January 20, 2021

An International, Digital Cast for 2021 Princeton Triangle Club Show

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: This year’s Princeton Triangle Show is digital, but it is more of a movie musical than a Zoom video. “All Underdogs Go To Heaven” is available free online through February 1.

By Anne Levin

To the Princeton University students who take part in the Princeton Triangle Club (PTC) Show at McCarter Theatre each year, canceling the 2021 production because of COVID-19 was unthinkable.

The PTC is the oldest touring collegiate musical comedy troupe in the nation. Famous alumni of the show, which is written and performed by students and directed by professionals, include author F. Scott Fitzgerald and actors James Stewart, Brooke Shields, and Ellie Kemper. The annual musical comedy with a famous kick-line is a revered tradition, dating back 130 years. Members weren’t about to let the pandemic, which shut down the campus last March, break that tradition.

Thanks to an effort that reached across three continents, a virtual version of the show will go on. But those involved in the creation of All Underdogs Go To Heaven say it is more than just a video. The production, which is available starting tonight, January 20 at 8 p.m., is being billed as “a movie musical.” 

“It’s definitely musical comedy all the way,” said junior Kate Semmens, PTC vice president and a cast member. “Our director Ashley Marinelli, who was choreographer for last year’s show, came up with a concept that honors the movie idea instead of leaning into what we usually do.”

Fourteen students wrote the script about an underdog sports team and their unusual efforts to reverse their 20-year losing streak. “As they coach the motliest crüe Partham [the name of the school] has ever seen, they’ll face rival teams, magical sports equipment, overeager youngsters, and expensive animated sequences, while learning the true meaning of Ball (The sport is called Ball for efficiency’s sake.),” reads a press release. “Will the Pollawogs beat the Marthap Marauders in the Jersey Rec League Championship?”

Once COVID-19 closed the campus to most undergraduates and activities last March, Marinelli began trying revamp plans for the production. “She was really thinking outside the box,” said Semmens. “It was a process of learning from the University about when it might open, and keeping up with contingency plans. Those kept falling through. But she kept being creative. The trustees said we could do a Zoom reading of the show, but she wanted to do something completely different.”

Marinelli played with green screens. She was inspired by other digital projects that were able to make it look like characters were touching each other. “Her background is directing and dance, not tech,” said Semmens. “We brought on a lot of people to support her. Students helped her with the technical aspect.”

By September, PTC realized that they were dealing with an international cast. The show features a Princeton undergraduate cast of 27, an orchestra of 22 students, and 50 business, tech, and writing team members. Actors filmed their parts across three countries and 10 states. “We have people who were as far away as Barbados and England,” said Semmens. “We weren’t looking for that, but that’s how it ended up. So, if you include the pit orchestra and the tech people, we’re all over the world.”

All Underdogs Go To Heaven builds on the concept of an underdog sports movie. “It has a Moneyball-esque plot,” said Semmens. “There are a lot of sports jokes. We’re kind of playing on those themes. This year’s show is more plot-driven than others, which have been revue-style. This is character-based and fun-centered.”

Semmens, who is from Brooklyn, was intent on joining Triangle when she arrived at Princeton two years ago. “It was the first club I auditioned for,” she said. “I have a theater background, and so do a lot of other members. But we have a healthy mix of people with different backgrounds. It has become my family at Princeton. I have made wonderful friends. I get to be with creative people who love to laugh.”

Putting together this year’s show was challenging. “It was difficult, mainly because things kept changing,” said Semmens. “But once we started, there was a lot of trial and error. We’d never done rehearsals on Zoom before. We had to teach members how to film and operate the phone as a camera. It was a learning curve for everyone. There was a lot of mailing of costumes and props all over. It was tricky, but we went through it.”

Visit triangleshow.com for the link to stream the show for free until February 1, after which it will be added to the Triangle on Demand library and will be available to rent or buy.