Originally published on CastAlbums.org.
Cry-Baby was one of the more anticipated musicals of the 2008 Broadway season. Coming on the heels of Hairspray, the show gave a similar treatment to the film John Waters made after the original Hairspray. Hairspray‘s book writers, Thomas Meehan and Mark O’Donnell, were once again on board, this time teamed with the songwriting team of Adam Schlesinger (best known then as the bassist from Fountains of Wayne, the band that gave us “Stacey’s Mom“) and David Javerbaum(then executive producer of The Daily Show). Despite a talented cast (full of youthful enthusiasm but no star names to speak of) and a fun rockabilly score, the show failed to find its audience and closed within a couple of months.
With the show’s quick shuttering, no cast recording was produced, and outside of the occasional cabaret performance of “Screw Loose,” the show was largely forgotten. Fast forward to 2015: MTI has added Cry-Baby to their catalog of shows available for stock and amateur productions with a new, producer-friendly reduced orchestration. To help promote the show for new productions — and capture the new orchestrations (the album lists a six-piece band plus two “additional musicians”) — 88.4% of the original Broadway cast was reassembled in the studio to finally capture the score.
Was it worth the wait? Fans of the show will certainly be glad to revisit James Snyder‘s sexy turn as the title character, and Alli Mauzey‘s gloriously unhinged “Screw Loose” demonstrates why it’s the number best remembered from the score. The rest of the cast are now Broadway stalwarts, including Elizabeth Stanley,Chester Gregory II, Christopher J. Hanke, Carly Jibson, and Harriet Harris, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from them. (It would seem that the 11.6% of the cast that did not return for the album is primarily made up of the ensemble.)
The album package (designed by Robbie Rozelle) includes lots of gorgeous, full-color Joan Marcus photography and all the lyrics, as well as a note from John Waters, but surprisingly no plot synopsis. (We get the set-up, but that’s it.)
As for the score itself? It’s tuneful, but it ain’t Hairspray (or, for that matter, “Stacey’s Mom”), and therein lies the primary problem with the show. The lyrics are funny but not hilarious. And although the new, smaller band sounds great on the rock and roll numbers, some of the more typically Broadway sounding numbers have taken on an unfortunate karaoke flavor (most egregiously, the opening “Anti-Polio Picnic”). Still, if you like rock and roll musicals (a sub-genre distinct from “rock musicals” and sadly underpopulated) and can’t listen to Grease one more goddamned time, you could do much worse than this.