Sailing to the Summit

The Pirates of Senior SING! rode their U.S.S. ARRGH all the way to the class of 2024’s first SING! victory.

Reading Time: 11 minutes

“Welcome to your graves, pirates. Navy, prepare yourselves for combat.”

Perhaps it was not The Pirates of the Caribbean, but it was quite close. The age-old struggle between royalty and piracy was captured heartily by this year’s Senior SING! in the class of 2024’s first SING! victory. Led by first-year coordinator Matthew Monge and produced by Zelia Ryan-Young, Johanna Wu, Gaven Nowak, Daniel Murdoch, Rebecca Bao, and Simon Leton, the seniors put on an innovative SING! production featuring flashing lights, gripping battles, and an emotional bond between the pirates of an inseparable crew. Though SING! always captivates audiences, Senior SING! presented the audience with something never seen before—the power to tell the end of the story.

The show opened with a spotlight on the U.S.S. ARRGH, accompanied by the rhymeful Bard (Arshia Mazumder) introducing the journey ahead. They quickly established themselves as a memorable character, whose charming storytelling and musicality captivated the audience from the get-go. The curtains opened to a lively shanty tune, familiarizing the audience with the animated pirate crew—Captain Crunch (Dinah Lube-Beylinson), First Mate Jackie (Margaret Mikhalevsky), navigator Chris Columbus (Rebecca Ke), playful gunner Boomer (Erica Liu), aptly named surgeon Sir Gin (Alex DiLella), and despised chef Gordon Ramsay Jr. (Ethan Khosh). From the beginning, the brilliant handiwork of senior costumes was visible, with the Captain donning black and red garments stolen from the seven seas. The song closed with the unveiling of the ship’s flag, adorned with an octopus sporting a pirate hat of its very own. With that, the crew embarked on their sail towards their first plundering of the show.

The navigator tried to use an MTA map to find the way to the kingdom—a successful first joke that garnered laughter from much of the audience and took the opportunity to dig at Soph-Frosh SING!. Columbus suggested taking an Amtrak service to Ponyville, to which the admiral responded, “Why would anyone want to go there?” However, the scene served mostly to establish the crew as a tight-knit, family-esque group, as the audience was introduced to the chaotic but caring dynamic of the main crew members. Despite their banter, it was clear from the start that they would always be there to support each other. One specific relationship that was introduced is between Captain Crunch and the gunner. They established an almost paternalistic relationship, with Captain Crunch mentoring the gunner in the important skills of pirating and swordplay. As we progressed, first matey Jackie announced a successful plundering. “I’m proud of you, me mateys, for a job well done. The king will be happy with our treasure. Let us celebrate!,” Captain Crunch responded. Here, the crew’s first dance routine was introduced—Latin. Dancing to adaptations of “Smooth” and “Hit the Road Jack,” senior Latin really showcased their skills in the dance with a high-energy and stunt-filled performance of “Smooth” and a swingingly accurate recreation of “Hit the Road Jack.” However, depending on the day, the crew’s singing was difficult to make out, sometimes being overpowered by band, and occasionally off-beat. Still, band’s first performance was one of their many great musical feats.

As the scene shifted from the pirates swashbuckling at sea, the audience was introduced to a set of new characters—King Sir Ronald George Reagan Farquad III (Brandon Phillips), Admiral Derp (Caroline Stansberry), and her Royal Navy (later revealed to be the modern dance crew). The king symbolized the boisterous upper class, with the obedient and order-affixed admiral at his disposal. He was a privileged and powerful leader, and he looked down on the treasure-hunting privateers. Despite the pirates’ successful service, he referred to their employment as a bad look on his public image and decided to terminate their contract. As the pirates begged for a chance at redemption, he finally relented and sent them on a final mission through siren waters. Though Captain Crunch was wary of King Farquad III’s disdain and motives, she failed to recognize the extent to which the king wanted her and her crew dead, as he sent his navy to wipe them out once and for all. The emotions and language in this scene were strong and captivating, effectively establishing the conflict that followed for the rest of the show. It was also here where the king sang an adaptation of “What I Know Now.” Phillips and the chorus delivered an impressive performance, displaying their vocal strength and talent and making this one of the most powerful songs of the show. 

Shifting gears, the crew ventured into the siren waters, which may not have immediately been obvious to audience members as the crew maintained their peppy nonchalance on the ship. Though the siren waters were a critical obstacle for the crew, the scene was less impactful than those before it. However, as the crew rushed to put on their headphones and escape the sirens’ sound, the seniors’ premier dance crew entered the scene—senior Bolly. The splitting of the dancers into crewmates and ocean waves was an incredibly creative decision. The jovial and energetic moves of the crewmates emphasized the nature of sailing on the ship, and the smooth movements and silky blue dresses of the ocean waves presented the vast ocean ahead of the pirate crew. As they finished their number, collapsing to the ground to thunderous applause, the pirates exited the sirens’ trances, and the Bolly crew rushed off stage after Chef Ramsay Jr. offered them his new “mystery meat.” The joke was a final flourish of one of the show’s highest moments.

