Friday, April 25, 2008

Did Cry-Baby Induce Critical Cries of Joy?

Did Cry-Baby Induce Critical Cries of Joy?

First off, let me apologize for being so tardy today in posting this critics' capsule. I'm currently in Paris and enjoyed my day by strolling around this beautiful city, which I'm afraid takes precedence over this site any day.

And given what I thought of Cry-Baby during previews, it's not exactly like I was champing at the bit to drop what I was doing to post. You get it, Cry-Baby critics' capsule or Paris?! Well, my feet finally needed a rest so here goes.

Last evening, Cry-Baby, the second stage adaptation of a John Waters, opened at the Marquis Theatre under the direction of Mark Brokaw. Boasting a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, the tuner features a score by Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum and a cast that includes Harriet Harris, James Snyder and Elizabeth Stanley. Critics were split on the merits of the show.

Concluding that "Cry-Baby will make you smile, and laugh, without patronizing you, or anyone else," Elysa Gardner of USA Today awards three out of four stars: "The rockabilly-inspired numbers that David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger have crafted for Cry-Baby aren't as ambitious or infectious (as Hairspray), but the show is similarly good-hearted, and has more of a Waters edge. Javerbaum and Schlesinger's lyrics and Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan's book are both more inventively crass and less snarky than those of other contemporary musical winkfests; you get the sense that these writers share Waters' affection for his goofy subjects."

Lamenting that it "just doesn't gel as well" as Hairspray, Clive Barnes of New York Post nevertheless provides a mixed review: " writers Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, who co-wrote the book for Hairspray, have done a pretty nifty job with material not nearly so malleable. Decidedly less nifty are the songs by David Javerbaum and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger. The music comes in two rocky flavors -- cheery and droopy. It's the kind of music that makes you wonder whether you've heard it before, just before you stop caring."

Labeling the show as "tasteless," The New York Times' Ben Brantley calls out the blandness of the production, "I meant without flavor: sweet, sour, salty, putrid or otherwise. This show in search of an identity has all the saliva-stirring properties of week-old pre-chewed gum. (Not to be tasteless.)... The songs by Mr. Javerbaum (a producer for 'The Daily Show With Jon Stewart') and Mr. Schlesinger (of the pop group Fountains of Wayne) include plenty of rockabilly riffs and soulful wails (for a Little Richard-like character played by Chester Gregory II), but they often feel stuck in a groove, repeated until they go dry."

Criticizing it as "benign, kitschy satire," Variety's David Rooney also is less than positive: "There's a lot of talent, sass and sweat onstage, particularly in the dance department, plus a sprinkling of wit in the show's good-natured vulgarity. But somehow, it never quite ignites."

Commencing his review by stating, "Some musicals have high ideals and aspirations. Some even have something profound to say. Cry-Baby isn't one of them," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News offers two out of five stars: "It hits the mark about half the time, whenever the show is dancing. The star of Cry-Baby is choreographer Rob Ashford, who has created some of the most inventive and athletic dancing seen on Broadway all season.... Snyder and Stanley are likable leads, but it's two featured actors who stand out -- Chester Gregory II and Carly Jibson, as soulful sidekick and nasty knocked-up sister of Cry-Baby. They bring big talent and oddball originality to the stage -- precisely what this baby needed more of."

So there you have it folks, it looks like the show hasn't improved much from when I saw it a few weeks ago. Critics are hardly excited by this latest entry on the Great White Way, and there's now only one more original musical left to open before the season is officially over and the Tonys are announced. Doesn't look like Cry-Baby will be in contention other than for supporting roles and Mr. Ashford's pretty decent choreography.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Cry-Baby Finally Given Birth On Broadway Tonight (April 24, 2008)
Theatre Etiquette, Part Four (Or Drunken City) (April 15, 2008)
Cry-Baby (The SOB Preview) (April 2, 2008)
Looking Forward: The SOB Top Five (January 2, 2008)
John Waters: This Filthy World (The SOB Review) (November 12, 2007)
Giving Birth To Cry-Baby (September 27, 2007)
Cry-Baby To Move Forward Without Schuck (May 6, 2007)

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At 25 April, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

You did not include Linda Winer's review from Newsday:

'Cry-Baby' hits the high Waters mark.'

"[The show] is pleasantly demented and - deep in the sweet darkness of its loopy heart - more true to the cheerful subversion of a John Waters movie than its sentimental big sister "Hairspray."

At 25 April, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

From the Hartford Courant review:

Oh, Baby, We Have A Winner: "Cry-Baby"

Step aside, "Grease." A studly new '50s rocker has hit Broadway, and his name is "Cry-Baby."

The lyrics are smart and catchy, while the tunes, as in "Grease," recall hits of the '50s and early '60s....though it scores its points about class warfare, "Cry-Baby" is strictly for fun, with plenty of razzle-dazzle.

At 25 April, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

And an outright rave from WSJ's Terry Teachout:

"You want funny? I'll give you funny, or at least tell you where to find it: "Cry-Baby," the new John Waters musical, is campy, cynical, totally insincere and fabulously well crafted. And funny. Madly, outrageously funny. It is, in fact, the funniest new musical since "Avenue Q," give or take "The Drowsy Chaperone." If laughter is the best medicine, then "Cry-Baby" is the whole damn drugstore."

At 25 April, 2008, Blogger Vance said...

Not the massacre it seemed to be heading towards (based on the talk on message boards)though...

At 25 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Broadway Baby, Thanks for providing some of the additional reviews. I regret that being in Paris only enabled me to post links to five of the reviews.

Vance, you're right, all is not lost for the show.

At 25 April, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

I don't know, BroadwayBaby, I have to respectfully disgree with those critics. I did not find it "madly, outrageously funny," and I didn't see much razzle or dazzle. To me, it just seemed rather pedestrian and bland, with characters I didn't really care about and songs I didn't find all that memorable. I laughed, but not all that much.

I'm a big fan of Hairspray, I absolutely love Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's music, I think the characters are more sharply drawn and funnier, and I think its plot, dealing with the civil-rights movement and interracial romance, is more subversive. Maybe I was expecting something more like Hairspray and I got something more like Grease!

At 25 April, 2008, Anonymous Chris Caggiano said...


Enjoy Paris. My favorite place in that lovely city is Sainte-Chapelle over on the Île de la Cité. If you've never been, it's simply stunning.



At 27 April, 2008, Blogger Alicia said...

Ah, Paris! So jealous I am. And very impressed with your devotion to the capsule. I'm not surprised by the split reviews - our local guy loved it, too. However, I think it will have a hard time holding up to some of the shows that are on the horizon.

I'm just saying...

Although I'm sure you have a fully booked dance card, I would suggest a dinner at Nos Ancestres de Les Galois on the Little Island, and MOST DEFINITELY some Berthillon ice cream. You will NEVER taste anything like it in your life.

At 28 April, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...


Even though I included some of the positive reviews of Cry-Baby, it looks like the show could die a quick death if it does not get a best musical Tony nomination (and the TV exposure). The prognosis for the show surviving is not good.

At 01 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for the great suggestions, but unfortunately, I read them a little too late. Nevertheless, my big tip to anyone visiting Paris is to go ahead and be daring: use the ubiquitous public bicycles and enjoy the thrill of riding down the Champs Elyses.

At 01 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

BB: We'll keep an eye on the box office totals, which were at a very healthy 85% capacity last week....


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