This show has no right to be this good. It’s a young cast, a young director, and a fairly new musical. But THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY is a magical theatrical human experience. I am enamored with it.
Neil Bartram and Brian Hill (the same geniuses behind “The Story of My Life”) have written a short, beautiful show about the intersection of love and science and how relative things really are. The focus is on the importance of relationships; you know this Sappy Critic is going to eat that up. But what could be a schmaltzy, feelings-fest is instead a gorgeously directed and stunningly performed 75-minutes of musical theatre heaven.
Katie Johannigman is in her first year as a faculty member at CCM. Several of the students have expressed how much they adore her; consider me a fan, too. Working with a minimal budget, she uses the Cohen Studio so well you would have thought she’s been directing in the space for years. Her cast – all of them remarkable – have masterful timing, heartbreaking expressions of emotion, and soaring voices. (Musical Director Steve Goers, at the piano, is magnificent as always.)
Let’s talk about this cast: heart-throb Frankie Thams is a highlight during “Footprint,” a song about the path of adulthood. His overall stage presence, sweet vocals, and guitar playing stand out. Equally mesmerizing is Madison Deadman, who’s “Me & Ricky” is sexy, dangerous, and full of emotion. Mikayla Renfrow sings “Promise Me This” angelically while Dylan Dougal and Jack Brewer shine on “Apples & Oranges” (as does Johannigman’s choreography) by focusing on the subtext of the song with the right amount of subtlety. Bailee Endebrock and Zoe Grolnick entertain with the duet, “End of the Line,” another brilliantly composed song about friendship and where life takes us. Sam Pickard and Kendall McCarthy bring heart to the production, Camila Paque is hysterical, and Dylan Mulvaney entertains with ease. Delaney Guyer delivers a strong monologue at the end of the show, tying it all together while the constantly outstanding Zack Triska does more with a facial expression and a gesture than many more experienced actors.
The harmonies are inspiring. The dancing is on point. The entire production is another example of why CCM is the best kept secret in Cincinnati. Why, oh why, were there empty seats?
THEORY OF RELATIVITY is a triumph. I can’t wait to see what CCM, Johannigman, and these talented performers have up their sleeves next.
THEORY OF RELATIVITY runs twice more today. It’s likely sold out but you can waitlist an hour before show time. Next year’s CCM season has been announced and we’ll cover that in a future post.