Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Cry-Baby (The SOB Preview)

Cry-Baby (The SOB Preview) - Marquis Theatre, New York, NY

* (out of ****)

Those screeching sounds you hear are Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan as they literally scrape the bottom of the barrel.

You see, they've already gone beneath the Grease, which with all due respect to Mr. Riedel this morning, can no longer be deemed "the worst show in the history of theater and represents an unparalleled assault on Western civilization and its values."

Au contraire, Michael. Cry-Baby appears to be angling for that dubious honor. Despite its multi-million dollar budget, this new musical quite incredibly comes across as a poor man's Grease with its tired good girl gone gaga for bad boy premise. Already three weeks into previews with -- surprise, surprise -- another three plus weeks to go, the latest John Waters-inspired Broadway musical Cry-Baby is trashy fun.

Without the fun.

How do I put this delicately without sounding like I'm piling on? Cry-Baby is such a piece of doggy-do that not even Divine would dare stomach it. In fact, I'd take "Pink Flamingos The Musical" anyday over this if it were written by Waters himself.

With a cloying score by first-timers Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum, what little story there is limps along at a snail's pace. By the time we get to the closing tune "Nothing Bad's Ever Gonna Happen Again," it's too little and far too late for any reassurance given what we've already had to endure.

Not even Harriet Harris can save this one. In Cry-Baby, her Mrs. Vernon-Williams is merely an extension of other characters we've previously seen her portray. That she and Chester Gregory II as Dupree manage to upstage leads James Snyder and Elizabeth Stanley is not saying much.

If there is a silver lining, it's that first-time musical director Mark Brokaw is at least benefitting from some fancy footwork from choreographer Rob Ashford, particularly in the singularly rousing "Jailyard Jubilee" number. Indeed, Ashford seems much more in command than Brokaw. However, Ashford seems to have borrowed the license plate on shoe idea from Matthew Bourne, who instead used trash can lids in the revival of My Fair Lady currently touring the United States.

I can't help but wonder what the show would be like if only it had healthier doses of Waters' trademark ribald and subversively clever humor, such as in the opening scene when we first meet our "Squares" (antagonists) and "Drapes (protagonists) as they come together for a fleeting moment for their polio vaccines. Perhaps it would have been more interesting.

If there's any glimmer of hope for Cry-Baby, it's that Waters himself was in the back of the theatre during my performance, hopefully helping punch up the script if he wasn't letting O'Donnell and Meehan have it first.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
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 02 April, 2008, Blogger Chris Caggiano said...

Wow, that's some pretty sharp invective there, missy. Well, as I said in my review, I didn't think it was THAT bad, although it's certainly not good. Just goes to show you, that you and I can even be in the same theater at the same time and still see a different show.

But that's a good thing.

Warmest regards,


At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Chris, Could it be that it was expectations run amok? You went in with low expectations while mine were, quite unfortunately, considerably higher.

I hope my readers will check out your review, as well as that offered by Mondschein at Third Row, Mezzanine since we all attended the same performance. (No word yet from two other bloggers who were also there.)

Hopefully, after reading all three, as well as that offered by Patrick Lee at Just Shows To Go You, readers can determine whether they think this is a show worth seeing.

At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Vance said...

Wow, it's really that bad huh? I've been reading the message boards and they were mostly not pretty, but I was looking SOOOO forward to this one. And weren't the San Diego tryout reviews pretty good? What happened? A NY sensibility can't be all that different (okay. maybe it is).

Well, maybe it was a good thing for Andrew C. Call to jump ship back to Glory Days.

At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Vance, Like you, I really had high hopes for this show, not only because the West Coast reviews were so promising, but also because one of my favorite Left Coast sources enjoyed it immensely. Perhaps this is why the show has booked sooooooo many weeks of previews.

But please do yourself a favor and read the other reviews of the show, which I've linked to in my response to Chris Caggiano (including his), who actually kind of liked it.

At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Mondschein said...

I was thinking the same thing about Mr. Brokaw and his experience with musicals, but with a couple of Encores! credits as well as "A Little Night Music" at the Kennedy Center a few seasons back, he should have the chops to stage a musical on Broadway.

Also, didn't Susan Stroman use some kind of shoe attachment like the license plates for "I've Got Rhythm" from "Crazy For You"?

At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Mondschein, My apologies for missing Brokaw's earlier musical efforts. I should have stated that this was his first Broadway musical effort.

I missed Stroman's Crazy For You - is that heresy?

At 02 April, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the show immensely when I saw it in San Diego. I didn't think it was the best thing since sliced bread, but I really had a great time.

Since I know your review is sincere and is not driven by any hidden motive, I will just have to say that taste is subjective. I do know that the buzz on the show has been mostly negative, so I know I'm in the minority...oh well!

At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Alicia said...

Well, Steve, you need wait no longer for my review... :)

At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Broadway Baby, I wanted so very much to love this show - at the onset of 2008, I even named it as one of the top five shows I most looked forward to seeing this year.

Here's hoping that Mr. Waters will use the next three weeks of previews to reshape this currently shiftless show. I took no joy in writing a bad review - I had even less joy in spending $54 on it.

