The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

Search Curtainup








NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
Radiant Baby

Can't stop to think
Or reason why
Just gotta try to keep moving ahead
Can't Stop to Die

The motive now
Is crystal clear
I've gotta make a stand for joy
Before I disappear

--- Keith, "Faster Than the Speed of Life"
Visually, Radiant Baby is a knockout. Keith Haring's hieroglyphic pop art images almost demand to be animated with music and dancing. George C. Wolfe, the matchmaker of this marriage of the pop art and music of the late 1970s to late 1980s, has assembled a splendid team to help him realize his stylish, intensely paced vision for this musical biography .

The performers sing and dance with unflagging energy -- especially Daniel Reichard as the nerdy-looking but fast-living Haring; and the versatile Julee Cruise as Keith's mom in his hometown of Kutztown, PA and as a white-wigged Andy Warhol mentoring Keith from the grave.

Debra Barsha's pulsating rock-punk-disco score with its occasional pause for a pop ballad suits the art and the disco club scene of the period. It's especially effective in a show-stopping hedonistic inferno in which a manic male and female diva (Angela Robinson and Billy Porter) sing about "Paradise/ Instant Gratification" à la clubs like the Paradise garage. Fatima Robinson's splashy choreography, which includes a drop dead break dance number, propels the musical movements, true to the mood and pace-setting opening number, "Faster Than the Speed of Light."

On the crafts end, the ubuiquitous Ricardo Hernández has outdone himself with a box-within-a-box set that suggests a blank canvas and explodes with fluidly moving set pieces. + Batwing + Robin Productions' stunning projections transform this canvas into facsimile installations of Haring's work -- in one instance a giant black and white painting is colored in right before our eyes. Add the expert lighting by Howard Binkley and Emilio Sosa's Haring-themed costumes and it adds up to eye-popping, never a dull moment entertainment.

What about the show's book? Ah, there's the rub.

If the inevitable lines in the Public Theater's limited bathroom facilities can be taken as an exit poll of sorts, the talk of the waiting viewers was all about the staging (clearly a yes-yes-yes vote). Not a word about the subject of the whole enterprise, Keith Haring -- the artist whose instantly recognizeable images graced subway as well as gallery walls, tee shirts, watches and buttons.

It's not that the ambitions that ignited Haring's creative fires aren't interesting -- his cartoon imagery was as rooted in such enduring French modernists as Fernand Leger and Jean Dubuffet as Walt Disney's cartoon studio. The granddaddy of the pop art movement and the artist-as-art, Andy Warhol, was the role model for his embrace of commercial endeavors and celebrity. Nor does his frantic race to leave a large legacy before his death of complications from AIDS at thirty-one lack the stuff of tragedy.

The problem is that while Wolfe has imaginatively tapped into Haring's story and art to create a musical that looks like the new-new thing we've all been waiting for, Stuart Ross has not translated John Gruen's biography of Haring or the artist's own journal writings with as surefire and original a touch.

Aa workmanlike flashback construct takes us from Haring's discovery that he has AIDS (in 1988) to his journey from Kutztown, PA to graffiti-into-world-class- artist -celebrity and its attendant pressures. But the a little bit of everything approach soars only in the Paradise club and the Andy Warhol "Tomato Soup" scenes and during the final frenetic burst of creativity with which Haring deals with his impending death.

Ross's lyrics (with co-credits going to Debra Barsha and Ira Gassman) also fail to rise above okay. Thus, while using three kids as a narrating chorus, is an apt touch given Haring's consistent involvement with children, the three young actors ' commentary is too often pedestrian Most damaging is the depiction of the main character who. despite Reichart's full-throttle performance, lacks the complicated edges of the real Haring. The fine performers playing the key subsidiary characters -- Kate Jennings Grant as Haring's loyal but frustrated office manager, Keong Sim as his also AIDS stricken photographer and Aaron Lohr as his hunky lover -- are also hamstrung by being composites of all of the artist's colleagues, friends and lovers.

