Cry Baby B-Cast at STAR Ltd.

TheatreBloom rating:

What a wonderful time to be a teenage conformist! But you better watch your @$$!! You thought you saw everything STAR Ltd.’s Cry Baby had to offer last weekend? Think again! Ready to rock your world, baby, baby, baby, the alternate cast has got a whole of lot everything going on! If you missed what was rocking-and-rolling in last week’s cast, you can read all about it here.

Seeing a show more than once allows you to absorb multiple things; sometimes it’s a different vibe, sometimes its attention to detail, sometimes its finely tuned nuances of the production you missed the first time around. And Cry Baby is no exception to that experience. You’ll notice the clever and crafty license plates plastered on the detention center “work blocks” that spell out words like STG*C3W and INF*CTD and other clever nods to the show. And the red, white, and blue sparkling light boomers that pop off during “Thanks For the Nifty Country” add a patriotic flare to the whole extravaganza of that scene. You also notice background performances from people like Ari Mitchell, who plays a poor, trapped postal worker during the number “I Did Something Wrong Once” and is meant to be a passerby piece of moving human scenery, but gets caught-up in the confessionary clutches of Mrs. Vernon-Williams. The facial expressions and body language that Mitchell puts forth in these series of mini-moments are hysterical.

While the show maintains the same three heavy-hitting principals, it is impressive to see their growth in the roles. Lydia Newman’s Allison is more nuanced; the discovery of becoming a bad girl and losing her squareness is more refined and really explored on a deep emotional level. Newman’s vocal control has strengthened as well, and her powerhouse belted sustains at the tail of various numbers is more solid and impressive than the week before. Joshua Olujide’s Dupree is finding new moments to show-off his vocal riffing and consequently his range, and is overall chiseling away little sections of scene-stealing fantasticality all throughout the performance once Dupree is introduced. And as for Cry Baby Wade Walker, Hosea Mundi’s performance is still stellar, pumped full of energy, and roaring with the insanely impassioned vocals. It’s like Mundi’s Cry Baby has emerged from under a rock, reckless and really ramped up for this week’s show.

Energy across the board was vivacious for the alternate cast performance, every dancing drape, every singing square, and even the chaotic “jailbreak” scene seemed to double-time and settle into a comic groove. James Maclellan (the Baldwin of last week’s performances) even finds ways to heighten the levels of campy comedy during the “jailbreak” routine, racing about at double-speed like a Charlie-Chaplin style goon from the silent picture days. And the Whiffles (John White, Lukas O’Boyle, and Drake Mayer) have a spry new spring in their whiffling. Musical Director Scott AuCoin has stepped up his game as well, leading a nearly-flawless pit through complicated musical tempo shifts, and keeping pace with rock-stars Cry Baby and Dupree as they steal the show during their big solo and duet numbers.

This week’s alternate cast features new performers in roles of Mrs. Vernon-Williams, Baldwin, Lenora, and The Teardrops: Pepper, Wanda, and Mona*; and each new performer brings a unique spin to the character, creating a different wild vibe to this week’s performance of Cry Baby. Start with The Teardrops: they just gel like viral bacteria growing rampant in a petri dish. Infected by Cry Baby’s raging vivacity and incendiary fury, they go to town, hog wild, when it comes to their featured verse in “You Can’t Beat the System.” Shea Gardner as Wanda just exudes confidence for miles, from her voice straight down through her body, and she isn’t afraid to take some tawdry risks with the character (watch her near-finale ‘revelation; it’s hysterical.) Gardner really nails a powerhouse sound for those lines of “we didn’t start no fire”, the feature cry that the Teardrops share during “You Can’t Beat the System.” Paige Peercy’s Mona is terrifying to look at; she’s created a freakshow on her face with simple makeup techniques to live up to the character’s “ugly mug” and moniker of “Hatchet Face.” Peercy wails away with the other two tawdry trollops at every chance she’s given. Joy Sang as the perpetually pregnant Pepper, has a rip-roaring belter’s voice that knows no limits, particularly during “Whole Lot Worse.” Sang really gets into the nitty-gritty nastiness of the character, pumping her pregnant baby bump at Baldwin every chance she gets and the comedy that ensues because of her actions is gut-busting.

Baldwin (Liam Bierley) is out of this world nerdtastic. King of the nerds and truly proud of his dorktastic ways, Bierley channels an awkward teenage stage of a Sheldon Cooper-type character, with vivid facial expressions and spastic body language to match. His vocals are squeaky clean, but his smugness and bristling nasty streak is as vile as the character’s ultimate actions. That cheeky nerd-winning grin creeps across Bierley’s face frequently throughout the performance and it’s as unsettling as it is hilarious. With that unadulterated righteous sound, his half of “All in My Head” is purely possessive and sets the nerves on edge. But hands down the “best of Baldwin” moments from this week’s performance is how he almost overthrows his own spine trying to escape both Pepper’s pregnancy bump and loony Lenora when she throttles herself at him near the show’s conclusion. Watch Bierley’s facial expressions and bodily responses there; it’s a hoot!

Speaking of loopy Lenora, Hannah Sikes takes up the reigns this week around and crafts a wholly disturbing creature, complete with talking fish-friend. Crafting the perfect balance between growling vocal shred and proper character-belt singing, Sikes deftly manipulates both “Screw Loose” and her half of “All in My Head” transforming these numbers into disturbingly hilarious routines. Sikes’ Lenora is clearly unhinged, swinging through a whole world of goodness only knows what, all of which is readily on display in her animated facial expressions and insane bodily character choices. Watch Sikes when Cry Baby rocks up to sing “Baby Baby Baby Baby (Baby Baby) Baby”; she’s a physical light-switch flipping on and off from thrilled and dancing to utterly furious and revolted, whenever Allison starts in singing. Watching her blink from partying glee to frozen in disgust becomes the most hilarious moment of the number and it’s impossible to take your eyes off of her antics. Sikes is all character, with rich vocals, and creates a brilliantly bombastic Lenora that just cannot (and will not) be ignored!

Rounding out the alternate-cast swaps for this weekend’s performances is Danielle Kellner as the staunchly moral Mrs. Vernon-Williams. There is a terrifying ferocity behind Kellner’s Vernon-Williams that just ramrods that stick-in-the-mud attitude straight up her spine. Most of Kellner’s portrayal happens in the background of the action, at least during Act I, but she’s engaging and thrilling to watch. Observe her up on the podium when the Drapes crash the Polio Picnic and again when they crash the Maidenhead Country Club; her responses are a true barrel of laughs. Animated all over, when Kellner starts to belt out her confession of confessions during “I Did Something Wrong Once” you get a real show of vocal strength, keen perception of comic timing, and an honest push of attitude.

You’ll want to revisit this production of Cry Baby to see all of the alternate cast performing this weekend. And if you haven’t seen this production of Cry Baby yet…well, you must be some sort of ultra-loser square because even the squares are going to Cry Baby. Don’t miss your chance to come shake your— well— your square— with the awesome kids of STAR Ltd.’s Cry Baby this weekend!  

Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission

Cry Baby plays through August 4, 2019 with STAR Ltd in the Rice Auditorium of the Spring Grove Hospital Campus— 55 Wade Avenue in Catonsville, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance online.

*due to an unforeseen casting complication the alternating role of Mona was performed at all performances by Paige Peercy.

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