The musical’s mysterious title, 35MM, provides the quintessential jumping point for viewers to dive into the artistry, directed by Mr. Johnpaul Moccia with music and lyrics by 33-year-old musical composer Ryan Scott Oliver, all based on a series of photographs by Matthew Murray.
The production of 16 songs, was performed by 14 students and followed no plot line nor consisted of any dialogue. This nontraditional musical told stories from the fight to be prom queen to a look into abusive relationships. Each song was accompanied by a photograph by Murray projected on a large screen above the stage, grounding each scene with a visual history.
The play, however, did consist of a through line of “focus.” Mr. Moccia hoped to provoke audiences to watch, listen and focus as the musical unfolded. The play ran from Wed. Nov. 15 (ticketed dress rehearsal) to Fri. Nov. 17. I attended Nov. 15 and was left in awe of the talent of the cast, who were able to share a variety of lessons and experiences while creating a cohesive production.
The musical’s 75 minute run time made the production a fun, yet quick, event, but Mr. Moccia made sure every second counted, insuring each part of the musical passionate and captivating.
The opener, “Stop Time,” brought a serious energy to the theater, featuring singers sophomores Zahra Willis Cox, Adelina Marinello and Ella Noriega, seniors Diego Vasquez-Gomez and Brandon Dawson and junior Freddie Bredemeyer, accompanied by dancers sophomore Israel Del Rosario and senior Valeria Yamin.
“On Monday,” the third song into the production, was sung by junior Jordyn Allen. Allen’s beautiful range of vocals, use of stage and emotive face engaged the audience. The next song, “Caralee,” sung by Bredemeyer provided the audience with some comic relief. Bredemeyer’s composition during the piece was admirable through the audience’s jovial reaction.
Junior Veronica Ritkes’ sultry voice and calm disposition in “The Party Goes With You” released a cool mood throughout the theater and her perfect pitch and clear voice sent goosebumps down my spine.
However, for me, the most amazing piece in the musical was the 10th number, “Leave, Luanne,” and its stars were dancers Del Rosario and Yaminl. The song told the story of Luanne, portrayed by Yamin, a woman in an abusive relationship who can never escape the grasp of her abuser, portrayed by Del Rosario. Ms. Renee Brown’s choreography was impeccable, truly making the dancers shine and the audience captivated by their movements, all accompanied by the harmonized voices of junior Wesley Mahon, Marinello, Noriega, Allen and Ritkes.
The musical continued with “Mamma, Let Me In,” in which senior Hannah Ellowitz’s high notes perfectly complemented Willis Cox, Vasquez-Gomez and junior Nathan Mahon’s joint voices.
The second to last number, “The Ballad of Saraberry,” provided Ellowitz with her own stage to shine on, with this high energy prom-chaser filling the theater with awe.
35MM was an amazing production, and I commend the cast for a job extremely well done.