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The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown
a Musical
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by Kait Kerrigan (words) & Brian Lowdermilk (music)

COMPANY : 2 Fat Farmers Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 14th Street Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 4558

SHOWING : March 13, 2014 - April 06, 2014

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Sam is a girl who has what every teenager wants: brains, a boyfriend, functional parents and an acceptance letter to the college of her choice. Yet she sits in her car with her bags packed and can’t turn the key in the ignition. At the crossroads to adulthood, will Samantha come to terms with her parents’ expectations, her first love, and a lost friendship and start the car, drive away and find freedom?


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Justin Anderson
Music Director Ann-Carol Pence
Choreographer Becca Potter
Sam Kylie Brown
Dad Chris Damiano
Kelly Stephanie Friedman
Adam Jeremiah Hobbs
Mom Wendy Melkonian
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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It Only Takes a Moment
by playgoer
Monday, March 17, 2014
4.0
"The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown" takes place in the blink of an eye. At the start, Samantha is in her car in the driveway of her parents’ house, deciding whether to go off to her freshman year at Columbia University or to drive off to freedom. At the end, the car is moving. Everything in between is memory or fantasy, focused on getting a driver’s license, losing her virginity, and deciding on her type of college education. Sam, as she is known, is class valedictorian and presumably headed to an Ivy League college like her parents, but feels the pull of her slacker boyfriend Adam and of her older friend Kelly at a less prestigious university.

"Academy," another new musical produced recently by Aurora Theatre, centered on teenage boys in prep school. This show centers on a single female high school graduate, and it is far more successful than "Academy." Even so, it may not be a particularly good match for the season ticket base at Aurora Theatre. I noticed a couple of men leaving the theatre during the show and saw them waiting outside as I left, overhearing that they just couldn’t take any more of the music, which is almost non-stop for the intermissionless 90-minute running time.

The fantasies, time jumps, and alternate timelines in the show make it a little hard to follow for some playgoers. Add to that an arguably inconclusive ending and the enjoyment of the show comes from the journey, not from any epiphanous message. And enjoyments there are a-plenty.

The cast have uniformly excellent voices. They sell the songs by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk with energy and verve, sometimes hampered by Daniel Terry’s sound design, which amplifies their voices to the point of being muddled during the loudest sections. The score is pleasant, sometimes witty and often heartfelt. As always, Ann-Carol Pence provides superb musical direction and accompaniment. It’s a score I’d love to hear again.

The casting of Wendy Melkonian and Kylie Brown as mother and daughter is highly fortuitous, for there’s a physical similarity. Never mind that they’re both effervescent and practically glow with the opportunity to perform for an audience. Add in Stephanie Friedman as Sam’s friend Kelly, and the female contingent of the cast is absolutely superb. "She should be on Broadway" was the comment from my theatre-going companion concerning Ms. Friedman. Chris Damiano, as Sam’s Dad, and Jeremiah Parker Hobbs, as Sam’s boyfriend Adam, also do fine work, but their characters are not written to be quite as appealing as the female characters.

Technically, the production is a bit of a disappointment. Phil Male’s set has what I can only describe as a Danish post-modern feel to it, with lots of different types of faux wood in columns and frames scattered about, a highly raked upstage section, and a weird metal and wood automobile dead center. It looks dated and unattractive, and works as an impediment to Mike Post’s projections on the back wall. Lighting otherwise is fine, although the photo slide shows appearing on screens beside the stage are not at all impressive. A smaller production might better suit the scale of this small-cast musical.

Director Justin Anderson has staged the show to make the story flow nicely. Choreographer Becca Potter’s contribution isn’t noteworthy, since there’s nothing that would be called dancing in the show other than some ensemble movement during backup vocals. It’s the actors that shine in this production, and the director must be given credit for allowing them to do this in ways that further the production’s flow. "The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown" may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a highly worthwhile effort in bringing contemporary American musical theatre to Lawrenceville. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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