By Dee Jae Cox
283 performances on Broadway and 7 Tony Award nominations should be enough to indicate that a stage play/musical is pretty good. But this show went beyond expectation. “Baby, the musical,” with book by Sybille Pearson, music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr, currently in production at the Coachella Valley Repertory in Rancho Mirage, once more shines a spot light on why CV Rep is a top notch theater. Baby, is funny, poignant, engaging and an all around example of theater at its best.
Baby, the musical, first ran on Broadway from 1983 to 1984. Updated versions were written in 2004 and 2010. Though not the classic song and dance musical, Baby, takes a more human and realistic approach on a subject that millions around the world face on a daily basis… having a baby. It’s the story of 3 couples, which find their lives focused on the life-changing event called parenthood.
Lizzie, beautifully performed by Melody Hollis, and her live in boyfriend, Danny, (Caleb Horst) are young college students just on the verge of discovering who they are and what direction their lives will take, when an unplanned pregnancy forces them to reevaluate all future plans. Pam, portrayed by the very talented Erica Hanrahan-Ball and her husband Nick, Perry Ojeda, whose singing voice I found to be wonderfully deep and resonating, have been plagued by ongoing fertility problems. These two actors have such wonderful chemistry and their characters manage to show that love and devotion can keep a marriage stable through the darkest of storms. Their heartfelt efforts brought a real sense of honestly to this show. The third couple, Arlene and Alan, portrayed by wonderful performers, Janna Cardia and Tom Andrew, is perhaps the most empathetic duo. Celebrating their Anniversary and their adjustment to an empty nest after all three of their daughters having grown and moved out, they find themselves faced with the most unexpected of circumstances, Arlene is pregnant at 43 and they come to realize that after all of these years of marriage their entire relationship had been based on their roles as parents.
A meeting of the 3 women in a doctor’s office and discuss their anticipated pregnancies and weigh out how it will impact their lives. Their joint performance of “I want it all,” perfectly captured the sentiment that many women face with wanting to be mothers and successful in their own right. While “Fatherhood Blues” had me smiling at the diverse ways the potential dads were depicting the changes that children brought to their lives.
This show is will definitely bring a smile and perhaps a tear. The joy and drama of the cycle of life makes for a very heartfelt night of entertainment. Given the profound impact of children on a couple’s life I wish that the script had explored just a bit deeper into the choice and conflict of having a child when it’s an unplanned event, rather than so quickly accepting the unexpected circumstance that they find themselves in. But this group of actors, as well as the talented ensemble cast, will keep you in your seat and looking forward to the next scene throughout the performance. The presentation of the music by a group of very talented live musicians under the Musical Direction of Scott Storr, makes this production even more special. I Loved Ron Celona’s staging. While setting each couple in their own ‘home’, his skill of mixing and matching settings without there ever being a feeling of redundancy, opened up this show to a feeling of being presented on a larger stage. Jimmy Cuomo’s Set Design and Moira Wilkie Whitaker’s lighting made this show an unequivocal success.
This musical is not intended for small children. But anyone over the age of 16 should really appreciate the wonderful music, the stellar performances and the humanness of this story.
“Baby,” is in production at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre located at 69930 Highway 111, Suite 116, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270 through February 12th.
For Reservations: call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.californiawoman411.com.