This loud, Broadway-bound, intermissionless musical journey through the songs of rock ‘n’ roll tunesmiths Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller is badly in need of a director and choreographer with a better sense of theatrical staging.
Otis Sallid has brought together 10 talented, big-voiced singers and a seven-piece band to perform more than 40 Leiber and Stoller songs, including such familiar works as “Spanish Harlem,””Love Potion #9,””Hound Dog” and “Stand By Me.”
The songs are presented in a revue format with the performers briskly moving from number to number and often singing only a portion of a tune. Unwisely, Sallid has chosen not to stop the singing at any point in the evening, denying the audience context in which to place particular songs or any feeling for the period when the tunes were written.
The staging is where “Baby That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” really falls apart. Surprisingly, for someone with extensive choreographic credits, Sallid hasn’t mounted any of the songs with much flair or dramatic resonance, and there is little choreography of any sort, none of it memorable.
Lacking any real assistance from Sallid, the cast members try to compensate through the sheer power of their voices, and in at least a couple of moments almost succeed. Victor Cook delivers a searing rendition of “I (Who Have Nothing)” but ultimately spoils it by pushing too far for effect at the song’s conclusion. B.J. Crosby offers a full-throttled interpretation of “Fools Fall in Love,” but she, too, seems to be trying a bit too hard to sell the song.
The production values are generally weak. Heidi Landesman’s set of sliding panels, catwalks and staircases against a backdrop of urban imagery is ugly and limits Sallid’s staging options. James M. Bay’s ear-splitting sound design wipes out any nuance in the musical perfs. Timothy Hunter’s lighting is anemic. William Ivey Long’s costumes look like many in other musical revues of this sort.