"Going On!" is a pleasantly bland piece of song-and-dance collegiana from William Paterson College in Wayne, N.J. If you happened to catch it at William Paterson College -- let's say you had a friend or relation in the company, and you met him or her backstage afterwards -- you'd mutter something like, "Hey, that was fun. How've you been? Whatcha up to these days? You still planning to go to dental school? Have you got time for a beer?"
But if you happened to catch "Going On!" at the Kennedy Center this week, you'd be asking larger questions. You'd be asking how this show, which departed yesterday, came to be chosen as one of the eight outstanding productions (from 460 in all) of the 13th annual American College Theatre Festival, or how it came to be named the outstanding original play of the festival. Or you might be too befuddled to ask.
Performed by a large and enthusiastic company of students, "Going on!" is scarcely a play at all. It is a musical-comedy revue of life at "an Eastern college," with song titles like "Registration," "King of the Jocks," "Biology," "Just a College Love" and "Tests." It follows a representative slice of undergraduate humanity through four years of institutional and personal stress.
Writer/composer Glenn Treibetz has contributed a few lively tunes and surprising comic notions, but they are seriously outnumbered by lame tunes and tired comic notions. An unimaginative song called "Friends" -- which includes the line "I'm so glad that we could be good friends," set to music that reeks of "I'm so glad you came into my life" -- illustrates the show at its worst. But an insightful number called "Like My Mom" -- which includes the lines "I never want to turn out like my mom, not some suburban burnout like my mom" -- illustrates the show at its best.
Both the entertainment industry and the nature of talent are far too whimsical to predict whether any of the parties to "Going On!" have fruitful show-business careers ahead of them. But it is hard to believe that the American College Theatre Festival has done anyone a service by promoting those careers on the basis of this evidence.