GROVE CITY – One year ago, Grove City High School students had just put the brakes on their spring musical because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, they’re rehearsing for this year’s production, which they’ll be able to share with a live audience.

“I’m happy that I get to do a show with my best friends,” Ethan Hines said on Monday afternoon.

The GCHS senior briefly stepped out of rehearsal to talk about “The Theory of Relativity,” which he said examines people’s connections with each other, a phenomenon that mirrors the pandemic.

“We all have an impact on people more than we know,” he said.

The musical hits the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 8, 9 and 10. There are a limited number of tickets for the live shows; social distancing will be in place, and face masks are required.

But anyone will be able to view the musical online, and director Pat McElroy said everyone involved is excited to share it with a larger audience.

The show was created by Drama Desk Award nominees Neil Bartram and Brian Hill, who asked a group of college students to share their greatest life changes as they grew into adulthood.

The cast and crew compared “The Theory of Relativity” to their fall play, “Lost and Found: Sondering Student Monologues from GCHS,” which was performed virtually.

For that show, student actors wrote and performed monologues about the ups and downs in their lives.

When McElroy was looking for ideas for the spring musical, he kept coming across “The Theory of Relativity.”

It caught his eye because it’s licensed for a virtual performance, and it includes a lot of solo scenes, making it easier for the students to maintain social distancing.

McElroy said he loves the music, dancing, structure and style, and believes that the audience will be able to relate to the stories.

It’s not a typical musical like “Mary Poppins,” which the group had planned to perform last spring before the pandemic shut down live performances.

“The Theory of Relativity” has a very basic set and no elaborate costumes, which puts the main focus is on the characters.

Hines plays the role of Paul, who tells a “sweet little love story” about his fiancée Julie, who is a cat lover. Paul is allergic to cats but really loves Julie.

For Hines, a senior who has been in Grove City’s theater department since his freshman year, this final musical will be a bittersweet experience.

The same goes for senior Abby Weller, who said the musical performance group feels like one big family. She plays Mira, a woman who’s had a tough life.

She believes the audience will feel a sense of hope and empathy – two common themes that have emerged from the pandemic.

“It really delves into the interconnectedness of human beings,” she said.

In addition to McElroy, the production team includes Hannah Flowers, vocal director, and Ashley Hazy, choreographer.

Weller said the high school’s theater program has helped her grow and learn as a musician and actress, and she’s thankful to help keep the arts alive.

Senior Courtney Grossoehme, student director, was sad about missing out on “Mary Poppins” – she was costume chair – but she’s very happy with how “The Theory of Relativity” has turned out.

It tells “normal, everyday stories” that will leave the audience wondering what happens next.

“The ending is very open-ended,” she said.

It’s been a “heck of a journey” for the students over the past year, especially the seniors, McElroy said, adding that he’s enjoyed getting to know them better.

“That’s amazing to watch,” he said as he watched rehearsal from the doorway of the auditorium.

Other actors are: Makenna Isles, Isaac Filer, Madelyn Braho, David Shipton, Lee Marcoe, Jacob Sack, Jane Coulter, Mary Coulter, Olivia Persic, Tessa Stewart, Amelia Weller, Isabelle Hughes, Sophia Klonowski and Kassie Mushrush.

Other crew members are: Andrew Garay, conductor and recording artist; Kiana Fleeger, student tech director; Eva King, stage manager; Quinn Anderson, assistant stage manager; Alex Holmes, sound operator; Dan Hessler, light operator; Thayer Limberg and Zechariah Benjamin, spotlight and microphone technicians; Aaron Rider, music; and Sam Nuss, microphone technician; Autumn Burkett, Cassie Clouse, Ashleigh Frost and Willow Kenziorski, stage crew; Maira Ligo, costume crew chair; Amelia Irvin, Brooke Clelland, Faith Dennison, Beth Kulp and Hannah Miller, costume crew; Chloe Dunn, makeup crew; and Riley Criss, crew chair.

GCHS teacher Jared Henshaw’s video production class provided equipment for the remote performance, and Isabelle Hughes and Alex Holmes edited the video with McElroy.

Bella Louise and Lily Garner led the film crew for the remote recording.

The show’s online version is free, but the theater department is accepting donations. For more information about tickets, email McElroy at pat.mcelroy@gcasdk12.org

For more information about “The Theory of Relativity,” visit sites.google.com/gcasdk12.org/the-theory-of-relativity-at-gc/home

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