Saturday, April 26, 2008

A cappella. Now in HD.

Folkis, I'm headed out of town. I'll be back in New York (and back on the blog) on Thursday.

In the meantime, I'm leaving you with an assignment. Are you listening to Joey C's podcast, A Cappella U? The one about all things collegiate a cappella? If not, you should be. It's more than a podcast. It's an a cappella super show. And now he's shooting a cappella videos in HD. Dude is a machine.

Click here to check it out.

The Jonas it a cappella!

Here's the Jonas Brothers singing their hit single, "SOS," a cappella. Verdict? It sounds empty!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carlton Banks would be proud.

It's fitting that the Hullabahoos 20th anniversary show was on the same night as the dance-happy ICCA finals.

Here, in a skit from the 'Bhoos show, the boys from UVA mock choreography in collegiate a cappella.

PS—I was wrong. A cappella skits can be funny.

Bubs on cable access.

The Bubs were interviewed on Tufts's answer to Access Hollywood. Check it out here:

Star Jones will sing a cappella for $50,000.

Star Jones, late of The View, is getting divorced, she announced today. It seemed like a good time to see if she had an a cappella past.

Alas, she doesn't. Though she would, however, sing a cappella at your next brunch...for $50,000!

It's all here in this interview from Radar, re-printed at dlisted.

Read it and weep.

Hillary Wins in Pennsylvania!

But can she carry a tune?

Here, a mic catches her singing the national anthem. What do you think? The polls are still open!

Monday, April 21, 2008


Julia Hoffman—administrator of the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards and former director of the Stanford Harmonics—was one of five judges working the ICCAs this past weekend. Here, in an uncensored interview with the Pitch Perfect blog, she reveals what went on backstage, the state of the competition, and jazz hands.

(By the way, click here for my recap of the finals.)

So, did the judges agree on a clear winner?

There was no discussion. We all put the SoCal VoCals first. They were head and shoulders above everybody else. That second song, “All the Things You Are”—the tuning was impeccable. The judges did, however, disagree on second and third place. Some put the N’Harmonics second. I put them third.

Did the N’Harmonics lose points for not embracing choreography? The rest of the night felt a bit Dancing With the Stars to me. Jazz hands!

I’m not a big show choir fan. But at the CARAs and the ICCAs we get a lot of lackluster musical arrangements. If you have to spin someone around to make the music seem interesting, then I guess that’s what you have to do. The SoCal VoCals choreography—two of the judges said it was cheesy. They much preferred All-Night Yahtzee’s choreography, which was less dramatic. Or melodramatic maybe. For me, the problem with the N’Harmonics wasn’t the lack of choreography. But their director was conducting in a pretty grand way. And the group was looking to her for the whole performance. As an audience member my gaze is following their gaze. Their musicality was great, though. The group that got shafted, I think, was Oxford Out of the Blue. I wouldn’t have given them first place, but they didn’t get talked about at all.

There seems to be a formula to winning at the ICCAs, and it includes shameless choreography, a classical tune—you know, to show range!—and a crowd pleaser from the 70s. But there’s a byproduct to all this. The a cappella groups at the ICCA finals were largely indistinguishable from each other. What happened to personality?

The ICCAs is a self-selecting crowd. There are groups—the Bubs, Off the Beat—that are never going to compete, and will never regress towards that mean. They have no interest in that. That’s not their deal. Is it a shame that there seems to be a winning formula? Yes. That’s unfortunate. The N’Harmonics are good example, though, of doing something different. They almost got there without the theatrics. But Purple Haze—they had no choreography. And I was so bored watching them. And Ithacapella? What was going on there? I didn’t get that at all.


[laughing] I put my e-mail address on the score sheets right next to my comments. I’m not trying to hide.

At times the competition felt like a recital. The groups appeared on stage. They sang their 12-minute sets. And they disappeared. They barely looked at the audience, let alone interacted with them.

I know. It’s awkward. Some of that should be mitigated by an emcee explaining to the audience that, you know, there’s a time limit, and these are the rules, and this is the nature of the competition. As an audience member, you have to know what you’re in for. It’s not an a cappella show. It’s more rigid than that.

