It is almost eerily fitting that Baby It’s You should be playing at the Broadhurst Theatre. That places it opposite Rock of Ages(which, like Baby It’s You, is a jukebox musical) and next to Memphis (which, like Baby It’s You, is a story set in the early days of the pop business with a mixed-race love story at its center). A tribute to the power of synchronicity? Or an indictment of unimaginative Broadway producers? Feel free to take your pick. Baby It’s You relates the story of the Shirelles, the hugely successful early-’60s girl group whose hits included ”Dedicated to the One I Love,” ”Mama Said,” ”Soldier Boy,” and the strangely-absent-from-these proceedings ”Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”
However, the musical’s emotional center is Beth Leavel’s Florence Greenberg, the New Jersey housewife who fled her life of stifling domesticity to manage the quartet while forming a partnership (in more ways than one) with songwriter and producer Luther Dixon (played here by Allan Louis).
The subjects of race, female empowerment, and the fleeting nature of fame are all touched upon, but often glancingly, and fleshed-out characters are thin on the ground. ”There is the music and there is the business,” Greenberg informs her charges early on. ”You take care of the music and I will take care of the business.” That division of labor is somewhat echoed in the structure of the book, by Million Dollar Quartet coauthors Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott. Baby It’s You gives Leavel, Tony winner for The Drowsy Chaperone, a platform for both her vocal and her dramatic talents.
On the other hand, the quartet playing the Shirelles (Christina Sajous, Crystal Starr Knighton, Erica Ash, Kyra Da Costa) are given little to do but capably sing and dance their way through the group’s repertoire while breaking a succession of costume-change land-speed records. But there is never any doubt that the main attractions here ARE the hits — this is a jukebox musical so unashamed about its nature that it starts with the projected image of an actual jukebox. And certainly there is no shortage of recognizable tunes with such non-Shirelles material as ”Walk On By,” ”Louie, Louie,” and ”The Dark End of the Street” also featuring for reasons that are believable, or at the very least not all that irritating. If you are looking for a night out that is easy on the ear and the brain, then, baby, Baby It’s You is for you. B-
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)