As the pirates traversed the waters, a cruel anxiety reached them to test their perseverance, with the audience, too, uncertain of the crew’s fate. As a storm hit the seas, the relationships between the pirates were put to the test. There was fighting and arguing, but ultimately their camaraderie prevailed and allowed them to get through their struggles, continuing the clean captain’s record. However, this scene was certainly not up to par with those before it, especially marred by lackluster jokes. When revealing the cause of Polly the Parrot’s death as “senioritis,” Sir Gin’s exaggerated mocking tone expected laughs but seldom received any.

Thankfully, this filler-esque scene ended quickly, and the Step crew came on stage soon after. However, its placement in the plot was confusing, with no clear transition from the previous scene to the crew. What might have been SING!’s final Step for some time felt like a send-off to the crew that was slightly drawn out and repetitive. Though Step had some creative and innovative dance moves that were somewhat captivating to the audience, their performance was rather underwhelming. For their recreation of “Santiana,” the crew attempted to emulate the traditional sea shanty, but fell short in their performance. The combination of the crew’s voices, plus the lack of a background tune led to a droning performance and fell short of their previous songs.

Immediately after this Step performance, a stop was added to the crew’s journey—one at the senior bar. Though the scene began with a “size doesn’t matter” joke, continuing the lackluster humor, the drought ended here, as when searching for the map to the bar, Columbus pulled out a Shen Yun poster—one which the seniors had modified and were using to advertise for their show (written on it, “Third Time’s the Charm”). The quip drew laughs from many students, and the show was back on track. After a quick segment of Bard’s narration, they entered the senior bar. Sir Gin then made a joke about having Corona that induced a quick but pitiful laugh from the audience as overused jokes often do. 

After a quick change by the almost perfect tech crew, their only blunder a hanging pirate sail on Thursday’s show, the pirates arrived at the bar. Sir Gin was perhaps the most animated of them all, excitedly awaiting her next taste of rum. Here, the seniors provided a brief sneak peek at their “Slay or Nay” system, as the crew was asked to spin a promotional wheel, with the prize of either a free bottle of rum or a Stuyvesant Physical Education shirt. The outcome, rigged by the bartender, was always shifted to slay, and while a pirate cameo entered the scene to draw laughs from the audience, the incredibly sneaky bard pointed out the pirates, and they fled. Though the bard was the neutral storyteller, in this scene, she broke that wall and, acting as a bar patron, pointed out the pirates as those identified on the bar’s wanted posters. As the hip-hop crew entered the scene acting as bar patrons, the pirates were surrounded, and the Bard returned to her role as a neutral storyteller for Senior SING!’s rendition of “Crazy in Love.” It was another energetic performance by both the band and hip-hop, but the song’s high tempo saw the Bard lag ever so slightly behind the melody for the first half of the song. However, the performance was still excellent from all sides, with hip-hop’s energy illustrating the doom that befell the crew standing nervously behind. 

The song closed, and Captain Crunch, sword drawn, escorted her crew out of the Senior Bar, where the Bard grumbled over the lost bounty. Again, her role in this scene was to be a patron at the bar, but her dual role was confusing to the audience. To close the bar scene, the Bard wrote a letter to the king and called her carrier pigeon (Sadie Barrett) to deliver a letter to the King, informing him of the Pirates’ survival and location. Upon receiving the letter, back at his palace, the king summoned his admiral and navy, where the solution became clear—the navy must seize and kill the pirates. For confirmation, Admiral Derp asked her crew, “Should we slay the pirates? Or do you say nay?” With all the navy cadets in line, they each responded “Slay!” except the last, who was comically disposed of by her comrades.

We returned to the pirate ship, bombarded by a raging storm. It was at this moment that Senior SING! introduced their Flow crew. Lights and sound especially shined during this scene, using low flashing strobe lighting to paint an image of the raging storm. Flow entered the scene, accompanied by Captain Crunch singing a well-written rendition of “Odd Eye,” meant to share the crew’s determination to weather the storm. Captain Crunch delivered a strong vocal performance, and the song was epitomized by lyrics like, “A pirate’s dream is treasure we can pursue (I dream of the loot) / I see no other life, only family is my crew.” It was a repetitive theme, but one critical for Senior SING!. However, Flow was not up to par with previous performances, with a heavy lack of flair in their choreography. Stunts with the lights were kept to a minimum, and like Step, this performance didn’t live up to those before it. 

