BWW Reviews: Scott Thompson's ONE FOR MY BABY is Ready to Bring the Light Back to Broadway
I still remember seeing my first Broadway show as a child. It had everything possible: drama, comedy, and, most importantly, depth and a broad spectrum of emotion. Shows weren't pigeon-holed into one genre or another; they were expansive and beautiful works that could elicit every possible feeling from the audience and leave you feeling elated, as if you had been a part of the magical journey of the characters on stage. Nowadays, it seems as though many of the plays and musicals lack the dimension of the great shows of yesterdays and leave the audiences craving more. Whatever happened to the gripping stories that could make you laugh, cry, loathe and love all in the same two hours? While they may have gone astray in the last few years, there is finally a shining light on Broadway's horizon that can restore the lackluster Great White Way to its former glory, and "One for My Baby" will be that beacon.
1947. The war was over and everyone was finally beginning to piece their lives back together. It was the golden age of nightlife, and Panama Jones, the mesmerizing M.C., welcomes you to "Dreamland" while urging you to "smoke a little, drink a lot and dance till dawn" at the most seductive nightclub in town. The lively cast of characters includes Tess, the vivacious socialite who eagerly attempts to bolster the career of Rick, her singing boyfriend, unaware that Meredith, her best friend, has a malevolent agenda and is surreptitiously eyeing Rick; Kitty and Eddie, newcomers vying to be the newest performers at "Dreamland," while bumping the current cast of Jackie and Keith, both of whom cling desperately to their damaged lives and try to rebuild from the rubble. With a plot heralding more twists than the Nurburgring, "One for My Baby" will keep you delightfully enthralled from beginning to end.
The tantalizing story is set to the music of the great Harold Arlen, most notably known as the composer of "Over the Rainbow", and includes a wonderful selection of legendary songs. Ranging from the uplifting "Get Happy" to the heart-wrenching "Stormy Weather", Arlen's captivating music elicits the euphoria and despair of the brilliantly written characters. Arlen wrote some of the greatest hits of the 30's and 40's and has over 400 songs to his credit. These songs have stood the test of time and are now divinely brought to life by some of Broadway's dazzling stars. Not only do the songs make for beautiful stand alone pieces, but they have been masterfully orchestrated by Fred Barton to meld the lives of the characters and complement the outstanding choreography.
"One for My Baby" is the brain-child of the brilliantly talented Scott Thompson, and has been in the works since his days at university. Thompson, an award winning choreographer and director, is, in all likelihood, the man to revive Broadway and return it to its former glory. Having directed and choreographed many of Broadway's brightest stars in over 100 productions nationwide, his talents never cease to amaze. Beginning dance as a teenager, Thompson always had his eyes set on directing and choreographing, and it was at the University of Arizona that "One for My Baby" began to take shape. An avid fan of Harold Arlen, Thompson masterfully created a story around the glorious songs, brimming with twists and turns that will undoubtedly keep you on The Edge of your seat and fill your soul with elation as you are immersed into the wonderfully volatile world of the "Dreamland" nightclub.
As the musical began to come closer to fruition, a demo was recorded with the singing talents of Carolee Carmello, Anika Noni Rose, Mary Bond Davis and Gavin Creel. Shortly thereafter, "One for My Baby" was workshopped in October, 2012, starring Vivian Reed, Stephen Bogardus, Luba Mason, Anastasia Barzee, Jennifer Cody, Robert Hartwell, Todd, Lawson, Matt Loehr, Jenelle Lynn Randall, Michael Scott and Julie Tolivar. Since this my first time seeing a workshop, I wasn't sure what to expect, and certainly had not anticipated what I was about to witness. It was undoubtedly one of the most spectacularly mind-blowing and wonderful shows I had ever seen. With a full-scale set and extraordinary costumes, the characters came to life, and I felt as though I had been taken back to a wondrous time were the booze was flowing, trouble lurked at every turn, and emotions were bountiful.
"One for My Baby" is what musical theatre is meant to be. The fabulous singers and dancers in the show drew me into their world and dazzled the entire audience. Most notably was the spine-tingling rendition of Stormy Weather/The Man That Got Away, sung by Vivian Reed, Luba Mason, Julie Tolivar and Jenelle Lynn Randall. Standing at different corners of the stage, the four women interlaced their stories with such power and grace as nothing I have ever heard; it was heavenly as their incredible voices entwined, drawing the audience into their similar, yet tragically different stories. Day after day for the entire run of the workshop, the incredible cast and crew were met with standing ovations that were accompanied by whoops of joy. I left feeling as though I was on cloud 9. "Baby" had it all, and I finally remembered the wonderful feeling I had as a child, the time when I first fell in love with Broadway.
Sadly, "One for My Baby" is still waiting in the wings, patiently awaiting its chance to walk down the Great White Way and show the world the splendor that I witnessed at that workshop. With producers and investors dancing around this masterpiece without fully committing, "Baby" has been tragically passed over in favor of the tried and true revivals currently in theatres. While it is wonderful to see some of the shows of days gone by make a comeback, there are several wonderful new shows that Broadway has taken a chance on, and they have succeeded in surpassing everyone's wildest dreams. Given the chance, "One for My Baby" undeniably deserves a Broadway presentation. Judging by the acclaim that "Baby" received in its workshop, I'm quite confident in saying that I'm not the only theatergoer that craves a show that can make me laugh and cry, surprise me and dazzle me, and leave me intoxicated with glee, all in one glorious package. The time has come for Broadway to return to its days of splendor, and "One for My Baby" can undoubtedly bring the light back to the Great White Way.