Review: ‘YAMOLAND: The Sketchiest Place on Earth’

Fun fact: You don’t have to be an ETHS student or alumnus, or a parent of one, to enjoy and laugh at the new YAMO show, which premiered Thursday, September 22 at the school’s Upstairs Theater.

If you have a pulse and are vaguely aware of pop culture and recent current events in Evanston, this show is for you.

The premise of YAMOLAND imagines Evanston as a community in an amusement park, with consistent themes tying these scenes together. They vary in length. Some of the jokes are very obvious. Some are less. Some are funny or fun to watch and listen to, even if the so-called ‘meaning’ of the joke isn’t obvious.

A scene from ETHS’ YAMO rehearsal on Wednesday afternoon. Credit: Wendi Kromash

There are 27 short scenes in the show. You won’t know the premise in advance, unlike most theaters, and this can take the pressure off the audience of having to understand the performance. But it’s better to put those traditional expectations aside and enjoy the ride.

The students are funny, enthusiastic and fully committed to this work. They are having a ball. That’s reason enough to watch and share the fun.

The opening number is a knockout way to start the show. Some other scenes that especially shine: Locker Room Conversation and Sherman Avenue Shuffle in Act I and Having Fun and Super in Act II.

As an added bonus, here is a small ‘cheat sheet’ that you can refer to before, during or after the show if needed.

  • Trevian is the mascot of New Trier High School.
  • A few years ago, there was a DJ who wore a marshmallow head and an outfit while working the music queue; he was briefly popular.
  • There are two male African tortoises that live on ETHS. (They are owned by the science department.)

YAMO history

YAMO is “a musical sketch comedy magazine” entirely produced by students. Now in its 65th year, it’s an opportunity to see two hours of ideas brought to life by a group of energetic, bright and diverse teens. Essentially, it’s a festival of love, an affectionate tribute to the people and places that make Evanston and ETHS special.

YAMO’s 17-member Board of Directors selects the theme each year. The YAMO team – writers, actors, dancers, stage crew, set design, costumes, makeup, lighting, musical orchestration, directors and more – is made up of approximately 100 students plus a few adults who supervise and guide. It is essentially, however, student-oriented.

The three adults who mentor YAMO students today were all YAMO participants when they were ETHS students.

Tim Herbert offers some direction for part of the mid-scene cast of 2022’s ETHS YAMO show. Credit: Wendi Kromash

Tim Herbert, ETHS Theater Teacher and YAMO Faculty Advisor, was YAMO’s Director General in 1988. Herbert graduated from ETHS in 1989. Aaron Carney, Technical Theater Director at the school and an ETHS alumnus since 1990, is also a faculty advisor at YAMO. Katrina Engel, ETHS ’91, advises the dance portion of the show and teaches special education

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