Rockville Musical Theatre is performing the musical Baby in the intimate The Gaithersburg Arts Barn. The show has a score by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. and a book by Sybille Pearson. The musical deals with three couples expecting a baby – and their fears and excitement and concerns about how their lives will change after the baby is born.
Baby opened on Broadway in December 1983 and ran for 276 performances (including previews). The cast included Liz Callaway, Beth Fowler, Todd Graff, Danny Hooper, Catherine Cox, James Congdon, and Martin Vidnovic. Many of its songs are sung in cabarets everywhere. Lately, as here at Rockville Musical Theatre, community and smaller theatres are mounting productions of Baby. There is even talk about a Broadway revival. It’s one of my most played CDs in my Broadway cast CD collection.
Danny (Gabriel T. Potter) and Lizzie (Kim Frias) are college students, are not married, and have recently moved in together. Pam (Julie Bain) and Nick (Harv Lester) have problems conceiving, and Arlene (Susan Aaron Ostrinsky) and Al (TJ Cannady) already have three grown children and must decide to if they will keep the baby.
The Ensemble: Jonathan Cagle-Mulberg, ML George, Sam Kelvie, Naomi Ratz, and Alison Williams, act as a Greek Chorus for the leads and everyone works well together. It’s a real team effort. In two cameos, ensemble member Sam Kelvie is hysterical as the Doctor and as a ‘Painful Mother.’
Rockville Musical Theatre’s production of Baby, directed by Stephen D. Welsh, is filled with fine performances and high energy and enthusiasm, but at times the singing is strained. Despite this, there are times when we are treated to some wonderful singing and heavenly two and three-part harmonies: Harv Lester’s emotional singing in “At Night She Comes Home to me,” Kim Frias, Susan Aaron Ostrinsky, and Julie Bain’s gorgeous three-part harmonies in ” The End of Summer,” TJ Cannady’s powerful and heartfelt “Easier to Love,” Susan Ostrinsky’s mesmerizing “Patterns,” and Frias, Ostrinsky and Bain’s hysterical “The Ladies Singing Their Song.”
I don’t know how else to say this – but Susan Aaron Ostrinsky’s performance as Arlene is one of the best performances I have seen in a musical on a local stage. What Susan does with “Patterns” is simply astounding. I’ve heard this song (which is one of my all-time favorite songs from a musical) performed by some of the best singers who have graced a Broadway stage, but I have never been moved so much as I was by Susan’s rendition. After the performance, I congratulated Susan and she told me she hadn’t performed on stage in a while and wanted to perform this role so badly, and thankfully she was cast as Arlene. She also has sung “Patterns” in auditions, and now I know why.
Scenic Designer Stephen D. Welsh has created panels which are moved around throughout the scene changes to establish venue changes. They are cleverly used, however, during duets and trios, but frankly – all this panel-moving-round slows down the show, and all the emotions felt and built up and felt during the previous scene and/or song are quickly lost. Denise M. Gilmore provides the Lighting Design and Lee Michele Rosenthal is the Costumer. Teri Klein Alfred created the high-energy-filled choreography.
Kudos to the exceptional 6-piece orchestra who deserves a lot of the credit for the success of this production. Musical Director Scott Richards, who also plays keyboards, has an exceptional group of musicians in his ‘pit’: Stuart Y. Welch also on keyboards, Ava Oaxaca and Alex Poetzschke (Reeds), Tonay Aragon (Bass) and Rick Okin (Drums), and they reminded me how beautiful Maltby and Shires score is. They perform their work brilliantly.
Rockville Musical Theater’s Baby will touch your heart, make you smile. make you laugh, and cry. With a great score by Maltby and Shire and an unforgettable performance by Susan Aaron Ostrinsky, this is truly a Baby you can love.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission.
Baby plays today April 15th at 2 PM and also on April 20th, 21st, 27th, and 28th at 8pm and April 22 and 29th @2pm at Rockville Musical Theatre at The Arts Barn -311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394.