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Klarman’s First HBS Show Impresses

Nathaniel Koven, Contributor

HBS Government Schooling’s Nathaniel Koven evaluations No Clue.

The 46th HBS Show, No Clue: The Case You Can’t Put together For, was all the time going to go down in HBS historical past as the first theatrical manufacturing in the recently-completed Klarman Corridor, however what a smashing first it was. This production, which ran April 8–10, was an unalloyed success, from the eye-grabbing ensemble grand opening “Here at Harvard Business School” (to the tune of the opening quantity from Hamilton) to its artistic use of Klarman’s technical capabilities and deft dealing with of inauspicious subjects in “MomBA Tango” (to the tune of “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago), to its wonderful and hilarious inside jokes and references, culminating within the plot twist at the end, that—spoiler alert—the Dean kidnapped himself by wandering off to develop into the new CEO of GE.

Head writer Ann Hewitt (MBA ’19) and the writing workforce did a unbelievable job crafting a hilarious and surprisingly incisive work. This musical was daring in its addressing of inauspicious subjects with out being inappropriate or trite, particularly in songs akin to “MomBA Tango” and the back-to-back pairing of “Where Can I Go?” and “Consulting Days” (to the tunes of “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana and “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton). The breadth of music used was spectacular, from musicals of display and stage corresponding to Mulan, The Lion King, and The Biggest Showman, to recognizable widespread music by Ariana Grande, Queen, Katy Perry, and Adele. The writers all the time treated the parody deftly; hardly a lyric was not changed, and but the brand new lyrics still hewed to and creatively referenced the previous of their structure.

The story, which in other circumstances may simply have been a contrivance that served as little more than a vessel for the songs, was not phoned in; it had a real narrative that held together nicely. Focusing the plot round six “coincidentally color-coded” MBA students who appear at first to be one-dimensional stereotypes yielded shocking character improvement opportunities, permitting the audience to observe the characters develop into more absolutely realized by means of the artistic use of nonlinear storytelling that sketched out complete character arcs, while still permitting the actors to play the stereotypes very effectively for laughs in the first act. And as we should always anticipate from any good HBS Show, the script was riddled with hilarious HBS references to issues like the RC singles Slack, the unknown objective of the Schwartz Pavilion, the TOM course’s Shad Simulation, and FIELD Foundations, among many others.

Dean Nohria getting ready to take the helm of GE whereas enjoying some late-night Restaurant Associates poke bowl

The actors, underneath the capable path of Savannah Greene (MBA ’19) and her colleagues, have been wonderful. Vaibhav Agarwala (MBA ’20) as Dean Nohria, the Mr. Boddy of this Clue-inspired story, performed the only character who can also be an actual individual. It’s challenging to play a caricature of the Dean without disrespecting him, however Agarwala threaded that needle subtly and nicely. The Dean’s ready-made ransom video, for example, within the type of the real-life Dean’s numerous prerecorded welcomes and remarks, was hilariously on level. Wadsworth, a FIELD professor and in addition the Dean’s butler, was ably performed by Brandon Levin (MBA ’20). (Why is Professor Wadsworth also the butler? “The things they make you do for tenure these days,” he bemoans.) Levin was greater than equal to the sardonic Briticisms with which the writers entrusted him, in addition to a powerful singer in songs like “Dinner at Nohria’s” (to the tune of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”).

Nevertheless it was the six color-coded MBA scholar characters who actually obtained to shine, as their roles wanted each comedic character appearing and the dynamic range demanded by leads. Gabriel Ellsworth (MBA ’20) was hilariously and effectively forged as the effusively well-meaning joint MD/MBA scholar Peter Plum. Camila Diehl (MBA ’19) as the formidable Section X entrepreneur Scarlet Saint-Germain impressed with how she might convey delicate pathos to a casually disrespectful misanthrope by the top of her arc, and she or he had a powerful singing voice. Kyle Emory (MBA ’19) was hilarious and excessive as the “10th generation legacy” finance bro Gary Inexperienced, a personality who is “less self-aware than a JD/MBA clarifying the legal doctrines in LCA.” Ellen Le (MBA ’19)’s Penny Peacock, an insecure, people-pleasing, mission-driven, dangerously-FOMO-obsessed part president, delivered to life quite a lot of recognizable character flaws familiar to the Harvard group, and Le’s singing voice was notably spectacular in songs like “Where Can I Go?” Marine infantry officer Major Mike Mustard, played by Nicholas Fleming (MBA ’20), introduced a superb caricature of self-imposed repression while highlighting values of obligation, honor, and integrity. And perhaps most impressively, Sarah Peck (MBA ’20) introduced large talent to the difficult character of pregnant scholar Winona White, who grappled with troublesome issues—not only the realities of pregnancy but in addition the pernicious social and societal reactions to it and those reactions’ consequences.

