- Published on Saturday, 23 June 2012 19:09
- Written by Jim Miller
Baby In Concert Review
There was a real emotional charge at the one night only concert version of Baby, which was held recently as a benefit for the Transport Group Theatre Company. Part of it comes from the nature of these one night events, part from the material, and part from the presence of several original cast members.
Baby was a 1983 musical with a score by Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire. It ran for 241 performances and was nominated for seven Tony awards. I saw the original, as well as a concert performance in 2001 featuring four of the six featured original cast members, plus a 2004 production at the Paper Mill Playhouse which starred Chad Kimball, Norm Lewis, LaChanze, Michael Rupert, and Carolee Carmello. The recent Baby In Concert event featured over fifty Broadway performers; each song involved different performers. The event did not use any of Sybille Pearson’s book. Instead, original stars Todd Graff and Liz Callaway served as hosts and narrators, and the evening focused on the excellent Maltby and Shire songs.
For Baby, that turns out to be a plus. Pearson’s book was not bad, but it was episodic and at times problematic. Over the years, the creators made some book changes in the second act, which were used in the Paper Mill production and did enhance the dramatic impact. But, listening only to the songs reminded me how terrific the Baby score is. All were well done, with some talented performers doing fine work on each number. While I don’t like to leave out any of them, I do have to single out four songs which were particular highlights for me. Tony nominee Josh Young did a stunning rendition of the lovely “I Chose Right.” That was followed up by Mamie Parris’ terrific “The Story Goes On.” Adding to the emotion of those songs was having Graff and Callaway, who originated them on Broadway, watching and appreciating these renditions from a few feet away. In Act Two, Kecia Lewis-Evans did a soulful “Patterns,” and Sebastian Arcelus and Stephanie J. Block gave a powerful and moving performance of the beautiful “And What If We Had Loved Like That,” a gem of a song that has always been a favorite of mine. But, there were probably eight other songs that were almost as good, including the always popular showstoppers “I Want It All” for the women and “Fatherhood Blues” for the men. Even without the book, the songs have a high level of emotional content, and the narration by Graff and Callaway provided just enough of the story.
Graff and Callaway were charming and delightful, and, in addition to the narration, they added some unscripted stories and reminiscences from their time in the show that were both amusing and at times even poignant. After the performance, they were joined by Maltby, Shire, producer James Freydberg, and original cast members Catherine Cox and Beth Fowler for a talk back. All in all, Baby In Concert was a wonderful event, filled with warmth, emotion, affection, and superb performances.