Cry-Baby (musical)

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MusicAdam Schlesinger
LyricsDavid Javerbaum
by John Waters

Cry-Baby is a musical based on the 1990 John Waters film of the same name. The music is by David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger, and the book is by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. O'Donnell and Meehan also adapted Waters' film Hairspray for the musical stage.[1] The musical focuses on Baltimore teenager Allison Vernon-Williams, who is drawn across the tracks from her 1954 finishing-school background into a relationship with the orphaned Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker, the leader of a pack of rebel outcasts.


The musical premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California on November 18, 2007 and ran through to December 16. Previews began on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre on March 15, 2008, with an official opening on April 24, 2008.[2] Directed by Mark Brokaw with choreography by Rob Ashford, the cast featured Harriet Harris and James Snyder as "Cry-Baby".

The Broadway production closed following the matinée performance on June 22. The show played 45 previews and 68 performances.[3]

A cast recording featuring most of the original Broadway cast was released on October 7, 2015.[4]

Subsequent activities[edit]

According to Javerbaum, the show was remounted by New Line Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri in March 2012. It had a smaller band, reduced to six pieces, and a smaller cast of 16. The show was re-orchestrated and revised by the original composers and writers for the Saint Louis production. It was the first production of the show to be done since Broadway.[5]

In May 2015, The Henegar Center in Melbourne, Florida was the first community theatre granted permission to produce Cry-Baby: The Musical. The production was directed by Artistic Director, Hank Rion and choreographed by Amanda Cheyenne Manis.

The show premiered in Australia in July 2018, at the Hayes Theatre in Sydney.[6]

Original Broadway Cast[edit]

Musical numbers[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Cry-Baby received mixed reviews. Terry Teachout, in The Wall Street Journal, wrote that "the new John Waters musical, is campy, cynical, totally insincere and fabulously well crafted. And funny. Madly, outrageously funny."[7] Similarly, Newsday offered that the musical is "pleasantly demented and - deep in the sweet darkness of its loopy heart - more true to the cheerful subversion of a John Waters movie than its sentimental big sister Hairspray.[8]

On the other hand, Ben Brantley, in The New York Times, wrote that the show is "without flavor: sweet, sour, salty, putrid or otherwise. This show in search of an identity has all the saliva-stirring properties of week-old pre-chewed gum.... Mr. Ashford brings his customary gymnastic vigor to the choreography: lots of revved-up jumping jacks, push-ups and leg lifts, usually led by a trio of athletic muscle boys."[9] Variety added that "watered-down Waters has yielded a flavorless Broadway musical that revels in its down-and-dirtiness yet remains stubbornly synthetic. There's a lot of talent, sass and sweat onstage, particularly in the dance department, plus a sprinkling of wit in the show's good-natured vulgarity. But somehow, it never quite ignites."[10] The New York Sun opined that O'Donnell and Meehan "had far more success with another retro-themed Waters adaptation, Hairspray.... Cry-Baby is content to stay in the shallow end and focus on a standard wrong-side-of-the-tracks tale.... But rather than supply a jolt of not-too-outsider-energy, [the songwriters] have instead coasted on their magpie skills, tossing out an undistinguished stream of pastiche numbers. The lyrics occasionally have a welcome crispness.... The songs themselves, however, are as generic as the lyrics are pointed: It's the first time I can recall forgetting a show's melodies before they were even finished."[1]

USA Today wrote "The rockabilly-inspired numbers that David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger have crafted for Cry-Baby aren't as ambitious or infectious [as Hairspray], but the show is similarly good-hearted, and has more of a Waters edge. Javerbaum and Schlesinger's lyrics and Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan's book are both more inventively crass and less snarky than those of other contemporary musical winkfests; you get the sense that these writers share Waters' affection for his goofy subjects."[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2008 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan Nominated
Best Original Score David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger Nominated
Best Choreography Rob Ashford Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography Won


  1. ^ a b Grode, Eric. NY Sun review of April 28, 2008
  2. ^ "playbill article, March 15, 2008, "Cry-Baby Sheds Its First Tear on Broadway March 15"". Archived from the original on April 17, 2008. Retrieved April 15, 2008.
  3. ^ article, June 18, 2008, "Cry-Baby to End Broadway Run on 6/22"
  4. ^ September 17, 2015, "Track Listing and Release Date Revealed for Cry-Baby Cast Recording"
  5. ^ Hetrick, Adam.Revised Cry-Baby and To Die For Musical on Tony Nominee David Javerbaum's Plate" Archived 2010-12-20 at the Wayback Machine, December 18, 2010
  6. ^ "Cry-Baby"
  7. ^ reviewThe Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2008
  8. ^ Winer, Linda.reviewNewsday, April 25, 2008
  9. ^ Brantley, Ben."Swivel-Hipped Rebel and Restless Virgin Meet Cute" The New York Times, April 25, 2008
  10. ^ Rooney, David.reviewVariety, April 24, 2008
  11. ^ Gardner, Elysa.reviewUSA Today, April 24, 2008

External links[edit]