by Beki Pineda

CRY-BABY THE MUSICAL — Book by Thomas Meehan and Mark O’Donnell; Music and Lyrics by Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum; Directed by Deb Flomberg-Rollins. Produced by Equinox Theatre Company (Presented at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, Denver) through August 18. Tickets available at 303-477-5977 or equinoxtheatredenver.com.

You have to give a pat on the back to Equinox Theatre Company under the leadership of Deb Flomberg-Rollins and Colin Roybal. They decided early on what kind of theatre they wanted to present and never looked back. In their tenth season, it is obvious that this plan has paid off for them. The last three times I have attended their productions, their large house has been nearly filled with people clearly having fun and familiar with the company.

Their unique niche is in presenting cult favorites and edgy musicals (EVIL DEAD, SILENCE THE MUSICAL, DISASTER to name a few). They have honed the tongue-in-cheek playful attitude that enhances these over-the-top scripts. Additionally they provide an outlet for accomplished experienced ensemble players to step out of the line and take an occasional lead. They also specialize in serving as a portal for young players to access the Denver theatre community. They have built a team of musicians, technical support personnel and directors that work well together. Like Charlie Sheen, they are “winning.”

CRY-BABY, their current show, is charming, extremely funny and faithful to the source material – the John Waters movie upon which it was based. The pretty cheerleader, Allison, and the drop out loser known as Crybaby are immediately attracted to one another (“I’m Infected”). Their peers – the Drapes and the Whiffles – try to keep them “in their own place” but true love must prevail. It is musical comedy after all. By the time they get to “Nothing Bad’s Ever Gonna Happen Again,” the problems have been resolved and the lovers are reunited.

The team that put this show together took Plot #14 from the Book of Basic Plots and made a whole new giggle-worthy vehicle. Thomas Meehan wrote the book for ANNIE, THE PRODUCERS (with Mel Brooks), and HAIRSPRAY with co-writer Mark O’Donnell. Meehan has won three Tony’s and O’Donnell has been on the staff for Saturday Night Live. Musicians Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum created the tuneful music and clever lyrics that make this show so delightful. Schlesinger has written for movies and TV and is the bassist for three rock groups while Javerbaum has won thirteen Emmy’s for his TV work, writes for the Jon Stewart show and recently wrote THE ACT OF GOD which played at the Garner Galleria Theatre last year. You put these four talents together in a room with a piano and a typewriter and you’ve got a hit. CRY-BABY was nominated for five Tony’s and won for Best Choreography. Equinox brought it to Denver for its local premiere.

Some highlights: They have created the most clever “Turn Off Your Phone//Our Next Show Is . . . ” preshow announcement I’ve ever seen. What a great way to start the evening! There are hundreds of examples of cleverness in the rhymes of the lyrics that encourage chuckles all the way through. One example from a song:  Crybaby sings “They fail ya and jail  ya; they got ya by the genitalia.” This innocent crudeness prevails all the way through. Probably not suitable for young kids but anyone over 14 will get a kick out of (or be slightly shocked by) the humor. The choreography – while fairly simple – is well executed and adds to the fun.

The leads – Chris Arneson as Crybaby and Holly Joyce Dalton as Allison – are shining examples of the Bad Boy and the Good Girl. Preston Adams as Dupree, Crybaby’s best friend and brilliant singer rocks out on “Jukebox Jamboree” and then brings it back in the second act as “Jailyard Jamboree.” Jordan Manchego stepped out of the ensemble to become a very handsome judge. But little Robin Zavala darn near steals the show as Lenora Frigid who throws herself into a whole new level of crazy fandom for Crybaby. She’s convinced she is the only girl for him and that he is crazy for her. Poor pitiful child!

This one is a winner in its silliness, raunchy humor, and clever lyrics. Move Over, Book of Mormon – make room for CRY-BABY.

A WOW factor of 9!!