This post contains some SPOILERS about the musical.
Person A is traveling at a rate of three miles an hour. Person B is traveling in the opposite direction at two miles an hour. How long will it take them to meet? This is the question that Neil Bartram and Brian Hill asked in their musical, The Theory Of Relativity. This chamber musical explores the interconnectedness of our society and how small events can manifest in big ways. And, aside from the important missing variable of distance between Person A and Person B, there's not much else missing from this gem of a musical.
I watched a production of The Theory Of Relativity at Rider University in Central Jersey about a week ago. With no knowledge of what the show is about, I found myself deeply invested in everyone's stories. The director seemed to have taken a page from the Broadway musical Come From Away, utilizing a single set with a number of chairs that set the scenes and show the relationships between the characters. The result of this staging, along with some brilliant lighting cues and a fantastic band, is a beautifully touching story of interconnectivity.
In this musical, most characters start out completely unrelated. Each character gets a song or a monologue. It begins with some quirky characters telling their own stories: a boy who is allergic to cats asking permission to marry a girl who lives for her cats, a friend that always lived in the shadows of her “best friend” stepping into the spotlight, a college student who goes home again and again to devastating changes to his family. They are all interesting, though seemingly unrelated. Then, there are characters who have bits and pieces scattered throughout the show: the OCD girl who freaks out because her boyfriend made her a cake and touched all the ingredients, and a boy who is nervous about going on a first date with a girl who told her to bring her one red rose. Still, they seem quite unrelated to each other. The magic starts to happen in the second half of the show (what would be Act 2 if there were an intermission). Very quickly, the stories start to connect, with some stories being told from another perspective by another person. Finally, in a long monologue called “Manicure,” a girl mentions her relationships, both minute and significant, to each of the characters in the musical thus far as she sits at the table getting her nails done to go on a date with the boy with the rose. The whole company then reflects on how other people’s day to day actions lead to their own big decisions which can change the whole course of their lives.
The music in this show is both clever and topical. In “Apples & Oranges,” a boy lements about how he never liked apples though everyone else seemed to. He liked oranges, but there were none around. So when he goes to college, he met a boy who also liked oranges. They sing together about how it is okay to be different, and that you should find your own “fruit,” which, personally, is such a cute way to approach the topic sexuality. In “Footprint,” a boy talks about his experiences of going to college, being nervous, and wanting to return to the home in his memory because he has left a footprint there. After returning home three times with high hopes to three tragedies (the loss of his dog, his sister’s elopement, and his parents’ divorce), he realizes that his footprint is where he stands and that he is capable of making other footprints that will spread as he lives his life. “Me & Ricky” discuss the topic of abortion after a bad relationship, which is a touchy subject, but one that should be talked about nonetheless.
The Theory of Relativity is a great choice for young adults and young artists. It gives personal attention to every actor and is great for a cast of singers-who-act and actors-who-sing. It is also a great option for smaller community theatres, as it requires very little for the set and a great amount of flexibility in staging. As an audience member, be prepared to do gymnastics with your emotions. You will laugh. You will cry. But no matter what, you will leave being more aware than ever the effects your actions have on others.
If you had your time again, would you do it all the same? That's the question Groundhog Day the Musical poses. Based on the beloved classic movie by the same name staring Bill Murray, this musical tells the story of a self-proclaimed hot-shot weatherman Phil Connors on one particular day: Groundhog day. Sent on an assignment he feels is below his paygrade to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to report back live whether the famous groundhog saw his shadow or not, Phil finds himself stuck in a time loop and living this silly holiday in this small town over and over again.
Interested yet? Here's what you should know before the show:
1. This musical has music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, who also wrote the music and lyrics for Matilda the Musical a few years back. His music tends to be very exciting, utilizing interesting harmonies and unusual meters. In the case of Groundhog Day, the variations on the music of this one particular day shows the shifting moods that Phil experiences, from trapped to liberated to depressed to enlightened. It is very intuitive to the audience exactly what he is feeling, and, in a way, projects the moods directly onto the audience members.
2. The chorus of this show is so important. They create the exciting atmosphere of the holiday, but change quickly depending on what Phil throws at them. For a staged production, the actions and intentions of the characters are unbelievably original.
3. Most of the stage is a turntable. However, unlike Anastasia the Musical which (I think) utilizes the rotating set way too much to the point of being distracting, Groundhog Day used it in ways that felt natural and which added to the overall storytelling.
4. Telling the story of the same day over and over again is no small feat. This musical managed to do it in such a way that is easy to follow and fun to watch. The pacing of the show is also very accommodating, switching seamlessly from whole days at a time to real-time moments to repeats of specific scenes and different outcomes to inner monologues.
5. The song Hope is accompanied with gruesome and morbidly hilarious scenes of Phil committing suicide. It is my favorite part of the show because of the complete contradiction between what being sung and what is being shown.
6. You've probably deduced this, but with a 5 minute suicide scene and some very colorful language, this show is not exactly child-friendly. Listen to the music beforehand, and then making a decision whether you need a babysitter.
7. Rita, the female lead of the show and junior producer at Phil's station, sings a song called One Day. Classic Disney fans would get the references in this song. *Hint: Snow White*
Groundhog Day the Musical was nominated for 7 Tony's in 2017. It's a high energy show with terrific choreography, mind-spinning musical numbers, and a heart-warming message that will leave you feeling cozy through those "6 more weeks of winter."
Groundhog Day the Musical closes on Broadway September 17th, 2017.