Review of Teen Brain: The Musical, Presented by Dallas Children’s Theater
by Mina Frannea
Teen Brain: The Musical, written by award winning playwright Linda Daugherty, follows a group of high school students who portray the everyday struggles that adolescents go through with school, family, friends and relationships as well as their emotional responses to a variety of situations like peer pressure and alcohol and drugs.
The show creatively incorporates the latest in neuroscience to educate the audience about how the teenage brain develops. This is done in a fun way as part of an interactive class report that Ziggy (Jacob Segoviano) puts together. Segoviano does a great monologue explaining his research, complete with a brain hat and an Albert Einstein like accent – wonderfully done! An interesting fact we learn is that the frontal lobes of a teen brain are not fully developed which is why teens are known to act on impulse. Their brains process things so fast that consequences of choices may not be factored in. Reasoning and decision making based on forethought apparently don’t come into play until about the mid 20′s.
Teen Brain: The Musical features original songs from Nick Martin that are used to punctuate the dialogue nicely. One song in particular made a strong impression. “What was I thinking?” is a medley of thoughts expressed by the young actors in a scene where most of them get drunk at a party. The thoughts expressed by the teens seemed an effective way of reaching out to other kids and communicating the message that teenage drinking is not okay. Also impactful in this segment is the subsequent car accident involving a couple of the central characters in the story which ends up with an interesting twist of its own.
Something to note is that this show addresses and brings awareness about issues and life situations that adolescents have to cope with regularly. This, understandably, necessitates portraying content that is realistic. As a parent, I am thankful that DCT forewarns that some of the material is unsuitable for younger kids (minimum age is 12); however, I would have appreciated more specific content references so that I could explain to my children ahead of time that they would be watching other kids drinking and taking prescription drugs. Also important to note is that while I was surprised by some scenes, I liked that the show appeared to balance content depicting poor choices with scenes addressing consequences of said choices. It’s important to see both sides of an issue that has the potential to influence children. I also found the post-show panel both helpful and informative as the panelists interacted with the audience, touching upon the issues and behavior portrayed in the show and provided answers to parents’ questions. It would have been great to have a few teenagers on the panel to make the discussion more relatable for the teens in the audience. I remember what an impact it made on me emotionally to hear the personal experiences with bullying from teenagers on the panel after The Secret Lives of Girls. That show, addressing teen bullying, was also written by Daugherty.
The cast of young actors, some of whom I remember from DCT’s production of Night of the Living Dead, all did a tremendous job with their performances. Standouts for me besides Segoviano were Alison Borish (Holly) who has a lovely, endearing voice and Dalton Glenn (J.J.), who just seemed perfect for his role as supportive guy friend. Also really enjoyed Kendyl Mull (Ashley), a skilled young actor and a familiar face at DCT, who continues to bring a believable presence to her various characters.
Besides alcohol and prescription drugs, Teen Brain: The Musical touches upon sex, STD’s, peer pressure, relationships, lying to parents, dysfunctional families, divorce and how teens can be impacted by social media. Clearly, these are heavy issues to cover in a show that is about 50 minutes long, but the show does a great job helping teens relate and allowing parents to open up a realistic dialogue about situations that their teenagers will face at some point. The educational value and the quality of the production make this a worthwhile show to watch.
Teen Brain: The Musical is playing for a limited run – just 4 more performances through next weekend (February 27-March 1). To purchase your tickets, visit dct.org or call Dallas Children’s Theater’s box office at 214-740-0051.
Mina Frannea is an online media professional. She is the editor and social media manager at North Texas Kids Magazine as well as the Marketing and Public Relations Director for Actor Richard Hatch. Mina enjoys the Arts, Sci-Fi, new technology, cooking, enlightening discussions and sharing relevant information on her blog TheMomsJournal. Mina also provides PR services for conventions and other events.
Image Credit: General Images by Craig Lynch