Students steal the spotlight at Rebel Variety Show

Rebel Homecoming Royalty make an appearance on stage. Photo by Madeline Derivet.

Rebel Variety Show helped kick off Homecoming week at UNLV on Tuesday. With a turnout of nearly 200 people, the annual showcase allowed students to compete as solo or team acts. 

Host Jason DeMaria said the featured talents “put the name into the Rebel Variety Show and encompass everything we are at UNLV by being different, daring and diverse.” 

The Rebel Events Board opened registration for Variety Show on Sept. 4 via Instagram. Auditions took place on Sept. 28–29. From there, a pool of performers were handpicked to hit the stage.

Rehearsals for teams started as early as the beginning of October, and both team and solo performances were allotted two five-hour-long practice sessions a couple days prior to the show. The performers also had a chance to rehearse one hour at a time individually on the day of the show.

“It just takes a lot of effort and a lot of teamwork on everybody’s part,” DeMaria said.

He said that the first goal of participating in Variety Show is to be comfortable in front of an audience. For some of the acts, Tuesday’s event was their first performance for a live audience. Others were familiar faces from Open Mic Night, which occurred on Sept. 29 in the Pida Plaza.

The second goal is more obvious: to win. DeMaria said that while winning is not the most important aspect of Variety Show, the performers aim to stand out among the crowd by giving it their all.

Michael Moore was the only martial artist to make an appearance at Variety Show. He found out about the event through Rebel Preview and auditioned for the fun of it. 

Moore initially thought that Variety Show extended an open invite to all students, until he made it to the elimination round. Still, he moved forward in stride and chose to stick with his performance. Moore’s specialty is kung fu, or wushu, a Chinese martial art. 

“For tonight, I mainly just built a routine that is fun and comfortable for myself, and tried to make it fit in the music,” he said. Moore’s advice to students who want to perform is to “just go for it, especially if you’re uncomfortable.” 

He values the experience gained from building up an audience slowly and encourages performing in front of a friend or two before working up to a crowd of strangers. 

Moore wants to start a kung fu club on campus, and would like to see it compete in collegiate-level events. He is already getting ideas about what type of competition his club might be up against by judging at other martial arts events. Readers can stay updated on Moore’s journey by following him @effrrtless_wushu on Instagram.

Variety Show also presented a special non-competing performance. Lester Cruz, winner of UNLV’s Got Talent, was the final act of the evening and wowed spectators with his Rubik’s Cube magic.

“I just wanted to showcase this funny little talent that I have and started because I was a shy kid in high school,” Cruz said. “[I used it to] try to break the ice and make new friends.”

Cruz appeared to make at least two new friends while on stage at Variety Show by inviting audience members to participate in his performance. The first volunteer found the torn piece of a playing card, which Cruz ate as part of his routine, inside of a Rubik’s Cube she was holding. The second volunteer twisted a randomized pattern onto a Rubik’s Cube, and it was revealed to match a separate Rubik’s Cube that had been sitting on a table behind him all along.

Cruz said that he prepares for events by writing all of the magic tricks he knows onto a blank sheet of paper. For bigger performances such as Variety Show, he tries to learn new tricks. He revealed that his grand finale performance was mastered just the night before the show.

“Don’t let the nerves get to you,” Cruz said. “I was very nervous coming up here even though I’ve performed dozens of times. Right when I got on that stage, the nerves went away. So just let it flow through you, and you’ll do great things.”

In the future, Cruz plans to keep entertaining and making people smile because it is what he loves to do. He mentioned the possibility of landing a magic show someday down the line. Those looking to keep tabs on his talent can find him @leastercruz100 on Instagram.

Expanding Variety Show means relocating, DeMaria said. “We had a huge crowd. If we could expand it, we would have to have a completely different room because we almost had all the seats filled in [the Ballroom].” 

He expects even larger crowds at Variety Show in the coming years. He anticipates the event eventually being held in the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall.

DeMaria would like to see more group organizations take part in Variety Show. He noted that of the 35 organizations on campus, only a few engaged in the show. 

“It is open to anyone and everyone,” he said. 

This year’s individual competition winner was singer Ezekiel Tomas. The team competition winner was an Elvis-esque group titled The Hound Dogs.


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