ADHD…the Musical!? is a sold-out show, and when I say ‘sold out’ I mean sold out – I am in the usher seat and, honestly? It’s kind of great. People with ADHD have such a hard time with the stigma around prescribed drugs and ‘TikTok diagnosis’, so it’s pretty special to see a full house. Of course, I’d wager that has more to do with Williams’ comedic skill than anything else.
Williams comes in hot with a parody of ‘Look Down’ from Les Miserables, where Williams plays both Valjean – weighed down by the challenges of ADHD – and Javier – mostly as childhood wish fulfilment. This is, more or less, where the ‘musical’ part of the show is satisfied. In the promotional material, Williams describes the show as a ‘theatrical hot mess’ and questions whether it will ‘actually be a musical this time’. I think I’d describe the show as stand-up but with an ADHD audience in mind; there’s AV, costume, movement, music, puppetry – plenty to keep a distractible brain engaged where (at least, I find) someone standing idly behind a mic tends to fall short.
I mentioned, before, childhood wish fulfilment, and this is at the heart of the show: Jason Gunn and Celine Dion; weird hyperfixations and the dreams that went unmet due to growing up with ADHD but not with the support that comes with a formal diagnosis. I’m a bit sad to have missed the show’s predecessor because I would love to see how much the enlightenment of an accurate diagnosis has changed it. But this show feels like an ode to the child who didn’t get diagnosed. I detest the phrase ‘healing your inner child’, and yet ADHD…the Musical!? really feels like it’s doing that work. It devolves pretty quickly into an 80s–90s fever dream of sing-alongs and puppets; words of the day. Williams’ call-backs are impeccable, and the energy and comedic timing keep you on the edge of your seat, but it’s the tenderness to her younger self that pulls it all together.
Girls with ADHD and Autism are routinely undiagnosed because research has historically focused on boys and the symptoms they present, and we are still catching up. There is a huge surge now of adult women being diagnosed late, and there is a lot of grief that can come along with it. If you or someone you know struggles with inattention or hyperactivity (this can be mental too, not just physical), you can learn more about ADHD symptoms on the ADHD New Zealand website.
ADHD…the Musical!? is a romp of a show, and it’s well worth seeing. The Wellington season is now finished (and was sold out anyway), but if you’re in Auckland from 23–27 May and you’re up for a weird time, you should go and check it out. You can find tickets and more information on the NZICF website.