Magevet, Yale’s coed Jewish a cappella group, did its part to shame America’s latest white-collar crook on Sunday night with its spring jam, “Bernie Madoff: The Musical.”
Nothing unusual happened in the first moments of the show. The 17 members filed in, men donning tuxes and women wearing the strappy black dresses traditional for a cappella jams. Seniors and alumni stepped forward, and the approximately 80 audience members — parents, friends and prefrosh alike — applauded. During the first three songs, no one referenced the billed topic of the evening.
But after a few Hebrew tunes, one member of the group ran to the back of the room to shut off the lights as another member turned on a slide show titled “The Story of the Worst Homestay in Magevet History.” In the skit, Magavet transformed into actors, explaining how, after performing at a huge Fifth Avenue synagogue in New York, they had spent the night in a lavish apartment on the Upper East Side. The apartment belonged to the notorious couple Bernie and Ruth Madoff.
In their skit, the Bernie Madoff character, played by Daniel Olson ’12, lures Magevet into his apartment for a homestay, and convinces the group’s business manager, played by Yedidya Schwartz ’11, to hand over Magevet’s finances with the promise of sky-high returns. For the rest of the concert, the group continued to parody Madoff’s Ponzi scheme with a series of songs.
Once Madoff wins the manager’s trust, he breaks into a jubilant song, “If I Did a Ponzi,” set to the tune of “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” At the climax of the song, he sings “Lord who made the Nasdaq and the T/ Would you make me rich as clotted cream?/ Would you wreck my family’s special dream/ If I did a Ponzi Scheme?!”
As Madoff’s plan moves closer to completion, the group sings an updated version of the “Les Misérables” song “One Day More.” In reference to the FBI’s discovery of the fraud, the Madoff character sings “Tomorrow I’ll discover what the FBI can do./ One more scam. One more plot. One day more!”
The musical ends with Madoff’s imprisonment. The song “A Whole New World” — a reworded version of the song from “Aladdin” — mocked the special treatment white-collar criminals receive in jail. The lyrics included references to Martha Stewart and Ken Lay, horseback riding and golf, calling prison “summer camp with no parole.”
Between scenes, Magevet returned to its repertoire of Israeli and Jewish songs. The audience erupted in laughter each time Madoff returned.
Rebecca Linfield ’11 said the Madoff theme was “hilarious and really timely.” Another audience member, Shira Telushkin, a prefrosh from New York City, said Madoff’s fall is “definitely something that affected the [Jewish] community.”
But Rachel Butler ’09, a member of Magevet, said her father criticized the topic: “My dad thought it was too soon.”
The choice to parody Madoff was a group decision. To choose the theme for the annual spring jam, the members of the a cappella group put ideas into a hat and draw them out to discuss them individually. Schwartz said multiple members of the group had written “Bernie Madoff.”
David Frommer ’04, one of 10 Magevet alumni who returned to New Haven for the spring jam, approved of the group’s choice.
“If any a cappella group were to make Madoff the theme of their skit, I am glad it was this one,” he said.
Members of Magevet wrote “Bernie Madoff: The Musical” exclusively for their spring jam. They did not announce any future performances of the skit.