Baby...It Is Not Us; It's You

Another show bites the dust. The victim of low box office sales, negative reviews and a poor showing at the Tonys, this time, is the forgettable “Baby, It’s You!” I am usually sad when a show announces a premature closing (especially one that has only been open six months, give or take); however, I can co-sign on this one. The New York Times picked up the press release.

“Mama said there’d be days like this, but she didn’t say that such a day would come so soon for “Baby It’s You!” That Broadway jukebox musical, about the Scepter Records founder Florence Greenberg and her discovery of the girl group the Shirelles, will play its final performance on Sept. 4. At its closing, “Baby It’s You!” will have played 33 previews and 151 regular performances.”

I could sense this closing coming a mile away. Just ask three of my best friends; when I picked up the tickets, I made some comments that this show would be the first on the guillotine compared to any of the other new musicals released this season. Only one show, “Wonderland: A New Musical,” closed sooner then “Baby, It’s You!” (after 31 previews and 33 regular performances, “Wonderland” closed on May 15). Ironically enough, I would say “Wonderland” was a smidgen better then “Baby;” but that is choosing the lesser of two evils.

The biggest tell-tale sign of their pending demise…”Baby” did not even have a performance at this year’s Tonys. Given that every other new musical this season had a chance to shine (in addition to some shows that performed in years past, shows that had closed or shows that were soon to be opening), “Baby” not being featured at all was a huge nail in the coffin.

By the way, a shout-out goes to Studentrush.org for helping myself and three of my best friends score four tickets to the show. The tickets were free less a five dollar reservation fee, and all four of us ended up sitting in the right-side box. Not bad for a Friday evening show, where ticket prices could run up to over $100.

Anyways, back to “Baby, It’s You!”…well, the concept had the germ of a good idea. Hit it!

Focusing on Florence Greenburg was a better route then letting the Shirelles take center stage only because the show would have drew a stronger comparison to “Dreamgirls” in some spots, even though the Shirelles were discovered around the late-fifties, early sixties. To add to that idea, Greenburg is an interesting protagonist; she cheats on her husband with an African American while running her own record label, both considered unusual territories for a woman at this time. I’ll reiterate; there was potential for a good story.

Well...at least they look pretty retro fab!
Thus brings out my first grievance…the story was not a musical nor was it interesting in any way. The show turned out to be more of a music biopic in that while navigating through the life of Florence Greenburg, the show was peppered with mostly in-scene performances of the Shirelles and other iconic 60’s hits.

Not that a music biopic is an unworthy genre, but the telling of the story was so lazy and dull, the occasionally cute, if unmemorable, music numbers seldom had any wow moments or interesting staging. Looking at the entire show, the only numbers I can recall are the ones I have a favorable predisposition to or were the ones that I was dancing to with my friends at the curtain call (which was probably the most fun part of the show).

I cannot express how bored and how zoned out I was as the story played out…of its many issues, the biggest one was that the story of Florence Greenburg’s personal life was at odds with the story of her leading the Shirelles to stardom. The result: neither part was engaging and surprisingly enough, the show seemed like it was looking for material to fill out its run time. I find this ironic given that Greenburg’s relationship with her daughter could have been expanded on for more then ten minutes and the character development of Greenburg’s blind son could have been explored instead of being mostly ignored. Strange choices, amiright?

Love Her!
Let me single out the two least offensive elements of the show; Beth Leavel, a previous Tony winner whom was also nominated for her turn here as Flo Greenburg, and Christina Sajous, an “American Idiot” alumnus whom was the show’s diva voice. I single these two fine performers out because the rest of the cast was a blur of characters and voices; I could not distinguish anyone from the other. This was particularly true for the Shirelles girls, less Sajous’ Shirley who only stood out because she had the most solos and the voice to carry them.

Leavel was great and did earn her nomination, despite the fact that she did not have much support. It would be easy to write off her nomination as a courtesy nom (the show’s only one); there were only six women this entire Broadway season eligible to be nominated for Lead Actress in a Musical. Janet Decal, from the much lamented “Wonderland,” was one of them; with her out of the way, Leavel had an 80% chance of getting nominated on numbers alone.

However, I knew she done a good job when I realized I found myself wanting to see more of her. While I cannot recall her numbers and even with her character’s adulterous quality, it was kind of hard to not be won over by her strong-willed and marriage-oppressed wife considering Leavel loaded her up with a lot of charm and poise. In addition, she was tailor-made for her 60’s costumes (a great time for fashion in America).

Must. Own. Suit. Now.
In fact, the costuming and styling was the show’s only factor I can embrace positively. I was swooning all over the place at the historical accuracy of the costumes and their fabulosity. I am hoping the “Baby, It’s You!” people will auction off or sell the costumes upon the show’s completion; I will max out my credit card for some high-impact, bold 60’s wardrobe separates. Just ask my friends; I let out numerous moans of delight (yes, “orgasms”) whenever a new sparkly jacket or neon-colored pant crossed my line of sight. Believe me, the show was chock full of them and I will take each one in an extra large.

If only the rest of the show was as inspired as its costuming. Instead, we are left we a show so misguided and lackluster, all it could do is close in the face of mounding production costs and a decreasing audience. There is not much time to see the show, but if you can acquire incredibly cheap/free tickets or you are familiar with the Shirelles and the other music of this time period, there might be a few tunes you will be humming along to as you leave the theater. In all other cases, skip this bad evening date…it is not you; it is them.

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