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Monday, 23 May 2011 20:03

Broadway Review: BABY IT'S YOU

Written by
Crystal Starr, Christina Sajous, Beth Leavel, Erica Ash and Kyra Da Costa Crystal Starr, Christina Sajous, Beth Leavel, Erica Ash and Kyra Da Costa Photo: Ari Mintz

The new Broadway musical Baby It's You consists of bits of chopped up Shirelles songs, tossed with bits of musical historical facts, assembled into a jukebox musical salad. And that's not a compliment. Musical numbers like “Mama Said” and “Yakety Yak” are wedged in to suit emotional moments like round pegs being jammed through square holes.  

Beth Leavel (the former Drowsy Chaperone) is Florence Greenberg, the Jewish housewife from New Jersey who discovered the Shirelles, the 1960s girl-group.  This might have been a decent musical, and it was in some ways.  But they have so many things crammed into two hours and twenty minutes that you never get much more than 32 bars of any given song or two to three lines about any given situation.  It drove me to distraction.

They have tied this all together with a narrator, Jocko (Geno Henderson).  He slides out between scenes sitting at a desk like a late-night talk-show host who delivers individual facts to help place the events in an historical context.   This method of tying songs together with a few stated facts rather than organically working them into the story is not particularly original or engaging.

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.

View complete production credits at

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Broadhurst Theatre
  • Theatre Address: 235 West 44th St. New York, NY 10036
  • Show Style: Musical
  • Previews:: March 26, 2011
  • Opening Night: April 27, 2011
  • Closing: Open-Ended
Last modified on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 19:36