Baby It's You!

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Baby It's You!
The Musical
Babyitsyouplaybill.jpg
Music Burt Bacharach, Mack David, Luther Dixon, and others
Lyrics Burt Bacharach, Mack David, Luther Dixon, and others
Book Floyd Mutrux
Colin Escott
Basis The life and career of Florence Greenberg
Productions 2009 Los Angeles
2009 Pasadena
2011 Broadway

Baby It's You! is a jukebox musical written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, featuring the music of the 1960s pop group The Shirelles. The show "tells the story of Florence Greenberg and Scepter Records, the label Florence started when she signed The Shirelles."[1] After several tryouts and premieres, the show debuted in a Broadway theatre production in April 2011, directed by Sheldon Epps.

Background[edit]

Greenberg and The Shirelles[edit]

The Shirelles were an American girl group in the early 1960s, and the first to have a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. The members of the quartet were Shirley Owens (the main lead singer), Doris Coley, Beverly Lee, and Addie "Micki" Harris.[2]

Florence Greenberg (September 16, 1913 – November 2, 1995) originally created Tiara Records. The first song recorded and released on the label was "I Met Him On a Sunday", by The Shirelles. Just as the record started to break locally, Greenberg sold the company with The Shirelles' conract to Decca Records for US$4000. With that money, she started a new label in 1959, called Scepter Records, which became one of the leading record labels in the 60s.[3]

Mutrux and Escott's collaborations[edit]

Mutrux and Escott had collaborated on the book for the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet,[4][5] which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical.[6] Mutrux, who knew about Florence Greenberg, conceived Baby It's You!.[7] Baby It's You! The Musical is part of Mutrux's planned "American Pop Anthology" series, which focuses on American music from the 1950s to the 1980s. Million Dollar Quartet was also part of this series.[8]

Involvement of Epps[edit]

Epps is director of the Pasadena Playhouse. In late 2009, one of the shows scheduled to play there suddenly closed:

". . . I'd heard several good things about a smaller workshop production of this show that was at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood. I did a little reading about the subject matter — about The Shirelles and Florence Greenberg and all of that — and went over to see it. I was very taken with it and very taken with the idea of developing it for a larger venue, so we were able to make an arrangement to make it the last show of our season."[7]

This is not the first jukebox musical Epps had worked on: he directed Play On!, with Duke Ellington songs, and Blues in the Night.[7]

Synopsis[edit]

Florence Greenberg is an average New Jersey housewife. A talent show is held at her daughter's school, and a group of African-American girls are preparing to perform. Florence's daughter is surprised at their talent, quickly notifying her mother, and Florence decides to make the group recording artists. To accommodate them, she founds Scepter Records. After the success of The Shirelles, the new name of the group, Florence and Scepter Records go on to "discover recording artists like The Kingsmen, The Isley Brothers and Dionne Warwick."[9]

Musical numbers[edit]

Original Broadway cast[edit]

Character Original Cast
Florence Greenberg
Beth Leavel
Luther Dixon
Allan Louis
Shirley Owens±
Christina Sajous
Doris Coley±
Crystal Starr Knighton
Addie "Micki" Harris±
Erica Ash
Beverly Lee±
Kyra Da Costa
Bernie Greenberg
Barry Pearl
Mary Jane Greenberg
Kelli Barrett
Stanley Greenberg
Brandon Uranowitz
Chuck Jackson
Geno Henderson
Ensemble
Erica Dorfler
Ensemble
Jahi A. Kearse

±Denotes that character is a member of the Shirelles.

Productions[edit]

California (2009)[edit]

The show premiered at the Coast Playhouse in Los Angeles on July 18, 2009, playing until August 30, 2009,[10] choreographed by Birgitte Mutrux, directed by Floyd Mutrux, and starring Meeghan Holaway. Other cast members included Erica Ash and Barry Pearl.[11] Another production with the same cast played at the Pasadena Playhouse from November 13, 2009, to December 13, 2009.[1]

Broadway (2011)[edit]

The show opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre, starring Beth Leavel as Florence,[12][13][14] directed by Sheldon Epps, and with musical supervision and arrangements by Rahn Coleman. Baby It's You! began previews on March 26, 2011, and officially opened on April 27,[12] with choreography by Brigitte Mutrux, orchestrations by Don Sebesky, scenic design by Anna Louizos, costume design by Lizz Wolf, lighting design by Howell Binkley, and projection design by Jason H. Thompson.[15] Joining Leavel as the Shirelles are Christina Sajous, Erica Ash, Kyra DaCosta, and Crystal Starr Knighton.[15][16][17] The production closed on September 4, 2011.[18]

Response[edit]

Entertainment Weekly's Clark Collis gave the musical a "B-" rating, calling it "a night out that is easy on the ear ... 'Baby It's You' gives Leavel, [a Tony Award]-winner for The Drowsy Chaperone, a platform for both her vocal and her dramatic talents ... [T]he quartet playing the Shirelles are given little to do but capably sing and dance their way through the group's repertoire while breaking a succession of costume change land speed records. But there is never any doubt that the main attractions here ARE the hits — this is a jukebox musical so unashamed about its nature that it starts with the projected image of an actual jukebox."[19]

"Mama said there'll be shows like this," said Charles Isherwood in The New York Times. "But she didn't tell me there would be quite so many, or that any one of them could be this dismal. Invitations to sing along are flung at the audience regularly, as if they were life preservers. Further inducements to wallow in visions of happy yesterdays are provided by the slide shows of drive-ins and diners and other cultural markers of the period, accompanied by the silky narration of Geno Henderson, playing a sort of cosmic D.J. who registers the passing years with material cut and pasted from Wikipedia."[20]

