Saturday, June 5, 2010

review - BABY

book by Sybille Pearson
music by David Shire & lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.
directed by Cate Caplin
musical direction by Jeffrey Rockwell
through July 11

(top photo: Abrams and Rizzo)

From Ain't Misbehavin' and Big, prolific team Maltby & Shire produce a Tony nominated Baby - in which three couples at various stages of life find themselves expecting a child. Sound simple? Well, in Baby 's revised, West Coast premiere, it's pretty damn complicated as life's unexpected changes do not always work smoothly. The GROUP rep has a first-class production on its hands that will surely appeal to a wide audience, especially to marrieds and those planning for the patter of little feet.

The music is pop, jazzy and totally uplifting, kind of like David Yazbek's score for The Full Monty with a couple of wonderful ballads "The Story Goes On" and "Patterns". "Fatherhood Blues" is a great 'guy' number and "Baby, Baby, Baby" provides the gals a chance to shine musically together. The book by Sybille Pearson follows the ups and downs of the 3 pairs as they try to adjust to their new lifestyle - "fit the baby into your life and not the other way around", is what everyone advises. Lizzie and Danny (Emily Thompson and Robert Allen) are still college students and have no desire to marry. Pam and Nick (Dana Abrams and Steve Rizzo), the other young couple are married and have security, but, as fate would have it, are problematic at conceiving - the announced pregnancy was a false alarm. Alan and Arlene (Lloyd Pedersen and Luise Heath), the older couple - over 40 - already have grown children and are settling comfortably into middle age, and so the disruption causes much consternation, particularly for Arlene who twice changes her mind as to whether to give birth.

Ultra-skilled director Caplin has thankfully provided a fast-paced & exceedingly active staging that never allows for a lull in the action. Rockwell, as musical director, has laid down an audio soundtrack that works quite nicely.

The cast is terrific. Thompson is a treasure as Lizzie, the best singer onstage and a bundle of energy and joy. Pedersen and Heath, although too old for the roles they are playing, make their characters so likeable that we tend to forget the age thing. Pedersen, a wonderful comic actor, is more restrained here and Heath is just superb in her change in mood and sense of direction.
Allen and Rizzo, though weak in the vocal department, make up for it with a great sense of focus, fine comic delivery and miles of personality. Abrams is sensational as the wife who tries and tries but cannot succeed.
Chorus members Klair Bybee, Lareen Faye, Beckett Arnold, Michael Cassano, Tonilyn Hornung and Jeremy M. Sage do remarkably well with a myriad of small roles. Faye is particularly funny as a midwestern cowgirl type who prefers birthin' au naturel.

This is a simultaneously fun-filled and thought-provoking evening of theatre, in which love proves once again a dependable winner. Should be an audience hit for GRT!
4 out of 5 stars

(Pedersen & Heath)

(Allen & Thompson)

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