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Keenan Revue: Better Than Boxed Wine

Lauren Matich | Monday, February 25, 2013

Where could Buddy the Elf, Shakespeare, Spiderman, Waldo and a sumo wrestler all be spotted in the same room this weekend? Nowhere else but the Keenan Revue.

The show opened with a teasing skit about the dorm’s ultra-classy rector, Noel Terranova, who Keenan residents depicted sipping boxed Merlot out of snifter glasses and discussing Cuban cigars in a bathrobe with his loyal dog, The Goose, by his side while the real Terranova played a butler shining wine glasses off stage-right.

When the opening skit concluded, the actual Terranova addressed the lighthearted humor that riddles the Revue and how he bravely offered himself as the opening sacrifice for the show to emphasize that all jokes are made in good fun, and should be understood as such.

The remainder of the show, titled “Much Revue About Nothing,” continued with skits poking fun at all things Notre Dame. Bane found love at a dorm party. Tommy Rees and Everett Golson sang show tunes from “Wicked” about their love/hate relationship. Keenan guys gave lessons on caveman-style flirting with girls and made pun after pun about their favorite libation – beer.

The Sunday evening show was even attended by Rick Thomas and Tom Lenz, the two masterminds behind the Keenan Revue’s creation 37 years ago. This weekend’s performance followed tradition and provided the Keenan community with an outlet to give commentary on campus life.

However, this year was a little different in the show’s conception. Executive director Tyler Gregory explained everyone behind the show really focused on the difference between humorous witticisms and jokes that are offensive. While being guided by the constructive help of the rector through every stage of production, this year’s Revue staff walked the fine line.

Gregory emphasized the high standards placed upon the students at a hall meeting in January when the new rector discussed his exceptions for this year’s show and the preemptive self-censorship the students practiced in an effort to be respectful of individuals and specific groups. Instead, the Keenan men took a look in the mirror and adopted jokes full of self-deprecation to establish a light attitude in the program and to show the fun in laughing at yourself.

The organization for the student-run Keenan Revue formally starts around October when the executive staff is compiled, but the bulk of the planning doesn’t begin until students return from Christmas break in January. Gregory said the men had from Jan. 14 to approximately Feb. 14 to nail down casting, scripts and musical numbers.

The staff includes a three-man writing team, but many of the skits are submitted through a multi-round tryout process that results in a final list of acceptable skits, which have been rehearsed after passing through the hands of the writing staff and director to ensure the material adheres to content standards.

Monday before the premiere, the men ran through the entire 160-minute show without scripts. Wednesday evening was a dress rehearsal with the professional sound and light crews before the Thursday debut.

This year’s Revue is significant in the strength of the comedy skits, “inspired choreography” as Terranova said and four big musical numbers, which were organized by musical director Luke Westby. Despite the higher standards for the script, the numbers were not short on knightly near-nudity, during which approximately 20 men graced the stage, stripped down to their boxer shorts and showed off their dancing talents. A pair of sophomores contorted their bodies into an airplane, while four others simultaneously recreated a bicycle with their bodies.

Westby said one of his first choices for the musical selection – “Fat Bottom Girls” by Queen, the second number in the program – was one long in the making for the Revue. Act II opened with “One More Night” by Maroon 5, performed by Terry Hines, which Westby said had a “pulsating sound, which adapted well into the number with the strippers.”

The closing musical performances for Act I and Act II displayed the extent of Keenan’s musical talent. A band of Keenan men and a drum set on loan from the University Jazz Band supported Westby’s own performance of “Two Close,” and electronic dup step beats and soulful solos reverberated through the Stepan Center. “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” from “The Blues Brothers” soundtrack, performed by Greg Habiak and Seamus Ronan, complete with the original footwork and impressive vocals, created a lively and strong finish to the Revue.

“‘Too Close’ was special,” Westby said of his emotional vocalizations, “because I took ownership of the song from my heart. I hit it has hard as I could, and it was a beautiful experience.”

Despite his passion for the program and the music, Westby emphasized the small role he played in the program. He described himself as “the guy who sends out emails to remind the performers where to be.”

“Those are the guys who make the Revue what it is, not me,” he said.

The musical men put in an extraordinary amount of work this year. Groups practiced close to six hours a week leading up to opening night and only performed with full sound and lights the night before the premiere, during which they remained long after the rehearsal ended to perfect each act.

Like the other aspects of the review, the bulk of musical planning happens within a month after returning in January. A suggestion list is posted in a common area in Keenan where residents can submit their ideas about musical numbers that should be included in the program. Although most of the ideas are goofy or top-40s hits, both of which the staff try to avoid, Westby said he used the ideas to help start the conversation about what numbers are best suited for the show.

Westby attributed the success of the music to the collaboration of the executive staff who ultimately are looking for songs that will lend themselves to stunning performances and an appropriate technical level for the resources available to the program. Every musician and singer showcased in the Revue is a student and Keenan resident, but Westby said there is no shortage of talent or interest when he’s working with the Knights.  

“The band works so hard, is so incredibly talented and demonstrates so much commitment,” Westby said.”

Gregory said a goal for this year was to get as many men involved as possible, and the production involved a total 150 volunteers.

“The Keenan Revue isn’t only about putting on a great show, but about building a great community,” Gregory said.

Gregory said favorite part of the Revue is hanging out with the men the show brings together and the expression of the dorm identity. The director said he saw the Revue as an opportunity to open Keenan’s doors to entire student body and exemplify the spirit of Keenan Hall, which ties in with many of the jokes that are centered around the dorm life.

Rick Thomas, one of the original founders of the Keenan Revue, has similar feeling about the program even after 37 years since his days at its helm. The “spirit of the show” hasn’t changed, he said, despite the differences between the first Keenan Revue and this weekend’s 37th show.

When he and Tom Lenz thought up the program their senior year, it more resembled a variety show including jugglers and singers rather than a comedy routine, Thomas said. The first Revue began in Washington Hall, and the founders said they had no idea a colleague of theirs distributed flyers into various students’ mailboxes around campus, which led to a full house. The founders spoke during the second act of the performance and expressed their gratitude and support for the show with a chant about former Irish linebacker Manti Te’o.  

Sophomore Luke Shadley, the self-professed funniest member of the three-person writing team, reveled in the show’s success.

“What’s not to love?” he asked.