Few sur­prises in tale of bad boy meets good girl

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - LORI LIT­TLE­TON

If you’re think­ing about writ­ing a script about how a naive, good, teenaged girl from a wealthy fam­ily falls in love in a split sec­ond with a leather-wear­ing, slicked­hair bad boy, don’t. It’s been done. And, at this point, it’s over done.

You can see the lat­est edi­tion, “Cry-Baby,” pre­sented by Hamil­ton The­atre Inc., at their won­der­fully in­ti­mate the­atre un­til Nov. 25.

The mu­si­cal opens in a park in 1954. It’s the anti-po­lio picnic and the up­per ech­e­lons of Bal­ti­more so­ci­ety are wait­ing to get in­oc­u­lated. How­ever, a gang of so­cial mis­fits in­ter­rupts the fes­tiv­i­ties. Clad in leather, with a swag­ger that screams sex and shenani­gans, these hooli­gans – led by the no­good, lower class or­phan Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker (in a solid per­for­mance from Chris­tian Bel­lYoung) – swing the nar­ra­tive into mo­tion. Think “Grease” or “Dirty Danc­ing,” but un­like these mu­si­cals, with their mem­o­rable songs and on­go­ing stage pres­ence, “Cry­Baby” is a rel­a­tive, lesser-known new­comer.

So the chal­lenge be­comes cre­at­ing a pro­duc­tion that – de­spite know­ing ex­actly how things will pan out – you want to keep watch­ing. And with “Cry-Baby” you don’t. Fans of the John Waters’ movie of the same name will likely dis­agree.

But this script by Thomas Mee­han and Mark O’Don­nell (“Hair­spray”), with mu­sic and lyrics by Adam Sch­lesinger and David Javer­baum, fails to give us mem­o­rable songs or even a sur­prise in a well-worn plot. The only orig­i­nal – and, there­fore, funny – bits are when the Squares at­tend the picnic, boo­gie while wear­ing blingedup gas masks and mark the in­stal­la­tion of the bomb shel­ter and air raid siren.

At times, the plot doesn’t even make sense. Why, for in­stance, is there a char­ac­ter who looks worse than the “Bride of Chucky”? Mona “Hatchet-Face” Mal­norowski (played with a per­fect amount of sass by Erin Spina) gets a facelift while in prison. But why? It’s ridicu­lous.

The gems in this pro­duc­tion come from the cast them­selves. Vin­cent Perri is ex­cel­lent as Bald­win Blan­dish (get it?), the leader of the Whif­fles and your all­round, de­spi­ca­ble WASP. Now, you al­ready know that he wants the good girl, Al­li­son Ver­non-Wil­liams, and he’ll do any­thing to get her, in­clud­ing in­crim­i­nate Cry­Baby. Karen Chor­ney turns in a de­cent per­for­mance as Al­li­son, though at times her voice is a tad shrill.

You’ve got to hand it to Bel­lYoung and Chor­ney, though. There are cringe-wor­thy scenes here and they don’t flinch – even when they’re singing, “Girl, Can I Kiss You with Tongue?” I’ll leave it there.

Ed Can­ning is a de­light as Judge Stone, though you won­der why, if they’re in Bal­ti­more, he has a South­ern drawl. Still, he’s a shin­ing star, as is Vic­to­ria Kyoko as Al­li­son’s grand­mother. Kyoko’s vo­cals are ex­cep­tional, and her con­nec­tion

with the au­di­ence cap­ti­vat­ing. Bethany Char­ters steals the show as Lenora Frigid when she sings “Screw Loose.” She’s in love with Cry-Baby but she is also so ob­vi­ously men­tally ill that it’s hard to laugh at all her an­tics.

As an au­di­ence, we’re pre­pared to sus­pend our dis­be­lief. But, at times, we’re be­ing asked to stretch so far, it’s just not pos­si­ble. The cast is much older than the most­ly­teenaged char­ac­ters. One girl in Cry-Baby’s gang tells us she’s 16 and preg­nant. It’s just not fath­omable.

Also, the lack of set changes – we see the park back­ground for pretty much the en­tire play – is dis­ap­point­ing. How­ever, full marks to the cos­tume crew – Char­ters, Kyoko, Bree McLean-Roberts, Christina Do­couto, Aaron Duarte and Ma­lika Swaleh – par­tic­u­larly for the lit­tle de­tails, such as the red, white and blue bow ties and star-filled lapels on the Whif­fles’ white jack­ets. Also, di­rec­tors Tim De­nis and McLean-Roberts give us some won­der­ful chore­og­ra­phy.

“Cry-Baby” touches on racism, clas­sism and Amer­i­can­ism – Bald­win calls the Fourth of July, “like the Christ­mas of Square­dom” – but it’s too brushed over to make any real state­ments.

It could be that de­spite a tal­ented cast and ex­cel­lent mu­si­cians – the band, lo­cated above the stage, oc­ca­sion­ally over­pow­ers the vo­cals, though – it’s the script that’s at fault here. And that’s cer­tainly not Hamil­ton The­atre Inc.’s fault. To test the the­ory, make sure you give them an­other chance this sea­son with ei­ther “High School Mu­si­cal” or “The Wed­ding Singer.”


From left, Olivia Vaughan, Jeff Gor­don, Aaron Duarte, Kayla Mazepa, Roy Dear, Vin­cent Perri, Ara­menta Sobchak, Chris­tian Bell-Young, Karen Chor­ney, Kay­tee Al­cock, Brian Vaughan, Con­cetta Roche, Kristy Souter in Hamil­ton The­atre Inc.’s pro­duc­tion of "Cry-Baby."

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