By Walter Ang
March 1, 1999
I once attended a wedding reception with an emcee that made the evening feel like watching the Miss Universe Pageant. He kept shouting out the names of the sponsors like they were contestants from some obscure country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. "Meeeester and Meeeeseeees Gooooooooo!"
This provided much of the fun for an otherwise boring night. It also gave me an insight: more events should be hosted this way. Louder, faster! More pomp and circumstance! Transform the usual bare stage into a showstopping performance! And what better institution to revitalize than the graduation ceremony? I wonder why no one's thought of doing things this way before!
I once had to attend three graduation ceremonies, each one day after the other. One was for a cousin, the other, my brother, the last was for a friend. And let me tell you, counting my toenails would have been so much more livelier. In fact, it was a good thing I wore sandals to these events.
Imagine how much fun it would be to go to a graduation ceremony and catch a glittering show! Instead of the usual valedictory address, we could have the valedictorian come out with a melee of backup dancers with balloons, fans, and streamers. An opening number that can rival those of the Vilma! show. Of course, the de rigueur Vilma! "lifts" should be incorporated into the number: the valedictorian being lifted onto high platforms, being lifted by two hulking men, being lifted through burning hoops ... well, you get the idea.
Afterwards, various concepts and excerpts from Broadway shows can be used to liven up the event! There are many, many shows to select from to get ideas. Here's a short list to start you off:
1. Sound of Music
One way to have the graduates receive their diplomas would be to use the very obvious metaphor of crossing a "mountain". For the background music, we'll throw out Verdi's "Triumphant March from Aida". Instead, we'll hear the song "Climb Every Mountain". The graduates must cross an elevation in the middle of the stage strewn with edelweiss flowers and perhaps two or three marionette goats for effect. We can have the person giving out the diplomas wear a goat herd costume.
2. Les Miserables
Please, none of those medleys which everyone is sick of already. You can only bear to listen to teenagers with squeaky voices sing "On My Own" so many times. We could utilize the scene where the stage rotates to show both sides of the barricade -- the dying enemy soldiers on one side rotates to show the, well, dying student activists on the other. We could begin the graduation ceremony with each class rotating into view and have them shout out their respective class war cries. Or better yet, their favorite algebraic theorem ... with feelings.
3. Miss Saigon
Of course, the famous helicopter scene comes to mind. This is when many Vietnamese run to the American Embassy in desperate attempts to fly off with the Americans, but they are unfortunately stopped by a very high wire fence. We could have the top five students fly off after they're awarded their medals. While the rest of the different classes onstage clamour and grope behind wire fences for their diplomas. This will definitely raise the excitement level a few notches.
4. Phantom of the Opera
An idea from this Andrew Lloyd Weber musical would be perfect to close the show with. As the graduates sing the final note of their last song, a giant chandelier falls straight down, crashing onto the stage floor and then, blackout. Dramatic! This will certainly have the graduates' families and friends cheering and clapping for all they're worth.