It's Her Party: Baby It's You!, Starring Beth Leavel, Opens on Broadway
By Kenneth Jones
Baby It's You!, the story of a New Jersey housewife who launched the 1960s girl-group The Shirelles, opens on Broadway April 27 following previews from March 26 at the Broadhurst Theatre. Tony Award winner Beth Leavel plays Florence Greenberg.
The opening night is a rare incidence of two shows opening on Broadway on the same date. Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart also opens April 27. Generally, producers seek to avoid day-after competition for space in newspapers or time on TV and the internet.
Leavel, who won the Best Featured Actress Tony for her tipsy turn in the title role of The Drowsy Chaperone, plays record producer Greenberg, who discovered The Shirelles and created Scepter Records, becoming a rare female executive in the record industry.
Greenberg also helped launch the careers of The Isley Brothers, B.J. Thomas, The Kingsmen, Chuck Jackson, Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Dionne Warwick.
The musical, using pop hits of the period, was conceived by Floyd Mutrux and is directed by Mutrux and Sheldon Epps, and written by Tony-nominated book writers Mutrux and Colin Escott, the team behind another jukebox Broadway show, Million Dollar Quartet.
Read Playbill.com's Brief Encounter interview with co-director Sheldon Epps. Baby It's You! draws on period music — songs made famous by The Shirelles and others. As with the hit Jersey Boys, some theatregoers will recognize the score as the soundtrack of their own lives. Expect such classics as "Dedicated to the One I Love," "Duke of Earl," "He's So Fine," "I Say a Little Prayer," "It's My Party," "Louie Louie," "Mama Said," "Shout," "Sixteen Candles," "Stop in the Name of Love," "Twist and Shout" and many more.
The show's cast album was recorded April 17-25 and will be released June 14.
Here's how the show is characterized by the producers: "Before Motown and the British Invasion, Florence Greenberg took the male-dominated music industry by storm, revolutionizing pop music and becoming the most influential and successful female record company president ever. After discovering one of the greatest girl-groups of all time, The Shirelles, at her daughter's high school, Greenberg packed the girls in her car, drove across the George Washington Bridge to New York City, and embarked on a trailblazing journey from New Jersey housewife to record mogul, creating the independent house of hits that was Scepter Records."
Baby It's You! features a cast of 19 that includes Allan Louis, Geno Henderson, Erica Ash, Kelli Barrett, Kyra DaCosta, Crystal Starr Knighton, Barry Pearl, Christina Sajous, Brandon Uranowitz, Alison Cimmet, Erica Dorfler, Berlando Drake, Adam Heller, Jahi A. Kearse, Annette Moore, Zachary Prince, Ken Robinson and Chelsea Morgan Stock.
The production team includes choreographer Birgitte Mutrux, musical supervisor and arranger Rahn Coleman, orchestrator Don Sebesky, musical director/conductor Shelton Becton, scenic designer Anna Louizos, costume designer Lizz Wolf, lighting designer Howell Binkley, sound designer Carl Casella, projection designer Jason H. Thompson, and hair and wig designer David Lawrence.
Baby It's You! is produced by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures and American Pop Anthology in association with Universal Music Group and Pasadena Playhouse, with Jonathan Sanger, Artie Ripp and Richard Perry as consulting producers for American Pop Anthology.
Tickets for Baby It's You! range from $48.50-$126.50. For information, visit Telecharge.com or call (212) 239-6200.
The playing schedule for Baby It's You! is as follows: Monday through Saturday at 8 PM with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM. There will be no 2 PM performance Wednesday, April 27. Beginning May 2, the playing schedule for Baby It's You! is Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 3 PM.
For more information, visit www.babyitsyouonbroadway.com.
The Shirelles, a foursome of African-American singers, were known for such hits as "Soldier Boy," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," "Dedicated to the One I Love," "Mama Said," "Baby It's You," "Foolish Little Girl," "What a Sweet Thing That Was," "Boys" and "I Met Him On a Sunday."
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame describes The Shirelles this way: "Formed in 1957, members Shirley Alston Reeves, Addie 'Micki' Harris, Doris Kenner Jackson and Beverly Lee were high-school students in Passaic, New Jersey. A fellow student heard the Pequellos, as they called themselves, perform at a school talent show. She brought them to the attention of her mother, Florence Greenberg, who owned a small label. Renaming themselves the Shirelles, they released their first hit, 'I Met Him on a Sunday,' on Greenberg's Tiara Records. It was picked up for national distribution from Decca and narrowly missed the Top Forty in 1958. The single established The Shirelles and helped Greenberg launch the legendary Scepter label."
The musical opened Nov. 13, 2009, and played a month of performances in Pasadena, CA. Meeghan Holaway (Off-Broadway's Dinner with Friends) played Florence Greenberg in California. Co-director Epps is artistic director of Pasadena Playhouse.
Leavel received the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle and L.A Drama Critics Awards for the title role in the musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. Her other Broadway credits include: Elf, Mamma Mia!, Young Frankenstein, 42nd St., Crazy for You, Show Boat and The Civil War. She also appeared as in No, No, Nanette at City Center Encores.
Mutrux wrote, directed or produced more than 50 films in the last 25 years, including "American Hot Wax," "Scarecrow," "Hollywood Knights," "Urban Cowboy," "The Untouchables," "American Me," "Hillside Strangler," "Freebie and the Bean," "Up in Smoke," "Dick Tracy" and more.
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