Haring's Mr. Rogers niceness and the pint-sized chorus, notwithstanding, this is not really a family show. Even though nine and ten year-olds will relate to Harings images, this, unlike Hairspray and The Lion King, is a show calling for a "parental discretion advised " -- particularly, for parents not eager to have the "F" word publicly sanctioned as the Public Theater ushers point people to the entrance for the previewing Suzann-Lori Parks play with its in-your-face title. As long as I'm including caveats, the music is loud. I'd advise seats no closer to the pit than row H.

While it may not have the legs to carry it to Broadway, it radiates with the appeal of the crawling infant icon that inspired its title, Radiant Baby's razzle-dazzly " instant gratification" has already created enough demand for tickets to seed an announcement of a longer than previously announced "installation" at the Newman Theater.

Book by Stuart Ross
Music by Debra Barsha
Lyrics by Ira Gasman, Debra Barsha, Stuart Ross.
Suggested by Keith Herring, the Authorized Biography by John Gruen
Directed by George C. Wolfe
Choreography by Fatima Robinson
Starring Daniel Reichard as Keith Haring, Cast: Gabriel Enrique Alvarez, Tracee Beazer, Celina Carvajal, Julee Cruise, Rhett G. George, Curtis Holbrook, Kate Jennings-Grant, Anny Jules, Adam Michael Kaokept, Christopher Livsey, Aaron Lohr, Christopher Martinez, Jermaine Montell, Sarah Jane Nelson, Billy Porter, Angela Robinson, Keong Sim, Christian Vincent, Michael Winther and Remy Zaken.
Set Design: Riccardo Hernández
Costume Design: Emilio Sosa
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Dan Moses Schreier
Projection Design: Batwin & Robin Productions
Musicians: Conductor and Synthesizer-- Kimberly Grigsby; Synthesizers-- John Roggie, James Sampliner; Guitar/Saxophone-- Vincent Henry; Bass-- Konrad Aderley;Drums -- John Clancy Music Copying Emily Grisham Music Preparation/ Katharine Edmonds, Emily Grisham Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
The Public Theater's Newman Theater, 425 Lafayette St., 212-239-6200
1/31/03-3/02/03--extended to 3/23/03.
Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2:00p.m. and Sunday at 7:00p.m. and after 2/18: Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00p.m.; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00p.m. -- $55.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on March 1st press preview
Musical Numbers
(All lyrics written by Stuart Ross and Debra Barsha except where noted-- *Lyrics by Ira Gasman **Lyrics by Ira Gasman, Stuart Ross, Debra Barsha)
Act One
  • This Is the World/Faster Than the Speed of Life/. Kids, Amanda, Kwong & Ensemble
  • **Draw and Move/Keith, Kids & Ensemble
  • Spirit of the Line/Mr. Hating & Keith
  • Prom Dreams/Get Me to New York/Keith, Kids & Ensemble
  • The Journals/ Keith & Ensemble
  • **New York Makes Me/Two Incredibly Hot and Sleazy New York Men & Keith
  • Wei Yi Shu Xian Sheng/Kwong, Keith, Lounge Lizard Slut, June/Ward Slut & Patrons of Club 80
  • Paradise/Instant Gratification/ Diva Woman, Diva Man, Miss RN & the IVs, Keith & Ensemble
  • If It Cant Be Love/Singer on the Radio, Keith & Carlos Normal Day/Amanda
  • Taggin/Ensemble
  • Spirit of the Line/Chalk Dust Man/Company
Act Two
  • **Flavor of the Week/ Company
  • Developing/Kwong, Amanda & Kids
  • Flavor of the Week (Part 2) / Company
  • Hot Tomato Soup/. Keith, Andy Warhol & Ensemble
  • Draw Me A Door/ Keith
  • Dear Mr. Haring/ Maurice
  • Faster Than the Speed of Life/. Keith & Company
  • Paradise (Reprise) / Company
  • **Quartet/ Keith, Kwong, Amanda & Carlos
  • Stay/. Keith, Kwong, Amanda, Carlos, & Company
At This Theater Cover

Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam

Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers

The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by
's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from