Shouldn’t entertainment be part of the judge’s criteria?

The ICCAs is still maturing and coming into its own. The competition is infinitely better than it was a few years ago when I was competing. You have to be grateful for the small things. We don’t hear Tori Amos anymore. We don’t hear the Indigo Girls. I think your point is well taken. I don’t want to say what these groups do is not art, because it is. It’s unbelievable what these groups can do. But it’s that it’s so processed. It’s almost pasteurized art at this point. They work so hard on their sets. There’s very little genuine affect that comes through. That would be my one complaint. I want to see people making music and enjoying the process and being human. In the solo, I’m less interested in pitch. I come from the Bill Hare school of solos. Pitch is secondary to style for me.

I kept hoping for something surprising. Was there something that surprised you?

I was surprised that all six groups didn’t do “Somebody to Love.”

Collegiate a cappella groups do love their Queen. Last question: What’s up with having the ICCAs on the first night of Passover? With Alice Tully under renovation, was this the only Saturday available?

Everyone bitched about it. Four of the five judges are Jewish. Backstage I said, We’re four bad Jews and a Mormon!

Hard to Say Goodbye.

Warning: I'm suspending all snark for this post.

Over the weekend, the UVA Hullabahoos celebrated their 20th anniversary with a sold out concert at The Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville. Alums from both decades flew in, and even performed at the show. It was a massive undertaking, and a triumph for all involved.

But there was some sadness, too.

The Hullabahoos were founded in the late 80s, and for years they recorded with Paul and Lyn Brier who owned a local studio, Virginia Arts. Paul and Lyn were just good people. When, in 2002, the Hullabahoos won Best Male Collegiate Album from the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards for "Xerox Nation," the Briers threw the Hullabahoos a pool party. "It was a big step, not only for them, but for us," Paul told me in 2005. The party became a tradition, and a highlight of the year for the Briers, who so enjoyed the Hullabahoos.

The Briers would often keep in touch with members of the 'Bhoos long after graduation. "We go to their marriages," Lyn told me. "When they come to school, we're like surrogate parents. Or maybe their surrogate brother and sister, because they’re not ashamed at all to cuss around us. I have guys stop over here to cry on my shoulder."

The Briers retired not long after I met them. "It's time," Lyn said. They were off to Mexico. The Briers sold Virginia Arts to an alum of another UVA a cappella group, which Lyn felt good about. Lyn: "One of my friends said to me, Why are you so concerned about the business? Just move! Just sell it and go! I said, I can’t do that to our clients. I can’t. I wouldn’t be able to sleep with myself if I were hanging them out to dry."

Sadly, this past Saturday, hours before the Hullabahoos 20th anniversary show, Lyn lost a bout with lung cancer. She and her husband were supposed to be at the Paramount that night. I know they would have loved the concert.

I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Paul and Lyn three years ago. At one point, a brief scene from that meeting was in Pitch Perfect, as an introduction to the Hullabahoos, though it was cut in a later draft. Here's how that scene went:

Paul and Lyn Brier of Charlottesville, Virginia look like your favorite aunt and uncle. Paul, early 60s, wears a plaid, short-sleeved dress shirt and big glasses; Lyn’s got on a leopard-print top and a black comfy skirt.

The Briers have just retired—“We’re off to Mexico,” Paul says—but have a couple of hours on a fall afternoon to recall a life spent in music. Their recording studio, Virginia Arts, sits in a two-story house across from the Pick-n-Pack, complete with a porch swing made for a good book and a cold Arnold Palmer. Dave Matthews has recorded here. “Dave and I were taking a smoking break…” Paul says.

“Don’t tell that story,” Lyn interrupts.

This studio is a local institution. Dave’s drummer, Carter Beauford, was, years ago, the house percussionist. And John Grisham recently recorded a book-on-tape here, too.

