Krystina Alabado Photos by Richard Termine
By Eugene Paul
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.
Alabado and Leah Hocking
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
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
Emma Hunton (as Kelly) and Krystina Alabado
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.
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.
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.
At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, near Park Avenue. Tickets:
$25-$70. 212-279-4200. 90 min. Thru Dec 17.