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A CurtainUp Review
The Mad Ones

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars. — Jack Kerouac,¬†On the Road

I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead. —Joan Didion,The Year of Magical Thinking.
mad ones
L-R: Emma Hunton (as Kelly) and Krystina Alabado (as Samantha Brown) Photo by Richard Termine.
It is an "if only" moment in life for Samantha Brown, age 18. She is sitting behind the wheel of a car, her bags packed, key in the ignition. The door to adulthood beckons and all she has to do is turn the key, but is she ready? Will she later wonder, "if only" she had made Decision A, would she be a professional success? "If only" she had made Decision B, would she be content with a husband and family? "If only" she followed "the mad ones" like Jack Kerouac and her best friend, Kelly, living day to day, free and easy, no responsibilities, would she be happy? Or would she be dead?

But "if only" is a future question. As Sam sits behind the wheel memories of her childhood, family, friends, high school, her past, future plans spin through her mind. The Mad Ones, a 90-minute musical by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk is a lifetime that passes in a flash.

Directed by Stephen Brackett at 59E59 Theaters, The Prospect Theater Company's The Mad Ones is a non-linear, almost sung-through musical about the coming-of age of Samantha Brown (Krystina Alabado). A highly intelligent high-school graduate, Sam is about to leave home but is she headed for Columbia University or for the road less traveled? Sitting still, memories fluidly flash back, one after another. One moment she is with her best friend, Kelly (Emma Hunton), the doomed free spirit who urges, "Be careless and wild and squeeze the life out of every second. And don't crash my car. I'm serious. I will, like, haunt you."

Suddenly Beverly (Leah Hocking), her mother, appears— brilliant but dogmatic, she advises Sam to take advantage of her intelligence, "Remember everything that led you here."

Then Adam, her boyfriend, appears, played this evening by Jay Armstrong Johnson in a decisive performance. He finally admits his love for Sam and the plans he makes for them. "Run away with me. It's as simple as that."

This New York premiere was once known as the cult musical, The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown ). With Kait Kerrigan's book and lyrics and the music of her long-time friend, Brian Lowdermilk, the goal is to connect with aficionados of coming-of-age productions.

Occasionally sluggish with no plot, no narration, little focus, slivers of flashbacks. The songs evolve out of memories. The lyrics are incisive and emotional. The music is contemporary and often repetitive, although "Freedom" rings vibrantly with electricity.

Some music has been put online, one breakout being Adam's beautifully nuanced plea, "Run Away With Me." Many of the songs are belted and these performers are up for it. A fine orchestra in the balcony adds melodic harmonies.

With a solid cast, changes in the characters emerge subtly through the show. Alabado ( American Psycho ) clearly shows Sam's hesitancy when faced with decision. Admitted to Harvard, she begins to wonder if she should even go to college. (Why not take a year off?) Or should she go with Kelly to the state school where the two could cut loose and be free. Hunton's ( Next to Normal ) portrayal of Kelly abounds with energy, an irresistible, loyal bestie, often cajoling Sam out of her bouts of worry.

What about Adam? Sam loves him but realizes he is not the mate for her. The show was cast with Ben Fankhauser as Adam but temporarily, Johnson ( Hands On a Hardbody ) fits hand-in-glove into the role of a likable, slightly dim teenager, loyal and in love with Sam.

As Beverly, Sam's well-educated and accomplished mother, Hocking ( Hairspray ) evolves from having been a hard-working but distant mother, then overbearing, and now, at the end, she balances into moderation. She admits to Sam, "What matters - I' m telling myself - is that it's not my call, is it?" What is not clear is if and how Beverly's feminism has affected her daughter.

Adam Rigg's set is simple with lighting by David Lander and loud, dramatic crashing sounds by Alex Hawthorn.

At this moment, this "if only" moment is not relevant to Sam. "You know what you want but you still haven't turned the key. You have to savor this - the way it feels to want something so much that you' ll risk regretting." This show will appeal most to coming-of-age viewers with many "if only" moments to face.






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PRODUCTION NOTES
The Mad Mad Ones
Book, Music, Lyrics: Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk
Director: Stephen Brackett
Cast: Krystina Alabado as Samantha Brown; Emma Hunton as her best friend Kelly; and Ben Fankhauser as Adam, her boyfriend as Adam (Jay Armstrong Johnson plays Adam until Dec. 3), Leah Hocking as Samantha' s mom
Orchestra: Paul Staroba/Jeremy Robin Lions (Piano Conductor), Peter Cho (Guitar), Lynette Wardle (Harp), Sita chay/Kiku Enomoto (Violin)
Choreographer: Alexandra Beller
Scenic Design: Adam Rigg
Costume Design: Jessica Pabst
Lighting Design: David Lander
Sound Design: Alex Hawthorn
Music Director is Paul Staroba
Production Stage Manager: Veronica Aglow
Running Time: 90 minutes. No intermission
Musical numbers: The Girl Who Drove Away, Freedom,My Mom Is A Statisticion,Top Ten, Simple As That, The Mad Ones,I Know My Girl, Miles To Go,Way the Word,Moving On,Go Tonight, Run Away With Me, Drive,Remember This
Theatre: 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues
Performances: Tues to Thurs. at. 7pm. Fri. at 8 PM, Sat. at 2pm, 8pm. Sun. at 3pm. Please note: there is an added performance on Sun., November 12 at 7 PM; no matinee performance on Sat., Nov. 11. For Thanksgiving week: added performance on Tues., November 21 at 2pm. No performances on Wed., Nov. 22 and Thurs., Nov. 23.
Previews: 11/07/17. Opens: 11/16/17. Closes: 12/17/17
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 11/12/17


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