JACKSONVILLE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF FINE ARTSJacksonville University presented the North Florida premier of the musical “Weird Romance” during a three-day run from November 6 – 8, 2015 at the Swisher Theatre on the school’s Arlington campus.
“Weird Romance” certainly has an appropriate title and is described as two one-act musicals of speculative fiction. The music was written by Academy Award winning Alan Menken, composer of “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The first act entitled “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” is about a company producing subliminal advertising. Isham (Zachary Polendo), the company president, persuades P. Burke (Samantha Wicklund), a down-and-out homeless woman, to allow his company to transfer her soul into the body of Delphi (Carley Levy), a beautiful half-human half-robot. The “new” creation is “trained” by four members of the staff: Shannara (Angelika Robison), Makeup Coach (Casey Gulledge), Dialogue Coach (Emily Pate), Movement Coach (Lj Glanton), and Joe (Harrison Breault), Assistant to big boss Isham.
Complications arise when Paul (Christopher Robertson), the handsome son of the boss, falls in love with Delphi and she with him; this does not end well, as Delphi’s current soul is taken away from her and replaced with a reprogrammed one.
This act also had a large ensemble that performed some razzle-dazzle dance numbers worked into the story. Ensemble members included Matt Robertson, Sade Crosby, Esther Olivo, Michaela Wright, Cameron Kirkland, Kelly Wolfe and Andrea Vilariño Gonzales. Act One also had eleven songs, most of them ballads, with “Stop and See Me” and “Eyes That Never Lie “among the best. “Feeling No Pain” was an impressive dance number choreographed by Victoria Miller.
Act Two, entitled “Her Pilgrim Soul,” had ten of the fifteen of the students seen in the first part returning and the addition of one new cast member, Rachel Romo as Nola.
The setting is the lab of a scientist, Kevin (Matt Robertson), who experiments with three-dimensional holograms. While working with his assistant Daniel (Casey Gulledge), the hologram of a new-born baby suddenly appears and after repeated transits through the machine the hologram evolves into the representation of a woman, one who has been dead for many years. As with the first act, there are complications, with a conflict between Kevin and his wife Carol (Esther Olivo) who teams up with her gal-pal Rebecca (Michaela Wright) in the song “A Man.”
In our opinion, the music in the second act was better, and included a great heartwarming duet, “Someone Else is Waiting,” as the show-ending number by Rachel Romo and Matt Robertson.Erik DeCicco directed this show, capturing the wonderful weirdness of the title. We have been following his impressive career for some ten years, since his days as a JU freshman to his many performances in local community and professional theatre. He is now on staff at JU and played the lead in their recent production of “Seminar.”
The set design by Brandon Lettow was essentially the same for each act, with slight variations. Large hexagonal symbols filled the set, and an area was reserved for the scientific machines that changed bodies and displayed holograms. Lettow and Michaela Wright provided the dramatic lighting.
The band performed to perfection tucked away in the pit under the stage. The band included Jay Ivey, Keyboard; Dennis Vincent, Keyboard II; Peter Mosley, Bass; and John Medico, Drums.
Others on the Production Team included: Musical Direction, Jay Ivey and Aaron DeCicco; Costume Design, Janae LaFleur; Stage Manager, Ashley Jones; Properties Mistress, Emily Pate.
“Weird Romance” was an excellent choice for a university program since it contained a number of songs that showcased the fine voices in the JU Theatre program. We had the opportunity to hear seven freshmen sing and show off their considerable talents, and as critics, we can report that it looks like we are going to be seeing some incredible musicals in the coming years on Swisher’s stage.