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The Mad Ones

Krystina Alabado          Photos by Richard Termine


              By Eugene Paul


Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk , pop music theater writing team for fifteen years – they did the book, music and lyrics for The Mad Ones – don’t give up.  When, several years ago The Mad Ones, then known as The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown, wasn’t working, they rescued songs – “Run Away With Me” has had 2,000,000 hits on their You Tube site – rescued their central nerdy character, high school senior  Samantha Brown, and with three other Samantha influencing characters, her mother, Beverly, her boy friend, Adam and her best friend, Kelly took off on another trajectory: which of these influencers would determine her future? Because Samantha, (achingly talented Krystina Alabaldo) like millions of other graduating high schoolers, didn’t have a cotton pickin’ clue as to what she wanted her future to be. She was an eighteen year old adolescent.


Krystina Alabado  and Leah Hocking


Firstly, of course, there’s her mother, Beverly (smashing Leah Hocking). “My Mom is a Statisician”, Samantha sings.  And she certainly is, but with a very interesting kind of sashay to her walk, a wry attitude about teen age angst, and a not too well concealed horror of her daughter’s abilities in learning to drive a car, especially now that Kelly (blazing Emma Hunton), Samantha’s dearest friend, has killed herself in a traffic accident of her own making. And Samantha has closed down; she’s not talking to her mom, who keeps trying to assure herself that things are going to be  all right.  “I Know My Girl” she sings, more to convince herself than what appears to be the case.


Jay Armstrong Johnson (as Adam), Krystina Alabado 



And, yes, there’s Adam. (totally endearing Jay Armstrong Johnson) who simply wants what Samantha wants and dearly hopes it’s him. “Run Away With Me” and as long as it’s us together everything will be perfect, we’ll find that house just for us and our kids and we’ll live happily ever after.  Yes, all he wants in life is Samantha, and taking over his father’s automotive business is just what he can do and can take care of them and yes, Samantha is a valedictorian and yes Samantha’s mother wants her to go to Harvard, and yes, Samantha thinks too much about Kelly but whatever Samantha wants is fine with him.  As long as it includes him.


Emma Hunton (as Kelly) and Krystina Alabado


Kelly has not gone. Samantha sees her and hears her and still listens to her.  Kelly is all fun and light and brightness, crazy hair, crazy clothes, all her best memories, and Kelly won’t go away.  She’s still singing to Samantha about “Freedom”.  She’s still telling Samantha to get behind the wheel and “Drive”.  No maps, “That’s for the brain dead.” Go where the road leads you, don’t think, feel.  Feel alive. Samantha cannot make up her mind.  And Kelly often changes her mind. Samantha is cautious; Kelly is never cautious.  All Kelly’s restlessness still surrounds Samantha.


Which should give director Stephen Brackett a bushel full of opportunities for keeping things in interesting confusion except that scenic designer Adam Rigg has come up with a single environment which succeeds mostly in thwarting any sense of place no matter how many props a well drilled cast pulls into place and carries off as the multitude of scenes zips one after the next.  At least that seems to satisfy a need for movement. 


I was genuinely surprised by the explosion of enthusiastic appreciation expressed by a mostly twentysomething audience which had remained silent throughout except for a single round of applause after Leah Hocking’s passionate, standout performance in her “Miles to Go” number as Beverly, Samantha’s worried mother. It was as if they were saving it all up for the curtain calls.  Apparently, they found delights in the artless music which escaped me, although I found moments of art in the deliberately repetitious lyrics. Obviously, the theater piece is still in development and more power to them. More originality, too, please.


The Mad Ones. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, near Park Avenue.  Tickets: $25-$70. 212-279-4200. 90 min. Thru Dec 17.