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NY Theater Reviews

James Snyder and Elizabeth Stanley/PH:Sara Krulwich


By Bill Stevenson

Cry-Baby may not be another Hairspray, but it's still fun. Credit some good songs, a winning cast and sexy choreography for the spell it weaves.


Can Broadway support two retro musicals based on John Waters movies? Sure, why not? The newcomer Cry-Baby, doesn't have a song as toe-tappingly memorable as Hairspray's You Can't Stop the Beat. But it does have a bunch of fun numbers, a winning cast, and sexy choreography by Rob Ashford. With its R-rated-or at least PG-13 -rated -sensibility, Cry-Baby isn't as family-friendly as the long-running Hairspray. On the other hand, the show's sexiness will probably be a selling point to anyone old enough to buy his or her own ticket.

Based on Waters' 1990 movie and set in 1954, Cry-Baby satirizes the class divisions of the era. Allison (Elizabeth Stanley) is a good girl who would rather be bad. Her boyfriend is the square, cleancut Baldwin (Christopher J. Hanke), lead singer of a Whiffenpoofs-style group called the Whiffles. Allison's snobbish grandmother, Mrs. Vernon-Williams (Harriet Harris), wants her to marry someone appropriate. But as soon as Allison lays eyes on bad- boy rocker Wade Walker, a.k.a. Cry-Baby (James Snyder), she's a goner.

Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Tony-winners for their Hairspray book, have done nearly as good a job adapting Cry-Baby. They play up the class consciousness, as when Baldwin notes that the country club's new bomb shelter is for members only, not employees. Harris gets plenty of good jokes too, as when she asks Allison, Didn't I tell you not to have problems?

The songs by David Javerbaum (executive producer of the Daily Show) and Adam Schlesinger (of the band Fountains of Wayne) boast bouncy, 50s-sounding tunes and witty lyrics. It's hard to be 16 and sicko, croons the nutcase Lenora Alli Mauzey), who also pines for Cry-Baby. I've made up my mind, which I've lost.

In addition to that first-act solo, Mauzey has a nifty second-act duet with Hanke, All in My Head, which features creative staging by director Mark Brokaw and choreographer Ashford. The dancing is energetic throughout the show, but the showstopper is the extended Jailyard Jubilee, in which prison inmates use license plates for taps. Other numbers, like Girl, Can I Kiss You...?, accentuate the musical's randy side. Girl, can I kiss you with tongue? Cry-Baby sings to Allison before they start furiously French-kissing.

Snyder's hip-swiveling Cry-Baby is essentially an impression of the young, pelvis-thrusting Elvis Presley. Charismatic though he is, Snyder can't carry the show. Luckily, the musical boasts other good roles and terrific performances. Stanley makes an appealing leading lady, and sings beautifully. The supporting actors have plenty to do, with Mauzey and Hanke getting just as many laughs as the scenery-chomping Harris. The trio of bad girls (Carly Jibson, Lacey Kohl and Tory Ross) steals scenes while doing some serious belting, and Chester Gregory ll uncorks his full-bodied voice whenever he has a solo.

The other star of the show is Ashford's knockout choreography. The hard-working (not to mention hard-bodied) dancers also deserve credit for making the ensemble numbers so much fun to watch. And Brokaw's tight direction keeps the lightweight musical's running time a trim two-and-a- quarter-hours.

Cry-Baby isn't likely to dominate the Tonys as Hairspray did, and it probably won't run on Broadway for years and years. But in my book it's as enjoyable as another current movie-turned musical, Legally Blonde, and far superior to the dopey 2006 Broadway version of The Wedding Singer. If the dynamite c