Grasshopper Night: Bring New York to Andover

Sashaying onto the dim stage, Sabrina Appleby ’17, co-head of Blue Strut, Andover’s student-run jazz dance group, dances around a chair to “Le Jazz Hot” from the musical “Victor/Victoria”. Arranged in a V-formation, the ten members of Blue Strut strike various poses in front of a deep red backdrop as they begin to dance in solos and duets during a rehearsal for Grasshopper Night, a student-run talent show.

“I’ve been in Grasshopper throughout my time at Andover, so it holds a really special place in my heart. I’ve always appreciated the camaraderie between all members of the Grasshopper cast. Although many of us only perform together this one time a year, it’s really amazing to see how performers can work together to show off all of their individual talents, but also create a collectively amazing show,” said Hannah Beaudoin ’17, Dance Director of Grasshopper Night.

This year, there will be four performances of Grasshopper over Family Weekend. Each shows consists of 11 acts that showcase the talents of students in music, dance, and theater. The night is produced by Beaudoin, Hannah Berkowitz ’17, Janet Conklin ’17, Kalina Ko ’17, and Zach Ruffin ’17.

The theme of this year’s Grasshopper Night is “New York, New York”.

“New York has really been a center of production and theater and entertainment and that is something that spans from actual theatrical performances, musical performances, orchestral performances. It really has this broad range that all of the groups can fit under and just paying homage to New York and it being a center of entertainment and production,” said Conklin.

Sam Bird ’18, Charlie Mayhew ’18, and Emma Kelley ’17 will be hosting the show, guiding the progression of the performance through transitional skits. The skits vary from parodying an iconic Broadway song to performing a comedic monologue, referencing defining elements of New York.

“It’s Charlie and Sam on stage, and they’re gonna make jokes and sing a big opening number similar to Neil Patrick Harris in the Tony’s, and then Emma’s gonna come on as different characters. She has come up with really fun characters, so it’s going to add to the hilarity,” said Berkowitz, Theater Director for Grasshopper Night.

Kicking off the show is Keynotes, Andover’s co-ed a cappella group, with a mash-up of Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” and “Ooh” by Jon Bellion. The singers’ staggered entrances from sides of the stage create the illusion of busy New York streets as they assemble in front of a projection of New York’s night view. Forming a semicircle, Keynotes welcomes the audience to the show and to New York.

“I think we wanted to hit a balance of something that was really obviously connected to the theme but also wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when you thought ‘New York.’ We’re opening the show, so I think we hope [to have] a lot of energy to get people really excited for what’s to come,” said Miriam Feldman ’18, co-head of Keynotes.

As ambient street noises play in the background, members of SLAM, Andover’s step team, and Footnotes, Andover’s tap dance group, complement each other’s unique rhythm and sound. Members of the two groups weave between each other throughout the act, creating a sense of unity between the rhythmic dance groups. Footnotes and SLAM collaborated for the first time for a Grasshopper show and will be performing to “Work It” by Missy Elliot.

“For most co-heads, you only focus on your team and you don’t really know what the other co-heads and what the other teams do in practice, so I think it has really been cool for the co-heads of both teams to see how we operate. We warm up differently, and we practice differently, and for us to have such different corners of Andover and to come together to do something really cool for Grasshopper has been amazing. SLAM’s big thing is bringing energy to the stage and I know that Footnotes is all about bringing energy. I think we are just ready to have fun on the stage and get the audience really pumped up,” said Natalie Landaverde ’18, co-head of SLAM.

Nicole Cho ’19 sits on a bucket, performing a drum solo as Zach Ruffin ’17 absentmindedly walks past her and slips on a drum stick. Thus begins a “battle” between Cho and the rest of the bucket drummers versus the Drumline drummers. The various street drums and bucket drums alternate, showing off their contrasting drumming styles.

“What we wanted to do is basically a “West Side Story”-esque theme with Wall Street drummers and bucket drummers who go at each other, playing two different pieces back and forth until at the end we all play together. We go from hating each other to being one huge group. When I thought of New York in relation to drums, I thought of the street performers in Times Square, so I wanted to incorporate that but also wanted to make sure we had our actual drums in it, so [we came up with the drum battle],” said Sithya Lach ’17, co-head of Drumline.

Sitting under a single spotlight on a wooden stool, Thomas MacWilliams ’18 grips his guitar while singing his original song “South Bound.” According to MacWilliams, he was inspired by a close friend from New York to write his original song. Although he initially struggled when writing lyrics, the pressure of a looming deadline as well as a sudden inspiration helped him finish the song. MacWilliams is one of two solo acts in the show.

“I’ve been trying to write songs for the last couple months, and I think I’ve gotten better at it, and I wanted to showcase it. The fact that it’s an original song and I’m really representing myself is cool because I’ve never really performed anything in front of more than two people. It’ll be the most people I’ve ever played in front of and the most formal event that I’ve ever performed in, at least on my own, so I think it’ll be challenging but it’ll be a lot of fun,” said MacWilliams.

Azure, Andover’s all-female a capella group, will be performing a mash up of Alicia Keys’s “Empire State of Mind”, OneRepublic’s “Good Life”, and The Script’s “The Man Who Can’t be Moved”. Under a subtle blue light, the singers enter the stage in a group, stepping in beat with the tune. The members of Azure blend melodies from each song, harmonizing soulful chords to set the mood.

“The idea behind the song is that it’s about life in New York, not just Manhattan, but the whole city. Kiarah [Hortance ’17] and I wanted it to be a ballad about loving everything about New York, hence the lyrics, ‘I’m not moving, I’m not moving.’ I hope we can bring up a more intimate energy on stage – one that makes the audience feel like they are in New York. I think if our performance can remind the audience of their favorite part about New York, then we’ve succeeded,” said Appleby, co-head of Azure.

To culminate the show, Dakoury Godo-Solo ’17 bounds on stage into a single spotlight and performs the brief monologue that opens the musical, “Rent” by Jonathan Larson. After his solemn words, the rest of the Rent performers join him questioning the audience in the musical’s title song. The act consists of a mashup of several iconic songs from the Broadway musical Rent, including “Rent”, “One Song Glory”, “No Day But Today”, “La Vie Bohème”, and “Seasons of Love”.

“My favorite part of this has been everyone’s excitement driving it forward. I hope that we can bring what Jonathan Larson really wanted from Rent, which was the raw nature of it, how real it is, and how it really tells stories based on people’s lives. I am hoping to bring some emotions, some fun, a little bit of laughter, and get the audience excited!” said Makenna Marshall ’18, a performer in the “Rent” mashup.

This year, the directors are excited to see the performers bring enthusiasm that they have brought to the audition and rehearsals to the stage.

Conklin said, “There is an unbelievable amount of energy, a lot of passion in the groups this year. When [acts] came out to audition, they were all phenomenal so we ended up taking all of them. I encouraged them to step their game up, which I think is going to make the show a lot better. All the performers are so excited, which are going to make it better, make everything happier and more exciting.”

Editor’s Note: Kalina Ko is an Arts and Leisure Editor, Emma Rosz-Kelley is a Features Editor, and Charlie Mayhew is a Features Associate Editor for The Phillipian.