Steven Suskin in Variety unfavorably compared the show to Jersey Boys: "Imagine [the latter] without the carefully integrated character development of Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio, and with a tunestack only one quarter as imperishable. You needn't imagine it; just wander to the Broadhurst for "Baby It's You!," the new jukeboxer outlining the rise and demise of the Shirelles ... Leavel does all she can [in] the leading role, but the authors make impossible demands."[21]

In The Chicago Tribune, Chris Jones wrote, "The Shirelles, one of the greatest girl groups of all time, get a show of such total ineptitude and cynical profiteering that your mouth pretty much dangles open in disbelief for the duration of the entire tawdry proceedings."[22] Linda Winer (Newsday) said of the show: "[I]t's just another jukebox musical."[23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2011 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Beth Leavel Nominated
Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Beth Leavel Nominated

Recordings[edit]

An original Broadway cast recording was released by Universal Music Group on June 14, 2011. The album, recorded from April 17 to 25, 2011, is produced by Richard Perry and associate-produced by Rahn Coleman.[24]

2011 lawsuit[edit]

A complaint filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York seeks "damages on behalf of world-famous performers [portrayed in the show] ... as well as the Estates of [original Shirelles] Doris Coley Jackson and Addie Harris Jackson." The complaint, filed by Oren Warshavsky, sued the producers of the show for "the unauthorized use of [the latter's] names and likenesses in connection with the new Broadway show." Warshavsky said in a statement, "The Plaintiffs, having been cheated out of their royalties once already when they were young, are being victimized again, as they are forced to see their names, likenesses and biographical information being used without their consent." He continued:

"We believe that the producers of Baby It's You!, the Defendants, should not receive financial gain or other benefits from the use of these great artists' lives and success without having consent to do so. …It is disappointing that the producers of the play would simply piggy-back on the careers of these original artists without asking permission at all, let alone without sufficiently compensating the people without whom there would be no Broadway story, original music or iconic styling."

The living plaintiffs in the case are Beverly Lee, an original member of the Shirelles who owns the rights and trademarks to the group's name, and also Dionne Warwick and Chuck Jackson. The other surviving original member of the Shirelles: Shirley Alston Reeves, has not been named as a plaintiff. The lawsuit became public on April 27, 2011, on Baby It's You!'s official opening night on Broadway.[25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jones, Kenneth. "Shirelles Musical Baby It's You! Takes More Steps Toward Broadway" playbill.com, October 20, 2010.
  2. ^ "The Immortals: The First Fifty". Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone. [dead link]
  3. ^ "A second chance for Florence Greenberg". northjersey.com. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  4. ^ Gans, Andrew."Foster and Stanley Will Join Original Chicago Quartet for Broadway's Million Dollar Quartet" Playbill.com, January 21, 2010
  5. ^ Fick, David. "Million Dollar Quartet Opens Tonight". Musical Cyberspace, April 11, 2010
  6. ^ "Who's Nominated?". Tony Awards. IBM Corp. Archived from the original on May 7, 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c Haun, Harry. "PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Baby It's You! Co-Director Sheldon Epps". playbill.com. Retrieved April 9, 2011. 
  8. ^ [1] broadway.com
  9. ^ Itzkoff, David. "Jukebox Musical Baby It’s You! Will Get Broadway Rotation This Spring". The New York Times, January 24, 2011.
  10. ^ "World Premiere Musical Baby It's You Begins 7/18 At The Coast Playhouse", Broadway.com, July 18, 2009.
  11. ^ "Baby It's You!" curtainup.com, November 13, 2010.
  12. ^ a b Jones, Kenneth. "Producers of Baby It's You! Eyeing Broadhurst Theatre and Beth Leavel". Playbill. January 14, 2011.
  13. ^ Reidel, Michael. "Musical's a Shirelles thing". The New York Post. January 13, 2011.
  14. ^ "Mutrux's Baby, It's You Musical to Play Broadhurst in Spring with Leavel in Talks to Star?". Broadway.com, January 14, 2011.
  15. ^ a b Hetrick, Adam. "Shirelles Musical Baby It's You!, With Beth Leavel, Will Play the Broadhurst; Complete Cast Announced". Playbill.com, January 24, 2011.
  16. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Baby It's You! Box Office Will Open Feb. 5" playbill.com, February 4, 2011.
  17. ^ "Baby It's You!" playbill.com, accessed March 8, 2011.
  18. ^ "PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 30-Aug. 5: Ghost to Broadway?, Theresa Rebeck's Latest, Bye Bye Baby". Playbill.com. 2011-08-05. Retrieved 2012-01-09. 
  19. ^ Collis, Clark (April 26, 2011). "Baby It's You". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 27, 2011. 
  20. ^ Isherwood, Charles (April 27, 2011). "Girl Group Tale Is Reharmonized". nytimes.com. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  21. ^ Suskin, Steven (April 27, 2011). "Baby It's You!". Variety Magazine. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  22. ^ Jones, Chris (April 27, 2011). "'Baby It's You' on Broadway: As the jukebox story of the Shirelles, baby it's who?". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on May 19, 2011. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  23. ^ Winer, Linda (April 26, 2011). "'Baby,' it's just another jukebox musical". Newsday. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  24. ^ Jones, Kennneth (April 16, 2011). "The Shirelles Live Again on Disc; Baby It's You! Cast Album Due June 14". Playbill.com. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Baby It's You! Producers Being Sued by Beverly Lee of The Shirelles, Dionne Warwick and Others". Playbill. Retrieved April 27, 2011. 

External links[edit]