Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

A Sprightly Production of Baby Backed by Strong Direction and a Talented Cast

Also see Richard's reviews of 3F, 4F and the The Mambo Kings

(top row) Derek Lux, Pamela Khoury, Morgan Mackay, Lauren Elizabeth White (bottom row) Alison Ewing and Brian M. Rosen
Playhouse West is presenting a perennial favorite for couples expecting or with babies in David Shire, Richard Maltby Jr. and Sybille Pearson's 1983 musical Baby. This is a pleasant musical not about the babies but about people who are thinking about becoming parents. The production runs through June 25th in the small Knight Stage 3 of the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts.

Baby opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on December 4, 1983 to very good reviews. The New York Post said "the book is agreeably smart. It has style and energy, a rare combination." The musical was considered very ground-breaking when it opened and the production is enticing, with an excellent, bright cast bringing a brittle, present-day awareness to the production. David Shire's score is sophisticated, covering all styles of music including rock, jazz and some good old fashioned Broadway songs. Richard Maltby's lyrics are smart and very inventive. The two hour musical has been playing in regional theatres since it opened 21 years ago because it has an engaging charm and appeal for local audiences.

Baby tells the story of three couples on a university campus as they deal with the painful, rewarding and agonizingly funny consequences of this universal experience. They are college students Danny (Derek Lux) and Lizzie (Lauren Elizabeth White), who are still starting their adult lives and now expecting a baby; the thirty-somethings Nick (Brian M Rosen) and Pam (Alison Ewing), having trouble conceiving but determined to try; and the middle-aged parents Alan (Morgan Mackay) and Arlene (Pamela Khoury), looking forward to seeing their last child graduate from college when a night of unexpected passion lands them back where they started.

Artistic Director Lois Grandi has directed and choreographed the piece beautifully. She is an ex-dancer, having appeared in New York productions many times. Her work is especially noticeable in the first act number "Fatherhood Blues" with choreography that is reminiscent of those combos that played in Las Vegas clubs in the '70s and '80s. Derek Lux (The Boy Friend at Playhouse West and recently Tony in DLOC's West Side Story) as Danny has great moves doing a do wop number. The complete ensemble is great in this rock and roll piece.

Lauren Elizabeth White (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at Marines Memorial and a one year run as Snow White in Beach Blanket Babylon) offers a convincing performance as Lizzie, an unmarried college student who stays at home during her pregnancy while Danny goes on a seventy-one stop punk rock band tour. Lauren has great vocal chops in "We Start Today" and later "The Story Goes On." These two young attractive kids have perfect chemistry together (they are a couple in real life).

Brian M. Rosen (performed in dozen of shows in New York area) and Allison Ewing (The Last Five Years, Proof, Honourat Playhouse West) play the couple having difficulty conceiving. They are the comedy relief of the production and they work well together. Allison is hilarious when she shows and talks about the strange positions for conceiving a baby, according to a rule book. Brian has a little difficulty getting into the role but finally finds his stride by the end of the first act. He does the role almost in the Groucho Marx style of acting.

Pamela Khoury (Broadway debut in 1980 revival of West Side Story and Anita in the world tour and original cast member of Jerome Robbins Broadway) plays Arlene who gets pregnant at forty-three. She is irresistible in both singing and dancing. Morgan Mackay (Smoke & Mirrors, Whispers in the Wind) gives a strong performance as the troubled older husband facing the birth of another child. Morgan does a wonderful rendition of "Easier to Love" that is very sincere.

Lois Grandi has also assembled a great cast for the many smaller roles that includes Douglas B. Giorgis (Zippo in Minnie's Boys plus Little Women at CTA Crossroads), Tielle Baker (performing on stage since age 6), Joy Lian (worked in many of Bay area regional theaters), Mike R. Padilla (Judge Turpin in Foothill's production of Sweeney Todd) and Klahr Thorsen (13 Hallucinations of Julia Rivera at the Magic). All give top notch performances in both the dancing and singing parts.

Lois' staging is properly fluid and she has devised some great moves for the small, three-sided stage. Doug Ham uses very minimal props that include a square piece made into a bed and several chairs.

Baby plays at the Knight Stage 3, Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek through June 25th. Tickets can be obtained thru 925-943-SHOW. The company will open their 2005-2006 season on September 1 with Noel Coward's Private Lives.

Photo: Lois Grandi

- Richard Connema

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