As John McCabe-Juhnke prepares for his directing swan song at Bethel College, he’s happy to be “graduating” with this particular group of actors.
McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts, will retire at the end of the 2019-20 school year, but first he’ll direct “The Theory of Relativity,” a musical by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. March 12, 13 and 14 in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center on the Bethel campus.
“We actually looked at this (musical) a couple of years ago and ended up at that time going with ’Little Women,’ ” McCabe-Juhnke said. “This is a cool new musical, written especially for college students.”
“The Theory of Relativity” was a commission from Sheridan College in Toronto. It had its United Kingdom premiere in 2014 and U.S. premiere in 2015.
“This unconventional … musical by Drama Desk Award nominees (Bartram and Hill) is a joyous and moving look at our surprisingly interconnected lives,” a Music Theatre International reviewer said. “Through a seemingly unrelated collection of songs, scenes and monologues, ’The Theory of Relativity’ introduces a compelling array of characters experiencing the joys and heartbreaks, the liaisons and losses, the inevitability and the wonder of human connection.”
Or as Live Like Tom described it: “Take a physics manual, blend it with the sound of ’The Book of Mormon,’ the hilariously nerdy references of ’The Big Bang Theory,’ a sprinkle of Chicago (and) a few drops of ’Glee,’ bake it in a Broadway (pan), use all the originality you can … That’s the recipe for the spectacular song cycle ’The Theory of Relativity.’ ”
“Every character gets a featured song,” McCabe-Juhnke said. “You hear their stories (with) a narrative that suggests how they all interrelate.
“It’s mostly music, and it’s very tuneful. The audience will really enjoy the sound.”
“The Theory of Relativity” does have a content warning — it’s rated PG-13 for adult themes and language.
McCabe-Juhnke said he’s pleased for this chance to “feature seniors who have worked together” for four years in Bethel plays and musicals.
The cast list includes seniors Polly Carlson, of Freeman, S.D., as Mira; Madison Hofer-Holdeman, of Wichita, as Julie; Lauren Nehrbass, of Parsons, as Amy; Kendrick Weaver, of Hesston, as Adam; Kaci Wilson, of Sterling, as Caroline; and Luke Unruh, of Goessel, as Oliver.
“It’s a strong cast — I’m glad to be graduating with them,” said McCabe-Juhnke.
Also in the cast are two freshmen joining their senior siblings — Allison Weaver, of Hesston, as Sara, and Bryce Wilson, of Sterling, as Anthony — along with Ellie Bradley, sophomore from Newton, as Catherine; Dominic Geddert, senior from Fresno, Calif., as Ryan; Jeff Kauffman, senior from Hutchinson, as Mike; Jerod Kaufman, junior from Moundridge, as Paul; and Addie Regier, junior from Newton, as Jenny.
William Eash, professor of music, is the production’s music director, and Damon Klassen, instructor of theater, is the technical director and scene designer. Amber Hett, of Newton, is the choreographer, while Christina Liu, assistant professor of music, is the rehearsal accompanist.
Stage managers are Kelly Habegger, senior from Hesston, and Rachel Geyer, freshman from Oxford, Iowa. Jesse Balzer, junior from Freeman, S.D., is the sound technician. Ellie Bradley is the costume designer.
Members of the Theater Practicum class will serve as the backstage and running crew.
“The Theory of Relativity” will run with no intermission, at about 90 minutes.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for non-Bethel students and adults age 65 and older. Bethel students are free on Thursday and pay $2 on Friday and Saturday.
Tickets are available at Thresher Shop in Schultz Student Center, or by phone with a credit card at 316-284-5205, during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, or in the Luyken Fine Arts Center ticket office a minimum of one hour before showtime, subject to availability.