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Rochester Fringe Festival, Day 3: A Cappella Hour

The Roc City Singers and YellowJackets make beautiful music

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Showing up a mere eight minutes before my second Fringe Festival event on Friday was set to start nearly resulted in me not having a seat. When I entered RAPA’s (Rochester Association of Performing Arts) East End Theatre for “A Cappella Hour,” scheduled to start at 5 p.m., I was lucky enough to snag one of the remaining three seats in the house while a steady stream of people continued to flow in behind me. The dearth of seats did not seem to dissuade RAPA from selling tickets, however, as a crew kept bringing in chairs to wedge in to the front row and down side aisles wherever they would fit.

Once seating was settled, the first half of the show began with RAPA’s Roc City Singers, a coed glee club-esque group of high-schoolers studying with the performing arts school. From the deep, bluesy, opening notes the first female singer growled out, it was clear how unusually talented these kids are for their age. While their performance abilities were a large factor in capturing my attention, my shock at the first set of costumes during the performance entranced me most. The first song was a Lady Gaga medley, and each girl on stage was dressed in Gaga’s usual attire, which, honestly, does not make for much of a wardrobe at all. I appreciate the message behind the phrase “I’m beautiful in my way,” but watching high-school girls sing it in lacy corsets while gyrating and manipulating their hands to frame each growing curve in their bodies was a little alarming, to say the least.

Although the first set of costumes was a bit provocative for my taste, the remainder of the set was excellent. It was abundantly clear the extensive amount of effort each student put into every moment on stage. I was astounded by the caliber of these young performers’ voices -- especially some of the girls -- and with such drive and desire flashing through so many young eyes, I almost felt as though I was watching mini-Sutton Fosters in the making.

The second half of the program featured none other than Rochester’s own local singing celebrities, the University of Rochester YellowJackets. Last year was a big year for the all-male a cappella group ,what with working with children in Kenya and competing in NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” But at the end of last year, several key members graduated, including former musical director Aaron Sperber. Therefore, prior to the show’s start, I was unsure as to what version of the YellowJackets I might encounter.

In their first show of the year with four newly admitted members, the Jackets had no problem restarting the fire with their popular arrangement of “Dynamite.” Swells in dynamics seemed perfectly balanced, and contrasting textures and styles -- did I detect a hint of samba? -- contributed to an engaging aural experience.

As always, the Jackets wielded their suave charms to win favor with the ladies. Senior Galen Dole set the precedent by coaxing one woman up on stage to dance during a barbershop tune, facilitating more dancing and flirtation with the audience at regular intervals later in the show. The new year seems promising for the Jackets, and it will be exciting to see what unknown territory the group forages through next.

Saturday afternoon I’m seeing “Dangerous Signs” at The Little Theatre. Where will you be?

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