in its 26th year, Special K! Revue puts the spotlight on student
is 10:30 on a frigid February night in Evanston. Far from
the Jacobs Center, in a hallway in Northwestern University's
theater arts building, a dozen female Kellogg students rehearse
the steps to the 2006 Special K! Revue's opening number.
are quick studies. Their eyes glued to choreographer Katrina
Borisjuk '06, they are soon moving in unison, legs kicking,
hips twisting, fingers snapping to a hip-hop rhythm. A pony-tailed
Borisjuk shouts out the count.
and together, go, kick. Down, one, two. Up. Clap!"
door in a glass-enclosed conference room, the troupe's male
contingent practice a song. Their voices blend in deep harmony
as a keyboard picks out the melody.
got skits and we've got songs. Get loud and laugh and clap
and cheer — we want to hear it from you!"
Director Ryan Fuller '06 paces between the two groups,
often smiling, sometimes furrowing his brows. For a cast that
has just begun rehearsing, he feels they're in decent shape.
got a good attitude," says the sandy-haired Fuller, a
veteran improv performer and one of the creators of the previous
year's revue. "Everything's coming along like it's supposed
as with any production, Fuller expects the drama to mount
over the next 12 weeks as opening night approaches.
still in the honeymoon phase. Everyone's just so excited to
be a part of this," he says. "After spring break,
it will feel like it's taking up a lot more time and people
will start tearing their hair out. It'll probably be a little
a ritual repeated each spring, drawing as much from the Kellogg
School's can-do spirit as from Mickey Rooney's rallying cry
to thespians everywhere: "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!"
Now in its 26th year, Special K! Revue is part satire, part
musical, and 100 percent showcase for the astonishing array
of talent in the Kellogg student body.
addition to several dozen performers, the production involves
up to 100 additional students who do everything from write
the music to build the sets to publicize the show.
for the May production begins in October, when aspiring Kellogg
comedy writers start pitching skit ideas to members of the
Special K! board. In a typical year, the creative team might
review more than 50 skits, eventually whittling down the final
selections to about 15.
other students are writing lyrics and adapting songs for the
show. By early February, the Special K! board is ready to
conduct auditions, a lengthy process that attracts scores
of hopeful singers, dancers and actors.
see so many talents that you would never have expected to
see in people you go to school with," Fuller says. "Everybody
who auditioned this year was great. It was very hard to decide
whom to cut."
the show is cast, rehearsals begin in earnest. Production
members must find an additional 12 hours a week to devote
to rehearsing — no easy task, given their already-crammed
Kellogg schedules. The time commitment balloons to 20 to 30
hours each week as opening night draws near.
band never rehearses with the cast until the Sunday night
before the show, so it's only during that last week that everything
gels," Fuller says. "It's highly stressful, but
everyone seems to pull it together in the end."
guys: Making their debut in Special K! Revue's first show,
Robert Nunez, left, and Stephen Labelle (both '81) perform
the skit "Who's in Finance," one of 25 acts
packed into the 1980 student production.
one thing that hasn't changed in the 26 years since Special
K! first opened to rave reviews. The show has always been
a celebration of the school's strengths, not to mention an
affectionate jab at some of its idiosyncrasies.
roots of this B-school burlesque date back to the spring of
1979, when first-year Kellogg students Bill Jerome '80
and Frank McGann '80 contributed a hit song to the
Waa-Mu Show, Northwestern's annual undergraduate musical review.
who had written sketch comedy in college, was soon summoned
to the office of Ed
Wilson, then the Kellogg School's dean of students. Wilson
recalls that he "begged" Jerome to unleash his talents
at Kellogg —
as well as those of his classmates.
like these shows," Wilson says. "I'd hear colleagues
at other schools talk about their spring musical revues and
I would think, 'I wish our students would do something like
didn't need any more coaxing, especially after he learned
that Betsy Stolte Youngdahl '81 had signed on as co-producer.
After distributing a questionnaire to gauge student interest,
they soon had more than 100 volunteers offering to write,
direct, compose music, sing, act and work behind the scenes.
May 9 and 10, 1980, the curtains opened on "Up for Sale,"
a satirical look at the school that had just been renamed
in honor of a $10 million gift.
to the tune of "Summertime," the opening number
poked fun at the administration's efforts to raise the school's
profile. "Bummer time, and our image is sinking /Stanford's
climbing, and old Harvard is high / Well we don't publish
those cases, and we don't have nice weather / So hey there
Dean Jacobs, what should we try?"
then Brian Curtiss '80
enters, pushing a wheelbarrow holding a miniature version
of Leverone Hall across the stage," recalls Wilson, his
green eyes twinkling at the memory. "He was calling,
'School! School for sale!' It was just terrific. It brought
the house down."
shows sold out, and a tradition was born. Future shows included
skits like "Disco Accounting," featuring a chorus
line of dancing CPAs, and "Star Wars," which showcased
Professor Gene Lavengood in the role of Yoda. When
Dean Emeritus Donald
P. Jacobs stepped down in 2001, the show riffed on his
long tenure with the theme of "Who Let the Dean Out?"
recent years the show has traveled to San Francisco and New
York, entertaining Kellogg alumni and friends on the coasts.
And each fall, the previous year's cast returns to campus
to reprise the spring show for the entering students.
now have a tradition that lets students explore their talents
and become the renaissance people we know they can be,"
says Jerome, who still counts his Special K! friends as among
his closest from Kellogg.
exciting, and it's also humbling to see where Special K! is
today," he adds. "The first show only worked because
of the selfless contributions of all who were involved. Everybody
was working together to support and encourage each other. It truly embodied the Kellogg spirit of teamwork."
found the relationship between Kellogg students
and the school a very healthy, professional and
cooperative one. Kellogg assumes, and rightly so,
that everyone entering the program has a wealth
of experience and possesses solid judgment. When
we approached the deans with a request or concern,
it was always greeted with the utmost consideration.
Like any organization, the more open and constructive
the relationship is between key parties, the better.
Having the students and the administration in sync,
understanding each others needs, perspectives and
constraints, only added to the overall academic
and social experience."
Lori Winters Samuels '86, Graduate Management
years later, that spirit fills the rehearsal space as Fuller
glances at his watch. It's close to midnight now in the Theater
and Interpretive Arts building, and the rehearsal is drawing
to a close.
guys," Borisjuk tells the cast. "You rock."
feel like it's hopeless?" Fuller asks his cast.
say it's a step above that," one member replies.
bubble time," says someone else. The group moves into
a huddle, their arms encircling each other. Their voices merge
in a round that has become the traditional closing for Special
K! rehearsals over the years.
K love is bubbling, bubbling! Special K love is in my soul.
Special K love is bubbling, bubbling! Special K love is in
a final, exultant "Special K!" the group springs
apart. Donning parkas and hoisting backpacks, the cast members
spill onto the deserted Northwestern campus, energized for
a performance that is not so distant from this wintry night.