Past the screen door, behind the desk where Lyn handled the books, some forty CD covers hang on the wall. “That’s our a cappella wall,” Lyn says. The University of Virginia Hullabahoos have been recording with the Briers since they formed in 1988. Though, truth be told, Paul isn’t really happy with the most recent recordings. He’s part of the old guard—an a cappella purist. There’s been a shift, he says, not just with the Hullabahoos but in all of collegiate a cappella. (Paul has recorded groups from James Madison University, Emory, and others.) “The albums are overproduced!” Paul says. How so? Well, for one thing, take the synthesized rain on the Hullabahoos’ version of Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River.” “If you can’t sing it on stage how it sounds on the record,” he says, “Then it’s not true a cappella.”

Still, the Briers are so fond of the Hullabahoos that they named their Shit-zu after the group. That little cloud at your feet? "Meet Bahoo!" Lyn says.

The Hullabahoos may be UVA’s most popular all-male a cappella group, though their act isn’t necessarily appropriate for all ages. “You wouldn’t want to put them in front of the Jefferson Area Board for the Aging,” Paul says.

How are they in the studio, I ask.

“When they make a mistake," Lyn says, "they take their pants off!”

Still, she loves these boys. And she's not alone. “The concerts,” Lyn admits, “it’s pandaemonium.”

“It’s like AC/DC,” Paul adds.

At the Hullabahoos 20th anniversary show this past weekend, the group paid tribute to Lyn Brier, singing "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday." Here's that performance:

Trojan. For your pleasure.

I'm still tracking down the video of the SoCal Vocals performance on NBC's Today. In the meantime, click here for the USC Daily Trojan report on the ICCA Finals.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The ICCA Finals: Now with jazz hands!

So, the finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella were last night at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. Before I comment, a quick shout out to Amanda Grish, who ran the event—a massive undertaking. The evening ran smoothly, quickly, and smartly. And she barely broke a sweat. In flip flops. Nice work.

That said, um, did anyone have fun? I'm not sure the ICCA finals is about fun, or the crowd, for that matter. It's about jazz hands!

The grand prize went to the USC SoCal Vocals (more on that soon). But I had more fun watching the four high school groups that competed first. Here's why: They were the only groups to show much personality.

A special round of applause for the all-male DeKalb High School Fly Check, and Cherry Hill High School West's Men of Note.

The kids from DeKalb wore tan corduroy blazers. One kid came out first, rearranged the mics on stage, then told the audience his friends sent him out first because he was the best looking. That's funny! Then he went into an explanation of why the group is called Fly Check. Funny! (I don't need to repeat that here, do I? You get it, right?) According to the program, Fly Check has been recognized by the Illinois State Legislature. I wish I could have seen them explain their name to paper-pushing bureaucrats. The kids were having fun up there, smiling and interacting with the audience. It was the rare performance that didn't exist in a vacuum. It was a concert!

A sad thing happened during their program, though: The official time keeper held up his yellow card and then his red card before they'd even performed their final song, "Accidentally In Love." I'm guessing Fly Check lost points for running over the 12-minute time limit. I just hope the other kids aren't mad at the student who ran the clock by running his mouth. It was the one moment of humor all night. They should be proud. Who cares about the trophy? You sang at Lincoln Center! You made people laugh!

Cherry Hill's Men of Note was similarly chillaxing on stage. They took the top prize for the high school groups, and with good reason.

On to the college competition.

The USC SoCal Vocals (who took the title) showed incredible range, and were one of the few groups to demonstrate an understanding of dynamics. Also, when their chords lock, they sound like a synthesizer, which is unreal. Now, I'm sure this will inspire some disagreement (especially since the SoCal Vocals are performing on NBC's "Today Show" as I type this.) But collegiate a cappella (at least the kind celebrated by the ICCAs) is becoming show choir. Which is fine. But it's not all there is to a cappella.

The SoCal Vocals had standout soloists. And they managed to make Queen's "Somebody to Love" sound fresh just 10 minutes after another group performed the same song. (Footnote: I'm surprised the duplication only happened once. A Cappella groups should be banned from singing the following songs in competition, or anywhere else: Coldplay's "Fix You," Michael Buble's "Feeling Good," Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," and anything by Queen.) But if you sing as beautifully as the SoCal Vocals do, why do you need to do the cha-cha, too? Their choreography was, at times, distracting and took away from the music—which is what a cappella is all about.

