If energetic young people spontaneously erupt into song and dance aboard a cruise ship or in a dormitory lobby, you have stumbled either into a special episode of "Glee" or some of the real-life antics of the Adrenaline Show Choir from Georgia Southern University.
The onboard bit happened over Spring Break when more than half of the 40-member choir sailed with Carnival Cruise Lines to the Bahamas. Now that the whole choir is preparing for their big season capping Saturday, April 23 show at the GSU Performing Arts Center, the usual seven hours of practice per week don't seem to be enough. Adrenaline publicist Charlene Bibeau had to ask her choir mates to move along so she could get on with the interview in the Centennial Hall lobby. Else those hyper harmonies threatened to flare out in yet another chorus of "Hum Hallelujah!"
Does "Adrenaline" signify irrepressible energy?
"Constantly flowing through your veins. If you don't have it, get out!" sparked Adam Pulver, Adrenaline's founder, president and so far, director.
He organized Adrenaline four years ago as a 17-year-old freshman, and now, at 21, is preparing to leave the university a living legacy, one of the nation's first collegiate show choirs.
"I would say we were definitely one of the first five," Pulver said.
Since then, he added, the number of collegiate show choirs has more than doubled. The website Showchoirindex.com lists 19. The University of South Carolina has one and there is one at a junior college in Mississippi. There are still so few in the Southeast that Adrenaline has found no specific college meets to attend.
But the choir's 2009-'10 incarnation won first place among college-age groups at the Youth Gospel Entertainment Awards in Atlanta, which proclaimed Adrenaline "Crunkest Choir in the Southeast."
This season Adrenaline teamed with Arizona-based Fame Events to host the first Southeast Regional Fame Summit at the Performing Arts Center on Jan. 15. Adrenaline members offered guidance and a demo performance for middle and high school choirs from Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida.
Adrenaline predates the 2009 debut of "Glee," which has compounded the interest in show choirs. But they are still far more common at high schools, and the TV show, after all, is about a fictional high school choir. School choirs are a hit on the West Coast, as Pulver knows. He grew up in San Diego, where he performed with show choirs in middle school and high school.
"When I came here to Georgia Southern, it wasn't show choir that was missing so much as I really wanted a home. I really wanted to make a place that people could feel that they had a place to belong to ... ," he said. "All of us that couldn't be music majors because we're not allowed to, maybe our families didn't believe in it, we still had a place that we could belong and be with people that are just like us."
Only one of the show choir's current members is a music major, observes Pulver, who will soon graduate with a degree in public health.
Bibeau, 20, a sophomore from Warner Robins, serves as the choir's event and social coordinator and keyboard accompanist, as well as publicist. Her major is pre-med biology, but she is more academically involved with music than most, since she is pursuing a minor in piano, as well as one in chemistry.
It was Bibeau who described how the March 14-18 Bahamas cruise turned into a series of impromptu shows.
"We had one primary performance on the actual theater stage in the palace lounge and we had a good turnout of both staff and solo cruise members," Bibeau said. "But it was funny because we performed several times just in the main atrium where we would just burst out in random song and dance, and we would just have everybody like on all nine levels on the rails watching us. It was a lot of fun!"
That kind of spontaneity requires preparation. Throughout the school year, the choir rehearses three evenings a week, with three hours devoted to singing and four to dancing. The two-hour Tuesday and Thursday dance practices don't even begin until 9 p.m.
Dance captains Darius Ibigbami and Allyson Lumpkin do most of the choreography, with some input from Pulver.
To lessen the impact on grades, Adrenaline arranges study sessions. The choir also has a "Bigs and Littles" program, with each first-year member, or Little, assigned an experienced member, or Big, as a mentor.
"Any time that we want to hang out, we're just a big group of friends outside of show choir," said Lumpkin. "We want to have that connection where it's not where we come to practice just to practice, but we can get to know each other. It makes the chemistry on stage better too."
Rising senior Lumpkin, 20, a multimedia communications major from Bainbridge, will step up from her dance captain role to succeed Pulver as president and director after this year's finale. A multi-instrument musician, she started dance lessons at age 2, joined her church's choir at 6 and performed with her school's dance team throughout high school.
Spotlighting the transition from Pulver to Lumpkin, Saturday's show is called "The Director's Cut." Featured songs include "Don't Stop Believing," "Shadowland" from the Broadway version of "The Lion King," and this year's gospel number, "Total Praise."
Although previous shows have used spoken parts to introduce the song and dance numbers, the 2011 show will incorporate the choir's third skill set, acting, to bind the elements together as never before, Lumpkin said. Members have been practicing lines that reveal stresses in growing a 40-member family.
"For the first time we'll be giving people a glimpse of what it's like to be in show choir, how we work together as more than just a group of performers," she said.
The show will also bring some "special updates" about the show choir's future, teased Pulver, who plans to remain close to campus next year as a graduate student.
"There are some very large and unique changes that are coming up for Adrenaline and we hope that Georgia Southern is ready for it," he said.
The doors of the Performing Arts Center will open at 4:30 p.m. Saturday for the show beginning at 5 p.m. It will run about two hours, with an intermission. Tickets can be purchased at the center's box office 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, for $5 each, or on Saturday for $10.