Black Swamp Players’ “Baby” is a well-rounded musical about the highs & lows of expecting

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

The baby in the title of the Black Swamp Players new musical is a red herring.

Yes, the premise of “Baby: The Musical” is three couples, each at a different stage of life, confronting pregnancy.

The show, though isn’t about babies, or a baby, but about those three couples, or rather the six individuals, and how they face having or not having a baby, and the strains this puts on their relationships.

Nicole Navarre and Christopher Stack as Pam & Nick (photo by Gustavo Coutinho)

The Players have assembled a cast that captures the predicament of each of the couples, and surrounds them with a chorus of comic supporters and irritants.

Directed by Inge Klopping “Baby” is on stage Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church, 1526 E. Wooster, Bowling Green. Tickets are $15 and $12 for seniors and students from Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St. and at http://www.blackswampplayers.org/tickets.

“Baby” opens with a mini-lecture on the biology behind it all by Deb Snow. She concludes: “In a way it’s truly a romantic story. Sperm meets egg. The great miracle occurs and no one knows it’s happening.”

We then meet our three couples just as they realize, or they think they realize, what has happened.

Andrew Austin and Courtney Gilliland as Danny and Lizzie (photo by Gustavo Coutinho)

Danny (Andrew Austin) and Lizzie (Courtney Gilliland) are college students. He’s a serious musician trying to find his own sound, and she’s a writer. They’re romantics committed to living and loving by their own rules. They’ve just moved in together when they find out she’s pregnant, or as she sings “inside of me our genes have found their niche.”

Alan (D. Ward Ensign) and Arlene (Mara Connor) come back from their anniversary celebration at the Plaza to realized somewhere in the blur induced by far too much champagne, they are expecting a fourth child, just at the point they think they’ve launched their three daughters into the world.

Poised between them is the athletic duo Pam (Nicole Navarre) and Nick (Christopher Stack) who have been trying, with no success so far, to have a baby. Now they believe she’s finally pregnant.

The emotional tenor of each situation, the shock, the trepidation, the joy, is captured in a song, concluding with all joining in the rousing anthem “Baby, Baby, Baby,” which could be the title song except for the additional two babies.

Mara Connor and D. Ward Ensign as Arlene and Alan (photo by Gustavo Coutinho)

So far all this seems a little pat, and maybe too contrived, set up. The opening numbers promise a light hearted look at impeding parenthood, pregnancy and how couples cope. But then the show lets the characters breathe and live in their own realities. The book by Sybille Pearson lets each story evolve in touching, sometimes sad ways.

Danny gets dispatched to do service in a punk rock band he hates, so he can earn money to start a family. Alan and Arlene’s ambivalence toward the pregnancy open the fault lines in their marriage. Pam and Nick’s frustration deepens, and is not helped by the advice of a doctor played with comic cluelessness by Lane Hakel. The humor that glues them together becomes strained. The jokes they shared now are now unintentionally barbed.

Still the musical is injected with some great comic numbers –“Fatherhood Blues” by the men, including Randy Baughman and Matt Zwyer, and “The Ladies Singing their Sing,” about all the advice, belly patting and horror stories shared by the ladies of the town – Deb Shaffer, Cassie Greenlee, Emily Popp, Deb Snow, Robin Cagle, Cyndy Brookover – with a befuddled and annoyed Lizzie.

The musical numbers are catchy, with driving pop song hooks. They are well-delivered with Stack showing particularly strong voice. All the couples display a real sense of chemistry, we believe their stories, especially when they musically reveal the dynamics of their relationships with sly wordplay by Richard Maltby Jr. set with panache by songwriter David Shire.

The five-piece combo directed by music director Janine Baughman delivers the punchy backing the songs demand.

As anyone who has had children knows, their arrival has a way of defeating expectations with unanticipated complications and satisfaction. That’s true of the Black Swamp Players’ “Baby” as well.

From left, Courtney Gilliland, Nicole Navarre and Mara Connor sing “I Want It All” (photo by Gustavo Coutinho)

 

“Fatherhood Blues” performed by, from left, Matt Zwyer, Andrew Austin, Randy Baughman, D. Ward Ensign, and Christopher Stack (photo by Gustavo Coutinho)

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