Mad ones
Credit: Eliana Kwok

“I am left numb in the loop of the memories”: The Mad Ones reviewed

Broken Wheel Productions arrived at the Michael Pilch Studio with their production of Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk’s The Mad Ones with massive success. Directed by Felix Westcott and produced by Tom Freeman, the journey of discovery that occurred through the ninety-minute, one-act musical was full of raw emotion and expression that was truly a joy to watch.

The Mad Ones tells the story of Sam Brown, an eighteen year old, unsure what she wants out of life and undergoing a process of discovery. Portrayed through different memories returning to the forefront of Sam’s mind, the musical explores themes of trauma, confidence, conflict, and progress.

The four characters of the musical were accompanied by a similarly small ensemble, led and conducted from the keyboard by Musical Director Iris Burlacu. Featuring violin, guitar, harp, percussion, and keys, the band played superbly well throughout and the balance between the different instruments was good. There were a couple of moments where specific chords were not quite together, but this was no fault of the musicians; instead, it resulted due to the constraints of the Pilch. In order to create the space for the staging, the band had to be split to different sides of the theatre making visibility for the musicians and a sense of ensemble difficult.

The band drove the show along with skill and technique. The intonation was excellent and the partnership between the violin’s countermelodies and the singers was beautifully balanced and connected.

The singers were generally wonderful: each portrayed their character well and their singing was equally impressive. Jak Spencer captured Adam’s (Sam’s boyfriend) nervousness and hopeless quirks perfectly; Isabella Bradshaw as Kelly (Sam’s dead best friend) was hilarious, and Rachel Hodes (Sam’s mother) portrayed her overly protective and obsessive traits well. My particular favourite songs included the opening number, ‘The Girl who Drove Away’, and ‘The Proposal’ (a song about sex that was absolutely hilarious and had the audience bursting out with laughter).

Certain voices within the production lacked warmth and colouring with an absence of vibrato. During a couple of the vocal interludes, the parts sat a little high in the singers’ ranges, resulting in a rare moment where lines felt a bit forced. There were also a couple of moments where the intonation of some of the singers was a little awry, but the four different voices blended together beautifully well in the many duets and larger ensemble numbers: no one voice overpowered the others.

Rebekah Devlin as Sam was undeniably the star of the show. She portrayed the main character with a level of proficiency, and her voice was the best of the lot. The many different emotions that Sam experiences were all captured through Devlin’s acting and singing. In ‘Say the Word’, when Sam expresses how she feels towards her boyfriend Adam, Devlin’s singing was simply stunning: each phrase had a sense of direction and shape, and her beautiful vocals shone through the acoustic of the Pilch. The sheer amount of control, restraint, warmth, and colour that Devlin deployed brilliantly portrayed the deep underlying emotion that underpinned every word.

The relationships between the characters felt realistic, natural, and charming. All the interactions between Devlin and Hodes felt like mother and child, and Devlin and Bradshaw were perfect together as best friends: every argument, joyful moment, and duet felt real. The chemistry between Devlin and Spencer appeared natural and they perfectly depicted the awkward teenage romance.

For such an excellent production, my only other criticism was regarding the level of the singers. I felt that due to the intimate and small nature of the space, the base volume that was set was just a little too high which occasionally resulted in a rare overly loud moment.

The lighting of the production added a sense of depth to the narrative. Designed by Tilly Jackson-Long and assisted by Jonathan Tanner, the different tones of the lights were used as a framing device: they allowed for a greater understanding of whether scenes were memories or in present tense. The addition of two sets of traffic lights helped to depict the highway road. The car that is so central to the setting was made out of a staging platform, metal bars, and LEDs and I thought this was utilised well throughout the production. The set was simple in nature, but this worked perfectly within the venue, as the space did not allow for much more.

This was an amazing production of an emotional and engaging musical. I would highly recommend grabbing yourself a ticket while you still can if you haven’t done so already.