Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Cry-Baby (Or "What I Become When A Musical Doesn't Have A Story")

Despite the brouhaha-inducing potential of making critical commentary before a show has opened, I feel that there are instances when protocol can be broken. In a struggling economy where our hard-earned dollar can be spent on any number of stellar shows currently running on Broadway, I feel fair warning is justified. Besides, if Michael Riedel can do it, why can’t I?

The musical adaptation of
John Waters’ 1990 film Cry-Baby, currently in week three of a six-week preview cycle, has been highly anticipated by fans of his films and/or its Tony and Olivier Award-winning predecessor Hairspray. While I enjoyed Hairspray, I don’t know if I would have feverishly pursued the ticket to Cry-Baby based solely Hairspray's success. Were it not for the coinciding opportunity to meet fellow theatre bloggers, I probably would not have seen Waters’ sophomore Broadway offering. But I did – and I wasn’t crazy about it.

Set against the backdrop of 1954 Baltimore, Cry-Baby tells the tale of bad boy Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker and the mutual attraction he has with good girl Allison Vernon-Williams. Oft compared to
Grease, this musical lacks focus and, more importantly, a compelling story. Unlike Hairspray’s very serious subplot of racial equality, Cry-Baby struggles to find a single story arc, let alone one or more B stories.

Despite this critical flaw, every effort is made to provide an entertaining piece of musical theatre.
Schlesinger and Javerbaum’s score, bouncy but forgettable, serves as the footing for intermittently clever lyrics and Rob Ashford’s choreography, which is arguably the best element of the show. Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book is chock full of one-liners/groaners but none so clever that I will be quoting Cry-Baby anytime soon.

Admittedly, I was pulling for newcomer
James Snyder, whose work I’ve enjoyed immensely on the definitive recording of bare: the musical. While he does an admirable job with the title role, I wouldn’t say that I was blown away. I fault the material in this particular case, not the performer. But I might be a little biased…

The remainder of the cast also performs admirably, pumping every ounce of their energy into the production, but to no great avail.
Elizabeth Stanley, most noted for her turn as April in the recent revival of Company, is charming and Harriet Harris is well-cast as the Donna Reed-esque grandmother. However, both roles do the corresponding talent a disservice. In fact, the only character that truly stands out is Alli Mauzey’s Lenora, whose “Screw Loose” is a highlight of the show.

All in all, Cry-Baby is entertaining, in a fluffy, “
thank God I paid half-price for that” sort of way. From what I understand, the last two weeks of previews have put Cry-Baby through several changes. Judging from John Waters’ post-show appearance at Angus McIndoe with notebook in hand, I’m certain more are to come. And maybe those changes will help see Cry-Baby through the summer months. Maybe.

1 comment:

Tamra said...

What? no mention of Hanke?

how sad!

not my favorite show for sure!