Monday, March 31, 2008

O Elvis, Where Art Thou?

"Cry-Baby" at the Marquis Theatre, March 29, 2008

(Photo: Kevin Berne)

Following the Mel Brooks' money trail, John Waters has gotten more involved in the Broadway adaptation of his 1991 film of the same name, than he did with 2003's "Hairspray."

Book writer Thomas Meehan (along with Mark O'Donnell) has managed to avoid the trap he fell into earlier this season with "Young Frankenstein," trying to "formulize" Mr. Brooks' film a la "The Producers." It didn't work then and unfortunately, he not much more successful here. The story feels like a poor man's "Grease" (the original stage production, not the movie) - nice girl falls for the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. There's a nod or two back to Mr. Waters' original with subplots of defamed and executed parents by the sin of omission, and a sociopath-etic stalker. If you're looking for a good 1950's-style musical, you were better off at the now-closed "All Shook Up."

The score, by David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger, runs the gamut from Elvis Presley to Jerry Lee Lewis, with an occasional character stop at Perry Como. (It sounds like they've snitched Mr. Sondheim's rhyming dictionary, too, but not the good one he uses now.)

Leading the two-dimensional character charge is the inimitable Harriet Harris as Mrs. Vernon-Williams, the town society grand dame who is raising her granddaughter Sandy Allison (Elizabeth Stanley) after her parents died. Ms. Harris puts Scott Pask's plastic set to the test as she gnaws her way through the show. It's too bad Messrs. Javerbaum and Schlesinger didn't take the time to put her songs in keys that suit her vocal range. It's rather a waste of a remarkable talent.

Ms. Stanley, who gave such a sweet performance as April in last year's revival of "Company" makes all the motions of her leading role. Hopefully she'll get past the deer-in-the-headlights look which remains despite the three weeks of previews she already has under her belt (and has another month to go).

Her Danny Cry-Baby, James Snyder matches Ms. Stanley's look, singing and dancing at a level that would make any American Idol contestant look over his shoulder. If he can find some character to bring along with the two of the required three talents that this leading role requires, he could be on his way to an impressive performing career.

Alli Mauzey gets to have the most fun as Lenora, the psycho-chick in love with Danny Cry-Baby. Her "Screw Loose" is one of the cuter moments in the show.

The ultimate selling point for this show is Rob Ashford's choreography. His dancers shake, rattle and roll with the best of them. Director Mark Brokaw keeps things apace, never letting things slow down long enough to really get to know a character.

Catherine Zuber has pulled some of the nicer pieces she didn't use in "The Light in the Piazza" for the "nice girls," but she does have some fun with the trashy girls (and I loved the lace up stiletto pumps on the female jail guards). Mr. Pask seems to have phoned this design in taking a page from David Rockwell's look recently seen in "Legally Blonde" and to a lesser extent, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." I must say I'm a little disappointed based on his previous work in shows like "The Pillowman," "The Lieutenant of Inishmore," "The Coast of Utopia," and "Take Me Out."

It is a high energy show, much like the less-appealing "Legally Blonde" and should prove once again that you can't underestimate the lack of intelligence of the Broadway tourist.

1 comment:

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Mondschein, I'm with you on this one. Let's hope they can fix 'er up over the next few weeks.