At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Alicia, Thanks for letting me know you've posted your review. I hope my dear readers will take a look at what you've had to say by clicking here.

At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Vance said...

Well, I liked Legally Blonde so maybe Im one of those tourists Chris speaks of. :P

I'll probably see it all anyways but I had been deciding between Gypsy and Cry Baby up until last week when I started reading the CB message boards and then the Gypsy reviews came out.

I guess I've made my decision for this coming weekend. (Well, assuming I can even get tickets to Gypsy).

At 02 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Vance, Don't even think twice about which show to see. To miss Gypsy would be to miss Broadway history in the making. It's that good.

At 02 April, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, if there's one thing Steve and I can agree about - it's that this Gypsy revival will be remembered for years to come. It is simply the most brilliant musical theatre production that Broadway has seen in years.

As for NY sensibilities vs. San Diego sensibilities, the Broadway history books are filled with shows that were hits in San Diego but flopped on the great white way: Two notable examples are Imaginary Friends (featuring Cherry Jones and Swoosie Kurtz in a musical!) and The Last Confederate Widow with Ellen Burstyn. Both shows received standing ovations in San Diego and quickly closed in NY. And let's not forget the "The Times are a' Changing", a Bob Dylan jukebox musical directed by Twyla Tharp.

-BroadwayBaby (who's having problems signing on again!)

At 02 April, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It saddens me to know that the creators haven't addressed the problems in the piece. When I saw it about a week and a half ago, it had definite issues and weaknesses, but I thought that it could be turned into a satisfying (if light) entertainment with some serious re-working.

I liked the score, which I thought was cheekier and more daring than the staging. (Mark Brokaw is a distant friend of mine and a talented director, but musical comedies are not his strong suit.) Unlike you, though, I detested the dancing. Hated Elizabeth whatshername who is the vapid lead. I think Alli Mauzey has breakout potential, though.

Sigh. So much money, time, and talent wasted. Makes me sad.

At 03 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

ModFab, I agree about Alli and neglected to mention her in my initial preview comments. She stole the show in practically every scene she was in.

At 03 April, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Hey Steve,
I just posted my review. I guess I'm guilty of going in with expectations that were way too high - as high as Tracy Turnblad's puffed up hair!

At 03 April, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, I'm sure that the drama directly behind us did not help.... I'll be writing up yet another "Theatre Etiquette" piece shortly....

At 18 June, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, or whatever your name is,

I just saw Cry-Baby last night, and was sadly informed today that it would be closing on Sunday.

However from your quirky sentences and negativity, while praising John Waters, it has become clear to me that you probably have never actually seen a John Waters film. With the exception of maybe Crybaby itself.

What made me love this, far more than my love for Hairspray. Is that it kept the same awkward humor as most of Water's work (Serial Mom, Pink Flamingos, Desperate Living).

When Hairspray was turned into a musical, it did away with most of his raunchier jokes and made it more poppy for your average theater goer. But don't get me wrong it worked. Watching Crybaby on Broadway made me feel like I was watching John Waters, not some watered down version of one of his movies.

But we are all entitled to our opinions I guess, even if our opinions are negative no matter what is put in front of us.

At 18 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Au contraire, Paul. You can call me SOB! And welcome to Steve On Broadway.

You're actually quite wrong when you state that I've probably never seen a John Waters film. As I detailed last November upon seeing the filmmaker in person in Minneapolis:

I'll never forget the moment in my life when I felt truly corrupted. It occurred when I was just a 16 years old high school junior in suburban Milwaukee.

At the time, the person whom I considered my most subversive friend invited me to join him and a couple other friends to go to the Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee's landmark film house -- then home to the midnight showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" -- to take in the John Waters Film Festival. Since I had never before even heard of this amazing auteur, I was merely along for the ride.

Now, this was long before "Hairspray" or "Cry-Baby," let alone Waters' first real commercially viable film "Polyester."

The bill for that fateful evening, more years ago than I care to admit, was a triple feature starring Divine: "Mondo Trasho," "Pink Flamingos" and "The Diane Linkletter Story."

The first was Waters' 1969 "gutter film" that followed the dastardly exploits of a hit-and-run driver. The second flick took the level of surprise to a previously unchartered territory by catching Divine eating dog feces immediately upon defacating. Waters had the audacity to film the last one just a day after Art Linkletter's daughter committed suicide, allegedly under the influence of LSD.

I've seen most of Waters' films, with the curious exception of "Cry-Baby," which by most accounts ranks as one of his least efforts. Nevertheless, as I dutifully pointed out in early January, specifically because of my affinity for Waters' other works, Cry-Baby was near the top of my list of shows I most wanted to see.

I would much rather have seen "Pink Flamingoes" turned into a stage musical, in retrospect.

But, hey, we're all entitled to our own opinions, and I'm glad you enjoyed the show.

At 19 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


One more thought - although I saw the show three weeks into previews, I did notice Mr. Waters sitting in the back of the theatre during my performance alongside Thomas Meehan. It's quite possible that he helped transform the show into something better by the time it opened.


Steve On Broadway (SOB)


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