“I’m Infected”: Cry-Baby – Original Studio Cast Recording
The original 2008 Broadway production of Cry-Baby may not have been a hit on Broadway, having run a short 68 performances and garnering a handful of Tony Award nominations before closing. Based on the popular 1990 John Waters film starring Johnny Depp, Ricki Lake and Polly Bergan, the stage production seemed to come on the scene hoping to capture the same momentum that another Waters’ adaptation, a little show called Hairpsray, had achieved (it had a book by Hairspray’s Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan). This was not to be and the most unfortunate part of its early demise was that it never received an original cast recording.
Broadway Records has released an Original Studio Cast Recording of Cry-Baby, having taken the time to reassemble most of the original Broadway players to put out a truly infectious and joyous cast album. When musicals don’t get a cast recording, it means that they will seldom be produced again. Since one of the best ways to interest people in mounting a show is to make the music available to them, Cry-Baby may now have a new hope of becoming popular in regional and community theatres. This recording makes an excellent case for just that.
Composer Adam Schlesinger has assembled a surprisingly tuneful score, an adept pastiche of the music of the 1950s, especially in its embrace of the rockabilly sound and its tips of the hat toward doo-wop, blues and country. David Javerbaum’s lyrics are not subtle in their eagerness to be slightly off-color and twisted, but this is John Waters territory, so it works in a campy way. Cry-Baby is a musical that is entirely aware of itself and everything is a wink at the audience, an attempt to procure laughter at whatever cost. Salaciousness, satire and political incorrectness all spun together into a fluffy cotton candy for our amusement. The score very much feeds into this approach and listeners can revel in both its melody and gentle depravity.
James Snyder plays the title character and his performance on this album is infused with unstoppable energy and sly parody. A little bit Elvis, a little bit Rebel without a Cause James Dean, he sings with a sleek machismo and evokes the misunderstand boy from the wrong side of the tracks that we are captivated by. He’s especially magnetic in songs like “Watch Your Ass” and “Nobody Gets Me.” Harriet Harris plays Mrs. Vernon-Williams, president of the Baltimore Women’s Club. Harris, always a stitch in slightly pompous roles, gets the album off to a rollicking start leading the chorus in “The Anti-Polio Picnic”. I’m continually impressed with Elizabeth Stanley and her eclectic talent for playing roles all over the board. Her performance of Allison Vernon-Williams must have been a terrific study in comedy through cluelessness. On this album, she has a great deal of fun with songs like “I’m Infected” and “Misery, Agony, Helplessness, Hopelessness, Heartache and Woe.” The leads are ably supported by terrific turns from Carly Jibson, Chester Gregory, II, Alli Mauzey and the always appealing Christopher J. Hanke.
Where Broadway Records should be particularly congratulated is for the beautiful packaging of this CD. It is colorful, easy to read, full of wonderful production shots, and completely captures the spirit of the show. So many liner notes and cd booklets these days are a snooze. This recording of Cry-Baby is just the opposite, popping with visual spirit and pizazz.
The Studio Cast Recording of Cry-Baby is for more than just musical theatre cast album collectors who like to have everything, even the flops. This is an album for any Broadway enthusiast who likes catchy music in the vein of Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors, and Grease. It’s a nice record of a show that deserves better than what it got, but will most certainly move forward with greater success thanks to this terrific recording by Broadway Records.