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From parody to artistry, annual show impresses many

Freezing friends, families and fellow students huddled outside the Cathedral of the Ozarks before the 2013 Talent and Variety Show at John Brown University.

Mothers Dawn Eshnaur and Linda Hodge were at the front of the line, eager to see their sons perform in this year’s show. To be at the front, the women arrived at 8 p.m. for the 9 p.m. show, which began nearly half an hour late due to the first show running over. By the time the show started, outside temperatures hovered near 30 degrees.

As the crowd filed into their seats, the judged prepared for an entertaining show. Eight students and eight parents, four each at the two shows got a say in this year’s winners.

Senior Kelsey Daugherty got to judge the second show along with her mother, Debbie, who had never attended before.

“It was a God thing,” said Debbie, who had been chosen at random from the pool of parents who marked on their registration form they would be willing to judge at the show.

Juniors Greg McKinney and Steve Sullivant, the masters of ceremony, opened the night with a case of “identity theft” that they would solve in a bumbling way by the end of the night. It turns out the culprit was none other than University Chaplin Rod Reed. Lots of laughs filled the Cathedral as the duo introduced each act.

“Treasure,” an artistic video by Senior Joshua Morgan and stage presence by freshman Julianna Shedd opened the night with the story of a red balloon that brought both sorrow and joy.

Those who attended the show the past two years may remember beat-boxer Samuel Cornejo, now a senior. This year he was joined on stage by group of vocalists who called themselves “American Club Heroes.” Together the five created a harmonious a capella piece that won them second place in the talent division.

Junior Kevin Higby, better known to some as “the unicycle man,” wowed the audience with his staff-spinning skills while accompanied by music and lit by UV light. While tonight he was “Bending Light,” Higby said he usually does those tricks with fire. He was not allowed to tonight because of the perceived fire hazard. Even without flame, Higby landed in third place for variety.

“Titanium” presented a classy, all-female act. Underscored by sophomores Jewel Gilbert on cello and Jenna Frank on piano, sophomores Hallye Swysgood and Aleah Eldridge sweetly sang the song that earned them third for talent.

The Ruales brothers, junior David on guitar and freshman Alejandro on piano, wooed the Spanish-speakers in the crowd with their rendition of “Besame,” meaning “kiss me.”

Sullivant dashed from his role of emcee onto center stage to join senior Lizz White as they sang in “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

Following intermission, was rap called “Return of the Phantom Jedi,” complete with glowing light sabers, lively choreography and a rapping Darth Vader. In the 9 p.m. show, this act devolved into a rendition of the current YouTube sensation, “The Harlem Shake,” as an extra group of students joined the showmen on stage. The rules of the show, however, state that changing acts after the dress rehearsal will result in being disqualified, so this act paid the price.

In the mad rush to get up to the stage to join the group, sophomore Rebekah David tripped and fell in the middle of the right aisle. Several other students landed on top of her before the mêlée cleared, leaving David with a hurt ankle. She made it back to her seat, wincing as she walked.

Sophomores Josh McAlister and Landon Miles and junior Seth Davis declared “I Won’t Give Up” as the crowd hummed along to the familiar song.

After the emcees defined, exaggerated and overused the word “Flotsam” to introduce senior Zatch Chris’ poetry slam piece, Chris spoke from his heart about “everything I wanted to say about my four years at JBU.” Telling of attempted suicide in high school, relationships at JBU, and the growth he experienced during his time at the University, Chris silenced the crowd. His honesty, thoughtfulness, and rhetorical skills earned him second place for variety.

“It was one of those things where you’re inspired by the idea. Where all the sudden you’re not paying attention in class anymore because you took out your spiral notebook and couldn’t stop writing,” said Chris, who wrote the poem two days before the Talent Show auditions. He memorized it the day he auditioned.

Four tall “dwarves” calling themselves “The Erebor Quartet” took the stage next to solemnly intone the chillingly beautiful tune from “The Hobbit.” The audience could not decide whether to giggle at the gigantic beards and pudgy tummies of the costumes or to melt at the first notes of the ballad.

The night ended on a high note with the two winning acts, “Love Streams” for talent and “Les Miserables Parody” for variety.

Juniors Seth Kaye and Allison Harper belted out a heartfelt medley of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bon Iver and “Stones under Rushing Water” by Needtobreathe and were accompanied by junior cellist Austin Hinrichs and senior pianist Bryan Roe.

The parody on Les Miserables was the brain child of senior Justin Mertes. The idea came when Jean Valjean became “John Brown John” and 24601 became 2.601 in his mind. Mertes wrote the script in two days in mid-January, with the help of senior Andrew Layden. After nearly 30 hours of practice, the script was set to music by senior Susie Yatsko and brought to life by 18 student actors and vocalists. At the show, the students’ fight for freedom from the bondage of tests was a resounding success.

“The cast was humble, funny, committed and selfless. As the writer, I am proud of the group because they made it what it was,” said Mertes, who was excited to win.

Senior Danielle Rogg said the parody was by far her favorite act of the night because of its blend of talent and comedy.

Senior Austin Harms, director of VIBE, said, “It really came together, and the fact that we had to make the hard decision and cut so many acts lead to an excellent show.”

While he will graduate in May, Harms plans to live in the area and come back in years to come to see if future students can top the show his team put together.

Danielle Keller, student activities director, was pleased with the show, especially since her team had narrowed down the number of acts from 24 to 12.

“We had a significant amount of talent at auditions, which led to a quality show,” said Keller. “It was one of the best shows we have ever had.”