Baby the musical just finished its run in the Gregory Theater at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on the Prince William Campus of George Mason University. I'm sorry I didn't see it soon enough to review it with some shows left. But, for the record, here is my review.
The musical, presented by the Prince William Little Theatre, is a play for anyone who has ever had a baby, fathered a baby, been a baby or child, raised a baby or child, had that child grow up in their household and seen them depart, leaving an empty nest. It’s also for aunts and uncles and cousins and friends of people with children—in short, it’s a play for everyone, by turns hysterically funny and deadly serious, hard-edged and softly sentimental. It is of all the musicals I have experienced one for all seasons of our lives.
Using the fortunes and misfortunes of three couples dealing in some way with pregnancy, Baby follows their odyssey from a song and dance by the Ensemble (aptly and actively voiced by a troupe of what appear to be wandering thespians) representing conception, uh, at a cellular level. (Hint: it’s not for children or the prudish.) All six soloists sang clearly and strongly and showed a range of emotional projection and physical acting ability. Couple Number 1, the Young Couple, played by Becca Harney (Lizzie) and Jason Frye (Danny) animated a young college couple. Becca, a recent graduate in Vocal Performance from George Mason, brought a strong and expressive voice to the role and emotional depth to her part. Jason was a young singer-songwriter which he played with conviction since he is a singer-songwriter. This was his first turn at acting and I hope we will see him in future roles.
Couple Number 2, who in the play have been married for a while and want to have a baby, was convincingly played and sung by Meredith Ford (Pam) and Joshua Wilson (Nick). Their roles required moving between the comic and the serious, sometimes very quickly. They did this with apparent ease, although singing while doing some of the physical bits had to have been difficult.
Couple Number 3, the Empty Nesters, were the ones I identified with the most since that’s the place my wife and I find ourselves, although we have been through all the stages. Annie Ermlick (Arlene) played with great gravitas and was by turns side-splittingly humorous and heart-wrenchingly tragic. I won’t reveal what the fortunes of her character are, but what happens to her will tear your heart out (metaphorically, of course). Darren Marquardt (Alan) depicted a gentleman of a, shall we say, certain age who struggles (as some of us do) with physical decline and a search for meaning in his relationships and his life. His strength in the role matched that of his stage wife.
The musical requirements of this musical were quite difficult, but the cast handled the skips and jumps with apparent aplomb, with a few exceptions. The band, energetically led by C. Milton Rodgers, was tight and right on target, never overplaying and always letting the lyrics shine.
Costumes, lighting, choreography, props, set changes, set dressing and technical aspects were all managed well, a measure of which was that they suited the production without calling attention to themselves. The director’s audio channel could be heard over the house system a few times, but the actors soldiered on (most notably Annie Ermlick, who sang the difficult and touching “Patterns” with audio interference at a crucial part in the solo. She never missed a note). But, it’s live theater and these things sometimes happen.
Kudos to the whole company for this most excellent production. Special recognition goes to Director Susy Moorstein, who ran the show with conviction and who has been with the PWLT since its start 28 years ago. May they have many more years bringing excellent drama to our community.