Soph-Frosh SING! Puts on a Sweet Show

Watching this year’s Soph-Frosh SING! proved to be something akin to the experience of eating a Hershey’s chocolate bar: pretty enjoyable, but lacking much of the nuance and expertise required to truly make it a rich and fulfilling experience. Nevertheless, the underclassmen showcased their burgeoning talent, creating a lighthearted production with relatable characters and an entertaining plot.
Soph-Frosh SING!, led by coordinator Ruby Gary, executive producers Ting Ting Chen and Julia Arancio, and producers Hiro Kimura and Debi Saha, began when the curtains rose upon a bright and vibrant set. It was built to resemble the inside of a candy store, a cute set-up that foreshadowed the rest of Soph-Frosh’s (for the most part) cheerful performance.
We are introduced to the basic premise of the plot through the dialogue between two employees of the candy store (played by Alexa Nobert and Alexa Kong): the store is to open tomorrow, and consequently, the candy is going to get eaten. A Hershey’s chocolate bar (played by William Lohier), who is also the king of all the candy, sits on his throne in the background as he listens to the fateful news with growing dismay, evidenced by his entertaining facial expressions.
Faced with news of his subjects’ imminent death, the king grapples with whether or not to tell them and subsequently ruin the magnificent party that is planned for that night. Eventually, he decides not to, with the help of his assistants, two M&Ms (played by Matthew Carlson and Kevin Zong), who provide mostly comic relief in contrast to the king’s harshness. Their characters are, for the most part, one-dimensional, fulfilling the trope of the comical, bumbling pair.
We are introduced to the rest of these characters when they come onstage for the opening number, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” showcasing both Soph-Frosh’s costumes and vocal abilities. Although the theme of candy would seem to have a great deal of potential in terms of variety and creativity for costumes, Soph-Frosh’s were not only relatively simple, but they lacked the diversity that could have truly made the stage pop.
Chorus, for instance, were all skittles, whose costumes consisted simply of a large “S” stuck onto a colorful T-shirt. The fact that they spent more time on stage than any other crew gave the impression of a candy store seemingly overrun by skittles.
Furthermore, chorus, although strong on its own, faced difficulty in being heard over the sound of the band, an issue that plagued almost all of the vocal performers of Soph-Frosh SING!. At its least, this was a nuisance, and at its worst, a detriment to the plot. Although the songwriters undoubtedly put a lot of effort into the songs, the words were oftentimes impossible to hear over the music coming from the pit. During the performance of “Closer,” this was especially harmful as the characters simultaneously sang and acted out plot points, making it difficult to follow.
Regardless, the Soph-Frosh cast boasted a remarkable number of talented singers (and one rapper, in the form of a bold gumdrop played by Freddie Minzberg). Sour Patch’s (played by Victoria Wong) vocals were especially strong in her rendition of “We Can’t Stop,” displaying a strong, rousing voice that perfectly portrayed her call to action to all the candy. Band’s musical interludes were equally charming, and kept well with the theme by playing snippets of music such as “Lollipop.”
Dance crews well displayed their technical skill, but, like the cast’s singing, occasionally struggled in their presentation. Step, latin, and hip-hop both showed a great deal of talent through their complex rhythms and moves, but this talent was not fully reflected through the music choice or costumes. Hip-hop danced, somewhat confusingly, to a song in a strange key that was not reflective of their fast-paced moves. Step and latin’s costumes (pop rocks and candy corn, respectively) were not reminiscent of the actual candy they were attempting to portray. Nevertheless, they both earned well-deserved cheers for step’s lively chants and latin’s tricky maneuvers.
Another issue facing some of the dance crews was that their entrances felt forced, as when Belly entered as hot tamales for little reason other than to show the audience what’s “hot.” Integrating dance crews into the plot is, albeit, a frequent issue for SING! script writers.
One way Soph-Frosh especially succeeded at this was through flow, a crew that often does not typically stand out. In this case, flow’s portrayal of lifesaver candies was highly memorable and clever, their bright rings of light being highly evocative of the candies they were trying to represent. Furthermore, their role as lifesavers was a clever play on words as they came to the rescue of the protagonists, including Candy Heart (played by Chelsea Cheung) and Tootsie Roll (played by Nathaniel Unger).
Both of these characters showed remarkable depth in their narrative arcs, while simultaneously being highly relatable. Tootsie Roll, for instance, was awkward and goofy in a combination that made him very comical. We watch as he adorably struggles with social interactions with the other pieces of candy; for instance, he bends down in front of Candy Heart and she grows excited (imagining some sort of proposal) before he simply tells her that her shoe was untied.
The main conflict he faces further helps us relate to him. After Tootsie accidentally overhears the news of the store’s opening the following day, the king stipulates that if he keeps his mouth shut at the party that night, he will be allowed to leave that night and escape being eaten. He struggles with his burgeoning attraction towards Candy Heart and his promise to the king, a conflict that is hard not to empathize with.
Candy Heart’s character also possesses a great deal of depth, as evidenced by the growth she displays throughout the narrative arc. At first finding it difficult to be without a guy, by the end of the show she has realizes that “I need to love myself before I love anyone else,” an impassioned statement that is pure and meaningful. Her assertion that she is “smart and in control” is an inspiring declaration of girl power and subversion of the typical romance plot that so often clogs SING! scripts.
While this is a noble effort, it is diluted slightly by the fact that romance still figures into the plot of Soph-Frosh SING!, through the unlikely pairing between Sour Patch and Gumdrop. Regardless, this can be overlooked behind the show’s larger message, illustrated by Candy Heart’s assertion of her independence, by Tootsie Roll’s growing confidence, and by Sour Patch’s newfound leadership: everyone is unique and has the power to change one’s own circumstances (even if that involves breaking out of a candy store to avoid being eaten).

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