CD Review: MAD LIBS LIVE! (Original Cast Recording)

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by Tony Frankel on February 4, 2018



Coming direct from the Missed Opportunity Department is a semi-educational musical geared towards kids and prepubescent audiences which ends up as merely juvenile. Mad Libs Live! is an hour-long show about four high-school teens who, as a team, enter a singing group competition. The prize? The title of “Teen Superstars.” The modus operandi here is that the group’s songwriter, Merrily — who was responsible for creating four songs — hasn’t finished them in time. Thus, she engages the audience at the start to write down words (nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives) on scraps of paper which will be pulled from a plastic bucket and inserted into sentences a la the popular game, Mad Libs.

Instantly unlikable is the just-released recording of the original 2015 off-Broadway cast. Certainly, Jeff Thomson (music) and Robin Rothstein (book and lyrics) desire nothing more than to create, per the show’s website, a “perfect musical for audiences 7 and up who want to stop being serious and start getting goofy,” but in going for goofy, they ended up with inane — even if it is meant for striplings.

To start, the ridiculous premise: Merrily’s lyrics are often missing only a few words, and it is usually the most obvious ones: “Like Superman You’ll    (verb)    Tall    (plural noun)   ” and “Things Will Be OK/Cuz I Will Save The    (noun)   !” So it’s weird when she says right at the start of the contest that she wasn’t able to finish the songs, which her teammates have already memorized because they know where the blanks are. Bearing that in mind, unexpected word contrasts may be funny in person, but listening even once on a recording is somewhat irritating.

Later, a perfect context is created when Merrily can’t come up with words to describe how she feels for the nerdy Geyser, but once they fill in “You’re my    (adjective)       (noun)   ,” it’s used for the rest of the song; that’s ten times we have to hear “You’re My Spicy Mustache” (the words used on the recording are taken from actual performances, so expect “booger” and “fart” from this puerile effort).

Then the group’s prima donna, Virtuosa, blames Merrily for their woes, but hadn’t come up with a name for the group herself (the non-singing host of the live, televised event, Ryan Seablank, overhears them arguing at the start, and thinks the group’s name is “I’m Still Thinking”).

Like most Radio Disney-like bubblegum music, the tunes are simple and repetitive, with a slight catch and childlike themes added into the mix, perfect for the second grader into N’Sync, but what this show needed was something to offset the silliness of the game. Instead we’re left with lyrics that are sedating and lacking in vitality, and tunes in the vein of Altar Boyz, but without parody. And the show’s quick, everybody-suddenly-supports-each-other resolution feels insincere. The affable cast is Melody Madarasz as Merrily, Linsey Brett Carothers as Virtuosa, Max Joseph as Geyser, and Jeanfranco Cardentey as the jock of the group, Gogo.

Buyers of all things Original Cast, beware: This hyperactive, lightweight, well-intended but kinda lame kids’ music is not suitable for adults. And frankly I can’t really say how kids will react to it. The fact that this was recorded as a original cast album seems to indicate that producers want to spread the word about their show more than preserve the run they had in New York — just like a play is more likely to be produced if it’s been published by Samuel French (coincidentally, licensing is now available through no less than Rodgers & Hammerstein Theatricals).

It’s a      NOUN      that this    ADJECTIVE       NOUN     ever got recorded.

Mad Libs Live!
Original Cast Recording
Broadway Records
10 tracks | 32:27
released December 15. 2017
available at Amazon and iTunes

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