If you're an expectant parent, you're bound to have an epiphany sometime during the pregnancy, when the enormity of what you're doing hits you like a two-by-four between the eyes. It just might be when, in a quiet moment, you say to your spouse with amazement: "It will live with us for the next 18 years."
That's how Lizzie, a freshly knocked-up college co-ed, expresses the situation to her boyfriend, Danny, in Baby, a comical and energetic musical at Kalliope Stage about how three very different couples handle their personal journeys, once each learns there's a bun in the oven. The play, which had a respectable run on Broadway in the early 1980s, features a bundle of charming songs, with music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. And even though the book by Sybille Pearson doesn't quite manage to tie all the elements together into a satisfying story arc, there are more than enough engaging performances to pacify even the crankiest observer.
The story is set in a college town, where three twosomes find out they're in the family way and generally greet the news with surprised anticipation. The least enthusiastic couple is Alan and Arlene, who are in their forties and already have three children in college. As they explain in the uptempo number "The Plaza," they got carried away one night while staying in that hotel, and now they're looking at the prospect of wiping drool off their shoulders on a regular basis. But Alan seems reenergized by the thought of parenting another infant and sweeps Arlene along in his vortex. As for Lizzie and Danny, they focus on sharing their happy thoughts in "What Could Be Better," a cute song in which they imagine which of their traits the new addition will exhibit. Eventually, Danny decides to go on tour with his rock band to pick up some cash for the family. Even though Danny wants to get hitched, Lizzie rejects the notion, observing that marriage "turns brilliant women into . . . wives."
The most complex relationship involves Pam and Nick, an athletic thirtysomething duo (he's a wisecracking coach at the college, she's a guileless tomboy) who are absolutely giddy about the prospect of a bouncing baby. But they quickly learn that Pam's medical records were mixed up and she's not pregnant after all. This launches them on the path of fertility counseling and brings them into contact with a doctor, hilariously played by John Paul Boukis, who's more concerned with his ill-fitting contact lenses than Pam and Nick's propagation problems.
These three stories, interesting as they are, never merge into a cohesive whole, making the entire evening play more like a revue -- or a lively baby shower -- than a traditional musical. But that's OK, especially since there's a gaggle of funny scenes. In one, Pam is lying motionless on her back with legs in the air after sex, helping Nick's less than superstar sperm reach their destination, while he reads Moby Dick to her.
Happily, the Kalliope cast offers a bassinet full of performance goodies. As Danny, Andrew Smith is a ringer for a young Christopher Reeve and fairly crackles with energetic good spirit. He's especially appealing in the show-stopping tune "Fatherhood Blues," decked out in his rocker wig and leading the other dads in a foot-stomping anthem to the joys and miseries of being a paterfamilias. Carrie Hall as Lizzie nails a few funny lines and handles her singing with solid professionalism, although her solo at the end of Act One, "The Story Goes On," doesn't quite soar in the way a song in that key position should.
John Jensen is a thorough delight as Alan, using his angular good looks and rich voice to bring depth to his material, particularly the painfully honest ballad "Easier to Love." He also enlivens his moments with Arlene and makes one almost believe he could talk a 43-year-old woman into having another kid. As Arlene, Adina Bloom has a powerful and evocative singing voice, but often seems trapped between two facial expressions: astonished amusement and astonished astonishment. Although she has one of the weaker voices, Kris Comer is vitally alive as Pam, making the audience feel her frustration as she pursues pregnancy. Her duet with Nick, "With You," culminates in the most affecting moment of the play, when her jokester husband asks her, simply, to "Hold me." Scott Posey as Nick handles that scene perfectly, although as a compulsive joke-teller and impressionist, he's not all that funny, which undercuts the credibility of his defense mechanism.
Director Paul F. Gurgol brings out all the joy this show has to offer, and that's quite a bit. It's a bright and breezy evening that works as a tribute to the people who, against plenty of financial logic, continue to bring tiny human beings into the world.
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