The expansive supporting forged have been also fairly robust, and lots of had songs of their own as properly; noteworthy amongst them was Steve Smith (MBA ’19), whose efficiency as a recruiting companion from the “McBainsey Group” within the music “Consulting Days” was especially hilarious.

Dance Director Sarina Huang (MBA ’19) and her workforce of choreographers and featured dancers placed on a visible feast of movement, together with the whole lot from easy but effective and well-rehearsed synchronized movements to some complicated and difficult choreography, making songs resembling “If Only You’d Gone to Tuck” (based mostly on “IDGAF” by Dua Lipa), “Raise Your Hand” (based mostly on “Raise Your Glass” by P!nk), and “Could’ve Had It All” (based mostly on “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele) all the simpler.

The dancers and choreographers pulled out all the stops in the double-song Act I and II finales: “We Will Find You” and “We Are the Leaders” (based mostly on “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” each by Queen) in Act I, and “Where Did Nohria Go?” (based mostly on “The Greatest Show” from The Biggest Showman) and “Business for Life” (based mostly on “Circle of Life” from The Lion King) in Act II.

Professor Wadsworth opens a FIELD Foundations class

The orchestra, carried out and directed by John Swisher (MBA ’19), was extremely capable. Newbie orchestras could be hit-or-miss, however this one was all hit, they usually have been obviously having enjoyable while nonetheless holding to just about professional quality. The creativity of the orchestration also impressed; Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time” doesn’t have brass in the unique, however the orchestra’s use of brass in its parody “What’s Our Cycle Time?” was each shocking and really properly executed, and the violin solos by Matt Smith and Josephine van Leeuwen (MBA ’19) in multiple songs and scene transitions within the second act have been particularly spectacular, enough to stir the gang to mid-song applause greater than once.

The theater tech, led by technical director D. R. Rockwell (MBA ’19), was probably the most uniquely spectacular part of the present, because it made such efficient and artistic use of Klarman’s capabilities. The wall-to-wall display behind the stage was used to create mostly-digital sets by way of animated backdrops. The artistic prospects of the animated backdrops have been actually on display in, for example, the transition between the Newport Ball scenes and “MomBA Tango,” through which the white mullioned home windows of a Newport ballroom turned darkish and backlit in purple to invoke Chicago-inspired jail cells. Klarman’s lighting grid is absolutely tricked out with dozens and dozens of programmable fully-mechanized lights—massively overkill and wasted on even probably the most multimedia-rich speaking event, and only really put to anything approaching its potential by theatrical productions—and this manufacturing confirmed off what it might do. Although not specifically designed for it, Klarman makes an outstanding venue for theater on its technical capabilities alone, and hopefully future productions will put it via its paces as nicely; a Vari-Lite is a horrible factor to waste.

Finally, the 2019 HBS Show was an incredible success, nevertheless it’s value remembering how tightly it is aimed toward a passionate niche audience. The multitude of layered inside jokes referencing leaders as architects or beacons, obscure theme parties, the BGIE trilemma, and so on makes it impenetrably onerous to parse for outsiders—however that’s also the purpose. No Clue captured and sure what makes the HBS expertise distinctive and transformational for many who share it, and it brought that viewers onto the stage and into the story with a portrayal of that experience that resonates so deeply as a result of it’s shared. When Peacock stated to Professor Wadsworth shortly before the finale, “I just wanted people to like me!” and Wadsworth replied, “Penny, you go to Harvard Business School! For the rest of your life, no one will like you,” the Show labored its magic, for the viewers laughed uproariously, understanding that they have been all part of that “you” together.

For more coverage of No Clue, see “From the Boardroom to the Stage” (April 2019), an interview with Government Director Savannah Greene.


Nathaniel Koven is a Program Supervisor in Government Schooling at Harvard Enterprise Faculty. When not on the clock, he has been an avid participant in the Harvard and MIT theater scenes for more than 10 years, together with as an actor, set designer, stage director, and producer of musical theater productions. A Boston native, he has additionally sometimes reviewed local musical theater performances for The Boston Musical Intelligencer and The Trumpet Bray, and he presently sits on the board of the Savoyards of Boston, an area musical theater nonprofit.