By Marcina Zaccaria
In a tribute to the great minds that have done their conquering before age 25, The Crazy Ones, Zack Zadek’s new musical at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, honors the thinkers at Apple.
In this thunderous pop/ rock musical, we get amplification and an unrestrained depiction of Steve Jobs and the team that created the Macintosh computer. Idealism inspires the ensemble, who recognize that they are cogs in the greater machine. “Beautiful,” features stirring piano music, quickly moving with every realization in the brain of Steve Jobs. The charismatic guru – played by four actors in this concert version – takes every opportunity to demand brilliance from his team. Gestures of keyboarding and computing evoke the utility culture in which they were raised.
“Raise the Flag” is a call to action, featuring extraordinary percussion, reminiscent of U2. With a pop/ rock chorus that sounds full and insistent, the song evokes images of the pirate flag raised to celebrate the ethical values of employees at Apple. There’s a gritty sense to their fervor. On the tight stage at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, the ensemble crowds in a line, bringing fervency and a dash of humor as they compute.
Meanwhile, Jobs suffers from his personal failings. His relationship with Chrisann Brennan, the mother to Lisa (the daughter about which a computer is eventually named), is pivotal. Katie Boeck and Barrett Wilbert Weed bring sensitivity to the role. Chrisann’s solos are quite melodic; she brings a hint of 1970s folk to the 1980s drama. Barrett Wilbert Weed has a great texture to her voice, with plenty of smooth resonance.
The middle of the musical has its fair share of breakdowns and breakthroughs, after the cast has sung their glory poem about the early growth of the computer industry. It’s interesting to see the actors playing Steve Jobs crack a bit. Jared Loftin as Steve Wozniak and Josh Young as John Sculley round out the ensemble, but it’s really Jobs that we remember. With Alex Pototsky’s book, the listening audience doesn’t miss the greater points of the computer revolution.
Direction by Hunter Bird is attentive, and Music Supervision by Justin Goldner is fitting for a concert series. Fine choices are made in the instrumentation and orchestration, including accents with violin, viola, and cello. Electric guitar, bass, and keyboard are even, and support the piano. Few, subtle lighting changes are utilized during the concert. Although there could have been greater sound clarity, there is something fulfilling about hearing the blaring rock music with this story.
This musical stands in awe of the Steve Jobs, who passed away in 2011. The last segment of the concert features a video with one of the more moving speeches about people like Albert Einstein, Jim Henson, and Pablo Picasso – the Crazy Ones who changed the world.
New Musicals at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below features musicals by living writers. The series is produced by Jennifer Ashley Tepper, and is running through May 31. The Crazy Ones was performed on March 15.