by Saesha Bhat ('24)
Spring at SBHS is a time of celebration with one of the most beloved traditions starting the season right: Mr. SBHS.
On March 10, 16 contestants took to the stage to compete for the title of Mr. SBHS 2023. Through a series of opportunities for contestants to show off their talents, the contestants can convince the audience that they are the best fit for the title in hopes of winning. This year’s roundup of participants included seniors Grayson Manzi, Tejas Chaudhari, Chris Ortega, Adam Bougrayne, Harshith Ramapuram, Ayush Sawnani, Kunal Shukla, Akshay Iyer, Shrey Parikh, Akshay Kamat, Samuel Yeboah-Manson, Nicholas Shuchman, Ibrahim Savage, Johnny Rappoccio, Francis Karanja, and Nicholas Kamath.
This year’s theme was Broadway, with show posters decorating the auditorium and the faint playing of popular Broadway musical numbers in the background. As the audience sat down, they were presented with a stage background of other big Broadway productions like Wicked and The Lion King. The show started with group dances of all the contestants, dancing to Broadway hits such as “Dancing Queen” from Mamma Mia!, “It's the Hard-Knock Life” from Annie, and “Popular” from Wicked. This led to the opening of the show hosted by SBHS teachers Dr. Justin Negraval, Mr. Stephen Dentler, and Mr. Jeff Tuliszewski, who performed a parody of “Tradition” from Fiddler on The Roof as a way to make fun of the contestants and the SBHS staff.
Dr. Negraval shared that Mr. SBHS is an important event not only for the students but the staff as well as it encourages fun and relaxation.
“We spend a good deal of time writing jokes and creating our opening skit. This year we did a musical tribute to the seniors. We wrote all the lyrics for that opening and performed it live…It's a fun tradition, and it's really one of the only events that is edgy. Our jokes often go right up to "the line". We get to poke fun at ourselves... the administration... the Board of Education and other teachers. It's important to realize that at the end of the day we don't take ourselves too seriously,” he said.
The show was divided into five rounds that all gave the contestants chance to introduce and show off themselves to the audience. The first round was rhyming speeches where the participants had to memorize rhymes that talked them up and proved themselves worthy. The second round focused on student bios where the hosts gave a little background into the contestants’ personal lives. The third round consisted of “talent” videos where contestants showed their best talents. Whether it was doing dances from all over the world, changing tires, or producing songs, this was the crowd’s favorite part of the show. The fourth round was “dress to impress” where contestants dressed as “best” as they could and were escorted by a student council member. And the last round was the interviews, giving the contestants a last chance to prove themselves through funny questions and answers.
The process of getting this show together was not an easy one as Underclassman Representative of the Student Council and Sophomore Niharika Chandra explained.
“The entire process of planning and getting ready for Mr. SBHS was a lot but also really exciting. Having dance rehearsals with all the boys every day after school was something I really started looking forward to because they are all so fun to work with,” she said.
Contestant Ortega, one of the participants for Mr. SBHS, had similar thoughts as he shared that even though it looked like they were all best friends on stage, it wasn’t all like that since the beginning of rehearsals. As time went on and the show gave them time to hang out, they were able to connect and bond with each other, whether it was during practices or after-practice meetups. He thanked Bougrayne, his “partner in crime,” for making the experience even better in and out of rehearsals.
How does one even get onto a show like this? Student Advisory Board Co-Chair Anvi Nair said that contestants signed up through a google form that included their information, which was later reviewed and approved by their assistant principal’s office.
Contestant Sawnani, like others, had to go through this process, which caused newfound confidence to emerge.
“When I signed up, I was pretty scared at first because I was scared of what people thought of me, but I wanted to put myself out there; the more and more I became involved with Mr. SBHS, the more I enjoyed working with the other contestants and putting on a beautiful show. I knew I would’ve regretted not doing Mr. SBHS because it made me feel proud of myself,” he said.
Putting yourself out there, especially during pageants, is not always the easiest thing, especially in front of your classmates and family members. Anxiety and the fear of being judged can hold you back from doing the things you want to accomplish; however, remembering the outcome and experience you may gain from putting yourself out there can outweigh the temporary fears.
This year’s Mr. SBHS winner was senior Johnny Rappoccio who joined to fulfill his dreams of being on stage and showcase his love for dance. He had worked on the 2021 show and was inspired to try it out, even if he knew he would be embarrassing himself.
With this experience and the relief of winning the competition, putting himself out there was worth it.
“My whole self-esteem was boosted. My spirit is just lifted. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal I’m king, but it’s still a confidence booster in myself. My attitude shifts when I think about it. I can always be happy with the work I put into the competition,” he said.
Why should future seniors join this beloved tradition? Well, contestant Chaudhari explained that Mr. SBHS is a commitment for those willing to do the work but a one-time experience that can leave the high-school experience a bit brighter.
He said, “Mr. SBHS was an absolute blast! Going into it I didn’t think I’d become really close with everyone, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. Throughout the daily practices, countless mistakes, getting yelled at, and just having genuine fun, I grew to love the experience and get close with all the contestants… All together Mr. SBHS is really an experience that I wish everyone could experience, but it’s only up for grabs for the people willing to do what it takes to be a Mr. SBHS contestant.”
Here are the winners for all the categories:
Best Talent: Akshay Iyer; Best Legs: Tejas Chaudhari; Best Dressed; Ibrahim Savage; Best Rhyme: Ayush Sawnani; Spirit of the Viking: Samuel Yeboah-Manson; Fan favorite: Johnny Rappoccio; Mr. SBHS: Johnny Rappoccio.