I was hoping (but not expecting) that NYU's N'Harmonics would take the title—because they were different. Alas, they were a distant third, behind Florida State's All-Night Yahtzee. The N'Harmonics wore black, which is to say they looked like they belonged at Lincoln Center. They were the only group on-stage where the men wore skinny ties and mod blazers. They also sang. Beautifully. With very little choreogaphy. Their repertoire was surprising. (Was that Sam Cooke?) They took the top arrangement award for Radiohead's "High and Dry." The performance was minimalist at points (which is strange for a cappella). But they were never going to win. Their brand of a cappella wouldn't play well on the "Today Show." No jazz hands.

Harshing on the ICCAs has become something of a cliche. It's sort of like critizing the Oscar host the morning after. The ICCAs is what it is—a celebration of a certain standard. I just hope people realize that the ICCAs is just one aspect of collegiate a cappella. I traveled to a lot of schools while reporting "Pitch Perfect," and not everyone is embracing choreography. I'd say the majority of collegiate a cappella groups actually are skipping it entirely. The best performance I saw all year was the UVA Hullabahoos singing U2's "One." Because it made you feel something. There was no theatrics to it—except vocal theatrics. And it would have been entirely out of place at the ICCAs. (The Hullabahoos celebrated their 20th anniversary last night at Charlottesville's Paramount Theater, to a sold out 1,000-person crowd. Nice work.)

The ICCA judges have scoring sheets to mark intonation, and choreography, and a host of other categories. This is worthwhile, because this should be a learning experience. The judges are also adjudicators. But I'm suggesting the ICCAs institute an audience award, much like the Sundance Film Festival. The film that wins there is generally about heart. It's the film you'd want to see again. The film you'd recommend to a friend. Maybe the dynamics aren't as thrilling and the structure not as sound, but isn't it nice to celebrate an aesthetic other than polished perfection? To celebrate something surprising? It might encourage groups to talk to the crowd. To do more than hit their marks.

By the way, commence shameless plug: Pitch Perfect will cover the surprising history of the ICCAs in-depth. Check it out May 29th. It will surprise you.

Congratulations again to everyone who participated in the ICCA tournament. Here's the SoCal Vocals singing "Somebody to Love." Complete with choreographed emoting!

Friday, April 18, 2008

That's me. In front of the giant poster.

The finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella are tomorrow night at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. I'll be in the lobby sitting in front of a blow-up poster of the "Pitch Perfect" book cover. (See right.) Please come and say hello!

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I like to keep the self-promotion to a minimum in this space. (The righthand bar, however, is all about self-promotion.) ANYWHO...

I wanted to give a shout out to the fine folks at who selected "Pitch Perfect" for their summer reading list. We're honored!

Click here to see their non-fiction picks for Summer 2008, which also include Barbara Walters's memoir and the latest from Thomas L. Friedman.

And scene.

The a cappella trial of the century ends before it begins.

Click here to read about the ruling.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A kiss and a beer.

That's what (in part) led to the Yale beating on New Year's Eve.

Read about day two of the hearing here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

There Will Be Chords.

The finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella are this Saturday night at Avery Fisher Hall in Manhattan.

The competitors:

Out of the Blue, Oxford University
All-Night Yahtzee, Florida State University
SoCal VoCals, University of Southern California
N'Harmonics, New York University
Ithacappella, Ithaca College
Purple Haze, Northwestern University

A funny story about Purple Haze—the first group from Northwestern, by the way, to ever make it to the finals of the ICCAs. Freddie Feldman (now co-owner of acaTunes and inventor of the Thumper microphone) was one of the original members of Purple Haze, founded in 1996.

But before that, in 1992, he'd started an a cappella group on campus called Five O'Clock Shadow. He held auditions. He even printed up merchandise with that name. The group kicked around for a few years. Until Feldman got a cease and desist letter delivered to his dorm from a guy named Mike Mendyke, who was then singing with a professional a cappella group also called Five O'Clock Shadow. The letter suggested that listeners everywhere would be confused by two distinct a cappella groups both named Five O'Clock Shadow, and Mendyke even threatened legal action.

