Jacksonville University student Christopher Mandel held his Senior Showcase in the Black Box Theatre on Saturday, February 16, 2019. Theatre majors are graded on their showcase performance, which is a final must-past test.
Over the years, The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have attended and covered a number of showcase productions, but have also missed a number of them because we were reviewing stage plays, or just didn’t know about them. Of note, performances are free to students and the public. We have noted a recent twist: students are using Facebook to publicize their creation and announce time and place. Mandel’s Facebook notice certainly caught our attention with its “Razzle Dazzle” motif.
The theatre was filled to capacity with friends, students, JU faculty, and relatives from his hometown of Pensacola. The show began with an introduction by Producer Dr. Jay Ivey, who was Christopher’s JU music professor.
Christopher created his sophisticated showcase as a story with music about a young college graduate going to New York and auditioning for the first time. He chose a rousing medley of songs about New York, singing and dancing while using the entire floor area as his stage. Stephen Fennnell provided expert accompaniment on the piano throughout the evening.
For “All for The Best” from “Godspell,” the show’s fourth number, he was joined by JU student Abrien Nelson in a lively soft-shoe number compete with straw hats and canes. Three more songs finished up the first act; our favorite was “They All Laughed” by George and Ira Gershwin.
After a brief intermission, Act 2 opened with a stunning “Razzle Dazzle,” from the musical “Chicago” and razzle dazzle filled the stage, with eight attractive female JU students in eye-popping sequined gold dresses accessorized with bright red feathered boas. And in the middle of this gorgeous assemble? Christopher, of course! The audience responded with prolonged applause. The three songs that followed included “I Love Betsy,” “Foolish to Think,” and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” an all-time favorite from “Stop The World I Want I Want To Get Off.” Guitar player Loren Stone guitar joined Christopher for a rendition of “Home.” The evening of some twenty songs concluded with “Goodbye” from “Catch Me If You Can,” an all-time favorite.
We were impressed with the production and Christopher’s excellent tenor voice. It was very carefully planned and marvelously performed; it was obvious that he and his cast put in many hours of rehearsal. In a brief post-show interview, Christopher indicated he has theatre auditions planned and is also considering applying for a cruise ship position.
You will have the opportunity to see and hear his final campus stage performance when “Legally Blonde” opens on March 28 at JU’s Swisher Theatre.