Ultra Violet Live, NYU’s university-wide talent show hosted and judged by alumni, and performed by students representing each of NYU’s residence halls, consistently delivers one of the best shows on campus. The performers, chosen in low-key preliminary contests held in each residence hall, compete for a top prize of $1,000. This year, the seventh annual UVL kicked off with frank-talking funnyman DC Pierson, a member of the improv troupe Derrick Comedy and the emcee for the evening. DC bantered with judges Emma Tattenbaum-Fine, Hunter Bell and Seth Faber, who sportingly put aside their impressive credentials for the evening and rated the contestants in categories like Technical Ability and Overall Performance. The excitement in the audience was palpable. Fan clubs for popular performers waved signs and screamed. DC even encouraged us to tweet about the show with the hashtag #uvl2010; I guess the rule about cell phones being turned off during a performance is moot.
In twenty acts that spanned NYU’s immense and varied campus, some surprising themes surfaced throughout the night:
- Pianists who bow before and after playing: In separate acts, Francis Guo (Second Street) and Lionel Yu (Palladium) took the stage quietly, sat down quietly, and proceeded to knock the teeth of a classical piano piece. Lionel penned his own soaring song, entitled Waltz of the Rising Star, but Francis wore a snazzy Purple Rain lace ascot. We’ll call it a draw.
- Heartfelt boys with guitars: Skinny boys, skinny ties: Andrew Onore (Broome Street) and Eric Kim (Goddard Hall) strummed their acoustics and crooned about longing for faraway girls. Eric was a whisper-soft John Mayer, Andrew more Plain White Tees.
- Sassy girls with vocal chords of steel: These ladies had it goin’ on and they knew it. Carissa Matsushima (Rubin) hit every single note in the famous Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and she looked good while doing it, too. In a voice equal parts Jennifer Hudson and Regina Spektor, Martha-Sadie Griffin belted out a smashing mashup of 99 Problems, Lose Yourself and Drop It Like It’s Hot, while accompanying herself on the piano. The best was Phoebe Ryan (Third North), a beautiful freshman with kickass turquoise platform heels and the romantic sensibility of Ingrid Michaelson. Her self-penned heartfelt lyrics to a lover (“You make me breakfast / You always burn the bread”) floated touchingly with her own piano stylings and a moving three-piece string quartet. This girl could and should be on the radio.
- Unexpected dance routines: Lauren Lashua (Greenwich Hotel) paired copacetic tap dance rhythms with a little showmanship and a dash of R&B attitude. Paolo Bitanga (Brittany Hall) mixed up his slick break dance moves with an over-the-top grab bag of piano-playing, crooning Frankie Vallie, beatboxing, and a fierce Blue Steel glare.
- Matching outfits: Don’t Forget To Write (Carlyle), the most infectiously happy of the large musical groups, sported American Apparel headbands and primary-color gym shorts as they channeled Gin Blossoms and the Barenaked Ladies. The members of Brother Goose (Lafayette), a down-home folksy quintet with a fun percussion section and a bouncy beat, wore plaid over their T-shirts emblazoned with the faces of the Sesame Street characters. The theme of the Uptown band, headed by Alex Goley, was to not have a theme; like the Pussycat Dolls, each member rocked their own style, be it studded suspenders and side-cocked trucker hat, loose hippie garb with Jackie O sunglasses, or full tuxedo and matching floral cummerbund. (The tuxedo player rocked out on the mandolin.)
- Unusual props: Poi spinner Shaun Sim (Weinstein) bopped around the stage, spinning flags to a techno remix of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana. Shaun also spun up to four blinking lights between his arms, under one leg, and doubled backwards while kneeling on the ground. Juggler David Sangillo (7A) went even further, juggling up to seven white balls and four glowing red ones, clubs, hoops and even knives in his circus-worthy show. In the evening’s most comedic performance, Noah Welch and Christian Oreste (13th Street) personified two hipsters-cum-beat-poets, wearing dark glasses and tearing off their clothes while rasping a riff on Britney Spears’ Toxic. Their prop of choice? Glitter. Rubbed ALL OVER THEIR BODIES.
Of all these creative and talented performers, the judges favored uniqueness the most. Third place was given to Shaun Sim, a freshman and a newcomer. Second place went to David Sangillo, who was snubbed by the judged last year and has since amped up his act. (Next year? He’ll juggle FIRE.)
The champion of the evening was Andrew Flockhart, the long-denied beatboxer who’s delivered riffs on the same performance at UVL since his freshman year. But what a performance! Flockhart, tiny in skinny jeans, workmen’s boots, and an oversized white hoody studded with rhinestones, rocked the audience with his gutteral driving beats, his self-confident humor (“Fasten your seat belts and prepare to get funky,” he warns at the start) and his inhuman ability to sing and beatbox at the same time. Andrew breaks down Rahzel’s signature song, If Your Mother Only Knew, by singing the lines simply, then choking out a back beat… and then doing both at the same time. He went even further this year by layering standard “bm-bm-chh” sounds with Afro-inspired clicks, vocals, and, in a new twist, a harmonica. The kid is beyond talented and the award is well-deserved; one can only hope that his skills will come in handy in his computer science major.
UVL is one of the Inter-Residence Hall Council‘s signature events, yet many people I know have never attended. Seriously, guys. The audience is crazy, the talent is sick and the tickets are cheap. (If you’re an NYU student, score yourself a voucher next year and get in for free!) You have no excuse not to see this show.
For photos of UVL 2010, check out Housie Maguire’s album on Facebook!