A cease and desist letter? Really?

Feldman caved. NU's FOCS folded. And Feldman joined the just-launching Purple Haze.

PS—The story has a happy ending. All these years later, Feldman and Mendyke are not just friends, but business partners in acaTunes. Welcome to the bizarre world of a cappella!

Here's a clip from Purple Haze's 10th anniversary concert in 2006:

Tickets are still available for the ICCA finals. Click here for info.

It begins.

Shortly after midnight on December 31, 2006, several members of the Baker's Dozen, an a cappella group from Yale, were jumped outside a San Francisco New Year's Eve party. (Click here for a recap.)

Now, 15 months later, a San Francisco judge will hear testimony to decide if there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial. The proceedings continue this week.

Click here to read the San Francisco Chronicle's report from day one in court.

Monday, April 14, 2008

'US News and World Report' never checked this statistic.

According to recent stats, Cornell has the highest acceptance rates in the Ivy League. (Click here to read the story.) For the incoming freshmen, the Class of 2012 (yup, you're old), Cornell granted admission to 20.4 percent of applicants.

Yes, Cornell may be the easiest Ivy to get into, but it may just be the hardest to sing at!

At last count, the university was closing in on 20 undergraduate a cappella groups. If each group has 15 members, that's 300 undergrad a cappella singers.

In all, there are 12,000 undergrads at Cornell. Translation: 2.5% of the student body sings in an a cappella group.

Now, let's take Yale. The venerable institution accepts just 10% of its applicant pool.

But, Yale has 5,000 undergraduate students. And something like 17 a cappella groups. Translation: 5.1% of the student body sings in an a cappella group.

Of course this doesn't take into account the quality of these groups, or how competitive the auditions are (which depends on variables like the number of students turning up). But as a Cornell alum, I will sleep better tonight.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The skit hits the fan.

Readers of this site are likely familiar with the annual Best of College A Cappella compilation (BOCA)—the "Now That's What I Call Music" franchise of collegiate a cappella.

Less well known: In the late 90s there was a BOCA spinoff, "BOCA Humor: Wasting our parents' money." It was intermittently funny, featuring tracks like "Walk of Shame" from the Connecticut College Williams Street Mix. But the compilation didn't catch on, and BOCA Humor was left for dead.

Still, a cappella groups haven't ceased being funny, or at least trying to be funny. When I sang with Cayuga's Waiters at Cornell, we shot a 12-minute film for Spring Fever 2000. I say film because we actually shot it on film, with the help of a young wannabe director on campus. (This was before you could make a high quality movie with your cell phone. And, if I'm being totally honest, before most of us even had cell phones.)

I remember standing backstage the night of the concert, listening to the audience as the film unspooled. I'm sad to say that the laughs were few and far between. Or maybe I'm not sad, really, because we had fun making the thing. I mean, we shot a film! And we thought it was funny.

Which begs the question: What is the audience for an a cappella skit? The group itself? The fans? Both? And is there more to aca humor than merely name-checking the on-campus dining hall, which for some reason always gets a laugh?

Herein, a random sample of a cappella skits. You decide.

1. The Binghatmonics (famous alum: Ingrid Michaelson!) and the spring '08 skit:

2. Penn Masala's Facebook Skit of 2007:

3. The UVA Hullabahoos in "Worst Skit Ideas Ever." (They said it, not me!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

TLC is getting into the music business.

TLC is launching a new singing competition, hosted by Scary Spice and Joey Fatone. The twist? According to the Associated Press, this show pits "different groups of employees against each other." (Click here for more info.)

I don't think our office is up for it. But I know one Office that might be...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Debra Messing? Not so much.

The Tufts Amalgamates may have gotten it wrong with Jessica Biel. (See post here.) But Company B at Brandeis...maybe they were right to ignore a young Debra Messing.

The evidence:

Jessica Biel sings.

And the verdict? She's pretty good!

As an undergraduate at Tufts, Biel was famously rejected from the co-ed Tufts Amalgamates (click here) though we think she got the last laugh. (She's also in good company. Debra Messing was rejected from a Brandeis a cappella group. Brooke Shields got the no-go from the Princeton Katzenjammers.)

