Minskoff Theatre, New York
Much like "Young Frankenstein," which didn't quite succeed in its attempt to replicate the magic of "The Producers," this Broadway musical adaptation of John Waters' cult classic "Cry-Baby" similarly fails to hit the heights of its predecessor, "Hairspray." Repeating their chores from that 2003 hit, book writers Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan have produced an intermittently fun but ultimately underwhelming show that pales in comparison. A catchy but unmemorable pastiche rock score and a book that lacks any semblance of heart are but two of the problems.
The story, set in 1954 Baltimore, centers on the burgeoning romance between the title character (James Snyder, in the role played onscreen by Johnny Depp), a sexy, Elvis-style greaser, and Allison (Elizabeth Stanley), the goody-two-shoes granddaughter of the town's leading social matron (Harriet Harris, not given enough to do here). Threatening to derail their relationship is the geeky Baldwin (Christopher J. Hanke), the leader of the town's "Squares," who has the hots for Allison, and Lenora (Alli Mauzey), whose obsession with Cry-Baby is explained by her big solo number, "Screw Loose."
The show's book differs in numerous ways from the screen version, including its rather strange (for a comedy) plot element involving the past execution of Cry-Baby's parents for being communist spies.
Unlike "Hairspray," which managed to fully involve us with its treatment of social issues and wonderfully engaging characters, "Cry-Baby" mainly contents itself with being yet another '50s spoof, featuring an endless torrent of familiar gags.
Most of the laughs are garnered by the wittily amusing lyrics of the peppy pop-rock score by David Javerbaum (executive producer of "The Daily Show") and Adam Schlesinger (from the band Fountains of Wayne), featuring such cheekily titled numbers as "I'm Infected," "Watch Your Ass," "I Did Something Wrong, Once" and "Girl, Can I Kiss You...?"
Still, the show seems far longer than its relatively brief 2 1/4-hour running time. The lead performers, though certainly attractive, are lacking in charisma, and though several of the supporting players -- including the dynamic if underused Chester Gregory II as Cry-Baby's best friend and the hilarious Mauzey as his stalker -- take up the slack, their efforts are unable to compensate for the generic nature of the proceedings and the uninspired staging by Mark Brokaw.
It's only in the second -act "Jailhouse Jubilee" number -- featuring admirable athleticism from the male ensemble and a terrific tap-dance routine involving license plates -- that the show briefly comes to life. Exuberantly choreographed by Rob Ashford, it's the definite high point of the evening. But it's too little, too late.
Presented by Adam Epstein, Allan S. Gordon, Elan V. McAllister, Brian Grazer, James P. MacGilvray, Universal Stage Prods., Anne Caruso, Adam S. Gordon, Latitude Link and the Pelican Group in association with Philip Morgaman and Andrew Farber/Richard Mishaan
Book: Mark O'Donnell & Thomas Meehan
Songs: David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger
Director: Mark Brokaw
Choreographer: Rob Ashford
Set designer: Scott Pask
Costume designer: Catherine Zuber
Lighting designer: Howell Binkley
Sound designer: Peter Hylenski
Cry-Baby: James Snyder
Allison: Elizabeth Stanley
Mrs. Venon Williams: Harriet Harris
Baldwin: Christopher J. Hanke
Lenora: Alli Mauzey
Dupree: Chester Gregory II
Pepper: Carly Jibson
Wanda: Lacey Kohl
Judge Stone: Richard Poe
Mona: Tory Ross