Saturday, March 13, 2010
‘BABY’ gets rebirth at True North Cultural Arts
“It’s March, snow covers a college campus. And miracles are taking place. Unseen, sperm are reaching eggs. Life is beginning.” Thus starts the story of ‘BABY The New Musical.’
‘BABY,’ which has been one of my favorite small musicals since I saw it in New York in 1983, is now having a rebirth at True North Cultural Arts Center. Rebirth since the Sybille Pearson, David Shire, Richard Maltby, Jr musical has been rewritten since its initial production.
The New York staging was met with favorable reviews including one which stated, “Baby is a modestly scaled entertainment that woos us with such basic commodities as warm feelings and a lovely score.” The show ran 241 performances. Having seen the show in the Great White Way venue, I thought it was physically misplaced. It should have been produced in an intimate off-Broadway theatre, a space similar to that of True North.
The story centers on three couples who live in a university town and are involved in the excitement and the problems that accompany the experience of conceiving and giving birth to a child. One of these couples is composed of two 20-year olds, Danny and Lizzie. Another duo is Alan and Arlene who have been married for 20 years and are empty-nesters with three grown children. The final pair is Nick and Pam, 30-year-olds who want a child, but have been having trouble conceiving. Each couple feels they are on the verge of great changes.
The authors thought the show should be reformatted and, in 2004, an altered version of the script, complete with new plot twists, a new song and some alterations in the order of the music, was presented at The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. The second-ever presentation of the new script is presently being staged at True North Cultural Center.
The new version transforms the musical from being a very pleasant experience, to becoming an emotional roller coaster. The additional song, “The End of Summer,” adds pathos not previously present.
The True North production, under the direction of Fred Sternfeld, is excellent. The six leads are extremely well cast. Their singing and acting are right on target.
Shane Joseph Siniscalchi, who has a nice singing voice, creates in Danny a real person who we see grow from an immature fun-centered musician into a soon-to-be responsible dad. His duet with the beautiful, sparkling-eyed, talented. American Idol semi-finalist Natalie Green (Lizzie), “What Could Be Better?” is delightful, filled with a clever interpretation and an intriguing musical arrangement. “I Chose Right” and “Two People in Love, are also show highlights. Green’s “The Story Goes On” is mesmerizing.
Bernadette Hisey (Arlene) and Michael Dempsey (Alan) match well as the older couple questioning whether life will be better with a new child. Their “And What If We Had Loved Like That,” is the emotional highlight. Each develops a clearly etched and textured character.
Maggie Stahl-Floriano (Pam) and David Robeano (Nick) are yet another balanced duo. Their scenes are filled with emotional highs and lows as they traverse the world of trying to conceive. “Romance” and ‘With You” are well sung and nicely textured.
Doug Bill does a nice shtick as the fertility Doctor with new contact lenses.
Rick Fortney’s musical direction adds much to the production, underscoring rather than competing with the cast. Bebe Weinberg Katz’s choreography also adds to the quality of the show.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The new concept for the musical ‘BABY’ adds to what has always been a fine musical theatre experience. Sternfeld’s direction and the superb cast make this a very special evening of theatre. Hopefully he will consider taking this cast to his Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory so east siders can experience this wonderful production.