Serious book problems hamper a strong catalog of early 1960s tunes and the efforts of a talented cast in Baby It’s You!, now at the Pasadena Playhouse. The result is a surprisingly uninvolving biography of Florence Greenberg, the Jewish housewife who discovered and fostered the doo-wop group The Shirelles.
Jonas Schwartz – Theatremania
If the Shirelles can’t quite do for “Baby It’s You!” what Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons did for “Jersey Boys,” please don’t blame the music. The sound of this path-breaking girl group, which skyrocketed up the charts in the early ’60s with such hits as “Dedicated to the One I Love” and ‘Soldier Boy,” still has an infectious charm. But these singers deserve a better-written vehicle for the roller coaster of fame than this patchwork musical, which opened Friday at Pasadena Playhouse.
Charles McNulty – LA Times
Floyd Mutrux’s splashy doo-wop, jukebox musical tracks the naive but strong-willed exec as she discovers the brief glories of being on top of the charts with a new man at her side, prideful lyricist and producer Luther Dixon (Allan Louis). Mutrux and co-writer Colin Escott see this as a story about suits, not singers: The Shirelles (Berlando Drake, Erica Ash, Paulette Ivory and Crystal Starr Knighton, all excellent) get stage time but no individuality except for Drake’s Shirley, who makes a play for Luther. But everything is tangential to the music.
Amy Nicholson – LA Weekly
Choreographer Birgitte Mutrux, music director Adam Irizarry, and the design team achieve a handsomely packaged production. For those who might not care about Greenberg and the behind-the-scenes story, the show’s glittery pleasures might suffice. Nonetheless, major libretto retooling is needed prior to a hoped-for Broadway run.
Les Spindle – Backstage
“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.
Julio Martinez – Variety
Baby It’s You! follows in the footsteps of Ray Charles Live! in recreating an important era of American music history. This time, though, the accent is behind the scenes, and Florence Greenberg’s story is one well worth telling and remembering. In the accomplished hands behind Baby It’s You!, the New Jersey housewife turned music VIP finally gets her moment center stage.
Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA
Possibly intriguing story, pitiful execution. If someone told you that the woman who discovered the 1960s African American girl group The Shirelles was a white New Jersey housewife; that this same lady took on the male establishment by starting an independent record label; and that her partner and lover was an equally ambitious black songwriter, you might consider this a tale worth spinning, right? Well, the creators of the new jukebox musical Baby It’s You! thought so too although their product shows otherwise.
Evan Henerson – CurtainUp
If the rollicking “Baby It’s You!” is an indication, get ready for another season of standing-ovation plays at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2010.
First, two words about “Baby It’s You!,” See it!
Bill White – Tolucan Times
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