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You’ll Rise to Your Feet for “Yeast Nation” at CCM Studio

Review by Liz Eichler of “Yeast Nation”: CCM Musical Theatre

When the musical is set in 3,000,458,000 B.C. at the bottom of the primordial sea, you know you’re in for something…unusual. CCM’s Studio Musical Theatre Series is presenting “Yeast Nation,” by Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, the same team responsible for “Urinetown.” Directed by Vincent DeGeorge, it is a fast-paced saga of love and power of anthropomorphized yeast cells. And it works!

The power is in the tongue-in-cheek book and lyrics, eaten up by the audience Friday night. The music (Musical Director Henry Lewers) is challenging, but overall masterfully done, especially the duets.  Directed and choreographed by Vincent DeGeorge, with winning synchronized microorganism movements which range from interesting isolations to the hustle. Very clever. This is a laugh-out-loud show, with deadpan delivery, and good timing in sight gags and bits.

“Yeast Nation” is about, well, a nation of yeast led by Jan-the-Elder (Eli Mayer) who has strict rules, primarily forbidding the yeast (mostly his children) to rise or procreate, and as the food supply dwindles he rules with a platform of sameness. His daughter, Jan-the-Sly (Delaney Guyer), plans to overthrow him for power, not for the good of the nation, and plots to kill the next in line with the help of Jan-the-Famished (Jamie Goodson), whom she has blackmailed. Sly’s target, Jan-the Second-Oldest (John Collins), falls in love with Jan-the-Sweet (Bailee Endebrock), but Jan-the Wise (Erich Schleck) wants her, too. Love is a new complication in this yeast nation, predicting both joy and pain. New characters are introduced (played by Elijah King and Veronica Stern) that further complicate the nation.  

Every student is an amazing performer.  The music calls for great range, and they handle it with ease.  Anya Axel as the narrator/seer Jan-the-Unnamed opens the show powerfully and tells the audience what they are in for.  It is a presentational show; the fourth wall is broken many times, and we creatures from the future are warned.  Mayer is a strong and proud father who commands his nation and the stage with his booming voice. Some of the best musical moments come during duets, such as Goodson and Guyer, or Collins and Endebrock. The hilarious lyrics “It won’t be a bother to murder my father” or the multilayered “Is there more to life” add to the richness. There are many memorable numbers, including “Stasis is the Membrane (that keeps us all together),” “I’ll Change the World Around Her,” and “The World Won’t Wait.” Schleck channels his inner Squidward and has some of the funniest moments. The Yeast Ensemble includes: Olivia Buss, Carlee Coulehan, Haley Holcomb, Victoria Popritkin, Jordyn Baline Walker, Nick Berninger, David Littlefield, Quinn Surdez, and Jake Waford.

The set (Joshua E. Gallagher) is a simple box of silver fabric strips, a ladder (to rise), some moveable seating, and disco balls, all making a great backdrop to the colorful lighting (Nicholas Smith).  There is a groovy retro modern feel in some of the clothing. All the clothes are white, but full of clever details and texture. Kudos to the uncredited coordinator.  

This is a fun show which may remind you of “Sponge Bob” and of course “Urinetown.” GO! not only for the CCM talent, but for what is probably a “proto-narrative” you’ve never seen before, yet also a warning, not to run through all of our natural resources. You will rise to your feet at the end!  Two more shows – April 6 at 2 pm. and at 8 pm. Tickets are free but arrive early to put your name on the waiting list. Contact the CCM Box Office 513-556-6638 for more information.