Ultra Vires


Cowboys, Arias, and Scalding Hot Tea

A review of Law Follies

Law Follies took place 6 February 2020.


This year, for the first time ever, I attended Law Follies. I did attend the 2018 after-party, but I never saw any of the show. In 2019, I had the flu or a factum due—both, I think.

I share this information with you because I want you to understand that I had nothing on which to base my experience. But they do say that the key to happiness is low expectations. And, sure enough, I had a wonderful experience. (That was my tribute to Don Rickles.)

In truth, when Liam Thompson (3L) and Rory Smith (3L) cast me in a Pepto Bismol commercial as John Sopinka and told me that I would get in for free, I knew that I had to go—not for me, you realize, for my public. Now, I am writing my own review! You know, there is a Latin maxim that goes, nemo iudex in causa sua. Unfortunately, I never studied Latin. All I know is that Alina Yu (2L) said that I was great. She was one of my dancers.

I really did have an exceptional time, though, because the students behind Law Follies put on a phenomenal show. Indeed, I would have no trouble believing that this was among the most entertaining iterations of Law Follies that the University of Toronto Faculty of Law has seen.

This year, like the last couple of years, Law Follies took place on The Opera House’s grand stage. The venue felt packed. Smith tells me that there were about 350 people in attendance, and I am confident that there was something for each of them.

All twenty-one of the skits had their own charm, a familiarity intimate to students of our school. I found myself frequently turning to my neighbours to express a profound appreciation of the tableaux unfolding before us. They were timely; they were camp; they were cheeky; they were marvellous.

Of course, there were some performances that truly dazzled. One came early on. In “Master of the Rolls”, Thompson donned a fluffy, white wig and led a fun, Lord Denning MR-themed version of that Les Misérables classic, “Master of the House”, which, I admit, I knew only from an old Seinfeld episode. That darn ditty has been stuck in my head for nearly 28 years.

Another gem came shortly after the intermission, with “Torys Hall”, a parody of Lil Nas X’s 2019 smash-hit, “Old Town Road”. This bold performance saw Robbie Grant (3L), Isaac Gazendam (2L), and Jeffrey Wang (2L) in full Western attire, singing “I’m gonna cram this course in the Torys Hall/Gonna grind ‘til I can’t no more.” I still can’t get the image of Grant’s leather chaps out of my head, and I’m alright with that.

Speaking of mesmerizing moves, I also have to give credit to Ben Mayer-Goodman (2L JD/MGA) for his wild gyration in the evening’s final performance, “Can’t Wait to be Dean”.

But, for me, the evening’s most magical moment came just before intermission, during a performance called “Defy Majority”. Ashley Qian (2L) delivered an astounding aria that left me in such a state of awe that I could think of nothing to say that bears repeating. There is something so powerful and beautiful about the human voice. Yet one is so immersed in the study of law that one forgets that one’s peers are multidimensional people, with interests and talents beyond remembering legal tests. All I will say is “bravo.”

It would be remiss of me not to also recognize the capable, and often cutting, hosting of Robert Nanni (2L JD/MBA) and Dana O’Shea (3L). Nanni and O’Shea have been central figures of my law school experience and, to Law Follies, they brought what I love most about them: their acerbic wits. 

Over the course of the evening, Nanni and O’Shea performed some obligatory tasks, albeit exceptionally—for example, roasting the Dean and other prominent law school figures. But the hosts were most effective when they used the power of comedy to vindicate their student audience. 

Particularly poignant were their remarks on the Marcus McCann tuition controversy (see UV’s October 2019 issue), the school’s lack of diversity, and the dire need for better mental health support. Without ever straying into bitter criticism, Nanni and O’Shea reminded the members of the administration in attendance that there are serious issues at our school. At the same time, the hosts’ levity allowed the students to escape some of their anxieties while feeling genuinely heard.

In sum, I am almost glad that I had the pleasure of seeing only this year’s Law Follies. Although I have no doubt that other years’ iterations were memorable in their own way, this year’s will forever exist as a singular perfection in my mind.

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