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Scabies not quite as infectious the second time around

Published: Thursday, April 24, 2008

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11

Last weekend, Scabies: The Musical hit town. Most of us had gladly forgotten about the epidemic, but apparently Flash Mob Theater had an, ah, itch to scratch.

Here is the plot: Cassie (Caroline Eichler '11), a first-year girl living in Norton, wakes up to find herself covered in a red rash with an insatiable itch. She heads over to the health center where, sure enough, the diagnosis is scabies. One musical number later-all songs were set to popular Broadway tunes-and she is introduced to Daniel (Zach Barnett '11), an amiable, scabies-ridden sophomore who-can you guess-quickly develops a hankering for our heroine. She also meets Janey (Christa Minardi '11), a fiery scaber who takes Cassie under her wing and promises to take her out despite the creepy crawlers dwelling in her skin.

One party rejection later and Cassie finds herself in the company of fellow infected students, all looking for a way to fight back against the social scrutiny they have acquired. Daniel is there too, with an eye on the prize. They come up with a plan: a defiant show that will prove to the world that they know how to rock out with bugs in their skin. Along the way, feelings are hurt, friendships imperiled and enough scabies jokes are made …

Actually there weren't enough scabies jokes. Yes, it is true that the whole thing was a giant scabies joke. And yes, all the songs had scabies lyrics. It was often funny. But I could not help but feel like there was more potential for hilarity. Maybe a scabie in a top hat or something. The play was less about scabies and more about a group of underdogs who fight for social recognition. And I have seen that movie. A tad more tongue-in-cheek and it would have been satire, but one too many sentimental scenes made this musical look startlingly like what it was poking fun at.

That said, let us take a moment to commend the efforts of the cast, crew and writer. Scabies was conceived in a few months and written by a first year, Minardi. As if that were not a daunting enough task, the whole project operated on a shoestring budget. The effort put into making this show happen-and the fact that they pulled it off-represents a triumph for not only the students involved, but also for Kenyon theatre. It proves that with an idea and a bit of organization the creative possibilities that Kenyon affords its students are vast and accessible.

And the show was still good fun. Barnett rocked as Daniel; he brought energy and a killer voice to the set that kept things entertaining. Minardi lent her considerable acting and singing talent to the show to great effect, and Eichler was a convincing lead.

There were a number of highlights, perhaps the brightest being the opening of the second act. This involved a number from Rent (525,600 itches), Barnett doing surprisingly good falsetto vocal solos and one-kneed fist pumps. The result was uproarious. In fact, despite a couple lyrical shortcomings, the songs were generally well arranged and choreographed.

Perhaps turning an infectious rash into a musical was misguided, but at least the resulting play was often entertaining and had some good moments.

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