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Monday, August 27, 2012

Delivering “Baby”

From the Vault Dept.: The Cohoes Music Hall has met its impossible goal of raising a boatload of money in order to produce this season’s scheduled shows, and that’s a triumph both for the theater and the area patrons and businesses who rallied to support the theater. To celebrate, I’ve drawn from the annals of long ago: a preview piece and then a review of the show “Baby.” This dates from 1986, when a group called Heritage Artists was the producing entity, long since replaced by C-R Productions. Trivia note: The Ob-Gyn nurse referred to in the lede was my mother.


AN OB-GYN NURSE once told me about the fun she and the rest of her department have tracing births to conceptions. Late September to early October is always a jumpin' time thanks to the indiscretions of New Year’s revelers: local power failures also tend to contribute to population growth.

Laura Gardner and William Hunt
“For nine months, the womb has been the baby’s universe,” writes Frédérick Leboyer in Birth without Violence. “Now it begins to crack. To where? It has no idea. All it perceives is that the time has come to leave this safe place and journey into the unknown.”

That’s also the central metaphor of the musical “Baby,” according to its lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. The six characters – three couples – comprising the cast look at the fears and realities of childbearing and are themselves changed in the process.

“Baby” is the third offering this season from Heritage Artists at the Cohoes Music Hall, following terrific productions of “The Wonder Years” and “Billy Bishop goes to War”; this time artistic director Robert W. Tolan also takes on the task of directing the show.

The score is by David Shire, who teamed up with Maltby for “Starting Here, Starting Now” and won an Oscar for the song “It Goes Like It Goes” from the movie “Norma Rae.”

Writes Maltby, “Baby is based on a simple observation: that in our modern, sexually liberated world, a baby is reality.”

Lizzie and Danny are unmarried college students faced with that reality (they are played by Tonia Rowe and Andre Montgomery); Pam and Nick (Mariana Rence and Richard Gervais) have to confront Nick’s infertility, and Arlene and Alan (Laura Gardner and William Hunt) have packed the last of their kids off to college and are celebrating – perhaps a bit too indiscreetly – with a night at the Plaza.

The three-week run of “Baby” begins with previews tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday at 8 PM; the opening is at 7 PM Sunday, and performances are at 8 PM Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 9 PM Saturdays, and 2 and 7 PM Sundays, with an 8 PM performance Wednesday, March 12, as well.
Tickets, priced at $12, $10.50 and $9, are available at CBO outlets and the Cohoes Music Hall box office (58 Remsen Street).

Metroland Magazine, Feb. 20, 1986


“BABY,” A SHOW that isn’t as much a musical as it is a long, TV-type commercial in praise of babies, is the third production this season at Cohoes Music Hall. In terms of worthy production values, Heritage Artists is three for three.

Producing-director Robert W. Tolan took the helm for this one, proving that he can direct as well as he so far has been administering. His plan has been to keep the musicals small – and there is a modern-day tradition reminiscent of the old Jerome Kern Princess Theatre Shows, which rebelled against the mighty lines of choristers and casts that kept whole boroughs of New York working for a season.

But hats off and a big sweeping bow to the cast. The six principals created six contrasting and believable characters. Tonia Rowe and Andre H. Montgomery are the college students upon whom a baby is visited; Richard Gervais and Mariana Rence are troubled with reproductive difficulties (Gervais is especially funny when he learns that he’s “shooting blanks”), and Laura Gardner and W.M. Hunt are an older couple whose 20th anniversary celebration got a little out of hand.

All in all, everything about the show is splendid except for the show itself. The book, by Sybille Pearson, does address some poignant issues that immediately are trivialized by David Shire’s music and Richard Maltby Jr.’s catch-phrase lyrics.

It’s a musical that won’t strain your taste or imagination: it’s lots of fun. It even makes having babies seem like lots of fun.

Metroland Magazine, March 6, 1986

1 comment:

Lily Whiteman said...

I had wondered where that New Year's insight came from.