Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cry-Baby on Broadway

I'm feeling very uninspired to write something about this musical, but I'll eke out a few words in hopes of deterring others from seeing the Broadway adaptation of John Waters' Cry-Baby. The good: the dancing. The bad: everything else.

That's not entirely fair. The music was catchy enough, particularly at the Polio fair in the beginning, but none of it stayed in my head after the show. The set design with the skewed perspective was clever. But something overall didn't hang together in this story of a rock-and-roll boy from the wrong side of the tracks who tries to woo an uptight school-girl who's ready to let her hair down.

However, I did like the tuxedo-striped men's jeans. Those were cool. But that didn't stop my mind from drifting in and out. Funny how our brains leap directly to sex when bored for two hours and trapped in a seat with precious little leg room. (To my credit, I also contemplated other shows I've seen in comparison, and decided that I *must* see Patti LuPone in Gypsy to make up for this experience. My theatre-going companions agreed and we now have Gypsy tix for May 30. Hooray!)

All of the artistic choices were disjointed. There's a hackneyed rule of the theatre that says if there's a gun on stage, it must be fired. Props are meant to be used. However, there were costumes and props that didn't add much to the show. Sure, someone dressed as a box of Lucky Strike cigarettes and someone else as an apple pie represent "Americana," but having them dance around in the background was pointless.

Late in the show, the dancing apple pie with legs pulls out a champagne bottle like a gun and aims it at the Little Richard-esque character, and he says, "This is strange." My thoughts exactly! I like a good non-sequitur as much as the next girl, but this was one too many in show already muddled in direction. And there were precious few references to the Elvis movies this show is supposed to spoof. The first act is not terribly solid, and Cry-Baby unravels in the second. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Instead, spend that amount on powerhouse Patti and have yourself a theatrical experience of a lifetime.


Anonymous said...

oy * sounds pretty bad. But the source movie was not terribly compelling itself. Down here in Tex they're premiering a new musical about the backstage goings-on while they filmed An American in Paris. Bizarre. How many times cna you run material through the musicalizing urge and back again before it collapses from exhaustion? These 'musicals' make the seventies urge towards darker stranger material (A dictators wife, the Weimar Republic, cannibalism) look better and better.

Major Generalist said...

Cry-Baby was SOOO bad. It felt amateur. It reminded me of seeing a local high school production of South Pacific when I was 16.

I'm definitely dismayed by the lack or original ideas on Broadway. This recycling is as bad if not worse than the movie industry. I just heard there's going to be a sequel to Phantom of the Opera set in New York at the turn of the 20th century. I shudder.

Seeing as Evita, Cabaret and Sweeney Todd are my three favorites, you need say no more to win me over. ;) Perhaps the 70s were the height of theatrical rigor. Clearly, those shows were a backlash from the saccharine-sweet musicals that preceded them, and they also had something to say about politics and society. Where is that now?

We got hit with the spectacle of the mega-musicals of the 1980s. which I have to say I'm not actually against. The over-the-top set design and candy-for-the-ears scores are, to my mind, similar to what it must have been like to visit Coney Island in the 1920s. They were so over-budget and visually spectacular that their time has passed and will never come again. I'm actually glad to have seen some of it back in the day.

But where does that leave us now? I can't even think of any important shows from the 90s, just acclaimed performances, like Faith Prince in Guys & Dolls. I guess Rent was significant, although I never liked the music.

And certainly nothing of note has happened recently. Wicked tries to recapture the opulence of the 80s, and although I think the show has a rather strong book, the music largely fails to defy gravity.

We need someone new/different from Sondheim and Webber to save us. Help!

Anonymous said...

And let's not forget Stephen Schwartz' entire leaden career. The recent decade or two of duds just served to emphasize what a strange format the musical is. Most of the new musicals are just trying to snag some of the coin made by the previous hit (Young Frankenstein = The Producers plus avarice; Cry-baby = Hairspray plus greed) In mostly unrelated news, Dan Savage was scheduled to take his mother to see The Drowsy Chaperone last week when she died unexpectedly.

Major Generalist said...

You don't listen to "My Corner of the Sky" every day??

And well-said about the new musicals (Young F and Cry-Baby) being attempts to capture more coin from the same crap.

I feel like there are all sorts of comments one could come up with about a dead mother and Drowsy Chaperone, but that seems very wrong. Poor Dan.

Major Generalist said...

Oh my! Just found out more about the Phantom follow-up.

From a Playbill article on a proposed Phantom of the Opera sequel:

In the sequel, the title character travels to Coney Island around 1900 and is reunited with soprano Christine. The show is not based on source material. One of the reported titles of the new project was Phantom in Manhattan.....

The Daily Mail previously described the sequel plot this way: "The Phantom has slipped away to New York and has set up a fairground world on Coney Island, along with Madame Giry and her daughter, Meg. He organizes a concert in Manhattan for Christine, the object of his desire. Christine travels to the U.S. with her husband Raoul and their teenage son, who happens to be a musical genius...just like the Phantom."


Anonymous said...

Think of meeeee... Think of me fondly, when you write your crappy sequel!