Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Baby"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"Baby"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

MMAS's current show is "Baby", a musical with a book by Sybille Pearson, music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. The show opened on Broadway on December 4, 1983 and ran for 241 performances. The plot focuses on three couples, each newly expecting a child, and each with different but familiar reactions. Liz and Danny are university juniors who have just moved in together. Athletic Pam and her husband, Nick, a sports instructor, have had some trouble conceiving. Arlene, already the mother of three grown daughters, is unsure of what to do, contemplating abortion while her husband Alan is thrilled with the thought of a new baby. Throughout the show, these characters experience the emotional stresses and triumphs, the desperate lows and the comic highs, that accompany the anticipation and arrival of a baby. Meg Quin Dussault is the director while Shannon Manley is the music director with choreography by Kayla Armstrong. They have a marvelous 14 person cast who can sing, act and dance beautifully evoking many laughs and a few tears along the way in this sensational musical.

Meg blocks the show beautifully and mixes the comic and poignant moments together wonderfully. She also appears in the show as the bitchy mother-to-be who is expecting triplets and boy does she make her husband pay for that mistake. Meg is a hoot. Shannon plays the keyboards on a CD for the show so it could be mixed together to add more instrumentation to the show which was done by Brett Calo and Jarrod Stein. "Baby" is a smart, energetic show with loads of charm. It has a modern, up-to-date sensibility with strong female characters, a hysterically insightful book and a tuneful, contemporary score of show stopping numbers. "We Start Today" opens the show with the whole cast. Meg creates an outstanding show with her keen insight. I last saw Meg and Laura in "A...My Name is Alice" in 2006 when Meg sang a French song called "Shit in My Hat" which was hilarious! Shannon taught the cast the beautiful harmonic blend of the songs and makes each of them beautiful in their own right. Stage manager,Ken Butler keeps things moving smoothly all night long. The set is by Ken and Glenn Fournier.

Everyone has their moment to shine and they all have topnotch voices for these roles. Kristen Quartarone and Joseph Arsenault play Liz and Danny and are a couple in real life, too. She will be in the national tour of "Cats" later this fall. Kristen stops the show at the end of Act 1 with "The Story Goes On" in a tour-de-force performance and she sings about the continuation of the life cycle. Lizzie laments being left behind by Danny as he goes on tour with his band. She also does a funny bit about not liking being poked by strange women in the song "The Ladies Singing their Song"( Louise Tetreault plays the mother of ten, with Meg, Atia DeRosa Gravely and Andrea Segal.) Joseph does an excellent job as Danny, the student father-to-be who tours with his punk rock band to earn money for his impending family.(Joseph usually excels in dancing roles but in this show he gets a chance to show off his acting and singing ability, too.) His song "I Know I Chose Right" is marvelous as he gives Lizzie a ring to wear until he returns. Kristen and Joe also sing "What Could be Better" when they find out Lizzie is pregnant which is touching and "Two People in Love" when Danny returns from his tour to be with her before the birth of their child. Jennifer Mischley and Jeff Mahoney as Pam and Nick sing a song called "Romance" each time they try to make a baby which at first leads to many laughs(as Nick reads Moby Dick and Wizard of Oz to Pam as she keeps her legs straight up in the air) until you realize the seriousness of their plight. Jeff sings a terrific song called "At Night She Comes Home to Me".Jen's excitement at the doctor's office comes through when she shows the other two women the beautiful baby clothes she already bought and her dramatic performance flows forth as she realizes that she isn't really pregnant. The tear-filled performance is awesome to behold. Jeff delivers a funny performance as the coach who can't understand that he is shooting blanks and turns the pathos on when Nick realizes that it is his fault after all."With You" is when they console themselves and accept what life has brought them and this song leaves the audience in tears. Jeff shows off his dramatic chops in this role, shedding tears on stage perfectly. (He usually plays comic roles like the Lion in "Wizard of Oz" and he has comic lines such as "To the moon, Alice" and a couple of other Ralph Kramden lines.) Laura Canfield as Arlene skates the fine line between the mature woman who has earned her retirement from motherhood and the instinctual pull toward the only role she has ever known. Her soprano voice soars in the group numbers and her solos and she sings a sentimental song called "Patterns" about how circular her life has gone as mother and wife. Her real life husband Rob Canfield plays her husband, Alan as he candidly reflects on how a new baby is easier to love than his wife in "Easier to Love". He becomes a virile kid again when Arlene tells him the news in the song and dance number with the men called "Fatherhood Blues" with Jay Silvi, Rick Concannon. Jeff and Joey while they dance around with their softball bats.Rob and Laura duet on "The Plaza" where they realize she must have gotten pregnant on their 20th Anniversary when they drank too much champagne at the Plaza Hotel which is funny while near the end of the show they sing "And What If We Loved Like That" which tugs at your heartstrings. One of the most exuberant numbers is "I Want It All" by the women singing about having their babies and handling all obstacles in their way and their big finish is standing on their chairs. Joe Casey does a comic role as the doctor who explains the report to Pam and Nick while blinking due to new contact lens, having a fling with the nurse played by Louise while Rick Shaughnessy is the comic real estate agent, Mr. Hart who tries to sell Arlene and Alan's house by making disparaging remarks about it. (It truly is a small world because I appeared in "Evita" back in 1986 with Liz Callaway who played the original Lizzie on Broadway.) So for a topnotch musical, be sure to catch "Baby" at MMAS.

"Baby" (15 - 25 July)
BLACK BOX THEATER
30 Crocker Street, MANSFIELD MA
1(508) 339-2822

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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