Arts Features, Arts

After Complicated Production Process, ‘The Mad Ones’ Musical Expresses the Uncertainty of Youth

Madison Baker laid her notebook down on the table. The front and back covers are enveloped by a homemade collage that she pieced together, and its pages are stuffed with notes about The Mad Ones, the musical that occupied the intimate Bonn Studio Theater from Jan. 27 to 30. 

Opening the notebook at its centerfold, Baker, director of The Mad Ones and MCAS ’22, revealed that the lined pages are enshrouded by splashes of dark colors pierced by vibrant blues. Beside these harsh contrasts of light and dark, ordinary images of roads and highways appear sinister. 

The notebook contains Baker’s creative inspiration for the musical and represents the process of getting the show from the page to the stage, a process which began in March 2021. 

The Boston College theatre department reserves the position of director of its winter production for senior theatre majors, who apply for the position and submit a proposal for the show they want to put on. Baker said that she has been anticipating the opportunity to direct a production since starting at BC.

“I was just so moved by the piece,” Baker said. “And I thought that it was such an important story to tell, but [it] still describes stress and anxiety and fear and vulnerability in a way that I had never seen before or articulated before.”

After the department accepted her application in the spring, Baker met with the show’s ensemble of student designers: scenic designer Lily Telegdy, Lynch ’23, costume designer Franny Giangiulio, MCAS ’23, and lighting designers Jun Choi, MCAS ’23, and Sophia Lombardo, MCAS ’23. 

The group brainstormed the show’s visual themes, which Baker’s eclectic collage embodies. The Mad Ones is the first student-directed musical that the BC theatre department has produced, although it has produced student-directed plays in the past. 

Standing before audience members as they trickled into the blackbox theater was a three-dimensional version of the images Baker had laid out in her journal. A gray board sat in the center of the stage with its surface fragmented by triangular pieces. Vibrant LED lights lit up from behind the pieces. In front sat the steely outline of a car. 

The musical opens with Samantha (Giovanna Befeler, MCAS ’23) singing “The Girl Who Drove Away” in front of a backdrop reminiscent of an explosion. Up until her senior year of high school, Samantha’s life had been complicated yet planned to a T. She had the same boyfriend, Adam (Nick Rossi, MCAS ’23), for three years. Her overbearing mother, Beverly (Julia Parks, CSON ’24), was hell-bent on having Samantha follow in her Ivy League footsteps. 

But Samantha’s world imploded when her best friend Kelly (Abby Wachter, MCAS ’25) died in a car crash during their senior year. What was supposed to be a year full of memories turned into a year of reflection for Samantha. Already questioning whether she should attend college or stay with her boyfriend, the death of the one person who made her feel free made Samantha want to embark on her own adventure. 

The musical deals with the heavy topic of loss, but there are strong comedic moments interspersed throughout, as Samantha deals with other characters in her life. In Adam’s humorous ballad “The Proposal,” he pleads to Samantha “Won’t you please have sex with me? / I make great Darjeeling tea.”

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and winter break interrupting rehearsals, the production process was far from simple. The cast’s first week of rehearsal took place on Zoom due to a cast member testing positive for COVID-19. 

Since the cast had to rehearse the music over Zoom, Emma Roney, the music director, sound designer, and MCAS ’22, used sample tracks of the songs and isolated each actor’s vocal parts from the tracks to make it easier to learn their individual parts. Roney also gave each actor the track with every vocal arrangement except theirs on it, making it so they could hear how their voices sounded together without singing at the same time or in the same room. 

“I mean, I think our cast was so talented that it was easy because they were quick learners,” Roney said.

The music Roney directed coincided with Samantha’s changing feelings throughout the show. When Samantha alludes to Kelly’s tragic car accident, a heartbeat-like beat plays in the background. 

Similarly, the light emanating from the gray shards in the backdrop changed based on the characters’ emotions. When Samantha voiced her frustrations about her mom, the light turned pink, the color of love. Even though Samantha gets annoyed with Beverly, her love for her mother still shines through. As Beverly talks about the stress of teaching Samantha how to drive, the lighting becomes brighter and more intense to match her increasing anxiety. 

Performers in The Mad Ones entered the stage from all directions but typically congregated near the car prop that remained the focal point of the set. The constant presence of the car shows that in order to solve the other problems in her life, Samantha has to acknowledge the one that causes her the most pain, no matter how hard she tries to avoid it. 

As the actors faced the challenges of the rehearsal process together, the four-person cast each stepped up individually to dive into their character study and also forged a close bond with each other, Baker said. Wachter agreed that the four cast members forged close connections through the intense production process. 

“It was a really tight-knit group, and we were all just really supportive of each other,” Wachter said. “And [we were] all working really hard. The hours were long, … but I think that the group that we have made it possible to work under these circumstances.”

The show came together with only 14 days of rehearsal before beginning dress rehearsals. Not only did the cast and crew connect over the story they were telling, but the musical’s theme of figuring out your path in life is relatable to a college audience. 

As a college senior, Baker said that the show resonated with her as approaches a new phase of life.

“I get uncomfortable watching it sometimes because I literally can see myself having these [same] conversations and can see myself in these characters, which is a good thing,” Baker said. “And you know, I don’t think theatre is supposed to make us feel comfortable. But, it’s really exciting.”

Featured Images by Vikrum Singh / Heights Editor

Featured Video by Seeun Ahn / Heights Editor

January 31, 2022