By Mell Chhoy
Week 8 is an intense time of the quarter: Students find themselves finishing up midterms, starting final projects, studying for finals and so on. Yet there’s a lot to look forward to: Thanksgiving break, winter break, the Big Game against our bitter rival at UC Berkeley and all the student productions. Among all of these productions is “Gaieties.”
“Gaieties” is the annual original musical by Ram’s Head Theatrical Society, Stanford’s oldest and largest theater group. Originally called “Football Follies,” the show was first produced as an extravaganza for the Stanford-Cal rugby game in 1911. However, it changed to “Gaieties” and to be in anticipation of the Stanford-Call football game by the 1920s and continued until 1968, at which point a misunderstanding between the staff members led to a failure to produce the show. In 1976, the show was revived and it has continued to evolve, getting bigger and more elaborate ever since.
This year, “Gaieties 2017: Bearanormal Activity” is just as big as expected. Ram’s Head Theatrical Society has been preparing since winter quarter of last year with the hiring of a new producer, Robin Yoo ’19, who then began the hiring process of all the heads of departments in turn, such as the head writer, Megan Calfas ‘18. A new script is written and submitted by the end of spring quarter the previous year. Week 1 of fall quarter marks casting tryouts and a flurry of work until the big show goes up during Week 8.
I transferred to Stanford last year, so as a new student, I didn’t know what “Gaieties” was and therefore didn’t go see it. In order to prepare to see the dress rehearsal for this year, I asked some of my classmates and dormmates what they thought of the production. Some people will tell you that Gaieties is practically the same show every year and can be a little boring. However, a vast majority will tell you it’s usually hilarious and worth seeing at least once during your time at Stanford. Still others – those who know about all the work that goes into producing “Gaieties” – say each show is unique, and therefore a must-see.
I was invited to see the dress rehearsal, and even though I got there 10 minutes before the appointed rehearsal time, the entire crew was right and ready. And, according to tradition, the Stanford Band was there too, in the balcony, heckling the actors.
Without spoiling it too much for those who haven’t seen the show yet, “Gaieties” was a blast. It was everything you’ve probably heard about and more. Self-deprecating jokes that Stanford students make daily feature prominently. For example, there are jokes about pre-meds, legacy children, CS majors, startups, 5-SURE, Stanford duck syndrome, AlertSU and the obsession we all have with finishing our readings and p-sets. Other than jokes, “Gaieties” features witty musical numbers, a bit of burlesque, tap and a very talented cast.
“Gaieties” showcases the talents of many Stanford students. For example, Dani Lyle ’21, Jianne Kang ’21 and Adam Gurary ’21 are just few of the leads to look out for with their talented singing and powerful stage presence. There is also the wonderfully amusing choreography from Arjun Sheth ’19 and Ashi Agrawal ’19, to name a few of the dedicated cast and crew members who put together Gaieties.
This year’s show features a fantastic hodgepodge of tropes. There is the whodunit murder mystery, escaping imprisonment, a convoluted back story, a jaded hero who relearns the wonders of life by means of a younger companion and a prophecy. The show is honestly reminiscent of the manic energy found in other musicals, such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
I had an amazing night watching the dress rehearsal. Try as I might to be the stern looking theater show critic, “Gaieties” was so fun that I couldn’t hold in my laughter. Maybe it is a lot like previous shows, but personally, I think that this year’s “Gaieties” is definitely worth seeing. And, if you didn’t get the chance to see it this year, there will always be next year.
Contact Mell Chhoy at mchhoy ‘at’ stanford.edu.