Thirteen seniors seek Mr. Northwestern crown
People in the know say the success of any reality show hinges on three top ingredients: ego struggles, a gang of best friends and clichéd activities.
The annual Mr. Northwestern contest seems to fit the bill but the fun and camaraderie of the event makes it a reality show that is one of the most beloved traditions in the high school.
“A lot of things we do is to tradition,” said Lizzy Fornauf, student council president spearheading the event. “I’ve been in student council since my first year and I knew then I wanted to be with the guys to put on a great show that everyone will really enjoy.”
Members of the Class of 2017 vying for the title include Kyle Bellhorn, Brad Shafer, James Felch, Ryan Hippensteel, Alec Marchek, Jobair Hereba, Bryce Hurdle, Trevor Cunningham, Jonathan Blaine, Noah Seng DeLong, Anthony Vennera, Adam Lebrecht and Matt Freeman.
“The categories are the same but we make it our own,” Fornauf said. “They all start with the opening number, [followed by] three categories: casual wear, swim wear and formal. There’s a question and answer portion for the top five vote-getters and a closing number.”
Another category, loosely named “talent,” is also included.
“I’ll be wearing my confidence out on the stage and will be “performing the Humpty Dance with Jimmy Felch,” Hurdle said.
“[I’ll always remember] the fun I had being part of a great group of people.”
Hippensteel will be playing the recorder.
“It’s a chance to see senior boys do things people wouldn’t normally see us doing,” Hippensteel said.
“I will be singing a playful rendition of ‘Red Hooded Sweatshirt’ by Adam Sandler, accompanied by my trusty ukulele,” Blaine said.
Nearly all the 13 boys vying for this year’s title cited the same reason for participating in the contest.
“In the past couple of years, I saw how much fun the other seniors had doing it and now I wanted to have fun with my friends,” Felch said.
“Seeing every show since 2013 made me want to be a part of it,” Hereba agreed.
“I’ve helped with the show every year, and now it’s my turn to take the stage and make a fool out of myself,” Hippensteel said.
“Mr. Northwestern is kind of a culmination that honors the different activities of the school,” Lebrecht said. “It throws all different people together. I always thought it would be fun.”
“It’s a group of senior guys publicly embarrassing themselves,” said Freeman, who is looking forward to performing an interactive duet with Trevor Cunningham. “[I just want] to have a good time with my friends before we all go off to college.”
“Mr. Northwestern represents the legacy of being a senior class, everything we have built here and everything we’re leaving behind,” said Marchek. “It’s a very jovial event we can all laugh about and have a good time making a joke of ourselves.”
Seng DeLong said he always wanted to participate “in this perennial event that is part of the senior year” but that is not the only reason why he wanted to compete.
“Proceeds [from the ticket sales] are being split between the Krysta Hankee Foundation and our local cancer fighter, Wyatt Newhard,” explained Fornauf.
“It’s really for a great cause because every ticket sold in actuality is really giving back to the community in a meaningful way and there’s virtue in that,” said Seng DeLong. “I want to market the show and spread the word.”
Bellhorn said the event “has great comedic value.”
None of the guys would dispute that putting the show together is a lot of hard work.
That’s where the student council comes in.
“The senior girls that are in student council will be acting as emcees,” said Fornauf, who is also working with Katie Narkin, Joelle Laudenslager and Megan Rebert. “You’d be surprised what we’re teaching those boys.”
Narkin described the opening number as “a collage of songs varying from country to pop,” adding “I work with Liz on the closing number which is inspired by ‘High School Musical.’”
Choreographers Narkin and Laudenslager have their work cut out for them.
“In the beginning [the guys] don’t stop talking and discussing the dance among themselves,” said Laudenslager. “Then I start yelling. I do the yelling and Katie’s more nice. Megan is usually the one on one teacher.”
“They realize how much work this actually is,” said Laudenslager. “They said, ‘This is so much work. I don’t know how you do this.’”
“Once they understand what they’re doing, they get excited,” said Rebert, a veteran of dance classes, drama and cheerleading. “If the guys have questions I’m there.”
“Rehearsals have been a lot of fun,” Vennera said. “Everyone said they couldn’t do it, but we’ve come a long way. After practice, we all play floor hockey. [Lizzy] keeps us focused in a good way.”
“It’s so funny. It never gets old,” said Narkin, repressing a smile. “I actually feel they should travel the country and entertain people.”
In years to come, Hereba said he will remember “everything” about this event, especially “the way that all the boys came together and collaborated on this final show and even the sheer humiliation.”
“I will remember the humiliation I will be experiencing on stage,” joked Cunningham.
“But I plan to enjoy it and have fun with my friends.”
“It’s not only for the school, but also for the community,” Narkin said. “It’s a good representation of our class.”
“When we all come together for the show the seniors that are watching will say these are the kids we grew up with,” Laudenslager said.
“Our peers get to see us act like idiots on a daily basis, but now it’s on a stage with a snack,” joked Blaine. “I think there’s a snack…”
Despite the jokes, Mr. Northwestern is bringing the members of the class together.
“I personally learned new things about the guys,” Rebert said.
“They’re so much more than what you see on the surface.”
“Everyone gets the chance to show what talents they have,” Vennera said. “[For] homecoming court you get elected, but for this you get to pick and choose how you want to present yourself.”
Teachers Shay Wagner, Linda Paist and Lauren Elsenbaumer will be judging the event.
Eddie Parrish, last year’s winner will also be judging.
“I want to start a new tradition in bringing back the winner from the prior year,” Fornauf said.
“I feel like I’ve gained 13 brothers,” she added. “I wouldn’t want to be working with any other guys.”
Which one of the 13 will finally get to wear the Mr. Northwestern sash is anyone’s guess but laughter among friends is a virtual guarantee at the middle school at 7 p.m. May 5.
Tickets are $5 and $3 for ages 12 and under.