Creativity within a faculty can be a finicky thing, especially when the program is not typically associated with the arts. The stresses of other activities, mostly related to the horror stories of academics and the real possibility of an eight-year undergrad, can sap the mental and physical capacity to put something legitimately good onto a stage. This year’s engineering musical shattered this notion. The expectation has been redefined and a new bar set for years to come. Clocking in at more than three hours long on closing night, its 15-minute intermission felt longer than each of the halves it separated.
Herc, despite not fitting in with most of his peers, set out to become a “True Engineer” with help from his friend Peggy and a bitter upper-year student named Sheldon. Midterms, parties, TAs and the temptations of artsies stood in the way, and the sinister plan of the Dean of Arts, Togo Salmon, for engineering to fall and arts to reign supreme at McMaster was ever persistent. With Disney’s Hercules as the obvious inspiration it is a rather campy story overall, and its narrative focus succeeds in providing just enough nostalgia and variation to work.
Humour was dispersed in off-beat intervals as the constant mix of one-liners and longer setups throughout made an unpredictable and varied experience without the loss of comedic timing. The story scenes of the play had a phenomenal rhythm to them. Not knowing if or when a joke was about to come, even with setups already in place, was astounding for an amateur production to pull off successfully. The variety of jokes presented were not at all limited to just engineering or generic satire as you would expect. It was this constantly changed tempo, diversity and execution that brought new life to an otherwise predictable plot-line.
The Silhouette, The Hamilton Speculator, Spotted at Mac and The Plumbline as characters were less varied than the typical script, but still effective. The novelty and lighthearted jabs were entertaining without becoming overbearing. Disguised exposition dumps as interactions between their message to the audience and each other were fine enough. The parodies of Queens, Waterloo and the Deans of McMaster’s non-engineering faculties unfortunately fell flatter than the previously mentioned papers and media as the straight-forward nature and stale material were odd low-points of the otherwise crisp writing, though these were rather short.
The musical scenes followed a similar pattern to the writing. At peaks, these numbers were absolutely phenomenal by any measure you could judge a musical by. Confident pieces, particularly in the second half, that consisted of solo or duet parts were exquisite. Each member that was asked to step up to the plate delivered with exceptional performances in these goose-bump inducing situations where cast, band and crew combined perfectly. Moments from these are still firmly ingrained in memory days later, and almost every member involved contributed to at least one of these.
It is when the number grew that I was left wanting more. When the knowledge is there that the entire cast and production is capable of these peaks, it felt like a waste and less than the sum of its parts when songs required more members participating. While there is only so much one could do in the pieces selected, mostly songs from Hercules and pop music from the years since its release, the want was almost always for one of the characters or band members, any of them, to have a segment with the mics up high to themselves. The weird mid-range, an odd but consistent low-point of the sound mixing, of these group pieces had infrequent individual parts to break it up. It is just that inclusion of more of these parts would have benefited. The talent was there for it to be brought to the front, not hidden away in a wall of sound.
Despite these minor issues, the overall experience was a positive one. As long as you were not overly critical, it is safe to say that you would have a good time no matter what faculty you were a part of with some solid laughs and songs to talk about afterwards. The next step up of reaching these highlights more often is a bit more love and a few more tweaks away. You should eagerly await what the engineering musical has in store for years to come.