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|A CurtainUp Review
By Liz Keill
Pam and Nick are a terrific looking couple and have been trying for two years to become parents. The pressures of following rigid formulas to "conceive" cause a rift in their relationship. Arlene and Alan already have four grown children, when, at the age of 43, Arlene becomes pregnant. That event turns their world upside down, with its stresses and strains on their marriage.
The cast is uniformly fine. Norm Lewis, as Nick, is certainly a stand out with his strong, powerful delivery and magnetic stage presence. His most recent stint was as Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway. He's ably matched by LaChanze as Pam. Their appealing "With You" has an honesty and relevance that hit home. (Unfortunately, when I was there, someone's cell phone went off during the number; as if that wasn't distracting enough, the person went up the aisle with the phone ringing.)
Moeisha McGill as Liz is often front and center and brings a high energy interpretation to the part. She takes a stunning solo turn at the end of Act I with "The Story Goes On." when glittering stars appear in the sky. Chad Kimball plays Danny, all nervous energy, intent on creating his own music. His heartfelt "I Chose Right" is lyrical and romantic. In addition, he moves into a "rock" persona as he looks for ways to support his child.
Carolee Carmello, who plays Arlene, will be familiar to Paper Mill audiences for her enchanting performance as Anna in The King and I. She has a raft of Broadway credits, including Kate in Kiss Me, Kate and Marguerite in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Not only is her soprano lush, but her interpretation conveys the mixed emotions and turmoil of this unexpected pregnancy. Her solo "Patterns" speaks touchingly of loss and disillusionment.
Michael Rupert's Alan takes the possibilities of a second-time-around father to new heights. He's believable and earnest as a man who wants to make his wife happy, but doesn't quite know how. When he and Arlene join up with "And What If We Loved Like That" you feel all the history and years they've built in their "perfect," but not quite real, marriage.
Not to be overlooked is a wonderful scene in a doctor's office with Lenny Wolpe. Mr. Wolpe appeared impressively in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and as Herbie in Gypsy at the Paper Mill. Pam and Nick have come to consult him, but he's so busy with his contact lenses that he really can't read the charts. When he advises them, "It's a common problem" they end up more frustrated than before. At any rate, his comic timing is priceless.
Mark S. Hoebee, Paper Mill's artistic directed, directed and choreographed the show. "Fatherhood Blues" lets the cast strut its stuff, when the men gather for a baseball game, but instead complain about the annoyances of parenthood. Hoebee's love for this musical comes through in a myriad of small, intimate moments.
Baby has a lot of spark and snap. It's probably not the best musical ever written, but the couples and their problems are ones you learn to care about and each is worth rooting for. In addition, it's a pleasure to see a musical that hasn't been overdone and that has something to say about love and life and the human condition.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. Click image to buy.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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