Tesseract's engaging "Mad Ones" features strong cast, great singing
By Michelle Kenyon
Tesseract Theatre Company's foray into musical theatre continues to be a resounding success. Having produced a few impressive musicals so far, the company's new focus is continuing with an excellent production of a smaller show with a big heart. “The Mad Ones”--written by Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk--isn't one I had heard of before, but after seeing the first-rate production at the Marcelle, directed and choreographed by Kevin Corpuz, I'm sure I'll remember it for some time to come.
The plot isn't particularly unique, featuring the reasonably familiar formula of the young, rule-following protagonist trying to figure out the direction of her life, influenced by the more carefree attitude of her more outgoing, rebellious best friend. There's also a caring but sometimes overprotective parent and a sweet but unadventurous boyfriend, who the best friend thinks is boring. There's even a twist that's fairly easy to figure out early on in the show. Still, while in some ways seems like a story that's been told before, what makes it work is the sheer believability and likability of the characters, and the relatability of the situations. Recent high school graduate Samantha, her friend Kelly, her mom Beverly, and boyfriend Adam have a story to tell that's thought-provoking and well-constructed. There's also a good balance of humor and drama, as well as a memorable score of songs that fit the story well and express the characters' motivations and emotions with clarity.
The show is staged in an eye-catching way with an abstract set by Todd Schaefer that consists of series of platforms and performance areas, and a minimalist approximation of a car that features prominently in the story. There's also vibrant lighting by Brittanie Gunn that adds to the atmosphere and tone of the story. The sound by Jacob Baxley is well-balanced, and there's a great band led by music director and keyboardist Joe Schoen, doing justice to the score and supporting the performers well without overpowering the singers. The staging and choreography by director Corpuz are also well-paced and engaging.
What's most engaging of all here is the wonderful cast. Led by the eminently likable Melissa Felps as Samantha, the story is given just the right degree of emotional resonance, and the singing is excellent from all. Felps has a strong, emotive voice, and the rest of the cast is just as good, with Grace Langford as the impulsive, party-loving Kelly working especially well with Felps in their many scenes together. There are also pitch-perfect performances--both acting-wise and vocally--from Sarah Gene Dowling as the statistics-minded Beverly and Cody Cole as the kindhearted Adam. It's a strong ensemble all around, with cohesive chemistry and exquisite vocal harmonies.
Overall, “The Mad Ones” may not be the most well-known of shows and its premise might not seem entirely original, but it's well worth checking out for its emotional resonance, well-drawn characters, and relatable message. At Tesseract, it's also a showcase for a marvelous cast and some truly magnificent singing. It's more evidence for Tesseract that the decision to focus more on musicals was the right one.
Performances of “The Mad Ones,” from Tesseract Theatre Company, continue at the Marcelle Theatre until November 12. For more information, visit www.tesseracttheatre.com