Image: MKEC Productions
Danny Hooper - Danny Whelan
Lizzie Fields - Holli Paige Farr
Alan McNalley - Christopher Lyne
Arlene McNalley - Barbara Jaeson
Pam Sakarian - Laurel Dougall
Nick Sakarian - Stuart Scott
Babies may be small bundles of joy but they sure are a big complication!
Baby is a warm-hearted musical rom-com that explores the highs and lows of impending parenthood.
In the spring - the season of new beginnings - three couples discover that they're pregnant.
There are the college students, barely at the beginning of their adult lives; the thirty-somethings, having trouble conceiving but determined to try; and the middle aged parents, looking forward to seeing their last child graduate from college when a night of unexpected passion lands them back where they started.
As the seasons change, so too do their feelings towards each other.
Forced to face their insecurities and changing relationships, they'll all come to realise that there's never a perfect time to have a baby.
Back for a seventh show at this intimate yet ample venue, MKEC Productions treat another musical to their trademark professional diligence, which still shines through what is something of a mixed-bag.
The faults largely lie in the feeble nature of the book, and characters who belong more or less to the same socio-economic class.
First birthed in 1984, Baby is no longer an infant musical, it's a full-blown adult, and it's showing signs of its age, having been conceived in an era which now feels remote and unrepresentative of either its time or our present one.
But the saving grace is the music, which goes some way to make up for the deficiencies in the storyline with a considerable number of interesting and varied melodies.
The overall story format is a fairly simple one, but itself seems to constrict what and how much we can learn about the characters and the problems they face.
Three sets of potential parents either want to have a baby (like the Sakarians) or already find themselves having one - like the unmarried Danny and Lizzie.
And the McNalleys are surprised with a miniature human on the way even though they have already raised 3 kids and are now in their 40s.
That sets-up the action to follow the course of events with these three sets of partners as they navigate their way through pregnancy or (in the case of Mr and Mrs Sakarian) their attempts to become pregnant in the face of an overwhelming multitude of 'dud sperm'.
Though there was plenty of applause for the singing, the press night audience (usually generously comprised of supporters and well-wishers) didn't seem to find much mirth along the way, and neither did I.
An occasional oasis arises infrequently in the comic desert but it's often a mirage and, overall, this show cannot be regarded as a comedy by any classification.
And that's nothing short of odd because the basic idea of having babies has all the necessary components to deliver bags of comic vitality, yet Sybille Pearson's book almost seems to have had a partial abortion ridding itself of almost anything that might be funny.
That leaves us with the characters and their situations, and those really don't make-up for the lack of comedy.
There's no room for a single mum or other more moving and dramatically grittier situations where pregnancy might arise - which seems a glaring oversight these days and which could have added to the dynamics and poignancy of the entire show, enhancing it substantially.
What we're presented with is pretty run-of-the-mill, and sometimes schmaltzy and/or soppy stuff that eschews a true reflection of the cross-sectional variety of either American society or our own.
Over-sized toy bricks spelling out the musical's title and two rectangular entrance ways provide an economical setting in Victoria Francis's set design that proves ample in the circumstances, especially given the sizeable ensemble.
Marc Kelly's skilled directorial oversight instills his customary high production values on proceedings including spot-on timing and believable characterisations from a capable and confident cast.
And strong musical direction from Kieran Stallard ensures that the songs get the kind of treatment they deserve, with commendable vocals from the entire company that lift the show significantly and provide the main source of entertainment.
Given its flaws, though, one has to question whether Baby is a musical worthy of rebirth.
It's certainly a moot point that will no doubt inspire (possibly fractious) debate.
Though the work of the past deserves a hearing and re-examination, it sometimes proves a relatively thankless task, even if the effort and talent expended (as in this production) in itself has merit and deserves acknowledgment.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Drayton Arms Theatre
Our show listing for Baby
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