Well before dimming house lights signaled the start of the show on the evening of Feb. 12, the Lenape High School (LHS) auditorium was buzzing with energy as an eager crowd waited for this year’s installment of the senior boys’ pageant, Mr. Lenape, to begin.
That energy only escalated once LHS teacher Tom Tamburello took to the podium as the event’s emcee to introduce each of the 12 contestants vying for the title of Mr. Lenape. The two-hour, senior boys’ twist on typical pageants was filled with the theatrics of intricately detailed choreography, an array of props — everything from sporting equipment to the Infinity Gauntlet from the Marvel Comics Universe made an appearance — and plenty of personality and panache on full display.
“They’ve been working hard since September,” Tamburello said of the 12 contestants and the numerous classmates who served as backup dancers and skit partners.
Those dozen hopefuls were: Mr. January, Nick Wilkinson; Mr. February, Matt Richardson; Mr. March, Sean Ryan; Mr. April, Ryan Delozier; Mr. May, Darren Chan; Mr. June, Alex Rimerman; Mr. July, Owen Hartman; Mr. August, Connor Kennedy; Mr. September, Clyde Washington; Mr. October, Hunter Lippincott; Mr. November, Jonas Roman; and Mr. December, Shomiron Dhar. The parading performers gave it their all to make a first impression that would last, by sporting all-out getups in the spirit of their month’s most recognizable holiday or season.
As Mr. January through Mr. December made their way to the stage with their female escorts during their introductions, and amid the occasional spray of hand-tossed seasonal confetti, crowd favorites emerged immediately. Cheering, wild applause and hollered proclamations of love for each contestant were punctuated by roars from a crowd dominated by the peers who came out to support each contestant.
That same audience continued to egg on each performer with chants and good-natured catcalling as each senior commanded the stage in a dozen group performances that showcased serious dance moves and deliberately ridiculous costumes ranging from dazzlingly shiny to hilariously racy. Each Mr. Lenape contestant gyrated, lip-synced or got the girl in each of the individual skits that comprised almost half of the two-hour spectacle.
After the individual acts were over, the dozen competitors strutted their stuff again as they returned to the stage in trios, dancing their hearts out in a group number.
A brief musical interlude allowed the aspiring Mr. Lenapes and their escorts enough time to trade sequins and snap-away clothing for more formal attire for the evening’s next segment, a brief question-and-answer session.
Each escort dipped into a vase containing pre-written questions that asked each entrant to muse over topics ranging from the philosophical (“What advice do you have for underclassmen?” and “What does beauty mean to you?”) to the personal (“What superhero power would you choose?”).
Answers elicited everything from an audience-wide “awww” — particularly if a contestant seized the opportunity to give his parents or friends a heartfelt shout-out — to waves of laughter.
One final intermission gave the packed house a chance to finally cast votes for its favorite Mr. Lenape performer of the night. The break included a hip-hop dance number, as well as a raffle prize for each of the four classes. One lucky student from the classes of 2020-2023 walked away with free tickets to their grades’ respective upcoming events.
Tamburello then returned to the podium with the final results everyone was waiting for.
“I had no idea that the voting process was such an intricate science,” he said, explaining that the deciding factors in naming Mr. Lenape included a combination of the Penny War fundraiser results, sales of ads and how the audience voted.
Ultimately, Mr. February, Richardson, came in first. As the newly crowned Mr. Lenape 2020 accepted his crown with grins and repeated disbelief, the crowd welcomed the tradition’s newest title holder with a deafening pitch.
“I can’t believe I won!” Richardson repeated above the celebratory cacophony as his fellow contestants congratulated him with hugs and kudos.
“I can’t believe it!”