What makes “Generation Me” work is the energy and urgency with which the cast conveys the material. I mean – it’s not like we necessarily needed another play or musical about suicide in high school. After “Bare: A Pop Opera” and “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” (both of which are borrowed from in this piece), the ground seems to have been covered. That said, there was something about “Generation Me” that really stuck with me. Maybe it was the energetic ensemble; maybe it was the attention to language and teenage vernacular; or maybe it that the show focused less on the actual suicide and more on the effects the suicide has on everyone.
This is the epitome of a Fringe show: the set is sparse, the lighting and sound design uncomplicated and the music is tracked rather than live. None of these things are problematic. In fact, with the exception of a couple of numbers, the movement here works and is simple because it needs to be. Had the musical numbers been too grand it would have likely taken me out of the reality these kids were creating. Act One ends with a full scale food fight on stage, which worked like a charm. A slab of cupcake icing hit my arm and it’s the first time that has ever happened to me during a live theatrical production. I approved of the icing and I approved of that number.
Coming in at two and a half hours, “Generation Me” could have easily been trimmed down. Some story-lines don’t really seem to have much relevance to the general plot and they slow down the stories we’re most interested in; I think you could trim off half an hour at least from the show and not lose anything really. But then what do you lose? I am sure some story-lines work for others that didn’t work for me.
The songs are a mixed bag. Vocally, the cast is a mixed bag. Highlights include the Act Two number “When He Held My Hand” led by a heartbreakingly sincere Christine Tucker as Zoe; the super energetic “Sweet Sixteen” and the fun and complicated “Never Have I Ever”. These are standouts in an otherwise forgettable score; not a bad score, just not memorable. I kept listening for some sort of musical theme to tie the songs and the show together and I never really found that. Had I found it, I think my praise would be much more implicit. I would also encourage the performers to project more; the musical drowns out the vocals several times during the show and some of the dialogue is completely lost; all of that can be fixed with projection, projection, projection.
The production lives and dies on the backs of its talented group of performers. Standouts include Christine Tucker as Zoe, the sister of the deceased. She’s quite a gifted actress and has the best vocals of the female cast; and Kennedy Slocum as Addison DeVoe, the most popular sophomore at the school. Liam O’Donnell makes Milo sympathetic and realistic but we never get the reason why everyone is head over heels for him. Marcus Wells is over-the-top and flamboyant as hell as Marvin; Madison Judd is sweet and sincere as Harper Ellis; and Cameron Reck brings a nice level of douche-baggery to Kyle. There are a few weak links but they are few and far between.
Don’t let the ‘a new teen musical’ tagline throw you off. This is a show performed by teens but the subject matter is appropriate for all ages. If nothing else, “Generation Me” is a reminder to always be there for your friends and to make sure you answer a call for help when it’s needed. With some time trimmed off, some song re-tooling and a little more attention paid to the choreography, this should could have a bright future ahead of it. I certainly can’t think of a more energetic and spirited cast on stage at Fringe this year.