Step back into the 50s, where the squares were hip, the conformists were applauded, and the free-spirits were as feared as nuclear warfare, communism, and polio. Cry-baby is the campy, comedy tale of Wade “Cry-baby” Walker, orphaned leader of a gang of uncouth youths in a town of proud to be squares. We open at the town’s Polio Vaccination Festival (taking place the same day as the unveiling of the local Country Club’s fallout shelter) where the Squares’ celebration is interrupted by Cry-baby and his gang of delinquents. There, Cry-baby meets Allison of the Good Girls, and it’s Romeo & Juliet styled love at first sight. Will Allison give up her goodly ways? Will anybody ever really understand Cry-baby? Is there a way for these star-crossed lovers to find a middle ground in a strange world? Buy your tickets to find out. Or Google it, I guess.
Cry-baby is a rock musical. The music’s loud and raucous and, with added shout-out to musical director Chris Lucas and the live band, the cast that director Don Fex has assembled can sing. There aren’t any catchy tunes of the variety you’ll be singing on the way home, but there’s plenty for your ears to enjoy. And as a rock musical, the only real way to appreciate it is in person with the visual treat of the actors singing and dancing in front of you.
The always charismatic Nicholas Amott lights up the stage as Wade “Cry-baby” Walker, and who knew the man could sing? I mean, probably many people, and I certainly knew he could act but, wow. Then again, wow also to Emma Woodside, playing Cry-baby’s good girl but doesn’t wannabe lover from the right side of the tracks. And wow to… Yeah, this is getting repetitive, but goodness can Axandre Lemours belt out a tune. Suffice to say you won’t be disappointed in the musical talent.
Among the cast highlights, I would be remiss not to mention Samantha de Benedet’s unhinged and delusional Lenora. What can you say about Lenora, beyond perhaps you have to see her to appreciate her. She brings some wonderfully fun and off beat physical comedy.
The show itself is a bit shallow, and the meandering first act feels it, don’t go in expecting sweeping grand character arcs. That said, the second act raises the bar and even manages a few character/plot surprises on the way to a fun, rock musical ending.
If you’ve been here before, you’ll know it hasn’t been lately. On Stage has been in a bit of a hibernation and I haven’t personally put up a review in nine months. In that nine months, I’ve seen exactly three shows, including this one. Life, you know? Why does that matter? Because Cry-baby reminded me what I love about theatre and gave it to me. I don’t know what better recommend I could give than that if you’re in the mood to rock out with some fun, funny theatre.
**Obviously, sit this out if you don’t like loud music, the campy 50s vibe, or you’re a square.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. What song had you rocking in your seat? Who caught your eye as a standout? Let me know in the comments below.
Cry-baby runs now through May 19th at The Gladstone. Full information and tickets: http://thegladstone.ca