As the audience entered the eye of the storm, the interlude between this song and the next was quite abbreviated, as Gordon Ramsay Jr. went fishing and found a bass (the musical instrument rather than a fish). By playing on its “scales,” the crew discovered that there were many miles left in their journey, in a joke that was slightly drawn out but still impactful. Here, the crew returned to music and sang together for a recreation of the always-riveting “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen. As the crew began to argue over how crappy their dinner was going to be, the band played the first note, and the captain took control. Here, the crew’s vocals shined, as they all joined in together for one of the most heartfelt songs in all of SING!.  

Finally, the crew landed in Ambush Town, anxious to retrieve their treasure, which innocently awaited them in a box labeled “not a trap.” But, lo and behold, it was a trap, and from the treasure emerged the admiral. Though the coldness in her voice was not perfectly suited for singing, the admiral provided a good prequel to the battle between her forces and the crew and belittled them and their small stature in the eyes of the powerful navy. Modern also provided a decent dance by mixing military marches into their choreography as the audience anxiously awaited the final battle between the king’s navy and the pirates. Lights added some extra flair to the scene with a royal blue scene and flashing lights for each drop of the beat.

From here, we entered the first major battle—between Captain Crunch and the admiral, with each of their crews battling in the background. The dance-fight to “Someone Gets Hurt” allowed Captain Crunch to demonstrate her full vocal range. It was part one of a magnum opus ending for the seniors. Band’s performance was exquisite, and the vocals from the captain built atop that. The lights were managed perfectly, with each contact between the admiral and captain’s swords as a flash of red light on stage. The background was also meaningfully managed, with modern surrounding and battling the crew. Perhaps slightly drawn out, but the musical and visual elements did well to make the moment impactful. 

The song ended, and the parental dynamic between the captain and gunner resurfaced as the gunner struggled in battle. All the action froze and Captain Crunch made her way over to her gunner. “Okay. Breathe. Remember what I taught you,” the captain remarked. With a quick swing of her sword, the gunner did just that, displaying her growing skills through the progression of the show. However, the scriptwriters also took this opportunity to add in some humor, as the gunner finished her opponent off with, well, a NERF gun. Her only remaining gun, since “Mr. Ramirez took all my other guns. He won’t allow them on stage.” It turned out that French teacher Manuel Ramirez would not allow this gun on stage either, as he entered and confiscated the weapon from the gunner, taking the opportunity to shake his head disapprovingly and muttering, “God, I hate seniors.”

From this brief interlude, the battle continued, slightly longer than it probably should have. It was accompanied by a rendition of “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean as the pirate crew fled the stage and left the admiral and captain to settle their battle alone. Though her sword may have broken on Friday, Captain Crunch defeated the admiral by swiftly ending her life. For a moment, there was silence. Then, “Tragic,” King Farquad III said from offstage. With the Navy at his side and the band playing “Phantom of the Opera,” he entered the scene for the final battle, which began with a lengthy dance interlude and featured singing from both characters throughout. In a fight designed to have the highest stakes, the action was slightly lesser than the battle before it, as Captain Crunch was swift to disarm the King, holding the point of her blade just inches from the befallen king.

At this moment, Senior SING! revealed the greatest innovation of their show. Prior to the show, small two-sided signs were distributed to the audience—one side reading “slay”, the other, “nay”. Here, the audience had their chance to use those signs to choose the ending of the story they wished to come true. The Bard asked, “In just a second, you’ll give me advice. / Should someone die? The king could pay the price.” The creative liberty taken by Senior Sing in engaging the audience to actively participate in the plot was well appreciated, though slightly evocative of the classic “choose your own adventure” books and video games we’ve played as kids. Ultimately, whether or not the audience chose Slay or Nay didn’t hugely impact the play, with just a few lines of dialogue changed between the two routes. However, the audience felt far more engaged in the show with their opinions impacting the show’s ending.

In the end, the overall theme of unity and friendship was once again reinforced when the crewmates came together after their victory. The golden lights that increased in intensity quite literally highlighted the crew—a wholesome ending to a fairytale-esque story. 

As the curtains closed on Senior SING!, it became clear that their production not only claimed a well-deserved victory for their grade but also delivered a captivating narrative of a clash between royalty and piracy. Their innovative approach to storytelling and audience engagement set them apart from the other two performances and demonstrated their creativity. With incredible dance numbers, a veteran cast of vocal powerhouses, a cohesive plot, and remarkably few production flaws, the class of 2024 undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the audience, setting a new standard for SING! excellence.