Variety Show immerses audience in magic, curiosity


Photo by Emily Pavlik

Caroline Ohlandt and Anna Marquardt

As the lights of Norman E. Watson Auditorium dim, voices hush, and anticipation fills the air. Spotlights shine, colorful aerial silks drop from the ceiling, and the stage comes to life in a world of wonder. South’s 48th annual Variety Show, “Wonderland”, has begun. 

A critical part of the show’s leadership team, Mark Maranto, V-Show Producer and Assistant Principal of Student Activities, emphasized that after a challenging past two years due to Covid-19, this year’s Variety Show, hosted at South from Feb. 15 to Feb. 18, has been a way to return to a state of joy and festivity.

“This year is about making [V-Show] fun and colorful,” Maranto said. “The [show] is going to look like an explosion of color and life, and what we want to say is that we’re finally past [Covid-19].”

As the show’s producer, Maranto keeps tabs on each of the acts while also managing the logistics of designing posters and programs, coordinating the faculty and football team acts, and controlling the budget. 

“[V-Show] is a big seller, which really helps with [funding],” Maranto said. “Ticket sales from one year [fully] fund the V-Show for the next year.” 

Robert Shellard, V-Show Co-Director and Choir Director, credits the show’s success to the professionalism and dedication of all students and staff involved. From performers to Stage Crew to costumes and makeup, everyone brings something essential and unique to the table, Shellard emphasized.

“This performance is [professional] in terms of budget, staff, notoriety, and celebration within the community,” Shellard said. “People come out to see the Variety Show.”

Sharing the sentiment, Student Director senior Jeffrey Podjasek emphasized that none of his work would be possible without his peers and mentors. He contributes to the show by organizing marketing and social media, maintaining contact with the creative team, and directing performers backstage. 

“There [are] many people working behind the scenes, whether it be Stage Crew, costumes, [or staff that] tell the performers what to do and give them guidance,” Podjasek said. “They really make the show come alive.”

Showcasing her talents as a Singer-Dancer, Chamber Singer, and tap dancer in 7 acts, senior Eliana Pritikin said V-Show has been a magical and formative tradition beginning her   freshman year, and it has prepared her well for her future endeavors.

“As an individual, I’ve grown so much through V-Show,” Pritikin said. “I’m really soaking up every moment and enjoying every second of it.”   

Supplying costumes for Pritikin and her fellow Singer-Dancers, JoEllen Flener, Costumer and Math Teacher, selects costumes by listening to the show’s songs, picturing what costumes suit the mood of the act, and consulting South’s costume shop. Flener believes the theme “Wonderland” is fitting for South, as it reflects the incredible resources and opportunities available to students and staff alike.

“I consider South to be a wonderland,” Flener said. “I think sometimes we forget how amazing [South’s] facilities are, and what a great place this is. There are not a lot of schools out there that have what we have.”

Flener acknowledged that some students are often reserved in her math classes, making V-Show the perfect opportunity for her to see their personalities in a new light. 

“[In V-Show], I see the best of South students,” Flener said. “Costuming [for students] is what I think of as my happy place. I love math, but this is where I’m happiest.”

Feeling best with a camera in hand, senior Matthew Nugent, Advanced TV Station Manager, co-directed the Advanced TV video act and assists in recording each of the live shows for online release.

“The effort [Advanced TV] puts into making sure the recordings of each show are high quality [is noticeable],” Nugent said. “[After all the shows, video clips are] put together into one coherent [production on] a DVD [and on Vimeo] that people can watch [after the live shows].”

To ensure the set is showstopping in-person and on video, Stage Crew begins constructing the V-Show set each year in December, junior Kathleen Truong, Co-Head of Backstage Sound, explained. This year’s set was designed by Auditorium Manager Rich Winship, who took inspiration from Spanish Architect Antoni Gaudí’s famous mosaic tile art to create a set fitting for the theme “Wonderland”, Truong expressed.

“The [Stage Crew] painters had a lot of creative freedom in creating the [set’s] colorful tiles, [which] really brought the stage together,” Truong said. “With [all of] the colorful tiles, it really makes it seem like you’re stepping into a mystic wonderland.”

Following the initial month-long creation of the set, Stage Crew manages all props and operates professional-grade spotlights, sound systems, and light boards throughout the live shows to create a seamless production, Truong expressed. 

“[Stage Crew] makes sure performers have their mics, [all] props on stage are taken on and off [at the right time, and] light cues are executed,” Troung said. “We [also] look out for each other and make sure that everyone is enjoying V-Show.”

Despite all the moving parts and moments of disarray throughout weeks of rehearsals, junior Danny Zimmerman, performer and member of pit band, emphasized that the final product of the Variety Show is always exceptional.

“It’s crazy how chaotic it is behind the scenes, [but] when [I] go on stage everything is so controlled and organized,” Zimmerman said. “It’s really cool to see all the pieces come together.”