`Cry-Baby' elicits few cries of excitement

April 26, 2008|By Chris Kaltenbach

Cry-Baby, which officially opened at New York's Marquis Theatre on Thursday night, may have emerged from the same twisted pop-culture DNA as that earlier megahit, Hairspray, but critics aren't exactly embracing it as a second flowering of John Waters-inspired genius.

Some have labeled it truly awful, while at least one critic raved. Most seem to find it OK, if not extraordinary. Few are predicting a hit anywhere near the level of Hairspray, which won eight Tonys in 2003 and was turned into a 2007 movie that grossed nearly $120 million in the U.S. alone.

Here's a sampling of what some of the nation's print and online critics are saying about Cry-Baby:

There's no delicate way of putting this. Cry-Baby is ... tasteless. ... When I said "tasteless," I meant 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. -- Ben Brantley, The New York Times[T]he musical feels as if it's limping pallidly in the shadow of Grease. The tone of the parody numbers ... does not so much embody Waters's embrace of kitsch as it does a coarser brand of smugness. -- Peter Marks, The Washington Post

Campy, cynical, totally insincere and fabulously well crafted. And funny. Madly, outrageously funny. It is, in fact, the funniest new musical since Avenue Q, give or take The Drowsy Chaperone. If laughter is the best medicine, then Cry-Baby is the whole damn drugstore. -- Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

While Hairspray provided someone to root for in a zaftig underdog on an integrationist mission, not to mention a lovable mother mortified by her girth but itching to reveal the light she's been hiding under Baltimore's bushel, Cry-Baby was and is a generic parody of teen-delinquent movies, in search of a plot. -- David Rooney, Daily Variety

Can we shed a tear for Cry-Baby, a strenuous, insistently cartoonish stage adaptation of John Waters' cinematic trash fest? Well, maybe one or two. -- Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

Albeit with some decent laughs, a sense of fun and a few redeeming scenes and performances, Cry-Baby comes off mostly as a shrill, crude, clattering show without the leavening good-heartedness and love of the underdog that made Hairspray such a knockout. -- Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

Step aside, Grease. A studly new '50s rocker has hit Broadway, and his name is Cry-Baby. -- Malcolm Johnson, Hartford Courant

The music comes in two rocky flavors -- cheery and droopy. It's the kind of music that makes you wonder whether you've heard it before, just before you stop caring. -- Clive Barnes, New York Post

Lightning doesn't strike twice. Cry-Baby ... does not repeat the success of [John Waters'] Hairspray. Some of the creators are different, the material is different and the hero and heroine are disastrously different. -- John Simon, Bloomberg News

As of 8 p.m., we had high hopes for Cry-Baby. In the overture, the band sang to the crowd to shut its cell phones off. But when we heard the awful lyric "It's a beautiful day for an anti-polio picnic" at 8:02 p.m., we got worried. By 10 p.m. it was official: Cry-Baby had completely failed to knock our bobby socks off. -- Matt Windman, AM New York

As H. L. Mencken, another famous Baltimorean, once said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public." -- Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.com

The chorus is probably the best chorus I've ever seen on Broadway. They dance, they do it all. If the whole show was as good as the chorus is, it would be the best show in history. -- "Tom," Word of Mouth on Broadway.com

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