Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Cambridge University Players & BATs
Venue: George Sq 2
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
This musical follows three couples along the road of pregnancy. With a toe-tapping score from Maltby and Shire, and a comic yet touching grace throughout, this production is definitely worth a visit.
I was excited when I heard that ‘Baby’, this Maltby and Shire classic, was coming to Edinburgh. It’s a musical I’ve been waiting years to see as it has been little known in this country since it premiered in America in 1983, and this production from Cambridge University Players and BATs doesn’t disappoint – in fact it impresses.
This production team has in its hands a winning formula. The original show is an absolute hit with a fantastic pop/rock score and a beautifully unconventional story-line. ‘Baby’ follows the story of three couples as they prepare for their first child. Danny and Lizzy are both students living in a basement apartment dreaming of fitting a child into their passionate lives without giving up a thing. Alan and Arlene however are in a somewhat different situation with three children already grown up and this, their fourth, being the result of a spontaneous anniversary escapade. Meanwhile, Nick and Pam are sports coaches, keen to be first time parents. Fans of the original should be warned that it has had to be cut down from two acts to one in order to fit the Fringe slot, but in many ways I think this has benefited the original. This version really works. Perhaps it has something to do with a close collaboration with the show’s Tony Award winning lyricist and original Broadway director Richard Maltby Jr.
The thing I want to most praise this production for is the sense of reality it conveys. Two of the actors stand out particularly in this light. First we have Tom Cane as Nick, expertly balancing his humorous character with a sincerity which moved me to tears. Acting with similar flair is Miri Gellert as Arlene. She is, quite frankly, hilarious – but again, there is a genuine quality to her characterisation which becomes absolutely mesmerising. She might be playing someone twice her age (a common problem for any student production), but she does it with such brilliant integrity that I didn’t care.
Enhancing this sense of reality is the simple and intelligently used set. It minimalist design is perfect for this intimate venue, and is perhaps another reason why the three stories really come alive. These are ordinary stories, truthfully presented.
So go and see this gem of a show while you can! I promise you’ll come out smiling (and probably with a glimmering tear in your eye as well).