breathy voices over the sound of the live band.
This quality persisted in almost every musical number in the show. 
It was even more frustrating when the characters burst into songs that weren’t effectively introduced by the script. 
Songs like “Ring of Keys” were randomly placed throughout the production, and the script often introduced them in a way that made them seem out of place. 
Romantic numbers — such as “Falling Slowly” and “The Word of Your Body” — the latter of which is about sex — proved awkward and lacked in chemistry. “The Word of Your Body”, in particular, made for five uncomfortable minutes of watching two actors perform choreography that didn’t match the sexual nature of the song.
Some moments of the show, however, proved surprisingly good. The acapella arrangement of The Rembrandts song “I’ll be There for You”— the infamous title song of Friends — was beautiful and easily the highlight of the show. Keli Jay, who played Beth, gave by far the strongest vocal performance. 
In the larger picture, however, moments of true connection with the audience were outnumbered by moments that felt forced and misplaced. The show’s characters were living versions of stereotypes, with no other qualities to distinguish them as three-dimensional individuals that the audience should care about.
Most of the cast was lit in coloured washes that made them look like they were stuck in a Technicolor monotone, if they were lit at all. Inconsistent lighting was one of the most frustrating aspects of the show — actors on one side of the stage were often in the dark, while others were lit by the intense stage lights to the point it felt like looking at the midday sun.
Although Sex, Drugs, and a Proper Education is a welcome change from the concert shows Queen’s Students on Broadway produced in the past, it lacked the vocal stamina and heart of the club’s 2014-15 season. Overall, Sex, Drugs, and a Proper Education was mostly frustrating for the viewer, and the pockets of good performance weren’t enough to salvage the awkwardness of the entire production.

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