Hello! My Baby
conceived, written & with additional lyrics by Cheri Steinkellner
choreographed by Lee Martino
directed by BrIan McDonald
Rubicon Theatre, Ventura
through April 15
Be assured that Hello! My Baby is by no means a musical revue, but an original book musical by Cheri Steinkellner, incorporating fine old standards from The Great American Songbook written in the early 1900s when the action of the play takes place on both the Upper and Lower East Sides of New York. It's a newly fashioned old-fashioned look at a few fictional characters who struggled to write songs in the golden age of musical history. Now onstage at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura Baby offers a sweetly delicious take on the perils of dreaming one's dream, with an energetic and phenomenally talented cast of 22 under the lickety-split pace of skilled director BrIan McDonald and nifty choreographer Lee Martino.
Nelly Gold (Evie Hutton) and Mickey McKee (Ciaran McCarthy) write music and lyrics and eventually work as a team-professionally and personally, but find uneasiness from the start. In fact, she is turned off initially by his aggressiveness and lack of charm, but does agree to share a song with him. Then when she thinks he's going to take the tune and use it to suit only his own selfish needs, she dons the disguise of a boy Ned O'Reilly, enters the competition in Tin Pan Alley and wins a spot at Coots Publishing House, causing McKee who has been working there, to get the axe. All hell breaks loose when McKee and O'Reilly are promised a radio spot to promote their song. McKee is too unsophisticated to know that O'Reilly and Gold are one and the same person and thinks that O'Reilly has stolen Gold away from him romantically. Gold's Music Hall on the Lower East Side is where Nelly and her sisters Frances and Violet live (Jordan Kai Burnett and McKenna Tedrick). The exclusive Beekman Club is on the Upper East Side and this is where the radio program will be aired. When the very rich Stanford Tierney (George Ball) who happens to own the club and the tenements on the Lower East Side, recognizes the sisters despite their lovely gowns, he ousts them from the club. It just so happens that Tierney's son Junior (Will Sevedge) has fallen madly head over heels with Frances, so his romantic inclinations seem dashed as well as those of McKee. The story's a melodrama, and true to form, there are even a couple of smooth street-wise heavies led by Johnny Giovanni (Harley Jay) who hover and threaten the sisters when the rent is overdue. They're harmless enough, though, and sing and dance with the rest of them, as this is a musical after all, and there is a rainbow looming somewhere in the horizon.
Choreographer Lee Martin
o has wondrously captured the dance styles of the period, and McDonald makes the small stage, never cluttered, vibrate with the 22 cast members dancing up a storm. Some of the glorious tunes include: "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows", "Oh, Johnny, Oh", "Ja-Da", "Alice Blue Gown", "Some of These Days", "If You Were the Only Girl in the World", "I Don't Care", "Stairway to Paradise", "Ballin' the Jack", "My Buddy", "Ain't We Got Fun", and "You Made Me Love You", as well as of course the title tune "Hello! My Baby". Set design by Thomas S. Giamario works beautifully as flats unfold to show all of New York City with both flair and blemishes. The entire cast is sheer delight. McCarthy gives the perfect street smart Irish personality to McKee in contrast to Hutton's sweet yet determined Gold/O'Reilly. Sevedge sings beautifully and Jay makes every comic move count. Also on board are George Wendt
and Kristine Zbornik as the slick yet endearing Coots, and Tad Murroughs and Jacob Mattison have a ball in their many disguises as the Coot boys Albie and Artie.
Hello! My Baby is a thoroughly enjoyable treat from start to finish. It moves fast, never lagging for a moment, and you will leave the theatre...singing, longing for the tunes of yesteryear.