Cry-Baby @ New Line Theatre

Cry-Baby @ New Line Theatre


Bob and I have complained many times on this
program about musicals made from movies that really didn’t need to be made into musicals. You won’t hear that complaint from me about
“Cry-Baby,” the stage adaptation of the 1990 film written and directed by John Waters. Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan wrote the book
for “Cry-Baby.” At the heart of both the film and the musical
is the conflict in the 1950s resulting from the emergence of nonconformists in a repressive
society determined to marginalize anyone who challenged the values of a self-satisfied,
privileged elite. It is utterly right for “Cry-Baby” to
be a musical because a similar conflict was going on in the music in the 50s. The sexually charged upstart, rock ’n’
roll, was challenging the safe, comfortable, popular music of the time. Waters’ film had music, but the musical
has a completely new score by David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger. They are completely at home in the musical
styles of the 50s. This score sounds terrific in the rousing
production at New Line Theatre. The title character is Wade “Cry-Baby”
Walker. He’s the outsider in the show’s 1954 Baltimore
setting. At New Line, Caleb Miofsky impressively calls
to mind the young Elvis, the young Brando, and James Dean, who died young. Cry-Baby’s backup group, the Drapes, are
an oddly endearing bunch of misfits in the portrayals of Pepper Walker by Reagan Deschaine,
Wanda Woodward by Jaclyn Amber and Mona “Hatchet-Face” Malnorowski by Sarah Gene Dowling. The Drapes’ social and musical rivals are
the Whiffles, played with Fifties comformity by Stephen Henley, Ian McCreary, Christopher
Strawhun. The Whiffles’ leader is Baldwin Blandish. Jake Blonstein captures Baldwin’s hypocrisy
as well as his conformity. Cry-Baby and Baldwin are the rivals for the
affection of Allison Vernon-Williams. Grace Langford sings beautifully as Allison
and lets us see the emotional struggle within this good girl who wants to be bad. Allison is the charge of her grandmother,
a pillar of Baltimore society. Margeau Steinau is fully believable when Mrs.
Vernon-Williams defends the status quo and when she transcends it. Marshall Jennings is the essence of cool as
Dupree W. Dupree, and Aj Surrell is appropriately creepy as the mentally unbalance Lenora Frigid. Todd Micali is a stitch in a variety of comic
roles. The musical numbers crackle under musical
directors Nicolas Valdez and Marc Vincent and choreographer Michelle Sauer. The show has an attractive look and sound
thanks to Colene and Evan Fomachon’s costumes, Rob Lippert’s set, Kenneth Zinkl’s lighting,
Kimi Short’s props, and Ryan Day’s sound. The direction by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor
displays the understanding you would expect from the company that brought “Cry-Baby”
back from the dead. The show did not even have a licensing agency
in 2012, when New Line mounted the first staging after the disappointing Broadway run. The original creative team revised “Cry-Baby”
for New Line, reducing the size of the forces required. This version can now be licensed from the
industry powerhouse, Music Theater International. New Line’s current production is a well-earned
victory lap.

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