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Catch a whiff of 'The Great Release'

A look into independent theater at its funkiest

<p>The student-created play "The Great Release" promises a hilarious, if unusual time.</p>

The student-created play "The Great Release" promises a hilarious, if unusual time.

In B006 — a tiny, well-insulated room located in the bowels of the Drama Department building — a musical of a different sort is stirring. Three cast members run a song called “Dingleberry Bop” that features a high-octane rock and roll score, hip-hop choreography and some of the filthiest lyrics ever uttered beneath the Culbreth Theatre. This is one of the musical numbers from “The Great Release,” an original musical written by fourth-year College student Steven Jenny. The show, which serves as Jenny’s distinguished major project, has grown from a family joke to an explosive endeavor complete with a full cast, band and artistic staff.

“The Great Release” tells the story of a modest office worker named Alex who undergoes an epic journey through his own digestive tract. Along the way, he meets colorful characters like Diana Ria and Kevin Fecal as they try to take down the tyrannical Priscilla — the source of Alex’s constipation problems. While the show is rife with scatalogical humor, it manages to avoid the trap of all-out grossness through the use of satire and sly political commentary.

“It’s a musical about poo,” first-year College student Apollo Yong, who plays an inhabitant of Alex’s body named Kevin, said. “But it’s a lot deeper than that. It sounds like it would be really shallow, but you can tell that a lot of thought went into the story writing and definitely the music too.”

The character who supplies the musical with more profound meaning is Priscilla. Described as a “guy playing a girl who’s supposed to be a guy” by Jenny, Priscilla was originally envisioned as a parody of President Donald Trump — with names like “Ronald Rump” and “Vladimir Poopin” being floated around initially. Fourth-year College student Kolya Rabinowitch takes on the gender-bending role with a sultry strut and nasty leer as he leads his gang of “Dingleberries” through their dance number.

Second-year College student Natalie Pendie, who plays the role of Poolah Brown, created the choreography for the show. For “Dingleberry Bop” and other numbers, Pendie drills her dancers several times throughout rehearsals, stopping to perfect certain sections and fixing any foot that steps out of place. Even with the grueling work, the cast manages to stay cheery and easy-going.

Madison Karten, a first-year College student, describes the rehearsal process as “a little bit more fluid, a little more flexible,” which allows the cast “a lot more freedom” with their acting choices and character interpretations.

Gathering such a group of hardworking artists and cast members is an impressive feat, considering the show is run independent of any theater CIOs on Grounds. Jenny states simply that the those who “like the songs that we put up online and the idea of doing something ridiculous” rallied around the effort.

While the show may not be headed to Broadway anytime soon, “The Great Release” will have its one-night-only premiere in Old Cabell Hall Friday, March 31 at 8 p.m.