(29 Apr 2011)
Unlike Florence Greenberg the writers of this show don’t know a hit. As proof they have created a show that doesn’t know what it is. Is this a story about the Shirells? Is this a story of a woman breaking the glass ceiling back in the 1960’s? Is it a story about an interracial relationship? Are we all walking down memory lane just for the heck of it?
Florence Greenberg (Beth Leavel) discovered the Shirelles at her daughter’s high school. She set out to make them the “#1 Girl Group” in the country and did that. No small feat then. No small feat now. This was back in the do-wop days when Rock ‘n’ Roll was busting out of the box but still using the swing of the Big Band Era. And everything was going along just fine until the Beatles showed up and do-wop got de-railed.
So Baby It’s You chronicles this story: sort of. It also tries to tell the story of Florence’s affair with Luther Dixon, a writer and producer who joined her company. Then there is the inclusion of her blind son who was also a song writer. Add to that her rocky relationship with her daughter who was feeling ignored, and of course the end of her marriage. We are pulled in more directions than we can track because no single story takes the lead.
As to the music, we are presented with a lot of oldies that the entire audience seemed to know – one’s gotta love that! Geno Henderson is given the job as tour guide through this musical mystery. He performs a cornucopia of songs by various artists as a sort of travelogue through time. It locates the story but doesn’t add to it. A few of the numbers are integrated into the story, and this mostly doesn’t work. And the Shirelles songs are unnecessarily souped up with vocal ornamentation. These Shirelles bear little resemblance to the original Shirelles who were darker, much, and who had simple strong voices. These Shirelles wail like gospel singers and have costumes and choreography that the original group just did not.
As a matter of fact, even Florence sings as though she were auditioning for American Idol. This is a pointless liberty taken.
This is a case of taking the truth and trying to make it bigger and better instead of going deep and simple. All we see of Florence is her exterior Jewish mother coming out to help her find herself. The characters are mostly flat representations of the people we are supposed to care about. This creative team tried to ram too many ingredients into the pot. The result is unidentifiable.
Florence Greenberg was an extraordinary human being. She not only broke the business rules with her own record label, she broke the racial rules as well with her choices in love. It is a wonder she lived to tell the tale.
On second thought I guess she didn’t. Well, someone should.
"Mama said there’ll be shows like this. But she didn’t tell me there would be quite so many, or that any one of them could be this dismal."
Charles Isherwood for NY Times
"The songs are so blandly performed they don't make an impression."
Joe Dziemianowicz for NY Daily News
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Skimpy, episodic book."
Jeremy Gerald for Bloomberg
"Resembles a high-tech version of those PBS doo-wop fundraiser specials"
David Sheward for Back Stage
"A shapeless, occasionally entertaining jukebox musical. .. The best thing about the show is the talented cast."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"Synthetic in composition but thoroughly expert in delivery."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"This gorgeously sung, buoyantly staged show is bliss."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"Lurch(es) along from Shirelle-singing to soap opera."
Steven Suskin for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...