×

Baby It’s You

A musically compelling but thematically awkward journey.

With:
Florence Greenberg - Meeghan Holaway Luther Dixon - Allan Louis Micki/Shirelle - Erica Ash Shirley/Shirelle - Berlando Drake Beverly/Shirelle/Dionne Warwick - Paulette Ivory Doris/Shirelle/Millie - Crystal Starr Knighton Jocko/Ron Isley/Chuck Jackson/Gene Chandler - Geno Henderson Stanley/Burt Bacharach - Adam Irazarry Marvin Schlacter - Matt McKenzie Bernie Greenberg/Milt Gabler - Barry Pearl Mary Jane - Suzanne Petrela Shirelle's Understudy - Annette Moore

Bio tuner specialists Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux have honed a musically compelling but thematically awkward journey through the career of New Jersey housewife turned rock ‘n roll recording honcho Florence Greenberg (Meeghan Holaway). As helmed by Floyd Mutrux and choreographed by wife Brigitte Mutrux, “Baby It’s You” offers an adept survey of nearly 40 tunes that helped define the pop/rock music era book-ended by Elvis Presley and the Fab Four (1958-1965). Not so successful are the clunky scenic episodes chronicling Greenberg’s ascent as founder of Scepter Records, her failed marriage to staid hubby Bernie (Barry Pearl) and her affair with composer/record producer Luther Dixon (Allan Louis).

The music simply overpowers the storyline, thanks to a vocally transcendent ensemble and the dead-on musical arrangements and direction of Richard Perry and Adam Irizarry, respectively. Once Florence is introduced to the vocal outpouring of the four high school classmates of daughter Mary Jane (Suzanne Petrela), warbling their own composition (“I Met Him On A Sunday”), the subsequent between song exposition becomes more a distraction than an enhancement to the true strength of this tuner.

As the school girl quartet (Erica Ash, Berlando Drake, Paulette Ivory, Crystal Starr Knighton) evolves into the legendary early 60s chartbusters The Shirelles, the production, enhanced by Brigitte Mutrux’s period-perfect choreography and Lizz Wolf’s myriad eye-popping costumes, becomes awash with such top forty fare as “Dedicated to the One I love,” “Tonight’s the Night,” “He’s So Fine,” “Soldier Boy,” “Mama Said,” “Foolish Little Girl” and “A Thing of the Past.” Conspicuous by its absence is The Shirelle’s hit debut of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

Ongoing vocal highlights are offered by Geno Henderson’s yeoman vocal portrayals of such rhythm n’ Blues standouts as Ron Isley (“Shout,” “Twist and Shout”), Chuck Jackson (“Since I Don’t Have You,” “Any Day Now,” “You Really got A Hold”) and Gene Chandler (“Duke of Earl”). Moving out of her Shirelles commitment, Paulette Ivory envelopes the persona of Dionne Warwick (“Don’t Make Me Over,” “Walk On By”).

Holaway admirably projects the ambivalence of a traditional middle aged Jewish mother and housewife who also has an empathetic gift for understanding the music of the youth of America. One of the comedic highlights of the production is Florence’s argument with her hubby to the tune of “Mama Said,” as Pearl’s Bernie counters with “Yakety Yak.”

Allan Louis is guilty of projecting Luther Dixon’s social/racial angst to the level of relentless one-note diatribe but his vocal outpourings of “Sixteen Candles,” “Big John,” and “Dark Side of the Street” are sublime. Complementing the proceedings in multiple roles and vocal representations are musical director Adam Irizarry (“Book of Love,” “Get a Job,” “Mr. Bass Man”). In a solo turn, Petrela offers a musically representative Leslie Gore (“It’s My Party”).

“Baby It’s You” has the legs to potentially make a successful trip to the Big Apple once it achieves a more symbiotic balance between music and storyline. The onstage talent is certainly in place.

Popular on Variety

Baby It's You

Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena: 654 seats; $73 top

Production: A Pasadena Playhouse, by special arrangement with American Pop Anthology, Jonathan Sanger, Jerry Katell, Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Joan Stein, in association with Universal Music Group, presentation of a musical in two acts by Colin Escott & Floyd Mutrux. Directed by Floyd Mutrux. Music direction, Adam Irizarry. Music supervision/arrangements, Richard Perry. Choreography, Brigitte Mutrux. Sets, Anna Louizos.

Crew: Costumes, Lizz Wolf; lighting, Howell Binkley; sound, Martin Carillo; hair & wig, Carol Doran; stage manager, Ronn Goswick. Opened, reviewed, Nov. 13; closes Dec. 13. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MINUTES.

Cast: Florence Greenberg - Meeghan Holaway Luther Dixon - Allan Louis Micki/Shirelle - Erica Ash Shirley/Shirelle - Berlando Drake Beverly/Shirelle/Dionne Warwick - Paulette Ivory Doris/Shirelle/Millie - Crystal Starr Knighton Jocko/Ron Isley/Chuck Jackson/Gene Chandler - Geno Henderson Stanley/Burt Bacharach - Adam Irazarry Marvin Schlacter - Matt McKenzie Bernie Greenberg/Milt Gabler - Barry Pearl Mary Jane - Suzanne Petrela Shirelle's Understudy - Annette Moore

More Scene

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show premiere,

    Cara Delevingne Talks Immigration, Taylor Swift's Battle With Scooter Braun

    Cara Delevingne, whose faerie character in “Carnival Row” finds herself washed ashore as a refugee in a foreign land, said she was immediately drawn by the show’s fantastical take on issues of immigration and assimilation. “It’s a cause that I have been involved in for a long time,” Delevingne told Variety at the premiere of [...]

  • John Travolta, Fred Durst. John Travolta,

    John Travolta Recalls Fans Breaking Into His House: 'I Was Scared the First Time'

    Nobody can accuse John Travolta of not being gracious to his fans, whether it’s an autograph, a selfie or, you know, a home invasion or two. “I’ve only had two people that actually invaded my house,” Travolta told Variety at the premiere of “The Fanatic” at the Egyptian Theater on Thursday night. “They were just [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • 50 Cent Power S6 Premiere

    50 Cent, Snoop Dogg & Trey Songz 'Power' Up New York City for Massive Season 6 Premiere

    “Power” is entering its final season, but you would never know if you walked by Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on Tuesday night. Starz pulled out all the stops for its ratings powerhouse “Power,” throwing a massive premiere event, complete with a full-length concert at Madison Square Garden from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and a [...]

  • Diane Warren'Late Night' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Songs of Hope to Honor Diane Warren, Marc Shaiman, Boi-1da, More at 15th Annual Event

    Cancer research and treatment center City of Hope today announced the initial lineup of presenters and honorees who will celebrate the song and songwriter at its 15th annual Songs of Hope event. Among the music and entertainment industry VIPs in attendance will be veteran executive and producer Clive Davis, producer Boi-1da (Drake, Kendrick Lamar), award-winning [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content