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Paulanne Simmons

"Cry-Baby" Will Have You Smiling and Laughing

The cast of "Cry Baby" by Mark Brokaw. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Directed by Mark Brokaw
Marquis Theatre
1535 Broadway
From March 15, 2008
Tues. 7 p.m., Wed. thru Sat. 8 p.m., matinees Wed. & Sat. 2 p.m. Sun. 3 p.m.
$35 - $120 (212) 307-4100
Reviewed May 1, 2008


Broadway's exuberant new musical, "Cry-Baby" opens at an anti-Polio picnic in Baltimore. It's 1954, and Mrs. Vernon-Williams (the always magnificent Harriet Harris) presides over a group of wholesome, all-American teenagers, the girls wearing flared skirts, the boys wearing identical sweaters. They sing an innocent 50s number about the joys of inoculation.

Then another group of youngsters comes onstage. They are wearing tight jeans and leather vests. They sing the much more raunchy, "Watch your ass," and the fun begins. If there's still any doubt about what kind of musical this is going to be, everything should be cleared up when a polio victim, wheeled onstage in his iron lung, declares, "I sure wish I could have gotten that shot."

Based on John Waters eponymous film, "Cry-Baby" is in deliciously bad taste, thanks to Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meechan's outrageous book and David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger's wicked score. Mark Brokaw's direction keeps the show joyously fast-paced and unashamedly sassy.

"Cry-Baby" has a simple good versus evil plot. The good guys are the teen idol Cry-Baby (the sexy and Elvis-like James Snyder) and his rebellious followers, a group of misfits that includes Pepper (Carly Jibson) "sixteen, single and pregnant," the hatchet-faced Mona (played by Tory Ross the night this reviewer saw the show), Lenora (Alli Mauzey), the schizophrenic girl who believes she is Cry-Baby's destiny but comes close to being his downfall, and DuPree (Chester Gregory II), who runs the local hangout and can also sing up a storm

Cry-Baby is a charismatic orphan whose parents got the electric chair on trumped up charges of Communist activities. That was the last time he cried, but his tears were sufficient to give him his name.

The bad guys are the straight-laced and self-satisfied Baldwin (Christopher J. Hanke) and the Whiffles, who sing songs like "Squeaky Clean" and "Thanks for the Nifty Country." Baldwin wants Mrs. Vernon-Williams' granddaughter, the attractive and innocent Allison (Elizabeth Stanley) to be his girl. But as soon as she sets eyes on Cry-Baby, she has other ideas. When Baldwin sees he's about to lose Allison he resort to desperate and devilish tactics.

Cry-Baby woos and wins Allison in the woods one night by crooning "Can I kiss you with tongue?" but after he is accused of setting fire to the local hangout he and his friends end up in jail ("Jailyard Jubilee") until a surprise confession sets him free, all in Scott Pask's attractive, tongue-in-cheek sets.

Most of the songs in "Cry-Baby" are doo-wop and rock ‘n roll; they're generic, but generic in the best possible way, especially if you're tickled by lines like "My soul just got a boo-boo that no lollipop can heal," "I just don't see the harm in carving your name in my arm" and "Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby." Add Rob Ashford's terrific choreography, and you've got one show-stopping number after another.

For any humorless stuffed-shirt who may complain that "Cry-Baby" lacks any intellectual merit, it should be pointed out that one of the show's themes, love can be like a disease, also plays a major part in no less a work than Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. But "Cry-Baby" makes no pretentious claims and needs no justification. It's pure fun, so just sit back and enjoy!

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