Saturday, April 26, 2008

Point/Counterpoint: Cry-Baby

Introducing Point/Counterpoint.
Opinions aren't fact, and everybody has 'em. Even your trusty Theatre Is Easy reviewers occasionally disagree! Here is the first installment of our new series, Point/Counterpoint, where Zak and Molly go head to head on the new John Waters' musical, Cry-Baby.


ZAK : POINT
So, where do I begin? Cry-Baby, the new musical based on the John Waters film of the same name, tells the story of a straight-laced, bobby socks wearing girl who falls for the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. And that's pretty much all that happens in just over two hours of "musical mayhem."

I was actually pretty excited about this show because the song writing team includes David Javerbaum, executive producer of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," and Adam Schlesinger, a member of one of my favorite indie rock bands, Fountains of Wayne. Schlesinger is also an academy-award nominee for penning "That Thing You Do," the title song from that 50s-tastic Tom Hanks movie. Needless to say, there is a lot of talent in this songwriting team, but I don't know what happened. All of the music captures the era perfectly, but none of it is really that memorable, with the exception of Alli Mauzey's off-beat rendition of "Screw Loose." It's nice, but don't go expecting to leave humming or remembering any of the songs from the show.

The problem with the show isn't really the music. It's the story. The innocent good girl falls in love with the hip-swiveling Cry-Baby in the first scene and then two and half hours later they end up together. So why do we care? Oh, that right, we don't. The show tries to be dirty and bizarre, but falls completely flat. The dancing is fun and high-spirited, and the tap number done on licence plates in the second act is actually pretty amazing. Don't go expecting a show that is ANYWHERE near as satisfying as Hairspray. Go for an evening of COMPLETELY mindless entertainment.

MOLLY : COUNTERPOINT
I didn't hate Cry-Baby. Actually, I kind of enjoyed the experience. Did it take me to a wonderful place of imagination and theatrical magic? Not so much. But it did make me giggle a little and oooo a little at the spectacle.

Sure Cry-Baby has it's problems, the biggest of which is that there isn't a sympathetic character to care about so what happens on stage is of no consequence to the audience. But getting past that, it's a clever little show with a hefty Broadway budget. I'm a big fan of the John Waters' movie Cry-Baby, from 1990, which stars Johnny Depp and Ricki Lake. It's irreverent, a little raunchy, and about as campy as you can get. The new musical maintains the irreverence while upping the camp-quotient to as high a level as one can feasibly achieve while still hoping to sell tickets.

Cry-Baby is also smart and self-deprecating, which I respect in quirky musical theatre. In the last song, there is a line that goes "something, something, snobby, buy a sweatshirt in the lobby," referring to the merchandise booth just outside the theatre's door. There's something about self-mockery that I find endearing, especially when it's being sung by a talented soprano.

Although there were no remarkable moments for me, I found Cry-Baby to be a pretty enjoyable experience. A couple of the songs hit the mark, and the actors (though a little too old to be playing high-schoolers) certainly have the chops to be singing them. I think there's an audience for Cry-Baby; I recommend it for those who love how fun and happy musical theatre can be. It's for people who enjoy camp with a modicum of intelligence (and don't mind that the story and music are less than captivating).

(Cry-Baby plays at The Marquis Theatre at 1535 Broadway at 45th St. Showtimes: Tues. at 7pm, Wed. through Sat. at 8pm, Wed. and Sat. at 2pm, Sun. at 3pm. Cry-Baby runs 2 hours and 15 minutes. Tickets are $35-$120 and are available by calling 212.307-4100 or 800.755.4000. Student rush tickets are $26.50 and are available the day of the show at the box office. Visit crybabyonbroadway.com for more info.)

1 comment:

Shlomomio said...

dudes, i just saw this play and i have to be honest when i say it was a damn hot mess. save for the awesome - and i mean freaking fantastic - dancing (see zak's mention of the license-plates-as-tap-shoes sequence) there was nothing happening onstage that was, for me at least, smart, funny, engaging or endearing. what is most frustrating is the waste of so much talent. i guess this is what happens when you have a group of qualified creatives who are all on a different page. too bad because hairspary being the unexpected joyride i found it to be, i had high hopes for cry baby. guess lightening really doesn't strike twice in the same place.