For three nights on the first weekend of November, PDGC (Penn Dance and Glee Club) filled the Iron Gate Theater with spectators for their 20th annual collaboration. The Penn Dance Company, Penn’s premier performing modern dance company, and the Penn Glee Club, the longest continually running glee club in the country, joined forces to present their fall show, “Are You Watching Closely?” The two–hour show alternated between dance numbers, covers of songs with an accompanying live band, and a cappella.
At the beginning of the performance, the presenters declared that the show’s theme was “shining a light on what happens in the shadows.” The Penn Dance Company clearly explored this topic through their routines, which used contemporary dance moves to explore ideas of light and dark. They achieved this through their use of costumes, colors, props, and song choices. In their performance of “Neurosis” by Oliver Riot, the dancers used dark clothing and a cloth throughout the routine to further exemplify the theme of shadows.
Similarly, the live band sets were in tune with the theme. Performers opted for songs such as “Zombie” by The Cranberries and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, which aptly demonstrated the band’s capabilities. One of the most special moments of the entire show was witnessing Albert–Johnston Ramirez’s (W ‘23) electric guitar solo in the middle of “Zombie,” as well as the amazing addition of wind instruments, especially the saxophones, to the overall sound.
The a cappella sets, on the other hand, didn’t follow the idea of uncovering what is in the shadows—but that didn’t detract from their performance. Whereas I was used to listening to the Glee Club sing the “Red and Blue,” I was pleasantly surprised to hear their renditions of classical songs, such as “I Love My Love” composed by Gustav Holst. The singers’ talent shined through, and the addition of female vocals after their merger with the Penn Sirens made it all the more impressive.
Rather than seeming like a collaboration, the show was presented more like a talent show with each group performing their sets independently. Given that the show was of long duration, it would have been great to see more interaction between the dancers and singers—otherwise, holding separate shows could have been better.
Of course, there were certain moments of the night that stuck out, mostly the more comedic and high–energy pieces.
The Penn Pipers—a subset of the Glee Club and Penn’s oldest a cappella group—performance was one of these moments. The smaller group of ten guys wearing old–school uniforms strolled onto the stage, snapping and singing in a “doo–wop” style. They promptly took a selfie and welcomed the audience, introducing themselves and stating they would perform one song only, “By the Light of the Silvery Moon.” This comedic performance filled with astonishing harmonies broke up the crowd into stitches. It was chaotic in the best way possible. I would have definitely appreciated a couple more performances by the Pipers as part of the show.
Another notable moment was the Glee Club’s rendition of “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The crowd went wild for the high–energy performance. The song not only allowed for certain singers to have solos and demonstrate their talent, especially Ryan Oliver (E ‘24), but also for the entirety of the Glee Club to join together in a fun dance. Everyone went all out, which elevated it to one of the best performances of the show.
Towards the end, two members of the Glee Club, Dixon O’Banion (C ‘22) and Drew Beatty (C ‘23), put on their best Jack Harlow and Lil Nas X to sing “Industry Baby” along with the band. The two singers were incredible performers, walking freely around the stage and hyping up the crowd. They rapped seamlessly, clearly having the time of their lives. During the middle of the song, they enlisted help from a band member, Julian Hunter (W ‘22), who stepped up and smoothly rapped Harlow’s iconic verse.
At one point, the Glee Club performed their alumni song “Afterglow.” Their current president, Lynn Ahrens (E ‘22), conducted the traditional performance. The piece was stunning and nostalgic, as they sang about the “songs and cheers of their fair college years.” It was a great reminder of the years of tradition behind the Penn Glee Club.
Every performance in “Are You Watching Closely?” aptly showcased the talent of PDGC. However, the more high–octane moments clearly stole the show. With more performances like these, future PDFC performances can become even more enjoyable and engaging.