A night like no other

Boys, ballads, beauty pageants: A review of this year’s “Mr. Longhorn”

Sitting on fellow contestants’ shoulders, senior Christian Fleming celebrates his victory. Fleming was crowned “Mr. Longhorn” after a display of his occupation, talent and formal attire. “I really wasn’t [expecting to win]. I was just excited to come out on top. All the guys did phenomenally,” Fleming said.

Madi Michajliczenko

Sitting on fellow contestants’ shoulders, senior Christian Fleming celebrates his victory. Fleming was crowned “Mr. Longhorn” after a display of his occupation, talent and formal attire. “I really wasn’t [expecting to win]. I was just excited to come out on top. All the guys did phenomenally,” Fleming said.

Beams of blinding lights in hues of purple, pink and blues shine on the theater stage. The audience’s fervor bleeds into the atmosphere’s high energy, and as lively music blasts through the theater, the crowd roars. Then, standing underneath the bright spotlight, Principal John McCabe addresses the sold-out show and welcomes the contestants of “Mr. Longhorn” on the stage for an iconic Poms routine.

Except this wasn’t the Poms team. This performance was 22 senior boys who came together to put on a show — and put on a show they did. Not only did Mr. Longhorn sell out seats for the first time in four years, but the event helped raise over $2,000 for the CHADS Coalition, a St. Louis-based organization assisting young people struggling with mental illness. 

Featuring bold contestants, witty judges, announcers and crew members who worked rapidly to transition between contestant acts, Mr. Longhorn was an undeniable success. We commend the students and staff members who worked hard for months to create a spectacular event. Despite one technical issue during a glow stick dance, impressive lighting, props and sound effects helped make the show look polished. 

Our favorite occupation acts from “Mr. Longhorn.” (Graphic by Emily Early)

Despite the fun nature and excitement of the event, there were a couple of moments that left some audience members needing clarification — namely, the rating system. The script, which has been passed down from year to year, uses African-American Vernacular English incorrectly at times, switching terms like “you thought you ate” — a negative term — and “you ate” — a positive term. Overall, we look forward to seeing this language further researched or taken out in the future.

In later segments, the bold decisions of the contestants kept the audience shocked and entertained. During the occupation portion, each contestant dressed as their future jobs, from “your mother” to “mall Santa.” As senior Brody Barnhart sauntered onto the stage in a police costume, complete with a dangling pair of handcuffs, the crowd erupted into cheers. As the portion continued, math teacher, bald man and Mr. Longhorn judge Andrew Jett received a lot of attention from various contestants who dusted, wiped off and even polished his head. All in all, the best parts of the occupation section were the clever puns integrated into the biographies and the abundance of confidence from the participants.

The next segment was the talent portion, with solo and group displays. From an exceptional drumming duo to a hilarious comedy skit, there was more than enough talent. At times, we were underwhelmed by the amount of lip-syncing or dancing acts, but the audience still seemed to enjoy it. In the future, we’d love it if some contestants would explore using their vocals instead of pretending to sing or branching out to a wider variety of acts. Barnhart’s “Elvis” act executed this well as the first performance of the category, where he sang “If I Can Dream” decked out in an iconic white jumpsuit. A later act featured Christian Fleming and Matt Freedman in a Key and Peele-inspired comedy routine, which we enjoyed more than we thought we would. The reenactment of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” — including a Ring Pop proposal — was so remarkable that performers Ryan Feng and Ali Rehman moved the audience into swaying along with the iconic country-pop song and dancing, their flashlights twinkling like stars.

Additionally, a few acts incorporated planted “volunteers” from the audience. Tommy Wehrmeister, dressed in a colorful wrestling singlet, pulled a mysterious Elmo impersonator from the audience only to destroy them in a wrestling match. And, in what was perhaps the night’s most memorable moment, students replicated a scene from “Ghost,” showing off pottery skills in a very . . . intimate display. While most of the audience found this entertaining, especially those who understood the reference, we did notice a few younger children and teachers who may have felt uncomfortable by this act, not to mention those who were judging the contestants. Acts like these beg an important question — if the teachers finally decide to draw the line on scandalous “talents,” where will it be? If we allow acts like these to go too far, it could ruin a fundraising event that is simply supposed to be a lighthearted, fun tradition for our seniors.

Our favorite talent acts from “Mr. Longhorn.” (Graphic by Emily Early)

While less questionable than the previous segment, the formal attire section of the night was expectedly repetitive, with many black and blue suits and a distinct lack of pizzazz. Still, this section allowed some contestants’ personalities to shine through personalized additions to their model walks. We especially appreciated Fleming’s sparkly shoes and Brady Kuehl’s uncanny ability to leap over fellow contestant Tyler Lang. We also respected the contestants who dressed in pieces outside the expected norm, such as Cole Whitaker’s plaid ensemble and Cooper Walkoff’s glitter suit jacket.  

After the contenders flaunted their outfits, five finalists were announced. Although each finalist earned their rightful spot, we feel certain contestants were snubbed. Talented singers like Andrew Gwin, Feng and audience-favorite Barnhart deserved more hype for their skills and performances. Nonetheless, finalists Fleming, Goedde, Lang, Walkoff and Santiago Calvo went on to an interview portion, each answering an unscripted question. We have to shout out Walkoff and Calvo’s improvised answers, which were particularly creative and witty. When asked who his role model is, Walkoff quickly and confidently gave the audience a pun.

“I think it’s got to be my mailman because he always delivers,” Walkoff said.

Calvo was then asked what makes him better than the other contestants. 

“You all know I was born in Colombia,” Calvo said. “My hips don’t lie.”

After totaling each contestant’s points throughout the night, the judges narrowed it down to two competitors: Fleming and Calvo. At the night’s end, Fleming was crowned “Mr. Longhorn.” After crowd surfing on the other contestants’ shoulders, Fleming donned a red velvet cape and crown, presented by McCabe. Ultimately, we believe his hilarious commitment to his comedy skit, fashionable choices and witty answers earned him the well-deserved title. 

Congratulations to Fleming, the other contestants and everyone who worked behind the scenes on such an amazing show. This year’s “Mr. Longhorn” was a hit, with many memorable moments that will carry our Longhorn spirit until next year’s performance.