MANSFIELD - Now playing at the MMAS Black Box Theatre, "Baby: A Musical Adventure" is just that - an entertaining adventure into the throes of parenthood with fun, bouncing music and lyrics and lively performances.
Written by Sybille Pearson with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr and David Shire, "Baby" is more than just about having a baby. It is about relationships, new discoveries and making choices.
The first couple is a dewy-eyed pair of young lovers named Danny and Lizzie who have just moved in together with all of life in front of them. Theirs is a difficult choice but as Danny sings "I know I Chose Right," they are in for a wonderful adventure. Joseph Arsenault and Kristen Quartarone bring to the roles a true sense of young love with all its optimism, sweetness and chemistry. And it probably doesn't hurt that they are also a couple off stage.
Their journey is reflected in songs such as "What Could Be Better?" and "Two People In Love," and in their genuine performances. Quartarone also has a great time with "The Ladies Singing Their Song" in the second act as she begins to show she is with child. The lyrics are clever and the performance with the cast of women is instinctively well done with some great harmony as Lizzie describes the effect her pregnancy has on other women.
The second couple in "Baby," Nick and Pam, are also young but married, and have been trying to conceive for a long time. In one of the more poignant moments in the play they learn that expectation is a false alarm. Theirs is an adventure of infertility and the sometimes amusing steps they must take to try and conceive. Performances by Jeff Mahoney as Nick and Jennifer Mischley as Pam are humorous while the frustration of their situation is clear. Mahoney demonstrates a lot of talent not only as a singer but a comedian as well, as his character Nick tries to maintain his sense of humor. Their story is captured in three duets: "Romance I, II and III,"
performed with good vocals and some interesting choreography for Mischley. Kudos to them both.
Last but not least, there is the third couple, Alan and Arlene, both in their 40s with children who have left the nest. Arlene is particularly looking forward to returning to just the two of them when she learns she is expecting again. Theirs is a journey of angst as they face refeathering their empty nest. Portrayed by off-stage married couple Rob Canfield and Laura Rotondo Canfield, there is a sense of realism that enhances their performances on stage. Laura Canfield has one of the best soprano vocals ever heard on a live stage. Her song "Patterns," an emotional performance, demonstrates her great vocal skills and her maturity. The mature love between Alan and Arlene is a good juxtaposition to the young love between Lizzie and Danny, and the Canfields' performance of "And What If We Had Loved Like That?" is a beautiful reflection of a love that has withstood time.
The couples interact with each other on stage as well as a very talented ensemble, and one of the most outstanding numbers is "Fatherhood" performed by the expectant fathers along with Rick Shaughnessy as Dean Webber and Bill Eggers as Professor Weiss. A kind of rock 'n' roll number, the differences in age between new father-to-be Danny (Arsenault) and Alan (Canfield) is played out in the great choreography by Kayla Armstrong. Pam, Lizzie, and Arlene also have a moment together with the song "I Want It All," each demonstrating their great vocal talents. Though the women far surpass the men in vocals, "Fatherhood" is definitely the best overall performance.
I would be remiss if I did not tip my hat to Director Meg Quin Dussault as Woman No. 4, pregnant with triplets her actions and facial reactions during her minor appearances on stage are hysterical, as is Joe Casey as the Doctor.
If you're thinking of having a baby, are expecting your first, or even if you've never had one, you'll enjoy this little known and entertaining production.
"Baby: A Musical Adventure" continues through this weekend in MMAS's Black Box Theater, 30 Crocker St., Mansfield. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. July 23, 24 and 25. The show is not recommended for children under the age of 13. Tickets are $21 general, $20 MMAS members and seniors, $19 students. Visit www.mmas.org or call 508-339-2822.