‘Baby: A Musical’ delivers

“Baby: A Musical” is a joy. The perpetually fresh show, whose 241-performance Broadway run in 1983-84 received seven Tony Award nominations and six Drama Desk Award nominations, has been rediscovered and produced by San Francisco’s aptly named Ray of Light Theatre.

The two-act musical, mounted in the small Off-Market Theatre with minimal costumes and props, hardly needed dusting off.

For starters, it cannot help but break into song every few minutes. And while David Shire’s melodies may not be as memorable as the best that Rodgers, Kern, Bernstein, et al. had to offer, Richard Maltby Jr.’s delightfully clever lyrics and Sybille Pearson’s marvelous book are guaranteed to touch the heart and leave you smiling.

Anything but a vacuous series of cute little tableaux, the 24-number musical follows the lives of three couples of different ages and economic situations who are dealing with different issues of childbirth.

As directed and choreographed by Dyan McBride, with music direction by Rona Siddiqui, “Baby: A Musical” manages to go deep.

Transcending the act of conception to address core issues that affect all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, it strikes chord after chord as it sings its way through surprisingly deep questions about parenthood, relationships, commitment, sacrifice, freedom and life purpose.

The cast is strong. The unmarried duo that grows up fast and delivers at show’s end, Lizzie (Sarah Kathleen Farrell) and Danny (Andrew Willis-Woodward) are irresistible. Farrell is surprisingly touching, Willis-Woodward a delight with his physical freedom and convincing sincerity.

Balancing their youth are the “mature” couple of Arlene (Lauren Post) and occasionally clueless Alan (Paul Plain). Both add a dimension to the musical that is further deepened by the struggles of the fertility-challenged Pam (Kristin Clippard) and Nick (Danny Cozart).

How a small company can also manage to engage three musicians — Siddiqui (electric keyboard), Lendl San Jose (bass) and Fred Johnson (drums) — plus a supporting ensemble of five singer-actors, speaks to the vision and perspicacity of ROLT founding artistic director and production designer Shane Ray and producer Justin Sadoian.

ROLT, which last year received nine Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award nominations for “The Who’s Tommy,” will push the envelope even further next fall, when it presents the Bay Area premiere of the award-winning “Jerry Springer: The Opera” at the Victoria Theatre.

Meanwhile, “Baby: A Musical” is here now, and should not be missed. Your heart will be lighter for seeing it.

Theater Review
Baby: A Musical
Presented by Ray of Light Theatre

Where: Off-Market Theatres, 965 Mission St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes April 18
Tickets: $20 to $32
Contact: (800) 838-3006; www.roltheatre.com

artsDavid ShireentertainmentOther ArtsRichard Maltby Jr.

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