I keep wanting to insert a comma into the title of this show, turning it into "Baby, It's You." I don't know why, or which version of it would be the grammatically correct one.
The show is advertised as the story of Florence Greenberg, a housewife from Passaic, New Jersey who "discovers" the Shirelles and turns them into one of the biggest girl groups of all-time and becomes the first woman to head a record company. But at the end of the show, I didn't really feel that I'd learned all that much about any of the characters.
Part of the problem is that the story is told to us, not shown to us. The book of the musical seems only to serve to introduce the (familiar) music. In addition, a large portion of the show depicts recording studio sessions and concert scenes. While this gives us the chance to appreciate the on-stage band, it ill serves the overall arc of the show.
Some 40 songs are shoehorned into 2.5 hours, but unfortunately, the songs, short to begin with, are truncated even more in the show. The original versions of the songs may be as long as 3 minutes, but we get one minute snips. Well sung snips, but ultimately, unsatisfying. Just as you get into the song, it's over.
Beth Leavel, sporting an overdone NY/NJ accent did her usual powerhouse job of singing, but never really engaged me in the character. Her Florence seemed distant from the rest of the characters on the stage, and I wondered why anyone put up with her. And why the Shirelles (Christina Sajous, Kyra Da Caosta, Erica Dorfler, and Erica Ash), would call this woman "Ma" and follow her. Allan Louis, as songwriter Luther Dixon, was the most enjoyable of the actors on stage, and brought the most emotional depth to his character.
Leavel and Louis are the lucky ones in the cast, as they each play only one character. In a move that struck me as bizarre, the rest of the cast is double or triple cast. I don't know if the producers were trying to save money by having Geno Henderson play Jocko the DeeJay, and singers Chuck Jackson, Ronald Isley and Gene Chandler and having the Shirelles double as the Romantics, but if so, it was penny wise and pound foolish. I walked out of the show wondering if someone still held the notion that all African-American males looked alike and one man could pass for 4. It seems an odd choice for a show about a woman who was romantically involved with an African American male and who (at least according to a scene in the show), stayed with the Shirelles in a motel when the girls were not allowed to stay at the whites-only hotel in Atlanta.
The cast recording of the show was released last week, with only 26 tracks. And they are the shortened ones of the show. I think I'll go onto iTunes and download the original versions of the songs. I think I'll enjoy them more than I did the show. And I think I'll recommend others do the same, skip the show and just listen to the originals. You can't really improve on them.