Monday, June 9, 2008

Reel Thoughts: Broadway Baby

Our Neil Cohen recently paid a visit to the Big Apple, and he naturally took time to take in some theatah ... so, to count down to the Tony Awards next Sunday, here is his first of five reviews of some of the current offerings on the Great White Way and beyond:

Any show that wheels a boy in an iron lung across the stage during “The Anti-Polio Picnic”, waving an American flag and shouting “I sure wish I’d gotten that vaccine!”, has both the earmarks of a John Waters movie and my undying love! Cry-Baby (currently playing at the Marriott Marquis Theatre) may not have Johnny Depp, but it has hands-down the hottest dancers doing the best choreography I can remember. Listen to the Tony voters, who nominated it for Best Musical, and get ready to have a great time.

The show has changed a little since I saw its debut in La Jolla last year, with the addition of a couple of songs in place of others, but I didn’t really notice. James Snyder is fine in the title role, a rockabilly heartthrob with a soft spot for good girl Allison Vernon-Williams (Elizabeth Stanley). In a town without pity like Baltimore circa 1954, however, this boy getting this girl is going to take a lot of work. The marvelous Harriet Harris (Desperate Housewives) plays Allison’s disapproving grandmother, and she brings down the house with her confessional number “I Did Something Wrong … Once”, while Alli Mauzey, as Cry-Baby’s crazy stalker Lenora, truly owns the show when she lets loose with Waters’ favorite number, “Screw Loose”; it’s like “Patsy Cline Goes Psycho”, and I can’t wait for the cast album to hear it again.

Allison’s “Squeaky Clean” boyfriend Baldwin is played to perfection by blond cutie Christopher J. Hanke. The bravura second act jailhouse number “A Little Upset” is a high-octane, hyper-masculine treat, complete with convicts tap-dancing with license plates for shoes! The rest of the cast, bad girl Mona, Dupree, Hatchet-Face and the Whiffles are perfect, but it is those amazing, often shirtless dancers who’ll make you cry for more! It’s the Drapes versus the Squares ... and we’re the winners with Cry-Baby!

In related news, the Cry-Baby dancers will be on view at the Tony Awards this Sunday doing their show-stopping "A Little Upset" production number, while "Fanadus" everywhere will rejoice as Cheyenne Jackson takes center stage to belt out "Don't Walk Away" from Xanadu.

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