Who hasn’t at point some just wanted to get in the car and go anywhere the road leads? For Samantha Brown the decision to get in the car and drive is much more than just a distraction, her whole life depends on it.
Samantha just wants to drive on a “long stretch of highway with the radio blaring with my best friend Kelly singing along.” However, that idea just can’t happen, and she must grapple with the reality that her senior year isn’t anything like she thought it would be.
Written by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, The Unauthorized Autobiography Of Samantha Brown at Aurora Theatre explores the idea of being at a metaphorical crossroads. Like Thelma and Louise, a reference that runs through the show, this story is more about the empowerment of self and learning to take control of one’s own life. Samantha must decide what is more important: everyone’s expectations or her own happiness.
A delight to watch, the musical features catchy music and stellar performances, especially from Kylie Brown as Samantha. She gives the character a sense of innocence that balances well with her intelligence. From the moment she walks out on stage, she grabs the audience and doesn’t let it go.
Stephanie Friedman provides an equal match for Brown in the role of Samantha’s best friend Kelly, and she brings a sense of rebelliousness that works as a strong foil to Samantha. Their strong chemistry and powerhouse vocals are showcased in the song “Freedom,” which elicits strong reactions and applause from the crowd.
As Samantha’s mother Wendy Melkonian takes the supporting character and makes it seem as though it should be a leading role. She is funny, like in the cookies scene or when she embarrasses Sam with baby photos, but she also makes you want to root for her as she tries to reconnect with her daughter. Chris Damino, as Dad, and Jeremiah Parker Hobbs, as Adam (Samantha’s boyfriend), complete the talented cast.
Clever lyrics and quick-paced dialogue compliment the show’s hook-filled music. Even though the characters are singing dialogue that moves the story along, the song feels like a song the two girls are actually singing along on the radio. Just as much of a testament to the writing as it is the direction by Justin Anderson, these scenes set the right tone for the production’s quirky humor that frames the more serious moments.
There are poignant moments that will pull on your heart strings that are balanced well against the more humorous side of the musical that doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. The show even features a parody of a music video that is quite entertaining.
A fresh, interesting take on a coming of age story, The Unauthorized Autobiography Of Samantha Brown runs at Aurora Theatre through April 6, 2014. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The show’s runtime is 90 minutes with no intermission.
– Kenny Norton