Leavel is perfect as Florence in a performance both emotionally moving and uplifting despite the limitations placed on it by the material. She rightfully received a 2011 Tony Award nomination for the role. Florence Greenberg was a remarkable woman who was one of the first female record company executives. It seems only appropriate that she is being played by a first-rate musical theatre actress like Leavel.
The women playing the four Shirelles, Erica Ash, Kyra Da Costa, Crystal Starr and Christina Sajous, ably handle the music but their characters don’t have any character development at all. They giggle about like the teenagers the Shirelles were when Greenberg’s daughter found the girl group at her school.
In addition to Jocko, Henderson suavely moved from role to role throughout the evening, including other period talent Chuck Jackson, Ronald Isley and “the Duke of Earl,” Gene Chandler. Barry Pearl holds his own as Bernie Greenberg, Florence’s fed-up husband. Allan Louis is Luther Dixon, the man who sweet-talked his way into Florence’s life as a business partner and into her personal life as her lover on the side. Mr. Louis does a fine job.
Baby It’s You was written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott (the men who wrote last year’s Million Dollar Quartet). I really should include quotes around “written.” Fact gathering might have been a better description. We don’t learn much about any of these characters beyond their cutout silhouette. We never find out what makes Florence tick; what motivates her to tackle such a tough business and approach it headlong with never a doubt as to the outcome?
Baby It’s You gets a first-class production with a creative and vibrant set by Anna Louizos and beautiful costumes by Lizz Wolf. Louizo’s set includes suspended video screens that can be moved in and out and are used to show projections by Jason H. Thompson that set the tone of the 50s and 60s quite effectively. Wolf’s costumes are smashing, particularly the Shirelles'.
Baby It’s You was directed by Mutrux and Pasadena Playhouse’s artistic director, Sheldon Epps. What they have assembled is a good looking, fine sounding, cruise-ship production of a truly jukebox musical.