Glee Club ‘sleighs’ at annual Variety Show



ANNA ALLDREDGE, Theatre Critic

The Varsity Men’s Glee Club performed its 42nd annual Christmas Variety Show in the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center (GBPAC) on Dec. 6 and 7. The show featured a number of musical acts and performances for everyone, both young and old,
to enjoy.

As audience members found their seats, they heard Father Paul Peters, an organist from Prairie du Chien, Wis., play renditions of standard Christmas and holiday tunes. Peters is an integral part of this annual event, having played for every show except for one.

In preparation for the event, the GBPAC was decked out in holiday decor and peaceful lighting, setting the scene for a night of festivities and exuded a magic that seems to surface only in wintertime. 

Glee Club alumnus Paul Marlow emceed for the show, fully embracing the camaraderie clearly evident between members in this UNI ensemble. For 15 years, Marlow has filled this role and provided a comedic aspect to the show that the audience loves.

Glee Club members performed a variety of pieces, new and old, to spread the holiday spirit. An organization rooted in tradition, the UNI Varsity Men’s Glee Club has performed “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Lo, How a Rose ‘Ere Blooming,” and “The First Noel” on every Christmas Variety Show since 1978 — and this year was no exception. 

In addition to these standards, this years’ production featured a variety of new material, from student-written compositions to holiday renditions of
non-holiday songs.

After several full ensemble pieces, Sharrie Wright was invited to the stage to sing an incredible rendition of the gospel standard “He’s Done Enough,” accompanied by the Glee Club. This song elicited an encore and standing ovation from the audience during the final performance of the show on Saturday night.

Then, the Orchesis Dance Company, an auditioned dance troupe and long-time partner act in the Variety Show, performed an energetic and stylized routine to Train’s version of “Run,
Run, Rudolph.”

Audience members were in for a treat with this years’ play, “Kermit & The Christmas Caper,” performed by members of the Glee Club. The playwright, Geneva Hidlebaugh, is a fifth-grader at Kingsley Elementary in Waterloo. Her winning entry was chosen from over a thousand contest submissions and involved a team of heroes which included: Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse, Shaggy and Scooby Doo, Sheriff Woody and Kermit’s secretary, Pickles. They saved Christmas after rescuing a kidnapped Santa and defeating a band of scaly villains. Both the actors and the audience enjoyed this lighthearted and comical production, complete with masterful voice impressions of well-loved characters. 

Between full ensemble pieces, the Glee Club’s select acapella group, the SingPins, took to the stage with modern tunes such as Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” This well-rehearsed ensemble showcased several solo voices and added fan-favorite selections to
the show.

Yet another piece Glee Club performed may have sounded familiar for attendees of their October concert. However, instead of their previous take on Radiohead’s “Creep,” this version changed some of the lyrics to fit the sadness Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer felt before his year in the spotlight. This was a creative way to change up a well-known tune, as well as to address the loneliness one can feel around the holiday season.

Following this unique rendition, another UNI ensemble proved that Men’s Glee Clubbers aren’t the only ones with expertise in the lower register. UNITUBA took the stage with an impressively brisk and resonant performance of “March” and “Trépak” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite.”

One of the most chilling pieces chosen to wrap up the night was a call and response version of “Ave Maria” as well as “What a Wonderful World.”

The show closed out with the “world-famous” Arthur Murder Dancers. Complete with a kickline and complex choreography, select members of the Glee Club dressed in tutus performed to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” and “Christmas Can-Can.” After this fan-favorite, the dancers were soon joined by the rest of the Glee Club for a rendition of the UNI Fight Song.

“The Glee Club believes in the power of music to lift up, inspire, and help make the world a better place,” wrote Glee Club Director John Wiles in the show’s program.

The Men’s Varsity Glee Club has participated in various community service events in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo community. This weekend, they shared holiday spirit, a little laughter and undeniably serene musical moments with all who attended.

For years, the Variety Show has been a beloved and anticipated wintertime tradition that has always delivered. This year was no different. The Men’s Glee Club ignited holiday spirit through a creative blend of lighthearted humor and heartfelt, moving music.