Wednesday, March 7, 2012

CRY-BABY • New Line Theatre

Premiering on Broadway in 2008, Cry-Baby was nominated for 4 Tonys including choreography, book and score.  Still, it was not as critically acclaimed as its 2002 predecessor Hairspray, another John Waters film adaptation.  Similar to Hairspray, Cry-Baby features a 1950's Baltimore clash of the classes, with "good girl" Allison Vernon-Williams (Taylor Pietz) falling for the slick rock ’n’ roll "bad boy" Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker (Ryan Foizey).  

The show begins with the New Line Band's rockabilly admonition to "Take your seat, turn your phone off and unwrap you lozenges".  Then it's a headlong plunge into "The Anti-Polio Picnic", a ridiculous, goofy vaccination extravaganza put on by the "Whiffles", the "square" faction of Baltimore.  The party is soon crashed by the "Drapes", the "bad kids", with a great number, "Watch Your Ass".

Taylor Pietz (Allison Vernon-Williams)
and Ryan Foizey (Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Allison, squeakiest clean of the Whiffles, finds herself drawn to Cry-Baby -- a tall, handsome musician who's really not as bad as the Whiffles think.  Allison's grandmother (Cindy Duggan) is not happy with her interest in Cry-Baby, and Allison's would-be boyfriend Baldwin desperately tries to convince her that he's the guy she should want, but Allison wants Cry-Baby nonetheless.  At his invitation, Allison shows up at Turkey Point, a Drapes hangout.  When a fire breaks out in the club, the arson is pinned on Cry-Baby, and he and his gang of ne'er-do-wells are locked up.  The story unfolds with your typical cross-cultural shenanigans and not so surprising outcome, but as familiar as the story might be, there's a very self-aware mockery under the surface that makes it all that much more fun to see play out, with some wonderful performances and wacky characters along the way.

Terrie Carolan (Lenora Frigid).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Under Scott Miller's bull's-eye direction, Cry-Baby is bolstered by New Line's consistently energetic cast, including newcomer Ryan Foizey in the title role.  His charismatic Elvis Presley inspired Cry-Baby has just enough volatility to make him seem dangerous, but all the heart to make him genuine.  Doesn't hurt that he has a great voice, too.  He does an impressive job with "Nobody Gets Me".  The rest of the Drapes, Marcy Wiegert, Chrissy Young and Sarah Porter also do fabulous work.  New Line regular Taylor Pietz brings her solid vocals and charm to Allison, and Mike Dowdy is perfectly scheming as Baldwin, the leader of the Whiffles and Allison's jealous boyfriend.  Cindy Duggan also does a nice job as Allison's grandmother, a woman who has a secret of her own that is revealed later in the show.  Another couple of regulars to mention must include Terrie Carolan and her hilarious portrayal of the delusional Lenora Frigid, who's crazy in love with Cry-Baby.  She manages to stay in constant motion all night, and her number, "Screw Loose" is a show stealer.  Ari Scott's Dupree sounds great infusing the evening with some Little Richard-esque flavor, and Zachary Allen Farmer pulls off multiple roles with his usual aplomb.

The Drapes -- Ryan Foizey (Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker), 
Taylor Pietz (Allison Vernon-Williams), Sarah Porter (Hatchet Face),
Marcy Wiegert (Pepper), Chrissy Young (Wanda), and Ari D. Scott (Dupree).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Robin Michelle Berger's choreography fits perfectly into the groove of the rest of the show, and really stands out particularly in "A Little Upset".  Amy Kelly's costumes clearly define each character, and the crafty scenic design by Scott L. Schoonover and lighting by Sean M. Savoie contribute much to the success of this production.

It's a lot of fun and it's playing until the 24th.  Check it out!

The Squares -- Devon Norris, Jenifer Sabbert, Evan Fornachon,
Alexandra Taylor, Christopher D. Strawhun, Mike Dowdy and Cindy Duggan.
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Music by Adam Schlesinger
Lyrics by David Javerbaum
Directed by Scott Miller
Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road
through March 24 | tickets: $10 - $15
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm

Ryan Foizey (Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker), Taylor Pietz (Allison Vernon-Williams), Cindy Duggan (Mrs. Vernon-Williams), Mike Dowdy (Baldwin), Marcy Wiegert (Pepper Walker), Chrissy Young (Wanda Woodward), Sarah Porter (Mona "Hatchet-Face" Malnorowski), Ari Scott (Dupree), Terrie Carolan (Lenora Frigid), Evan Fornachon, Devon A.A. Norris, Christopher Strawhun (The Whiffles), Zachary Allen Farmer (Judge Stone and Everyone Else), Jenifer Sabbert and Alexandra Taylor (Square Girls/Drape Girls).

Choreography by Robin Michelle Berger; costume deign by Amy Kelly; lighting design by Sean M. Savoie; scenic design by Scott L. Schoonover; sound design by Donald Smith; stage manager, Trisha Bakula.

The New Line Band:
Piano/conductor, Justin Smolik; lead guitar, D. Mike Bauer; rhythm guitar, Joe Isaacs; reeds, Robert Vinson; bass, Dave Hall; percussion, Clancy Newell.