(Cover Photo: Amanda LoCoco as "Samantha Brown" and Christina Pierro-Biggins as "Beverly" in a moment from the musical "THE MAD ONES" by Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk presented by Studio Theatre Worcester in Worcester, MA. now playing through June 25, 2023. Photo Credit John Somers)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
“Turns out, being scared can make you legitimately dangerous."
- ("Sam") Kait Kerrigan/Bree Lowdermilk
Studio Theatre Worcester is excited to announce their production of "THE MAD ONES" (formerly known as "The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown").
Written by Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk
Directed by Lydia Cochran
Music Direction by Kris Layton
Cast Includes: Amanda LoCoco - Sam; Julia Anthon - Kelly; Christina Pierro-Biggins - Beverly; David Livingston - Adam
Additional Creative Team:
Producer - Rob Klimeczko; Technical Director - David Plante; Stage Manager - Hazel J. Peters; ASM/Costume Coordinator - Juli McGourty; Intimacy Director - Katelyn Moran; Dramaturg - Aya Khoury; Community Program Associate - Megan Paluzzi; Production Manager - John Wayland Somers; House Manager - Dana Pellegrino; Sound Board Op/Engineer - Tom Powers; Light Board Op - Charlie Wynn.
June 15 through June 25, 2023
(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)
Cole Porter Black Box Theatre, Worcester Academy Performance Center, 14 Marion Avenue, Worcester, MA. 01604
Note: STUDIO THEATRE WORCESTER (STW) has a variety of accessible ticket options. While tickets are $25 general admission, STW also offers $10 tickets to Students and $5 tickets to anyone who utilizes the EBT, MassWIC, or Connector Care programs.
COVID 19 PROTOCOLS
Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.
Studio Theatre Worcester (STW) takes to the road in “THE MAD ONES,” a musical written jointly by Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk.
It is highly recommended for anyone planning to attend this musical emotional rollercoaster ride that you bring along some tissues as you will most assuredly need them by the end.
Other works by Kerrigan and Lowdermilk include, “The Bad Years,” “Republic,” “Unbound,” “Flash of Time,” and “The Woman Upstairs.”
“THE MAD ONES” starts with a girl in a car working through intensive personal traumatic anxiety or "complicated grief."
STW references grief counseling resources which are listed within the show's program.
The show's description might read like a musical cross between “The Graduate” and “Thelma and Louise” but “MAD ONES” is nothing like either.
It is unconventional, which probably explains why it is considered a bit of a “left field” favorite – not really having come up through the ranks of smaller theatre venues to larger ones.
While it did have a New York run in 2017, the show seems to have grown in popularity through a plethora of online performance videos shared on YouTube and other social media platforms.
According to Wikipedia, Kerrigan initially wrote the story for an all-student production at Barnard College but later re-worked the musical with the assistance of Lowdermilk for a potential broader audience.
Based on “The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown” the show features book and lyrics by Kerrigan, music and lyrics by Lowdermilk with additional book and concept by Zach Altman.
When collaborating on “MAD ONES” the partners noted their belief in the internet as, “a way to expand access to theater and elevate new perspectives.”
Much of their collective fan support has been achieved through grassroots campaigns such as “Kickstarter.”
As the story begins, high school graduation is nearing, and class valedictorian Samantha (Amanda LoCoco) stares ahead at the crossroads appearing before her eyes - but does not know which path to take.
In his groundbreaking 1957 novel “On the Road,” author Jack Kerouac wrote,“...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 and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
The world is full of uncertainty, at the moment, with young minds (like the Class of 2023) at the precipice of a multiverse of options for whichever direction their adulthood will ultimately take.
“THE MAD ONES” certainly embraces this concept and conveys the overall message in no uncertain terms.
Balancing on the edge of her future, Samantha sits in the driver's seat, she faces a choice:
Will she follow in the footsteps of her mother, Beverly (Christina Pierro-Biggins) or take the dare of her impetuous and "spirited" best friend, Kelly (Julia Anthon), and chart a new path for herself?
One character that seems to become "collateral damage" as the play progresses is Samantha's supportive, well-meaning, videogame-obsessed boyfriend, Adam (David Livingston) who truly exemplifies the term "mensch."
(Photo: David Livingston as "Adam" and Amanda LoCoco as "Samantha" share a moment together in the musical "THE MAD ONES" by Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk presented by Studio Theatre Worcester in Worcester, MA. now playing through June 25, 2023. Photo Credit John Somers)
Samantha just wants to leave her life as it has been up until now and drive...drive...and drive.
The only thing holding her back?
Sam doesn't drive. As the cast points out, "Sam Failed Her Driver's Test" four times.
The further we get into the show, however, the test isn't the only thing holding her back.
One of the most difficult things when starting a journey is usually taking that first step.
Sam is sitting in a car, "stuck in Neutral" because she has an idea of what she wants to do but the support to do it just isn't there.
In the meantime, she reflects on what brought her to this crossroads, besides graduation.
It is a simply wonderful performance by Amanda LoCoco who showcases Samantha as a character neither simple nor complex.
