Broadway presents on all manner of shows, especially musicals and some based on classic literature, mythology and, occasionally, even movies. I have to say, on a personal note, I find the latter to be very weak! I mean, come on, people, come up with something original.
Last November, that was in 2016, my wife and I were celebrating our silver anniversary. We wanted to do something special. Well, before we could say, “Break a leg,” we got a message from an old college friend of mine: Doug Trudeau, the former president of our theatre group, “The Vagabonds.”
A fellow alumnus, Anthony Gruppuso, was appearing in an off-Broadway musical called, The Babies. Doug wanted to get a group of us together to go see it.
Jo Ann, my wife, and I were in, in a New York minute! We found a flight, a hotel and tickets to The Babies. We knew nothing about the show, going in, other than it was a small-scale production, only a cast of four, and that Anthony was not only in it, he’d written most of the lyrics, too, which was major cool.
On the appointed day, we got to the theatre extra early. We didn’t want to take a chance of missing anything or anyone and it was a good turnout of the old Vagabonds. The show itself was, well, if you know the movie, “Look Who’s Talking,” you have the gist of it.
Essentially, The Babies revolves around four babies and their lives as they intertwine over the course of the first years of their lives. They first meet, essentially, in utero, the four of them waiting to be born and we get to know a little about each of them. There are two men, two women and one of the women is older. They refer to her as an “old soul.”
The babies sing of the start of their lives and one by one are born. When next we see them, they’re in the nursery and things are moving along for all of them. Anthony’s character is facing the prospect of “Snip, Snip, Snip,” owing to the fact that he’s Jewish. I don’t have to explain what that means. The younger of the girls is up for adoption and she’s a little nervous about her future. It’s a very happy moment when she learns that she has a new mommy and daddy. The four of them looked quite cute in their little footie jammies.
The third scene finds the kids getting together at a “Mommy and Me” type of daycare; we learn about the changes in their lives. The other boy has a dad in the military and so he’s facing the prospect of daddy leaving on deployment. The “Old Soul” is dealing with the divorce of her parents, while the other girl is happy to be part of a loving family.
The final scene finds the kids on their first day of preschool, and it opens with a truly hilarious bit: Anthony, in his “little kid” outfit, complete with suspenders and yarmulke, bouncing up and down as he shouts, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” over and over again on the verge of tears.
You have to understand, Anthony is not a small man. Like me, he has some heft to him. For him to be playing such a part and to pull it off so convincingly, now that is truly side-splitting.
As far as we were concerned, the finale was not going to be dull. We were not disappointed. The “Old Soul” now had two mommies, owing to her mother’s life-changing announcement and the whole family was dealing with it. The other boy was now the “man of the house,” his daddy off in his deployment, and the other girl happily settled in with her family. Anthony’s character was dealing with a major crisis: potty training and they sang a great song that culminated with him going off-stage to use the bathroom for the first time. When we heard the toilet flush, the whole audience lost it!
Right down the line, the show, despite not being some fancy, high-tech high priced Broadway production was outstanding. It had what all truly great shows must have: heart. If a show lacks that, it can star Hollywood luminaries or the cream of Broadway, and it will still fail. On the other hand, a play or musical that builds on true passion and a love of telling its story will always be a hit.
“The Babies” is just such a show. If you have the chance, see it.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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