Bellarine Theatre Company Performing ‘Cry-Baby’ at STAC

The Only Tears You'll Have to Deal With Will Come From Laughter
Jul 26, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Since its birth in 2011 the Bellarine Theatre Company has proved to be the most adventurous theatrical troupe, be it professional or community, in Southern Ocean County.

Bellarine has produced classics such as “Oklahoma!” and “Annie” and has mixed in newer but still oft-performed shows such as “Legally Blonde,” “Footloose” and “The Producers.” But it has also introduced the community to some rather offbeat shows, at least for South Jersey, such as “Urinetown,” “Next to Normal” and “Bat Boy.”

The troupe is truly sailing into uncharted waters with its production of “Cry-Baby,” which will be performed this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 27, 28 and 29, at 7 p.m. and on Saturday, July 29 and Sunday, July 30 at 3 p.m. at the Stafford Township Arts Center.

“Cry-Baby” is, to put it mildly, not exactly a household name. Sure, it garnered four Tony Award nominations in 2008, including Best Musical. But it didn’t win a single one and had a Broadway run of just 45 previews and 68 performances. The show is seldom produced – the first community theater production wasn’t until 2015. Even the 1990 John Waters film of the same name, upon which the musical is based, lost money despite the fact it starred Johnny Depp in the same year he broke out with “Edward Scissorhands” (it has, though, since developed a loyal cult following as is the case with so many Waters films).

Bellarine has been successful because it has made wise use of its venues, with smaller shows fitting snugly into its winter home, the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, while its full-blown summer musicals were easily accommodated by the large Pinelands Regional High School stage. But Pinelands is unavailable this summer due to construction projects so Bellarine moved “Cry-Baby,” at considerable expense, to STAC’s large Ocean First Theater.

Will the company’s fan base on LBI brave summer traffic to cross Manahawkin Bay to take in the show? Will its supporters from Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton drive up Route 9 to “the big city?” – don’t laugh, as a Tuckerton resident I can attest that many of my neighbors detest the traffic on Route 72. And once in Stafford Township, can anybody find the STAC because it is somewhat off the beaten track?

This reviewer hopes so because “Cry-Baby” is a gas!

The show’s book, adapted from the movie by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, the same duo that adapted the Waters film “Hairspray” into a hit Broadway musical, is, at first glance, simplicity itself. In the Baltimore of the mid-1950s a “good girl,” Allison (Carly Sica), leaves her square life and crosses the tracks and falls in love with Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker (Ian Mullin), the leader of a pack of delinquents who call themselves “drapes.” The two are attracted to each other immediately.

Sounds sort of like “Grease,” right? That initial impression is magnified when you consider the female drapes – Pepper (Morgan Speer), who, like Rizzo in “Grease,” is pregnant, Mona “Hatchet Face” Malnorowski (Melinda Gloe) and Wanda (Sabrina Matarazzo) – could almost double as the Pink Ladies from “Grease.”

But, thanks to John Waters’ weirdness and cultural/political awareness, “Cry-Baby” is no “Grease” copycat.

The show’s opening number, “The Anti-Polio Picnic,” sets the tone:

It’s a beautiful day for an anti-polio picnic!

It’s a beautiful day to get a polio shot!

A brave new world’s in store

For picturesque Baltimore.

 

What a wonderful time to be a teenage conformist!

What a wonderful time to be what’s known as a square.

We’re lucky to be us,

So happy and homogen-eous.

 

But still one must take care

For danger’s lurking EVERYWHERE!

 

We watch for communists

Keep tabs on UFOs

Stay clear of weirdos,

And Beardos and Pinkos

And cloth heads, God only knows!

Indeed, Cry-Baby’s pacifist parents had been sentenced to death in 1943, labeled communists and framed for lighting a fatal factory fire. Even though his politics consist of little more than wanting to be a rock ’n’ roll singer he’s suspect in the community.

So when Allison’s square suitor Baldwin (Liam McGettigan) becomes jealous of Cry-Baby he sets a fire and tells the police it was his rival who was the arsonist. Cry-Baby and his whole gang are sent off to juvenile detention, with Allison escaping that fate thanks to the influence of her society set grandmother, Mrs. Vernon Williams (Isabella Raposa). Meanwhile, Lenora (Amanda Delbury), a girl who has a seriously crazy crush on Cry-Baby, lies to the court, claiming she is having Cry-Baby’s child.

So, it looks as if Allison and Baldwin will get married and settle into a life of middle class boredom.

Well, all works out in the end, although I won’t be a party pooper and give away the details of how.

“Cry-Baby” is a super-fast-paced show with witty and funny lyrics by David Javerbaum, some athletic, sweat-producing dancing, and many hilarious lines (Mrs. Vernon Williams assures the crowd that her club voted “56-8 against polio”). Adam Schlesinger’s rockabilly score, performed by a live band, fits in nicely, although I must admit to not being able to recall a single tune the next morning. Sica was perfectly cast as Allison; Mullin’s Cry-Baby was a far more intelligent rebel than John Travolta’s Danny Zuko.

“Cry-Baby” is also quirky – hey, we’re talking John Waters. But like the better-known “Hairspray,” it seems that it can appeal to everybody, not just cultists. It is a fun show!

Tickets for “Cry-Baby” are $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, $12 for children 12 years of age and younger and $20 for all ages in the “VIP Section,” a.k.a. the front rows. They may be purchased online at btco.booktix.com, by phone at 609-661-2083 or at the door.

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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