Thanks to this clip from 2003's Texas Chain Saw Massacre, we can imagine what Biel's audition might have sounded like:

Anyone from the Amalgamates care to sound off on Biel's actual audition? You know where to find us.

American Idle.

Am I the only one who thinks the talent pool on American Idol is a little weak?

In the year I spent reporting Pitch Perfect, I traveled to colleges across the country. And, yes, I was subjected to some lackluster collegiate a cappella—the kind that makes headlines, apparently. Last year, the snarky blog IvyGate conducted a search for the worst a cappella group in the Ivy League, ultimately crowning the UPENN Chord on Blues the winner. (Link here.) I saw the Chords perform live. Bless their hearts, but I have to say, the IvyGate readers may have gotten it right. Not that it matters. Those Chord on Blues were having more fun on stage that just about any group I saw all year. Which is really the point, isn't it?


Every once in awhile you come across a couple of collegiate a cappella singers who would embarrass David Archuleta and the kids from American Idol. Yeah. I said it.

And so: American Idle will become a running rubric here on the blog. In this corner we'll pit Idol performances against a cappella groups singing the same songs. In this first edition, we present American Idol Elliott Yamin and Mary J. Blige singing U2's "One" vs. the UVA Hullabahoos featuring Patrick Lundquist and Brendon Mason. Feel free to judge for yourself. Though, with all due respect—one love, Mary J—you know which one we prefer.

Did we get it wrong? E-mail the site and let us know.

(PS--I copied the Idle graphic above from a blog called Sportspastor. I have no idea where they got it from, but it saved me some photoshop time, which I appreciate.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Singing Senators: Behind the Music!

Senators Trent Lott, John Ashcroft, Larry Craig and Jim Jeffords used to sing in a barbershop quartet called the Singing Senators. Until tragedy tore them apart. Kidding! (Sort of.)

Chris Matthews investigates the downfall of the Senate's man band.

The Whitest A Cappella U Know

Here's the Williams College Ephlats singing Rihanna's "Umbrella."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

'Vanity Fair' loves an a cappella pun, too.

Click on the photo to enlarge. From the May 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, on stands now.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tone Rangers: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

Yesterday we talked about the original (and unseen) a cappella ending to The Break-Up. For your viewing pleasure, here it is.

Click here for the original post.

PS—A shout out to one of our readers, someone calling herself Third Coast Toast, for submitting the link.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Tone Rangers: Redux

You’ve likely seen this clip from The Break-Up, in which Vince Vaughn gets his ass kicked by the Tone Rangers. Funny stuff. Guess what: There’s more of it. But not in the film.

You see that guy in the yellow shirt? With the day-old scruff? That’s Eric Bradley. I called him for details.

First, the clip:

A brief bio: As an undergrad at the University of Miami, Eric Bradley joined the music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha. And then he started an a cappella group, Phive Men A Cappella. Get it? Phi Mu Alpha. And there were five of them!

After a stint in Chicago singing bass with Blind Man’s Bluff (a pro a cappella group), Eric Bradley moved to Los Angeles and quickly found work as a studio singer and a voiceover artist. (He can be heard on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer videogame.) He also sang in a West Coast group called Sixth Wave.

Meanwhile, The Break-Up was shooting in Chicago. The movie had a decent budget and the producers recruited a handful of local singers to pose as the Tone Rangers, led by Jennifer Aniston’s on-screen brother, John Michael Higgins. But if there was a decent bass in the Windy City, the producers couldn’t find one.

Higgins (who sang in a collegiate cappella group at Amherst called the Zumbyes) was an a cappella fanatic, and remembered seeing Eric Bradley perform with Sixth Wave. He recommended the producers track the kid down. Which they did. And suddenly Eric Bradley was on a plane to Chicago. He worked 12 days. He pocketed some nice cash. And he flew home.