Instead, she just shows us Sam as a very confused and frightened teenager, working through some "stuff" - And some of this "stuff" she has to work through no one (at any age) should have to work through.
(Photo: Julia Anthon as "Kelly" in a scene from the musical "THE MAD ONES" by Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk presented by Studio Theatre Worcester in Worcester, MA. now playing through June 25, 2023. Photo Credit John Somers)
An interesting discussion takes place between Beverly and Samantha with Beverly pointing out how Kerouac and his buddies, as men, were much more able to travel as he documents in "On the Road" - but it would have been far more difficult for a woman to take such a journey.
At least, not in 1957 and, perhaps, still not as likely even in 2023.
Under the careful guidance of director Lydia Cochran, all the performances by this quartet of actors comes across as affectionate and sincere as everyone just wants what is best for Samantha.
The only problem is - Sam isn't certain of what "best" is anymore. She only knows she can't find it where she is (mentally or physically).
As Sam's mother, Beverly, Christina Pierro-Biggins brings forth a character that is a shrewd, smart single parent - a statistical-obsessed educator who has brought Sam this far in her journey all on her own and is reluctant to let go.
Then there is Julia Anthon as Sam's best friend, Kelly, completely uninhibited, brash and unapologetic.
She reflects the "type of Sam" that Sam would love to be but is afraid to embrace. Kelly's unconstrained freeness is exhibited flawlessly by Anthon throughout the show.
On the technical side, the set design used within the black box space is that of a "big, black puzzle" and is utilized exceptionally well by the cast.
Indicative of specific places in Sam's recollections, the set also seems symbolic of various abstract pieces of a larger "mental puzzle" - which is exactly how some of Sam's more painful "fractured" memories come across.
(Photo: Amanda LoCoco as "Samantha Brown" and Christina Pierro-Biggins as "Beverly" in a moment from the musical "THE MAD ONES" by Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk presented by Studio Theatre Worcester in Worcester, MA. now playing through June 25, 2023. Photo Credit John Somers)
The show's most familiar tunes (thanks to YouTube and social media) are the ones Samantha sings as a duet with Kelly and their voices blend well together on most, including "Freedom," Ordinary Senior Year," "There Was a Party" and even the show's title song, "The Mad Ones."
As Adam, David Livingston sings "Run Away With Me" a touching number showing Adam wanting to provide Sam with what Adam believes to be what Sam wants.
There is a "Next to Normal"-ish vibe to the score but, even with this show's well-crafted "teenage angst" aura, there is a far lighter tone, overall, because every single character is likeable.
Even though there is a tragic element to the story, there are no villains to be found here or, at least, no ill intent.
There is also, at the end of each musical segment, little room allowing for applause, thus making the overall flow of the entire piece to be uninterrupted, letting the anticipation build.
The cast was backed by a consummate musical quartet - comprised of violin, harp, guitar - all aiding in percussion, conducted by the show's music director, Kris Layton, who accompanied on keyboard.
Occasionally, while the solos were completely unaffected, some harmonies on the duets and group numbers did not always blend. This was due, in part, to an occasional (and seemingly intentional) "atonal" quality to some of the score which did not always prove successful.
For any songs impacted by the above, the cast certainly made up for this with a spirited conviction, excelling in both nuance and approach.
Over the course of the 90-minute one act (although the June 16th performance did run closer to one hour, 45 minutes) we grow to care deeply about the characters, especially with LoCoco's embodiment of Sam.
For any loving parent, watching a child in any kind of emotional distress can be unnerving if not heartbreaking. Many parents of teens will likely see their own teen reflected in Sam's story.
Like Kerouac, Sam's journey is not taken alone. We are there along for the ride with her.
Studio Theatre Worcester's “THE MAD ONES” continues its journey at the Worcester Academy Performance Center until June 25th and is absolutely a journey worth taking.
Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
Mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved...
18-year-old Samantha Brown sits in a hand-me-down car with the keys clutched in her hand.
Caught between a yearning for the unknown and feeling bound by expectation, she telescopes back to a time before her world had fallen apart.
As she relives her senior year, we meet Sam’s well-intentioned helicopter mother Bev and her high school sweetheart of a boyfriend Adam, but it’s her painfully alive best friend Kelly that haunts her.
Kelly was everything Sam is not – impetuous and daring.
She pushed Sam to break rules and do the unexpected.
When Kelly is killed in a car wreck, Sam loses not only her best friend but also the part of herself that was learning to be brave.
Now, Sam has to make a decision:
Will she follow her mother’s dreams for her, or will she summon the courage to drive away from her friends and family into a future she can’t imagine?
ABOUT STUDIO THEATRE WORCESTER
STUDIO THEATRE WORCESTER (STW) is committed to a differentiated, professional theatre experience that reflects the diversity and vibrancy of Worcester communities. Our high quality, theatrical productions and education programs inspire and challenge our audiences while providing compensated opportunities for artists.
STUDIO THEATRE WORCESTER will be the professional theatre of choice for artists, designers, educators, and theatre goers in Central Massachusetts.
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Identify and DISMANTLE SYSTEMS that inhibit access to theatre.
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