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Now playing — RISD: The Musical!

By ELIZABETH RAU  |  February 17, 2010

AN ‘AMAAAZING’ SHOW Kim and Kozatek.

We all know RISD students like to paint and draw, but can they hoof it? Or belt out a show tune and carry a giant pencil at the same time? Well, yes, it turns out.

"Amaaazing'' is how RISD student Greg Kozatek describes his cast in the biting musical comedy, RISD: The Musical!, which runs for two oh-so-brief days, February 26 and 27, at the college's auditorium.

No one is spared in this parody of students and professors, including RISD president John Maeda, who is teased for loving his iPhone too much.

The musical revue is 20 skits about the vicissitudes of daily life on the RISD campus — agonizing over a major, dining in the cafeteria with the warm-hearted cook, George; prowling for men at that staid college up the street. "People are going to get a good show,'' says co-director and theater buff Kozatek. "You'll be shocked by the talent.''

A few months ago, Kozatek and his friend, Jean Kim, both illustration students, were toiling in the wee hours of the morning, frustrated by an assignment to draw illustrations for book reviews. Kozatek had unwisely chosen the cyberpunk novel, "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.''

"I kept using big clichés,'' he says. "It was horrible. I ended up drawing a huge head with a staircase coming out of a guy's mouth.''

Kim, who had her own troubles with the doomsday novel "The Road,'' suggested a break. Kozatek suggested Walt, as in Disney. In no time, Kozatek says the two were dancing on tables and singing "some Hercules, a lot of Lion King and, of course, Aladdin.'' Kozatek started to feel Annie-ish, like the sun was coming up — and it was.

Off he strolled into the streets of Providence, flush with hope and a proposal for a musical, which he submitted to the college's leaders, and they not only said, "Break a leg!," they gave him $3000 for, among other things, the cardboard to make props. Indeed, all the props are made of cardboard and, to tickle the audience, over-sized. The pencil, Maeda's phone, the laptop, the elephant in the Bollywood-style finale — they're all the size of Buicks.

RISD doesn't have a theater program, but that could change now. "It's been a very pleasant blast,'' says Kim, also co-director. About 60 students are involved in the event, which features Broadway, Disney, and pop tunes with lyrics penned by students, including Jessica Daly. The suggested ticket price is $10 and proceeds benefit quake-stricken Haiti. Posters by RISD student Alan Finch are already up.

Maeda is in good company. The Brit and resident intellectual Gareth Jones and the painter Victor Lara get a nod, as well as Leslie Hirst of four-leaf clover fame. To prevent hurt feelings and make sure everyone in the cast graduates, a few English professors read the script and gave it the thumbs-up.

Emily Lin, a graphic design student, is making her first stage appearance. She plays a perky Orientation Leader, who teaches wide-eyed freshmen gathered in a circle how to pass around a mystical ball and shout "WAH!," a game incoming RISD students actually play.

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