While waiting for the 2010 John Burroughs High School's Pop Show to begin, I was flipping through the program, which I have to say has really stepped up production values with the new full-color group photos. Brent said, "Hey, there's your friend." I glanced up. The redheaded boy, who I've written about before and who has since graduated from the school, was walking past us to get to his seat in our row. To Brent I said, "Oh, no, we're not really friends. We don't even know each other."
Brent was confused. "But haven't you emailed back and forth with him about Pop Show before?"
"And maybe I'm wrong, but aren't we Facebook friends with him?"
"Yeah, totally, we are," I said. "I mean, I don't know why you're Facebook friends with him except through me because you've never complimented his vocal abilities, but I was just reading his update about how he was going to take a nap. He's at UCSB now and that other girl I thought was a really good dancer is over at LMU, and-"
Brent was staring at me like I was a fucking lunatic.
I shrugged. "So all I'm saying is we're not exactly friends, like he probably has no idea I'm who I am. I'm probably better friends with Barbie, the box office mom, who I've been emailing with all week because I kept changing our seats and I think she's pretty exhausted with me."
Needless to say, I'm way too involved with this high school. It's like a Burbank soap opera I keep an eye on- I track the characters, I know the allegiances, occasionally I write the fan letter- but would you ever say you were friends with Erica Kane? No.
Every year Pop Show just gets more and more intensive, to the point that if I were going to do an accurate recap, I'd be writing until premiere night of year #40 (for those of you not in the know, we're only on #31). So for this show I decided to go with a high school yearbook motif and just dole out some "Bests" to those individuals and acts who made jaw-dropping impressions on me, even considering I'm no Pop Show spring chicken at this juncture:
POP SHOW 31- "Right now!" BESTS:
"Best 45-Year-Old Pretending To Be In High School"- Unfortunately, I don't have a name here because this is where the Pop Show program goes really wrong (someone get on this please- Barbie?): they list the members of the various singing groups alphabetically under group photos instead of by rows, so unless a performer had a solo elsewhere in the show and I can match her up to that credit, I have no way of figuring out who she is.
That said, there was a girl who came out in the middle of the "Sound Sensations" medley to sing "It's A Man's World" by herself, wearing a fur (I hope faux, honey) collared trench coat, Whitney Houston's hairstyle from 2001, and the weight of the universe on her shoulders. And she tore that fucking stage down. I'm talking on her knees by the end of the number, pounding the ground with her fists. Instantly convincing you that she'd been used up by at least three hundred men in her lifetime, and I mean that in the best possible way. My friend, Mike, visiting from Chicago, broke into a heartfelt falsetto "Whooooooo!" upon her last held note, completely ready to buy her album if she could find the time to record one in between fulfilling mandatory P.E. and math credits.
"Best Wink"- This one undoubtedly goes to Connor Murphy, the Vocal Music Association's student president, who managed to throw out a wink to someone audience-left in the middle of his earnest rendition of Men At Work's "Overkill" that was so loaded with meaning you completely understood that it wasn't just a "Tom Jones" wink; it was more like a "Taylor Swift Winking About Dating Taylor Lautner On SNL" wink. It had a secret in it. A story. It contained multitudes. Well done, Connor.
Incidentally, Brent was especially fascinated with Connor's family's congratulatory ad in the program because they wrote, "We are...in total awe of how amazing you are in every way!" And Brent was like, "What? My parents have never been 'in total awe' of me. Total awe?" He couldn't get over it for the whole first act.
"Best Argument For What Hormones In Cow Milk Are Doing To Our Teenage Girls"- 2/3rds of all the girl performers in all the singing groups. One girl in the "Decibelles" was supposed to be wearing one of those bras with invisible plastic straps underneath her girlish cherry-patterned halter costume like the others, but when she turned you saw that she'd had to opt for a holster. The girls dance in close formation; they can't be tit-punching each other in the side of the head.
(The "Decibelles" also get the honorary Michael Kors "Most Insane Crotch" award for their red slacks.)
"Best Date Rapey Choreography"- This one was close, but ultimately it has to go to the rendition of Paramore's "Ignorance," which had male dancers in prep school costumes alternating between ominously staring and then clumsily grabbing at the breasts of the lead female singers while trying to lift them in the air (the singers, not just their breasts). It was like these guys were ignorant- see what I did there?- about how to get a shirt off, but they were trying, and trying angrily.
If this were only a contest for violence in choreography, then certainly the dance number going on behind Tyler while he was doing Kris Allen's arrangement of Kanye's "Heartless" would be a real contender. I understood that these young ladies are heartless, yes, but throwing them down on the floor so hard that the stage shook seemed a little bit punishy. Maybe you just shame them via piercing lyrics and a cold shoulder, you know?
"Best Of The Night"- So there is this kid, Tyler Mann, and he kind of looks a little like Carrot Top minus all the dysfunction and the steroids, and he is a huge fucking star. He sang a duet of "When Love Comes To Town" that was so soul-shaking it was like, yes, love was coming to Burbank, and if you're at all familiar with Burbank, then you understand what an enormous accomplishment this is. You know it because Mike was "Whooo-ing" his fucking brains out. And when Tyler reappeared on the stage for Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," you forgot you were at Pop Show because with those LED curtains flashing in back of him, you were suddenly along for what felt like Tyler Mann's Strut-It-Out World Tour and you wanted the souvenir panties.
When he returned for a three-way of Heart's "Alone," he was in the most romantic braided curly mohawk of the night (to make it official, I just handed out the "Best Romantic Braided Curly Mohawk" award). About the vocals of Tyler's female singing partners, Brent whispered, "These girls are upset." But you intuited why. They were singing over Tyler Mann. I mean, kid looks like he's smelling something bad when he's singing, but it's not himself because he's so good.
"Best Job Making The Hair On The Neck Of The Dad Sitting In Front Of Me Stand Up"- the line-up of Daisy Dukes worn by the girls singing "Gitchee Gitchee Goo."
"Best Singing Out From Under Bangs Badly In Need Of A Trim"- Ella Bastone, who made me nervous every time she approached the edge of the stage.
"Best Vocal By Student Dressed Up Like An S&M Cat"- Hands (or handcuffs) down, Caitlin Dietz.
"Best Vignette Of French Cliches"- The background players during "La Vie En Rose" who mimed, romanced, painted, wore stripes, donned berets, and, my favorite, ate a baguette in a tight minidress.
"Best Repurposing Of Vinyl Tablecloths"- The "Sound Sensations," who wore white jumpsuits that valiantly battled the "Decibelles" for "Most Insane Crotch." Close, but no vagina.
"Best Gayface"- I don't want to inadvertently out anyone, but you know who you are.
Here's Tyler Mann's reel, which I'm almost reluctant to include because it doesn't come close to doing him justice. He really needs to recut it with this year's performances; he's gotten significantly better since chopping this thing together. It's ultimately here because it pulls double duty, featuring a cameo by the redheaded boy, aka best-name-ever, Keaton Savage.