The students covered up any disappointment they may have felt about the show’s reduced run due to COVID-19 restrictions, and delivered enthusiastic, high-energy performances, with the toe-tapping extravaganza proving just the tonic for a trying 2020.
Cry-Baby is a comedy, set in 1954 Baltimore, which satirises musicals and the 1950s era in America. It is the classic tale of ‘good girl’ meets ‘bad boy’ from the wrong side of the tracks, with all the chaos that ensues when rival tribes of teens collide.
Director and Head of Drama and Dance, Laurence Wiseman, says he stumbled upon Cry-Baby a year ago, and was immediately taken with the ‘ridiculous comedy’, although he knew it would be a challenge for the young cast to deliver its satirical elements. “It was not an easy feat, but I believe the show achieved this through the diligence and tenacity of the young performers. The students created a performance which was high energy, fast paced and funny, yet still sincere. They rose to the challenge, took all the unexpected knockbacks and persevered. I am extremely proud of them all. Their enthusiasm often sustained my own enthusiasm throughout the process.”
The cast and production team originally started preparing for the show in October/November 2019 when auditions were held, with rehearsals and then the performances in May, cancelled due to the lockdown. The rescheduled shows were also hit due to the Alert Level 2 restrictions in August and September. This led to a contingency plan, with a reduced number of socially distanced performances for parents of the cast only, enabling the show to go on. “I was extremely grateful to Rector Christine Leighton and Arts Co‑ordinator, Ginnie Thorner, for their sheer determination to find a solution, despite the difficulties.”
As always, the show was very much a team effort, with Laurence supported by a group of “talented individuals who shared a vision for Cry-Baby, and for a very long time, committed wholeheartedly to ensure it was realised,” he says.
These included Musical Director, Duncan Ferguson, who conducted the band, comprising Mitchell Kohing (Year 12 – guitar), James Rainey (OC 2012 – wind), Samuel Foote (Year 12 – keys), Heather Webb (guitar) and Charles Pitts (Year 13 – drums) whose joyful and seamless delivery of the upbeat score, played a big part in creating the show’s high energy atmosphere.
Production Manager, Ginnie Thorner, and Choreographer, Hana Pearce (OC 2019) also had pivotal roles, with the dance numbers being a colourful riot of flying feet and waving hands.
The vibrant 1950s set, costumes, and hair and make-up were also on point.
Laurence says Cry-Baby’s final number, Nothing Bad’s Ever Going to Happen Again, was the perfect finale to the show. “The humour lies in the sheer conviction, ignorance, and joy the characters have while singing it. It may be silly and ridiculous, but one cannot help but tap one’s feet and smile, and perhaps for five minutes, allow ourselves to share in that ignorant joy that nothing bad is ever going to happen again. After all that 2020 has been, I don’t think that is such a terrible thing to hope for.”
The story of Cry-Baby is a well-worn trope – good girl meets bad boy, they fall in love, overcome a series of obstacles, and love wins the day. What is different about this show is its infectious silliness and humour.
The show opened with a rollicking number, The Anti Polio Picnic, which featured the whole cast, and included powerful solo performances by Grace Lawrence (Year 11) playing Mrs Vernon-Williams, Sage Klein (Year 13) in the central role of Allison, and Archie Milligan (Year 13) as her would-be boyfriend, Baldwin.
One look between perky Allison and bad boy Cry-Baby, played with James Dean-esque swagger by Jack Calder (Year 12) was enough to ensure Baldwin would soon be cut out of the picture.
From the beginning, Sage Klein perfectly captured Allison’s innocence, then her awkwardness as she attempted to hurtle from good girl to bad girl and fit in with Cry-Baby and his gang of tough girls. The character of Allison bridged the gap between the ‘squares’ and kids from the wrong side of the tracks, with Sage’s strong singing, emotional nuances, and comic timing utilised to great effect.
In the role of Cry-Baby, Jack Calder (complete with quiff) embodied the 1950s teen heart-throb, showing toughness on the outside, and sensitivity underneath. He rock-androlled his way around the stage with vigour, sang his solos strongly, and acted convincingly as the smitten, hormone-fuelled rebel.
Archie Milligan was superb as smarmy Baldwin, who appeared squeaky clean along with his gang of barbershop-style sidekicks the Whiffles – Xavier Dickason, Rory Dephoff and Benjamin Wilson (all Year 13) who had great fun in the roles. But underneath, Baldwin didn’t appreciate the competition for Allison’s affections, and Archie did a great job of showing the character’s true colours, as he did his best to stitch up Cry-Baby for a crime he didn’t commit.
Grace Lawrence put in a strong performance as Allison’s overpowering, waspy grandmother, Mrs Vernon-Williams, with her solo, I Did Something Wrong … Once, a stand-out number in the show.
One of the funniest performances came from Scarlett Rumble (Year 12) as the unhinged Lenora, who was mad for Cry-Baby, and also just plain mad. Her frenzied rendition of Screw Loose had the audience in stitches.
Others to shine were Cry-Baby’s gang – Catelin Riordan (Year 12) excelling as his pregnant, gum-chewing cousin Pepper Walker, Renee Vaudrey (Year 13) relishing her role as the facially disfigured and intimidating Mona Malnorowski, Madeline Bailey (Year 12) impressive as tough-talking and provocative Wanda Woodward, and Tallis Pritchard (Year 12) strong as soulful and upbeat Dupree.
The rest of the cast and ensemble also delighted in their roles, gave it everything, and played a key part in the overall success of the show. With Allison and Cry-Baby’s love finally conquering family secrets, stuffy puritanical values, and wrongful convictions, the big, cheerful, cheesy production number at the end of the show saw it finish on a high.
Wickedly subversive, camp, and enormous fun are just some of the ways to describe this year’s Senior Production, Cry-Baby.