Cry-Baby – La Jolla Playhouse

A special congratulations to book writers Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan and song scribes David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger for maintaining John Waters’ raunchiness in the musical Cry-Baby. Add to that, Rob Ashford’s highly suggestive choreography and Mark Brokaw’s blatant direction.

With shades of Romeo and Juliet, a balcony scene, and West Side Story, bad gang good kids, Cry-Baby cries out for an award for the most brazen offering of the season. The audience, and this reviewer, loved the production. It is face-paced, almost all music and dancing, with fighting and love thrown in for variety.

It all begins with an overture that sets the tone with upbeat driving music and vocals that offer the following commands: “Take your seat,” “Cell phones off.” The exit music includes the lines “Drive carefully” and “Sleep well.”

Set in Baltimore, the year is 1954. Black and white TV, Bill Haley and the Comets, Eisenhower, “I Love Lucy,” B-47s, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Eddie Fisher, The Chords and The Cordettes were all a part of the scene. And it was a time when the kids got their first polio vaccine. Cry-Baby opens with “The Anti-Polio Picnic” as the students, good and bad, get their shots. Those bad kids come right back with “Watch Your Ass.” The good boys, in a quartet, sing “Squeaky Clean.” complete with product placements. There is even a Lucky Strike and a Chicken Pot Pie costume.

Mrs. Vernon-Williams, Harriet Harris, recently of TV’s Desperate Housewives, leads her band of goodie-two-shoes kids. Alas, she has her own dark side as we discover in her second act song, “I Did Something Wrong . . . Once.” As in the teen class warfare, good and bad join when goodie Allison, sweetly played by Elizabeth Stanley, and ruffian Cry-Baby, not so toughly played by James Snyder, get together to sing “Let’s Disappear.” Then, with the ensemble, they get together on “Can I Kiss You . . . ?” Oh, those three dots stand for “with tongue.” Of course, the baddies have to end up in the hoosgow for “Jailyard Jubilee.”

The music rocks. Choreographer Rob Ashford created dances that were unbelievably energetic and often quite suggestive. The fight scene was delightfully stylized. Director Mark Brokaw kept his actors busy, even if the were far upstage and hardly seen. Cry-Baby was a study in motion.

The wordsmiths enjoyed word play. Mrs. Vernon-Williams said, “Turn this carnival into a circus.” One of the locations was the uppity Maidenhead Country Club. It should be added that kids go out to the pond to neck. They also went skinny dipping. But it was night and quite dark.

The sets by Scenic Designer Scott Pask were excellent. They flew, they slide and usually to the music. In the pond scene the rocks the kids were making out behind, seemed real. Each set change was as choreographed as the dances. In fact, the action never stopped or slowed down during changes. One felt that they were a part of the show.

Cry-Baby probably doesn’t have any socially redeeming qualities; afterall its grandfather was John Waters. What it does have is charm (in a weird way), outstanding dance, wild dialog, a great cast, audience appeal, and is guaranteed to provide you with over two hours of just plain raucous fun. Go have some fun.

Note: Word to the wise that see the show. Record your parking space number. They now have electronic parking meters at the entrance walk to the theatres. Parking is $2.00, the fine for not paying is $40.00. Read the instructions carefully, bring crisp $1.00 bills. The reader didn’t like our money or our credit card. Must have known we were a reviewer.


Chester Gregory II, Christopher Hanke, Harriet Harrison, Carly Jibson, Lacey Kohl, Alli Mauzey, Christen Paige, Richard Poe, James Snyder, Elizabeth Stanley, Ensemble: Cameron Adams, Ashley Amber, Nick Blaemire, Michael Buchanan, Eric Christian, Colin Cunliffe, Joanne Glushak, Michael D. Jablonski, Marty Lawson, Spencer Liff, Courtney Laine Mazza, Mayumi Miguel, Tory Ross, Eric Sciotto, Peter Matthew Smith, Allison Spratt, Charlie Sutton, Stacey Todd Holt

Technical Staff

Dance Arrangements David Chase, Music Co-producer/Arranger Steven Gold, Scenic Design Scott Pask, Costume Design Catherine Zuber, Lighting Design Howell Binkley, Sound Design Peter Hylemski, Wig/Hair Design Tom Watson, Fight Director Rich Sordelet, Prod SM Mahlon Kruse, Asst SM Richard Rauscher & Jenny Slattery, Prod Mgr Peter J. Davis

Total Rating: Three Stars

Genre: Musical

Author: Book Mark O’Donnell & Thoms Meehan, Songs David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger, Orchestrations Christopher Jahnke

Director: Mark Brokaw, Musical Director Lynne Shankel, Choreography Rob Ashford

Date Reviewed: November 20, 2007

Dates Tuesdays thru Sundays, thru December 16, 2007

Running Time: 139 minutes with a 15-minute intermission

La Jolla Playhouse

Mandell Weiss Theatre, UCSD Campus

La Jolla, CA

Box Office Phone: 858 550-1010

Robert Hitchcox is a playwright, critic and fiction author, who reviews live theatre.