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"Baby It’s You!" at the Broadhurst Theatre

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Baby It’s You!
(Show Website)

Book by Floyd Mutrux & Colin Escott
Conceived by Floyd Mutrux

Beth Leavel, Allan Louis, Geno Henderson

Erica Ash, Kelli Barrett, Kyra Da Costa
Erica Dorfler, Jahi A. Kearse, Barry Pearl
Christina Sajous, Crystal Starr, Brandon Uranowitz

At the
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street

Directed by Floyd Mutrux & Sheldon Epps
Choreographed by Birgitte Mutrux
Scenic Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: Lizz Wolf
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Carl Casella
Projection Design: Jason H. Thompson
Hair & Wig Design: David H. Lawrence
Casting: Telsey + Company
Production Stage Manager: Joshua Halperin
Music Supervisor & Arrangements: Rahn Coleman
Orchestrations: Don Sebesky
Music Director: Shelton Becton
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Marketing Direction: Type A Marketing/Anne Rippey
Marketing: SPOTCO
Press Rep.: The Hartman Group
Technical Director: Brian Lynch
General Management:
Alan Wasser – Allan Williams/Aaron Lustbader

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 15, 2011 Matinee

In the company of two ladies from New Jersey, one my young niece, I thoroughly enjoyed Baby It’s You, about the successful girls’ pop group, the Shirelles, who were discovered, produced, and promoted in the 60’s by a housewife from New Jersey. Florence Greenberg discovered the four singers in her daughter’s high school gym. Beth Leavel, as Mrs. Greenberg, is a powerful singer and actor, who naturally carries the role of dependent Jewish wife, who transforms into a fast-talking, hard-driving record producer for four African-American girls. As these girls gain success and grow into sequined-feathered-high-heeled costumed women, Mrs. Greenberg springs from her own cocoon, leaves behind husband and children, and falls in love with her black producer-arranger-composer Luther Dixon (Allan Louis), a story in itself (hopefully another show soon). After all, these were the 60’s, and Florence Greenberg is the focal character of this show.

Over the course of two Acts, dozens of songs made famous by the Shirelles and other groups are dynamically performed by: Christina Sajous, Erica Ash, Kyra Da Costa, and Crystal Starr, as the Shirelles; Geno Henderson, as DJ and singers – Jocko, Chuck Jackson, Ronald Isley, and Gene Chandler; and Kelli Barrett as Greenberg’s daughter, Mary Jane, as well as pop star, Lesley Gore. The ensemble of Shirelles is stunning, with sexy style that’s so modest for these current times. I wished we could go back to when pop was for dancing, and, at the show’s curtain, we almost did. When “Shout” started, today’s matinee audience was bouncing and singing on its feet. Beth Leavel, as mentioned above, has such a natural bonding with her ensemble that I was transported into the scenes. Her bonding with Mr. Louis, as Luther, was poignant and persuasive. Mr. Louis, as a conflicted performer-producer, living in two worlds, was a magnetic presence, and the way in which he portrayed the topic of race in the 60’s also drew me in. When he sang “Sixteen Candles”, the air was thick. The audience was riveted.

Ms. Barrett sang “It’s My Party” as Lesley Gore, and later “Dedicated To the One I Love”, when she brought the house down. It was then that the Shirelles showed respect and brought her into their fold. Florence and Dionne Warwick (Erica Ash) sang “Don’t Make Me Over” with scintillating clarity and warmth. Barry Pearl, as the rejected Bernie Greenberg, was first sexist as a husband, then sexist as Milt Gabler, record producer, who wheels and deals Florence into selling her Tiara record label. But the indomitable Mrs. Greenberg takes her $4,000.00 and starts Scepter Records, a big success. Mr. Pearl was the quintessential controlling spouse, in the days when women never took off their aprons. Geno Henderson was cool and charismatic in each of his crooning, DJ’ing character roles. Central to this production are 60’s cultural images on projected screens, coordinated to the jukebox numbers, like comedians, TV shows, and movie stars. Anna Louizos’ multiple sets included glitzy stage curtains and shiny décor, but also the stark simplicity of Florence’s kitchen, then her office.

Lizz Wolf was the busiest costume designer this side of the 60’s. Every minute, another quick change. My niece kept gasping, as tights, gowns, dresses, sunglasses, new wigs and hair (thanks to an also busy David H. Lawrence), and jewelry made their appearance for the next new song. In Act II, alone, there were about 14 songs sung by all or some of the Shirelles, with momentary backstage hair-costume changes, for “Duke of Earl”, “Foolish Little Girl”, “You’re So Fine”, “Hey Paula”, “Louie, Louie”, and “Tonight’s the Night” (Luther’s composition), among others. Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott wrote the book for this show, conceived and co-directed by Mr. Mutrux (with Sheldon Epps). Birgitte Mutrux was busy, as well, as each song had its own choreography, and the total effect was engaging and captivating. Kudos to all.

Crystal Starr Knighton, Erica Ash, Christina Sajous, Kyra Da Costa
Courtesy of Andrew Eccles

Beth Leavel in Baby It's You!
Courtesy of Andrew Eccles

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at