"A Brief History of the Earth and Everything in It" is the first show of University of Rhode Island Theatre this year. The story is of William Jennings Bryan elementary school besieged by the forces of right-wing Christian fundamentalism by the new principal who is running for governor. A group of five third graders seek to overturn these forces by uniting in a way to defeat them by channeling the most powerful force in the universe: the song and dance musical. Can cool kid Derek Palomino and his pals carve out a future for themselves based on reason and inclusion? Or will the rigid status quo continue to set the agenda as they have for many, many years? This 90 minute show reminds us that when things look bleak, creativity and intelligence conquer the powers that be. Can they convince them that Science, Math, Music, Art and Dance aren't signs of evilness? Who will win the day in this original musical by David Rabinow? Rachel Walshe as the director picks some strong student performers to play these roles that make the audience sit up and think about what is happening not only in this show but in real life these days.
The incredible realistic elementary school auditorium set is by Renee Suprenant Fitzgerald and is reminiscent of the set for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." The music direction by Jean Maxon who also plays the piano for these catchy original songs is also top-notch while Valerie Ferris' choreography is wonderfully executed by these college students playing third graders. Rachel gives each person in this ten person show their moment to shine. The moral of the show is not to compromise what you believe in by any person or belief but to be true to oneself.
Rabinow creates unique characters with Derek as the leader of the group, Maya as his follower who has a crush on him, Max, a Jewish rapper, Presley, a home schooled girl who has comical meltdowns and last but not least Turner, a British student wise beyond his years. The story is told tongue in cheek but contains important lessons to learn by one and all. Tall blond haired Conor Delaney tackles the role of Derek excellently. He gives a strong portrayal as he struggles against the oppressive regime at school. Conor displays his strong tenor voice throughout the musical. Some catchy numbers include "Intelligent Design" when Maya played splendidly by Lauren Janetti distracts the principal with what she wants to hear that you have to play within the system. Trey DiGioia does a great job with his rap numbers as does Meg O'Donovan as the volatile Presley who loves manatees. Omar Laguerre-Lewis shines as the scholarly Turner with his fabulous British accent and comic one liners but who is also the voice of reason in this piece.
Dr. Marsden, the oppressive principal is well played by Lily Ferreira who describes the three types of detention in Biblical terms as Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus. The fourth one is dealt when she blows her top later in the show. The kindly drama teacher, wonderfully played by Mary Mullane is Ms. LoPiccolo, who is duped by these youngsters into presenting this subversive show. The unfolding of the events are eventually solved by the appearance of someone who appears later in the show to shine a light on things but the musical theater axiom that everyone loves it becomes apparent when there is a twist of fate and a flashback scene with Dr. Marsden that is priceless. So for an entertaining as well as enlightening new musical, be sure to catch "A Brief History of Earth" at URI. These talented students will enthrall you with their talent from start to finish.
A Brief History of the Earth and Everything In It is playing through Oct. 20 at URI Theatre, J Studio, Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston. Call 874-5843 or visitweb.uri.edu/theatre.