Drayton Arms Theatre
Reviewed – 25th October 2018
“The characters are shallow, the plot non-existent, and the music counterintuitive”
“I’m pregnant” – so say the leading ladies of Baby in its first scene. And its third scene. And its final scene. Actually, the whole show is some variation of “I’m pregnant” or, in at least one case – spoiler alert – “I’m not pregnant”. Can a full-length musical dedicated to the idea of having a baby be boring? Hey, you said it, not me.
Baby was first produced on Broadway, in the 1980s, where it ran, modestly, for less than year. The show oozes an 80s aesthetic, as well as 80s cultural values, and there is a fair number of groans – landlines, moustaches, instances of casual misogyny. (How disappointing that, in the same month that Marianne Elliott took a 70s relic and made it fresh in Company, Baby director Mark Kelly somehow added ten years to his source material).
Baby doesn’t have much of a plot. Three couples learn they are pregnant; two of these pregnancies are unplanned. The couples are spuriously linked through one university where the men work or study, although this link is superfluous; the characters are united and reunited throughout the show by a series of awkward coincidences – bumping into each other on the street, that sort of thing.
The music in Baby is jaunty, except for the occasional wailer, and helps to carry the bizarre current of pep that zips through the score like Larry Bird on Diet Coke. The lyrics do tend to get a bit out there, taking intimate, personal moments, and throwing them into abstraction. Take, for example, the opening number, which I guess is about the process of conception:
Stop the moment, Take it in, Can’t you feel, The change begin?, Don’t you feel, The cosmic surge, As two lives begin to merge?
From my seat in row E there was no cosmic surge, but maybe you need to be closer to the stage.
Considering the drudge that is the source material, the cast do good work. Laurel Dougall as Pam Sakarian, a gym teacher who is desperate to get pregnant, is full of vim and tragedy, and really steals the show in act 2. Holli Paige Farr plays Lizzie Fields, a college student who gets knocked up by her boyfriend, cleverly and with dignity; she rises above the text.
The set design is minimal, but effective, and the costumes certainly bring home the 80s theme, although I can’t for the life of me figure out why the ensemble are so often dressed in baseball jerseys when they are not, in fact, playing baseball.
Baby was not a smash in 1983, and it has even less going for it now. The characters are shallow, the plot non-existent, and the music counterintuitive. Still, there are some good performances in this production at the Drayton Arms, and theatregoers should take note of the names Laurel Dougall and Holli Paige Farr, who, given better material, may one day really be able to send out those cosmic surges.
Reviewed by Louis Train
Photography by Thomas Scurr
Drayton Arms Theatre until 9th November
Previously reviewed at this venue: