More Square than Campy


Even the sleaze is wholesome in Cry-Baby, the bobby socks–perky new musical that recently opened on Broadway. The show may be based on the 1990 movie by John Waters, the filmmaker whose gleefully subversive works wallow in low camp. And it may depict the conquest of squeaky-clean 1950s society by a tribe of bad-boy rockers. But translated to the genre of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the wild oats of Waters’s movie look a little like the corn in Oklahoma!

That’s not to say that Cry-Baby is watery and dull: the show’s creators, including director Mark Brokaw, do make a wry comment or two about American culture. The team certainly has enough street cred for the task. The authors of Cry-Baby’s book are Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, who nabbed a Tony for their work on Hairspray—another Broadway extravaganza based on a Waters flick. (Meehan also pocketed Tonys for Annie and The Producers.) If it worked once, the reasoning in the commercial-theater world holds, try it another ten times.

The songwriters are a more intriguing team. David Javerbaum is executive producer and former head writer of The Daily Show, the TV program that turned late-night comedy into a critical player in U.S. publishing and politics. Adam Schlesinger hails from the terrific pop band Fountains of Wayne, whose bubbly tunes paint hilariously woebegone...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.