Story: Three couples find themselves united with the common bond of pregnancy, although their reactions differ greatly. College students Lizzie and Danny, who recently have moved in together, greet the unexpected news of a baby with excitement, although Lizzie hesitates to accept Danny’s proposal of marriage. Pam and Nick, a 30-something wife and husband who have tried unsuccessfully for years to conceive, are excited at the unexpected prospect of a child. Arlene and Alan, empty-nesters whose three daughters are off to college, have opposite reactions to the jolting news of Arlene’s pregnancy. While Alan is thrilled, Arlene is melancholy with the thought of raising another child.
Fate draws the three couples together as they experience the highs and lows of pregnancy and all its complications.
Highlights: Originally presented on Broadway in 1983, this “small” musical, which relies on the strength of its music and lyrics rather than any fancy pyrotechnics, glitz or glitter, ran for a total of 276 performances. It was revived and slightly revamped and updated in 2004 in a New Jersey production that more closely approximated the original intentions of lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. and book author Sybille Pearson, whose script was based on a story by Susan Yankowitz.
Composer David Shire’s music remains accessible if a bit difficult to sing, perhaps because his complex style is reminiscent of Stephen Sondheim. The current production being staged by Citilites Theatre is an adaptation of the 2004 version. While riddled with problems, the Citilites presentation directed by Nick Moramarco benefits from some earnest performances by its cast, who mostly capture the essence of Pearson’s interconnected storylines.
Other Info: Despite the good intentions of its creators, Baby really isn’t all that memorable a show. Often, it falls into melodrama rather than solid character development, and Moramarco’s cast has trouble getting beyond that level. For the most part, though, they do demonstrate fine voices on the variety of tunes written by Maltby Jr. and Shire.
Caroline Kidwell and Devon Norris are believable and well cast as the idealistic college lovers, and show a nice range as their characters move in opposite directions in their philosophies as the birth of their baby nears. Sabra Sellers and Peter Merideth blend together nicely as the young married couple, who valiantly struggle to maintain their optimism and their love when unexpected obstacles arise to thwart their plans for a family. Less convincing as a couple are Robert Breig and Janice Lea Codispoti as the older pair Alan and Arlene. While their performances are sincere, their relationship lacks chemistry and its depiction suffers as a result.
There’s also a Greek chorus of sorts that adds peripheral characters to the show with limited effect. Nice work, though, by Alice Kinsella, Lauren Berkowitz and Paul Edwards in those minor portrayals.
Moramarco does fine work doubling as musical director, guiding a tightly-knit combo that includes himself at keyboard, percussionist Anthony Wininger and guitarist John Love, all situated at the back of center stage on a second tier of the compact set efficiently designed by Moramarco and G.P. Hunsaker. That set makes the most of the cozy confines of Gaslight Theater’s stage, with a bed at the center offset by a few chairs, a bench and a side table that support various scenes.
Alexandra Scibetta Quigley’s costumes fit each of the characters, from the wardrobes of the athletic 30-somethings to the T-shirt of the wannabe rock star Danny. Steven Miller and Rachele Moramarco provide supportive lighting and sound designs, respectively, while Belinda Quimby’s choreography expands a couple of the numbers as much as the minuscule stage allows.
Baby is a pleasant if lightweight diversion that addresses a serious subject with mixed results, but one that will likely appeal to aficionados of ‘small’ musicals.
Rating: A 3 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Group: Citilites Theatre
Venue: Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle
Dates: November 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20
Tickets: $15-$20; contact 773-1879 or brownpapertickets.com
Photos courtesy of Michael Daft