By COURTNEY ZENG, freshman
The booming applause. The fluorescent stage lights. The colorful Hunger Games symbols. The crowd grew silent as seniors Amber Zafar and Harini Mekala, hosting as Effie Trinket and Caesar Flickerman, respectively, announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, let Mr. JPS begin!”
On February 28, students and parents turned their attention to the brightly lit stage and watched in anticipation of the crazy yet amusing antics expected of the 22nd annual Mr. JPS. After senior Sruthi Nanduri sang the national anthem, the show opened with a Hunger Games-themed video introducing the twelve “tributes” and their many talents, from performing martial arts to eating fast food. Although all the tributes managed to make the audience laugh in their introductory chants, only one of them could be crowned district hero, champion of Panem, and the true Mr. JPS. The tributes performed their traditional group dance as they spun in circles and knocked each other down to tunes such as “Roar” by Katy Perry and “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
The audience’s laughter continued as each contestant strutted on stage wearing a costume related to the month he represented. Jong Lee, Mr. January, did push-ups to represent a New Year’s resolution, and Kevin Zheng, Mr. June, wore a green graduation gown to show his love for JP.
The show progressed into the swimwear round as Stephen Susan posed in neon shorts with his GoPro camera, while Abishek Sheshasayee flaunted his grass skirt and ukulele. Afterward, to the audience’s amusement, the twelve manly tributes appeared with stuffed teddy bears, fuzzy slippers, and pajamas for the sleepwear event. Raymond Mallia-Nunez was dressed in a brown flying squirrel onesie, and Bryan Lin cleverly brought a plush car and his sleeping bag with a highway lane design to demonstrate how he sleeps on the road.
Then it was time for each contestant to shine in the talent event. It commenced with Jong Lee, Mr. January, hopping on stage in red socks with three other “Santa’s Little Helpers.” They boogied to “Jingle Bell Rock” and performed the can-can to “It’s Raining Men” by Geri Halliwell.
Following this, Sridhar Sriram, Mr. February, started to play his viola, but his friends advised him to show off his skills as the varsity soccer goalie. After he blocked a series of shots, Sridhar was challenged to continue while blindfolded, eliciting gasps and applause from the audience.
Stephen Susan, Mr. March, also known as the “Rap Monster,” expressed his love of fast food in his parody of “Baby Got Back” as his backup dancers showered him in paper money. The audience chortled as he rapped, “That burger gotta have a bun…those fries gotta be on the side.”
“Girls get ready to love them, and boys get ready to hate them!” the hostesses shouted as Raymond Mallia-Nunez, Mr. April, ran out with his band, Boy 5. As the audience clapped along, they sang and rapped to a medley of songs from the last four decades, including the classic “ABC” by the Jackson 5 and recent hit “Best Song Ever” by One Direction.
Brian Ho, Mr. May, demonstrated his skills in “Kung Fu Fighting” when he appeared to slice an opponent in half. In reality, a person dressed in all black held the pants of the victim, so that when the person moved them, the victim’s body appeared to be cut off. The audience stared in awe at his incredible moves and strength, especially when he karate-kicked someone and seemed to send him flying in midair.
After a short Hunger Games trivia round, Kevin Zheng, Mr. June, performed a parody of “Let It Go,” showing JP pride as he elicited laughter with the phrases “in math class I always caught up on sleep” and “the traffic never bothered me anyway.” Kevin remarked, “I was listening to ‘Let It Go’ a week before the show, and decided that I should make a parody. I thought of some funny things from JP that I encountered and made it into a song that would hopefully get the crowd laughing!”
Chris Ricigliano, Mr. July, demonstrated his boxing training in a playful video, which included him beating up Mr. Boufford, his AP U.S. Government teacher, and Ms. Pawlikowski. By singing a rendition of “Eye of the Tiger,” Chris demonstrated his willpower to train hard and subsequently won in an on stage boxing match against senior Calvin Deng.
Brendan Wu, Mr. August, showcased his guitar expertise as he sentimentally sang “Daughters” by John Mayer, accompanied by senior Tommy Pan on the piano. While Brendan appeared confident on stage, he later admitted, “I was sitting and waiting there for fifteen minutes, so I was actually pretty nervous.” However, after he was greeted by resounding cheers from the audience, Brendan realized that “[he] had nothing to be afraid of” with such a supportive audience.
Chola Kondeti, Mr. September, opened his performance with a humorous video of himself pointing a dagger carved from chocolate at Ms. Nixon, only to discover that it melted in his hand. He continued with an amusing conversation with senior Iris Wong about wigs and tight t-shirts.
Abishek Seshasayee, Mr. October, opened with a video of himself considering solving the Rubik’s Cube for Mr. JPS, but later deciding to form the dance team October’s Very Own (OVO). He and his four dancers performed the robot dance and swung their hips to pop songs like “Suit & Tie” by Justin Timberlake.
After the lights flipped back on, a gold ringlet belt jingled on Bryan Lin, Mr. November, as he played the trumpet to the tune of Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie.” He commented, “When I first came into high school as a freshman, I was kind of awkward, but Dean [Mr. DeNicola] helped me develop as a trumpet player and gain my confidence.”
Once the contestants thanked their supporters, senior Jaashir Morris announced in a British accent that the winners of Mr. Muscles and Mr. Congeniality were Sridhar Sriram and Abishek Seshasayee, respectively.
Finally, the moment of truth. “And the winner of the 22nd Mr. JPS is…Chris Ricigliano!” As the crowd whooped and screamed, Chris proudly donned his green crown and commented, “I’m so speechless and excited. The rehearsals were tiring, but it paid off. I’ll always remember putting on a great show with eleven other great guys.”