Baby It's You!

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Baby It's You!
The Musical
Babyitsyouplaybill.jpg
Music Various Artists
Lyrics Various Artists
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 Greenberg started when she signed the Shirelles."[1] After several tryouts and premieres, the show debuted on Broadway 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' contract 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! The Musical,[7] which is part of Mutrux's planned "American Pop Anthology" series, focusing 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]

Charles Isherwood in The New York Times called the production "dismal" and criticized the "[i]nvitations to sing along" and the "inducements to wallow in visions of happy yesterdays".[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!" He further stated that Leavel did a capable job filling a poorly scripted role.[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]

On April 27, 2011, the date the production opened on Broadway, it was announced that a personality rights lawsuit against the play's producers had been filed with the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The suit alleged unauthorized and uncompensated use of the names, likenesses, and biographical information of Beverly Lee (a surviving member of The Shirelles who owns the trademark to the group's name); late Shirelles members Doris Coley Jackson and Addie Harris Jackson; Dionne Warwick; and Chuck Jackson. The suit sought damages on the plaintiffs' behalf. (The other surviving member of the original Shirelles, Shirley Alston Reeves, was not named as a plaintiff.)[25] On December 15, 2011, a federal judge asserted that the suit be discontinued after both sides agreed to settle.[26]

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. Archived from the original on January 8, 2008. 
  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. Archived from the original on April 11, 2011. 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. August 5, 2011. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. 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, Kenneth (April 16, 2011). "The Shirelles Live Again on Disc; Baby It's You! Cast Album Due June 14". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on May 2, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Baby It's You! Producers Being Sued by Beverly Lee of The Shirelles, Dionne Warwick and Others". Playbill. Archived from the original on April 30, 2011. Retrieved April 27, 2011. 
  26. ^ Jones, Kenneth (December 19, 2011). "Baby It's You! Legal Dispute Settled". Playbill. Retrieved November 2, 2015. 

External links[edit]