RFA Rhapsody Collegiate Invitational (2015)

RFA Rhapsody Show ChoirWhen I was in high school, I sang in a show choir. Over the years, this has alternated in my memory between “Glee” quality and tripping over my feet as I tried to sing and dance at the same time (it’s both – I know I did the latter, but I went to school with some seriously talented performers.) Here’s something else I know – my classmates and I would have been dumbfounded if we’d seen RFA’s Rhapsody group.

Jake Meiss directs and choreographs (with Carolyn Frantz), and it’s a full show, although lacking decent sound and lights. The Rhapsody performers are smartly costumed (Carol Meiss), proving the value in presentation: the business adage dress for success is just as true on stage. Other groups do the acapella thing with beatboxing (I get distracted, wondering who’s going to clean the mic later), or use cheesy karaoke tracks. RFA’s show choir has a student pit band (glorious over-achievers that they are).

The program didn’t indicate who came up with the musical arrangements, but they were clever and often very funny – humor was sprinkled throughout in the witty transitions, as well as in the full stage choreography (the kids weren’t just waving their arms and step-ball-changing – they MOVED, and lifted and flipped and served up big pictures.) A Kiss From a Rose/The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)/I Kissed a Girl/(And) Then He Kissed Me/This Kiss was a single number (all were thematic mash-ups, except the finale.) We knew what was coming, anticipated it, then were doubly pleased when the performers pulled it off better than we’d expected. I even found a tear in my eye at the touching finale, I Got You from the musical Bring It On. It’s the kind of number the performers will tell their kids about, 25 years later. (I remember Careless Whisper and I’m So Excited – I WISH I could have sung I Got You.)

About the tech.  The lights never changed – they were set for a typical concert, but the material cried out for colors, specials, and followspots.  The audio was underpowered and over-amplified, if that makes any sense. Instead of a fully dimensional sound picture, it was too hot and indistinct (the small PA cabinets weren’t enough for the room.)  Throughout Rhapsody’s set, the ever-present lighting designer in my head was hollering “fade, color, follow” – to give the performance the technical support it deserved. I would have loved to hear the soloists balanced with the band and the rest of the choir. I would have loved to have understood all of the words. Not the kids’ fault – they were poorly served by their crew. RFA’s auditorium is beautiful, the music was fabulous – a little bit of technical magic would have provided the cherry on top.