Last Friday, a horde of Swarthmore students, faculty, and supporters arrived at Lang Concert Hall to hear a musical that had yet to grace the public ear. The audience was about to watch an incredibly heartwarming musical with powerful vocal performances, captivating music, and a strong set of values that everyone in the audience could relate to and learn from.
“A Sticky Situation,” with music by Omar Camps-Kamrin ’20, and the book written by Lali Pizarro ’20, made its world premiere last Friday with a staged reading that continuously amazed and astounded audiences. A row of chairs and music stands made up the entirety of the set design, so the focus was set on the music and lyrics to develop the story. Each song brought new interest in the characters and a sweeping new sound. The hour and a half long production was a hit and received a standing ovation for the singers and the writers.
The show begins with the radio show host May Cruise (Shelby Billups ’20) greeting the morning commuters in Toil Town, a town that prides itself on being able to do work efficiently and quickly. The audience is then introduced to two of the town’s inhabitants: Dr. Louie (David Melo ’21) and his son Stewie Louie (Jacob Viscusi ’23). Dr. Louie is in the process of creating an energy supplement that will allow citizens of Toil Town to work continuously without needing to sleep or eat. We then see that all of the kids’ parents (Hannah Sobel ’22, Jules Lee Zacheis ’23, and Marie Inniss ’23) begin taking these supplements and are never home for the kids to see. We then meet some of the kids in the town: Sweaty Freddy (Quincy Ponvert ’22), Yellie Nellie (Maya Kikuchi ’20), and Feral Darryl (Grace Griego ’22). These three friends are bullied by Louie for not being as efficient or fast as the other students, but the three kids do not learn in ways that are legible by the town’s culture and education system. Darryl, for one, learns by listening to the animals. Meanwhile, people are getting stuck to things as a side effect of the production of the supplement. The three friends decide to go invade the factory where the supplements are being produced. They make it into the factory aided by animals and Nellie’s screams, confront Louie who decides his father is doing the wrong thing and helps the three shut down the factory for good, saving Toil Town. To wrap things up, it’s discovered that Freddy’s sweat is the cure to the stickiness and his sweat rains all over town, freeing everyone and leaving the town peaceful.
The show is a children’s musical, and while at times the plot is a little hyperbolic, the issues the musical raises are important to impart, especially to kids. The musical highlights the unique skill sets of its main protagonists past their comparative lack of speed and efficiency, and the message that overworking ourselves will only leave us stuck in place is a powerful reminder to value emotional health as well as productivity. Overall, the show contains some important themes of taking time for oneself which is especially applicable to Swarthmore students and was well received.
All this being said, the musical is still being workshopped. Critic or review forms were handed out at the end of the show and Camps-Kamrin and Pizarro stayed behind after the show for critique and comments. On the process itself, Camps-Kamrin had to comment about the passion of all the people involved.
“It was so fun. It was kind of surreal to have an amazing group of people engaging in this material that Lali and I had been working on for so long, and had mainly just read and performed for each other for the last ten months … It was so inspiring to see how the actors and our extraordinary stage manager, Oswaldo, all threw themselves into the process and were so committed from our very first read through. The show took on different meanings, and we were able to get new takes on characters and songs, all sorts of things we couldn’t have thought of without that collaboration, and has given us so much to think about for draft two!”
As stated before, Camps-Kamrin worked very closely with Pizarro on this project in order to simultaneously put together strong dialogue and songs. The process was incredibly collaborative for both of them; Pizarro reminisced about the process and the time they worked on it.
“From the beginning, our process was very collaborative. We came up with the story completely together, sitting on the grass in Central Park during what became an almost three-hour meeting. Omar wrote music and lyrics and I wrote the book, which in this case was all of the dialogue. There’s no way I could ever have written this musical without him, not only because writing a musical last summer was his idea and he was the one who got the grant, but also because I have no clue how to write music and he is an absolute genius at it … Some people say don’t work with your friends, but I think we’re a great example of how it can work out well.”
They were both incredibly proud of the performance and the performers for bringing together such an elaborate musical in the short amount of time they had. They were also very happy to receive a large amount of feedback for the show. Despite its accomplishments, it was still only the first draft of what is sure to be a fantastic show. Finally, Camps-Kamrin commented on how grateful he was for how the show came together.
“I’m just extremely grateful for all the support we got, from the music department and alum Ken Guilmartin that made starting this whole endeavor possible, to Lali, who jumped on board with this crazy adventure right away, all the mentors who’ve helped us along the way, to the cast who took the show to the next level, and of course to everyone who came out to see it!”