Just over a year ago, I was a part of a fundraising concert that was titled ‘Song Cycle Saturday’ and at the end of the evening, I was none the wiser as to what a Song Cycle is. The compere of the evening made a hilarious joke about that evening being the closest he has to cycling in a long, long time which was hilarious but only confused me even further. So to start this weeks review I am going to try and explain what this style of musical is as it is drastically different from the musicals many people (myself included) are used to. Definition.net defines a song cycle as “A song cycle is a group of songs designed to be performed in a sequence as a single entity” so rather than the narrative of a story being told across every song in the album, a song cycle tells a unique narrative and story in each song. This means that musicals of this nature usually have a much greater focus on character in each song and often have a much small cast all of which are named and have some form of solo throughout the show. This allows for a greater range of musical song styles as it’s doesn’t have to relate to the overall story which allows all these seemingly unconnected songs to work next to one another without seeming out of place.
The soundtrack to ‘The Theory of Relativity’ would fall into the category of song cycle as each song tells it’s own story. The story of how the show grew to take on this form is very interesting and allows for a much more relatable experience. Sheridan College in Toronto wanted to continue there success in original musicals and decided to commission Neil Bartram and Brian Hill (who wrote the music/lyrics and book respectively for this musical) but wanted an age-appropriate musical for their students. The creative team decided to interview the generation Z performers to see what they were worried about etc and the answers helped form the show’s structure. As the show is built upon genuine issues that young people, which they have shared, it makes the show ridiculously relatable, authentic and honest which makes for a very moving production. This allows for the show to be insanely accessible to the target market which is a very clever inclusion not only from an audience perspective but also from a business standpoint.
The music in the show combines the usual musical theatre cheesiness with very clever writing and complex ideas which don’t sound like it should work but does. The music is mostly more emotionally driven and subdued but as the focus is on the individual characters that keep the pace up and prevents the more serious songs becoming tiresome. I thoroughly enjoyed the song “The End Of The Line” which was sung by Victoria Cook and Kyra Kennedy who sing about their friendship. It’s a super fun and campy number that plays with the classic broadway musicals people are familiar with. The song talks about how during earlier years one person was super cool and the other was a bit of a nerd but the tables are suddenly turned when they arrive at college which leads to a shocking turn of the event which I didn’t expect and was surprised by how much it affected me. The show captured the jovial bitchyness of friendship while portraying how close these characters are as friends which only made the end of the song even more devastating as it was extremely relatable. These dramatic story twists are something this show does very well as it also happens in ‘Ricky and Me’ which again I did not expect. The song titled ‘Footprints’ was a very emotional and moving song that was all about things you have done well at the same time moving forward. This number was beautifully performed by Robert Ariza who is a very talented performer but his vocals within this song were flawless. While listening to this song I could not but help to think about how every child at least once did the putting paint on their feet and using this to paint a footprint on some paper that their parents put on the fridge at one point. But also it made me think of the famous religious poem that encourages readers to look back at everything they have gone through the get to this point in their lives. These two ideas naturally build on each other and amped the emotional impact of this song which was very clever.
My favourite song from the entire album has to be the song “Apples and Oranges” which seems like a quirky song about feeling different. On the surface, it is a fun song about feeling different but underneath it’s a deep metaphor about lgbt+ love and how even if we don’t like apples or oranges we should still accept and live those that do. It’s a message of acceptance without every mentioning it explicitly which can only help with the treatment of LGBT+ people around the world. This is a very moving, cleverly written and performed song that I have no doubt will become a very popular song to perform in concert all over the place. In the beginning, I enjoyed all the interactions of the Pi Song’ and how all version were slightly different as they kept increasing the number of decimal places and rhyming the lyrics with the next number which was very clever. However, this song is repeated three times and the motif of ‘Person A and Person B’ repeats a similar amount of times and while I understand the symbolistic importance of this image the repetition did become somewhat tiresome towards the end.
Overall, the Theory of Relativity is an insanely clever show that is one of the most relatable and honest shows I have seen in a long time. One review described this show as a strange hybrid of Big Bang theory , glee , Book of Mormon and Chicago ,if that doesn’t gauge your interest then I don’t know what will. I rate The Theory of Relativity 4 and a half stars!