Maggie Cassidy an American Musical is based on the story of the young Jack Kerouac as he finishes high school and leaves Lowell, Massachusetts for Columbia University. The production showcases the depth of talent in the IU Musical Theatre Program and the resources of the Bloomington Playwrights Project.
In the musical as in real life, Kerouac played by Taylor Crousore was a champion football player and track star. He’s a hometown hero in this decaying town. Despite all this success, the driven writer that he became is very much in evidence. Even with the team and with his long time friends played to nice comic effect by Nathan Robbins and Zachery Stewart he finds himself an outsider.
Lowell is a small town it’s divided between the ruling Irish and the up and coming French Canadiens like Kerouac and his family. Although Kerouac’s bluff father played by Matt Birdsong is proud of his son’s success, it’s his powerful mother played by Erica Evans Johnson who orchestrates the boy’s quest for an athletic scholarship and a way out of the town.
There are counter pressures, Pauline a conniving high school sweet heart played by Brianna McClellan and the friends who hope to share their lives with him. And then there’s the Maggie Cassidy of the title, Hana Slevin, an innocently appealing Irish girl with whom he falls in love but must leave.
Chris Jeffries’ Maggie Cassidy an American Musical skillfully mixes solos, ensemble pieces even a couple of choral moments along with the dialog in the joint BPP-IU production directed by the BPPs Chad Rabinovitz with music direction by Eric Anderson, Jr. It has a strong personable cast that all sing well and diction is exemplary.
Shane Cinal’s massive but flexible set allows for smooth transitions from things as varied as a locker room, a track meet and a cozy kitchen dining room.
Colin Shay’s sound design keys the scene changes to the sounds and lights of a car continually reminds the audience that this is a musical about a young man that we’re taking note of because he’s going to write On the Road.