I have talked in numerous reviews about how I feel that musicals get a bad rep for presenting an idealistic and glamorised version of reality where nothing ever really goes wrong (and even if it does it is quickly fixable!) This unrealistic portrayal of real life often turns people off from musicals as they are not able to relate to situations, locations characters etc. We are of course talking about musicals that are intentionally supposed to be set in non-fictional locations and a time zone very similar to the ones the audience experience everyday (for example Dear Evan Hansen, Everybody’s talking about Jaime and Rent) but obviously this is a completely different discussion for those that are supposed to be based in otherworldly locations! I think this links to the idea of representation in theatre as if you are setting your musical in the modern-day in a location the audience are very familiar with then you need to represent that experience accurately. For example, in Everyone’s talking about Jaime, of course, there is going to be students of different races, backgrounds, sexualities etc as that is what a British school experience is like and watchers will be able to relate to that but also it is a very minor educational element for those not from a British location. This idea of representation and realism does not just include the range of people we encounter or locations but also the narratives we are trying to convey. This idea in musicals that everything works out in the end and that every person we met is going to have a positive impact on our lives is very unrealistic (while I do understand the need for such stories) and is another reason many people dislike the genre of musical theatre. However, Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk’s ‘The Mad Ones’ completely flips this common cliche totally on its head!
The Mad ones is mostly about school valedictorian Samantha Brown (voiced in this recording by Krystina Alabado) and her best friend, Kelly (played by Emma Hunton), who died just before graduation when she was hit by a speeding automobile. Sam grows up with a very cautious mother Called Beverly (played by Leah Hocking) who has developed a book that focuses on the frequency of motor accidents who constantly reminds her daughter that “ Motor vehicle accidents claimed 40,200 lives in the U.S. last year.” However, her best friend Sam is much more radical and eccentric who encourages her to drive which leads to the accident that unfortunately claimed both their lives. The majority of this musical is told through the medium of flashbacks which highlight the events leading up to the crash and how Sam’s encouragement did not have a good resolution. I really enjoyed the fact that the two constraining characters do not meet a positive end as it is a much more honest and real portrayal of the people you met in real life. So many times o have watched shows, movies etc where a reserved character meets a more out-there character where the latter encourages the former to be more caution-less which is supposed to lead to the former becoming a more rounded person. While this does happen sometimes in real life, it is not always the case so to see this happen inside a theatre world is very fresh and exciting to me!
The song titled “freedom” is a very energetic and upbeat number that explores a newfound teenage rebellion between the two main characters (Sam and Kelly, mostly instilled by the latter.) it is a beautiful duet but the highlight for me is Krystina whose vocals in this song were a treat on the eyes and match led the more intense undertones of this song perfectly. I thought that this song really capture the carefree and rebellious feelings that I know I went through as a child that my mother warned me against but I still wanted to do them anyway. This musical is very clever about the way that it portrays motherhood within the show as begins with a negative number obsessed parent who seems to only focus on the negative which is revealed through the show that instead this is the caution and care that every mother experiences towards there child. While ‘Freedom’ on first listen is a song of empowerment and drive, once you have listened to the full show you will notice the nativity and carelessness of the two younger characters. The musical motifs of this song reappear later in this musical during “Miles to Go” performed by the mother which was a very clever inclusion and created an extremely emotional moment! I have to admit that the song “Top Ten” was not at all what I was expecting from this show that deals with such a serious and intense issue of death. This song is a comedic song that has Kelly laying out the top ten ways she would have liked to have died which indirectly reveals that our two characters are in fact dead. It includes a hilarious impression of ‘The Police’ lead singer Sting which was again an unexpected inclusion. I think the purpose of this song is to highlight the two contrasting ways these two character are dealing with the accident and has a much wider message of the range of ways people cope with death and loss. There are people who use humour as a coping mechanism (myself included) and much more light-hearted and jovial techniques are were the most effective healing can take place which I believe is the method that Kelly is using in this number. “Simple as that” was another comedic song which a much more romantic theme running throughout. To match the more lovey-dovey themes of this number the music used to accompany the performer is much more ornate and pretty with a very cute ostinato that appeared multiple times throughout the song. The two voices of Krystina and Ben Frankhouser not only worked beautifully together but also managed to add to the jovial elements of the song. To go from this very pretty song to “The Proposal” was such a quick sharp contrast that worked flawlessly. The song has agreed I’ve lyrics such as “have sex with me” and begging “please sleep with me” and represents an almost a ‘Fuck Boy journey’ by Ben’s character which again is such a realistic representation of the people you met in real life.
I really enjoyed the number “There was a party” which cleverly used sound effects of a distanced bass to represent the idea of a party far away. I can imagine this song being performed live with our lead character in a single spotlight with everyone else around her in a freeze-frame as if they are in the middle of a party. Our lead character is looking for her friend her is giving her a journey and I have to admit that stress of looking for someone who is taking you home and you can’t find them is incredibly relatable! Like I have already discussed this musical has a very complex but honest view of motherhood with no song showcasing that more than “I know my girl.” The song takes you on a musical journey that explores the techniques of flattery and subtly that mother uses to find out gossip and information when friends are over. I know for sure that my mum has used the classic I have made you a cake in the hopes of finding out drama before and I hove no doubt she will do so again! The song allows us to see another side of the analytical and stats obsessed mother when she talks about wanting to do things with her children that her mother did with her before it’s too late. The only song in this album that I had any knowledge of was “Run away with me” which was beautifully performed by Ben in this recording. The music flawlessly built and withdrew to create an emotion-filled rollercoaster of a number to listen to!
Overall, this is a very raw and honest album that explores the complexities of motherhood, loss and motor safety. It offers a real look into relatable friendship dynamics and life journeys that are not glamorised and idealistic but instead shows how not all people will have a positive effect on your life which despite how hurtful that sounds , is one of life’s fundamental truths! I would rate this musical 5 out of 5 stars!
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