The Varsity Show: A Columbia Tradition



World War II necessitated a reduction in scale and 1944's On The Double was performed in a theatre on Columbia's campus. The move became permanent, with subsequent Varsity Shows performed uptown at Columbia instead of in the midst of Broadway's theatre district.

By mid-century, despite successes such as 1954's bicentennial The Sky's The Limit, which featured contributions from Varsity Show alumni Herman Wouk and I.A.L. Diamond, and 1960's A Little Bit Different by Terrence McNally, it became more and more difficult to maintain this extravagant tradition on campus.
The Varsity Show ultimately ceased productions for over a decade after 1967's Feathertop.  There were intermittent attempts at resurrecting the Varsity Show, such as 1978's The Great Columbia Riot of '78, but it wasn't until 1982's Columbia Graffiti, a musical revue staged by enterprising sophomores, that the Varsity Show re-emerged as the biggest annual event on Columbia's performing arts calendar.

Productions from the 1980s onwards focused their attentions on satirizing Columbia's administration and lampooning the personal anxieties and bureaucractic battles that Columbia students face. Many aspects of student life, from relationships wiht professors to concern over Columbia's expansion into Manhattanville, have been turned into song and dance numbers.

In 1994, for its centennial production, Varsity Show even recruited several celebrities (including former Vice Presidential Nominee Geraldine Ferraro and former New York City Mayor David Dinkins) to cameo as God in Angels at Columbia

The longest ongoing tradition at the college, Varsity Show marked its 116th year in 2010. Although the shows may not be quite the lavish spectacles they once were, they are still original works by current students full of contemporary references and happily lampooning college life at Columbia for all to see.

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