So, with this long evening going on, you’d think they’d try to keep the program short, right? Leave the rest of the evening for the attendees to socialize with long-lost friends. Right? Wrong. There was lots of entertainment. And that entertainment consisted chiefly of various graduating classes performing choreographed routines.
Which really begs only one reaction: Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?
Middle-aged medical professionals cutting loose not just in the traditional “I’m at a convention” sense, but in dance. On stage. With electronic lights and fog and everything you might expect of an evening at Celtic Women V, This Time They’re Really Celtic.
And that, for the first few numbers, seemed to bespeak a wonderful sense of whimsy: here were old friends performing together in a congenial atmosphere. And that was certainly true when the Class of ’86 took the stage in full 1980s regalia to “dance us down The Memory Lane.” We got “Thriller” and “Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)” and “Conga.” And it was unexpected and fun. Then when the Class of 1961 got up on stage to do a big rhumba en masse, it was really touching.
But then things turned kind of sinister. The Class of ’86 took the stage again to dance a routine to “Just the Way You Are.” (Bruno Mars, not Billy Joel) The emcees asked the audience to stand and dance along. Then, when not enough people stood… they got insistent. “COME ON, DANCE! YOU’RE NOT DANCING!!!” People started to dance uncomfortably. “YOU HAVE TO DANCE!!!” “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?” So we all danced. But it wouldn’t end… It was like a special circle of Hell for older Filipino doctors.
But the capper was the final entertainment sequence, in which the Class of ’86 took the stage to share The Story of Their Year. Which took place in front of screens projecting news images from 1986. Fair enough. But that story was set to… wait for it… a lipsynched, fully-choreographed medley of songs from Pippin.
I. shit. you. not.
A guide to Pippin, for you civilians: it’s a Bob Fosse musical from the 1970s about a young medieval prince. The show is presented by a Brechtian troupe of players who seduce the prince into believing that, because he was born in extraordinary circumstances, he must search for a Great Meaning to his life. He tries to find it in politics, in religion, in sex, in war—and he ultimately learns that the search is completely fruitless. He’s not special. It’s all been smoke and mirrors. Life is disappointing, and the only real options are either to accept the happiness that comes with simple human connection or commit suicide. It’s a dark show, thematically. And it relies on spectacle a lot. (It gave the world Fosse’s most famous use of “jazzhands” in its opening number). So… natural choice for this event.
I repeat: Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?
And, yes, folks, we have video. Click here if you’re on a mobile device that can’t play it.
For the record, I actually really like Pippin. Its secular humanist message (and rejection of hypocrisy and cynicism) really speaks to me. And these folks (god knows how) rehearsed this for a year. They’re wonderful people dedicated to practicing humanitarian medicine in a developing nation.
But I am still… gobsmacked.