In the summer of 2006, lo and behold, an invitation arrives in the mail. Eric Bradley is the only Tone Ranger (save for Michael Higgins) living out in Los Angeles and so he’s been invited to the big Hollywood premiere. He and his wife get dressed up. They do the red carpet. Even better, Jennifer Aniston remembers him! Ok, not by name. But she said, 'Hey, Tone Ranger!' and was gracious enough to meet Bradley’s wife.

Bradley and his wife take their seats in the theater and the lights go down. The crowd is loving the Tone Rangers, by the way. And then the Tone Rangers disappear. What happened? They were, in short, a casualty of the Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn coupling.

In the original script, Vince and Jen didn’t wind up together. Instead, they ran into each other at a huge carnival, each with their new significant other. The big joke was that Vince’s new girlfriend looked a lot like Jen, and her new boyfriend had the shlubby appeal of Vince Vaughn. The two smile, knowingly. And the camera pans to the carnival stage where the Tone Rangers sing “The Rainbow Connection” complete with choreography and sequins. It was a massive production. They’d shot the scene in Chicago’s Grant Park with 1,000 extras.

But, apparently, that ending didn’t test well. The pubic wanted Vaughniston! Which is what they got, along with a brand new, a cappella-free ending for The Break-Up. The big Tone Rangers finale wound up on the cutting room floor. Most of it, anyway. The audio from “The Rainbow Connection” still plays over the closing credits.

Eric Bradley was able to laugh about it. This was, afterall, just one of his media hits. He’d made an appearance on an episode of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, as a member of the a cappella group, The Shagarats. (The episode is called “The Slutty Pumpkin” and the Shagarats entertain at a rooftop Halloween party, singing “Is She Really Going Out With Him.”)

If you want to see the original ending of The Break-Up, he says, check out the DVD. There's also a Tone Rangers making-of featurette. Now, any chance of a Tone Rangers reunion?

“Maybe they’ll have a sequel,” Eric says. “The Make-Up.” Stranger things have happened.

Do you have a story like this? E-mail me at

Krok 'n' Awe: Act Two

As promised, here's the second half of Larry O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin's script from the Harvard Krokodiloes reunion at Carnegie's Zankel Hall in early March.

(If you're late to the game, or just want a refresher, click here to read the first half of the script.)


LARRY: Welcome back. Many of you are probably wondering about the history of a cappella music. We were too, so at intermission Nell and I went on the InterWeb and did some research.

NELL: It’s all true! We got it off the Wikipedia. That’s where you do research now! Seriously! Libraries aren’t used for books anymore. They’re used for JDate parties.

LARRY: (alarmed) Honey… we can’t make that joke.

NELL: Why?

LARRY: We’re not J-ish.

NELL: (shrugging) Anyway: here’s what the Wikipedians told us. We know it’s true! They check this stuff!

LARRY: (reading from notes:) “One thousand years ago, Harvard was founded by Godric Griffindor.”

NELL: (reading from notes:) “Meanwhile, over at Yale, a young black man named Cole Porter leapt from his bathtub and ran down the street shouting "Eureka!" He had discovered music.”

LARRY: “And invented the bathtub! Then the earth cooled and Princeton was formed.”

NELL: “The first Harvard a capella group, the Krokodiloes, was founded when a group of young men got together in the spirit of friendship and a love of music and got so drunk they lost their instruments.”

LARRY: “The first Princeton a capella group, the Tigertones, was licked into being by the great Norse ice cow, Audhumbla.”

NELL: Ahh. Everybody loves a good Audhumbla joke. “Meanwhile, over at Yale, a young black man named Cole Porter locked himself in the Chamber of Secrets. Never to come out again.

“Yale's first a capella group was formed, but they had no place to practice, for there was no room for them at the inn.”

LARRY: So they sang in the streets of New Haven until a passing Cockney man yelled "Oi! Get out o’ the bloody street ye whiffin' poofs!"

NELL: And that's how they got their name. (to audience:)…Oh come on. You think that’s the worst joke we can make about the Whiffenpoofs? Okay I got one: “Three Whiffenpoofs walk into a whorehouse…”

LARRY: OOOOKAY thank you. Ladies and gentlemen! Thank you so much! And now The pride of Gryffindor:

NELL AND LARRY: The incomparable Harvard Krokodiloes!