MADness on Aspen’s Wheeler Opera stage |

MADness on Aspen’s Wheeler Opera stage

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
The cast of The MAD Show of Theatre Aspen performing their preview Tuesday evening in the Wheeler upstairs lobby area.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |


What: The Mad Show

When: 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday

Where: The Wheeler Opera House main stage

Cost: $35 per ticket

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

After singing, dancing and acting in a musical production before an audience for two-plus hours, what better way to unwind than to engage in a little post-show improv action?

“Here’s what’s crazy,” actress Nicole Parker revealed. “We think that’s super fun.”

Parker is among the group of actors and comics who will bring “The MAD Show” — a musical mashup from the minds behind MAD Magazine and the Second City comedy troupe — to the main stage of the Wheeler Opera House tonight and Saturday as part of the fourth annual Aspen Theatre Festival.

“This is the first real concerted attempt to explore the possibility of sketch comedy and songs on a very high level onstage under the MAD umbrella,” composer T.J. Shanoff explained.

“MAD is the granddaddy of all comedy and political satire.” -Markus Potter, interim artistic director, Theatre Aspen

Throughout the two-hour production, Shanoff and show writer Rich Talarico attempt to blend comedy, political satire and musical theater in a way that adheres to the MAD Magazine brand.

“MAD is the granddaddy of all comedy and political satire,” Theatre Aspen interim artistic director Markus Potter said. “Without MAD, we wouldn’t have ‘SNL.’ Without MAD, we wouldn’t have ‘The Simpsons.’

“So we kind of owe everything to MAD. It’s a very important institution.”

Editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines founded the satirical publication in the early 1950s; by the mid-’60s, an off-Broadway musical comedy would follow.

In the mid-’90s, MAD launched a comedy sketch television series, which Talarico and Parker also wrote for and acted in, respectively, during the early 2000s.

“It’s a little bit cheeky, a little irreverent, but also a smart, savvy, high-brow low-brow combination that I’ve always loved about the brand,” Parker said of the current MAD show. “We really try to capture the spirit of MAD Magazine from all sides.”

As such, the writers and actors respect the magazine’s origins as an “inherently bipartisan” medium, Shanoff said.

“MAD mocks whomever is in power and whatever foibles they commit,” Shanoff said. “MAD makes no bones at mocking the stupid — but it does it in a way that is both overtly and quietly very intelligent.”

While today’s MAD Show honors the brand’s intent, Shanoff said, “there is no repeat material” from its original productions.

“We’re aware of it, we love it; I was inspired by a lot of what I heard from that cast recording. But this is an entirely new entity created just for this production,” Shanoff said. “Our goal is to capture the ethos of what MAD is and bring it to the stage.

“We didn’t want to be historical preservationists. We think the spirit of MAD is forward-thinking.”

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