MAHOMET — For five minutes every year, Kiel Ledin has lived his dream on the Mahomet-Seymour High School stage. In this year's Variety Show, the senior went out with a bang, winning Sunday's vote from judges.
"(It's) been one of the most gratifying and fulfilling experiences," Ledin said. "I've always loved comedy, and I want to be a stand-up comedian when I'm out of college."
Sunday was a make-up performance following the cancellation of last weekend's shows due to inclement weather. Thursday's (Jan. 17) gig, however, went on without any interruption. The judges, comprised of M-S staff and administration, voted drummer Joseph Stephen Dauwe and his Bulldog Buddy Adam Von Holten as the evening's winner.
The audiences even had opportunities to vote monetarily, all benefiting the drama club, during intermission and following the performances. The monetary votes selected the overall winners of the Variety Show.
Taking home first place was alternative rock band Haunted X Humanz, comprised of band members Nate Mueller, Justus Payne, Wyatt Taber and Jack Wilhelm.
HOTTERXBUNZ's interpretive poem act filled with silly movements and a clarinet solo secured second place for its hilarity. HOTTERXBUNZ members included Allie Nofziger, Carly Pogue and Claire Schwarzentraub.
Nicholas Gilbert earned third place for his dance to "Humble" by Kendrick Lamar.
The 32 acts featured singers, dancers, comedians and even those laughable, planned buzzworthy acts.
"We decided it was fun to have acts actually buzzed," explained co-director Chris Taber, who is a theater teacher at Champaign's Franklin STEAM Academy. "But we didn't want to leave that up to the teachers (the judges), so we really pushed for acts that were bad or too cheesy to be taken seriously."
Sophomore-led buzz act Couch Potatoes certainly had the crowd rolling with its take on fast-paced versions of Netflix shows.
"We all really like Netflix," group member Alexis Young said. "We were trying to do something that had to do with just watching TV. When I watch TV for a long time, my parents call me a couch potato so we thought it was a fitting name."
Fellow skit member Jenna Rothlisberger found the skit to be "relatable" more than anything, especially for her peers.
The group, including Natalie Heaton, Payton Mannin, Rothlisberger and Young, started practicing the routine over winter break, but being a buzz act certainly relieved some pressure.
"We're not too nervous because we don't need to be good," Heaton joked during a dress rehearsal.
Senior Anna Shimkus and sophomore Hannah Kitt also had fun singing a duet to Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours."
The idea to add their names to the program began with Kitt bringing her ukulele to school one day in Chamber choir.
"I was like, 'Play it!'" Shimkus said, "and then I sang and we were like, 'We should do V Show!'"
Kitt has played the ukulele since eighth grade, and their stints in choir led to their friendship.
"We wouldn't have known each other (otherwise) because we don't have any classes together," Kitt said. "This is basically the basis of our friendship."
Senior emcees Ledin and Nate Douglas also formed a bond leading the Variety Show the last two years together, though Ledin has taken center stage introducing the acts for the last three of his four years participating in the talent show.
But this year was different. The duo added a new emcee, Jacob Paragi, into the mix.
"Jacob Paragi is a junior, and he's new hosting so all of our skits are centered around us trying to prepare him to be a host once we're graduated," Ledin said.
"(It's) been a lot of fun and it's brought a lot of laughs and memories," Douglas added.
Creating bits for 32 acts takes a great deal of time and effort for the trio — "a lot more than people realize," Douglas added.
"We spend hours upon hours writing and a lot of it gets cut or we have to change it just due to the technical issues on stage and how much stage (time) we actually get when we get to the final performance."
Douglas said the three drew inspiration from their favorite comedians, including Bo Burnham, John Mulaney and even "Saturday Night Live." Inspiration aside, Douglas credits Ledin as the "mastermind" behind the jokes.
"He's very, very good," Douglas said. "He's the main source of our writing."
As a senior, having the opportunity to hone his craft is certainly a moment Ledin will walk away cherishing.
"V Show has always been my favorite thing in drama club," he said. "Out of everything this year, of senior lasts, this has hit me the hardest for sure. It's just been a lot of pressure to go out on a good note and be behind something memorable and to really have something that culminates the last four years."
Ledin's favorite Variety Show moment includes making the catch phrase "boom roasted" popular around school following his sophomore year's talent show, where he and Douglas parodied a scene from "The Office" to roast people they knew in the audience.
"People loved it," Ledin said while laughing. "That was probably our most iconic thing."
Crafting a two-act show filled with 16 acts apiece was no easy matter for co-directors Chris Taber and Amber Gibbard, an M-S social studies teacher.
"It's a behemoth," Taber joked. "Each act had two nights to get it together so that's just incredible to put a show on with that little practice, but they do and it's just amazing."
The technical crew's planning for the performances is even more difficult.
"Those sound people who have to figure out who's going to use what kind of mic and what kind of music goes with what act, and then you have lights and each act wants blue lights or a spotlight," Taber said. "They're also working within just a couple of days to put on this show."
Perhaps one of Taber's hardest working stage crew members was senior Karsyn Spese, who assisted with anything and everything.
"She is so even tempered, steady and really funnily sarcastic," Taber said. "Anytime something goes wrong or a piano won't turn on or someone needs a microphone, she just walks up nonchalantly and gives it to them."
During the last dress rehearsal, a piano wouldn't turn on and countless efforts from others just weren't working, but in comes Spese.
"Everyone is running around and in a panic and she just walks up calmly and turns the power button on and all is well," Taber said while laughing.
Funny moments aside, the No. 1 thing Variety Show does for co-director Taber's crew is "confidence."
"It takes a lot of guts to go up there and even audition," she said. "It's very different for a play or musical, because when you're doing that you're acting like somebody else. When you're auditioning for a variety show, it's just you. Having confidence to do that is amazing."