By Bill White
If the rollicking “Baby It’s You!” is an indication, get ready for another season of standing-ovation plays at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2010.
First, two words about “Baby It’s You!,” See it!
It is a joyful musical which adroitly mixes love and ambition with the lyrics of memorable hits, including “Soldier Boy,” “Dedicated to the One I Love,” and “Baby It’s You!”
Co-written by Colin Escott and director Floyd Mutrux, it’s the amazing true story of a New Jersey housewife, Florence Greenberg, who risks her money and marriage to become the first major female music producer.
Nestled between the birth of rock and roll in the 50’s and the British Invasion in the mid 60’s, the time was ripe for wholesome pop music.
The play’s theme is transformation as talented singers, writers and producers vie for music success, leaving ordinary lives behind. Greenberg, powerfully played by Meeghan Holaway, produces pop songs with The Shirelles, four exceptionally talented African-American singers.
Their phenomenal success attracts producer Luther Dixon, remarkably portrayed by Allan Louis. As Luther and Florence work together, they fall in love. Two problems: Flo is married and she is white, while Luther is black. The play reminds us of the terrible prejudice that existed then against interracial couples. And on tour, the black members often stayed in substandard hotels because the better ones would not admit “colored folks.”
Social issues aside, though not forgotten, the play’s triumph is its music of almost forty hits. The incredible cast includes Erica Ash, Berlando Drake, Paulette Ivory and Crystal Starr Knighton as The Shirelles, and Geno Henderson, who plays three memorable roles.
The 2010 season will present diverse plays. Artistic Director Sheldon Epps says, “When I first got here (at the Playhouse), I was criticized for being all over the place, but now we are celebrated for it.”
The selections include:
January: A new rendering of the classic musical “Camelot,” with unforgettable lyrics and music by Lerner and Lowe.
February: Noel Coward’s comedy “Fallen Angels,” where two bored married women decide to have affairs.
April: A revival of the 1992 Obie Winner “Sight Unseen,” about how fame and fortune affect relationships.
June: A new musical, “Havana,” about an American woman who gets swept up by the steamy city and a lover.
September: The world premiere of “Pastoral,” where a Presbyterian pastor faces a dire dilemma when a person arrives from her dark past.
October: To Be Announced. Sheldon Epps usually leaves the last play of the season unannounced so he can watch for remarkable new plays.
Since 1925, the Pasadena Playhouse has been a significant jewel of Los Angeles theatre.
Don’t miss the current Playhouse hit, “Baby It’s You!” or the magnificent new season in 2010.
As Sheldon Epps says, “This is not just a movie town. It’s also a wonderful theater town.”
The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101. Box Office 626-356-7529.