Purples prevail in 92nd College Night

Published 11:04 am Monday, February 15, 2010

For the third year in a row, purple victory echoed through Palmer Hall on the final evening of College Night, the University of Montevallo’s homecoming tradition. SGA President Terry Hughston announced the purple side as the winners of the 92nd College Night a little after 11 p.m. Feb. 13.

In the past few years, SGA presidents have purposely drawn out the announcement for as long as possible so that the audience and College Night players hang onto every word until the president says the winning side’s catch phrase.

“Each side has a phrase from their show that only they know,” explained Richie Lisenby, a member of this year’s gold side cast. “It’s agonizing not knowing if he’s going to announce your catch phrase until one side starts celebrating,” said Lisenby, who has stood on the gold side of the stage for the past three years.

Purple photographer Alicia Russell said that in the moments just before the announcement, she was shaking like a tree. “I felt very confident, I knew our cast did a wonderful job and our music was gorgeous. I knew we were going to win. I was just ready for Terry to announce it, but I was still shaking,” she said.

After about a 15 minute wait for the results, Hughston appeared with the results and a copy of the Alabama State Constitution. To keep the crowd in suspense, he read from the first article until transitioning into the purples’ catch phrase, “You can’t swim in gold.”

Immediately the purple side members onstage and in the front of the auditorium erupted into cheers and victory chants, swaying a cow-print flag and raising their fists in victorious PV signs.

“I screamed, I was taking pictures like crazy, getting people’s reactions on stage, people were around me crying. I was just so excited. All this hard work that we put in wasn’t for nothing,” said Russell. “I hugged everyone I saw, even people I didn’t know.”

After the announcement, gold side members hugged each other too, many of them crying in disappointment at the loss. Lisenby said he saw one of the gold composers, Zac Upton, rally his side’s spirits.

“He yelled, ‘Thumbs up, gold side,’ and started singing ‘This Gold Side of Mine.’ This was the first year I was able to sing because the past two years I was crying,” said Lisenby.

The gold show, “Words and Music,” followed the story of characters in a Depression-era nightclub in Chicago and focused on a young composer named Philip, played by Travis Baldwin. Philip moved to the big city to find love and fame, but instead found trouble with a mob boss and an advertising agency’s seductive secretary. He had to choose to either sell his soul to sell a song, or write the music that is in his heart for the woman he loves, who happened to be the mob boss’s girlfriend.

The gold show featured several swing dancing numbers, 1930s style costumes, Chicago accents, and ballads sung by vocal performance majors Baldwin and Jordan Hampton, who played Philip’s love interest Mary.

Some of the themes from “Words and Music” echoed current economic worries like unemployment. In one of the shows biggest numbers, Swing’n Good Time, the company sang “stomp stomp stomp down depression, gotta romp romp romp round recession” as they danced their woes away. Their message was one of hope even in the midst of hard times. Baldwin’s character Philip urged Mary to use her imagination to escape sadness and enjoy the beautiful moments in life, like their friends from the club, the music they made together, and their love.

In the purple show, “Sly and the Family Stone,” the conniving trickster and lead character Sly, played by freshman Micah Hoder, united an entire village in a chase for his capture. Their story was set in “a liminal place between reality and wonderland,” according to the program and incorporated several modern references into a Robin Hood sort of tale. For example, the greedy Geldenstein dressed like an 1800s version of Scrooge but told his assistant Xanadoodle that his childhood dream was to swim in a pool of gold like McDuck in Duck Tales, a cartoon from the late 1980s. Xanadoodle’s response that you “can’t swim in gold” was later repeated as the purple’s winning catch phrase.

Throughout the show, Sly managed to manipulate two young lovers, the money hungry miser Geldenstein and his faithful assistant, his nemesis the captain and the captain’s favorite bar maid Strumpet into doing exactly what Sly wanted until his plot was discovered. He demonstrated his role as a puppet master in one of the scenes where limp characters moved around like zombies until Sly used invisible strings to bring them under his control.

The purples displayed their creativity by breaking out into a stomp dance routine in the middle of a scene in the tavern, which drew huge cheers from the crowd. The final scene featured a wedding between the two lovers and a song about how “love unites us all.”

Before the points from Saturday night’s performances were added up, the gold side led by 26 pre-production points from other areas of the competition, including sports and spirit. The final break-down of points as well as the judge’s comments will be released in early March in an issue of the campus’ newspaper “The Alabamian.”

For both sides, College Night remains one of the most indescribable experiences and intense few weeks of the year.

Russell said she became and stayed a purple because of the unity she felt among them. “Even though we’re such a huge side, I still feel so connected with everybody,” she said. “I got involved with College Night because it’s such an interesting and unique experience. I wanted to be involved in any way I could.”

Lisenby said that he’s gotten to the point where he plays College Night not just to win.

“I would love to win, but I do it for the gold side and for my friends on the gold side,” said Lisenby. “There is nothing like this tradition anywhere. When you tell people that we write, compose, build a set, perform, and do this every year; nobody does that. We pump these shows out in three weeks. It’s full of culture you can’t understand until you experience it,” he said. “I love College Night.”