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A CurtainUp Review
Baby Wants Candy

Zombie prom! Zombie prom! Everyone is dancing at the zombie prom!
I pride myself on being well-prepared for my reviews. Before a given show, I look at the details of the producing company, read through the press kit, and sometimes look through the script; during the performance, I'll take notes on the set, costumes, acting and directing. Understanding what goes into a production makes it much easier to review. Then a show like Baby Wants Candy comes along, and I throw up my hands, put away my notes and smile. For something like this, a totally improvised musical based upon a title shouted out from the audience, preparation is impossible. . .and probably not the point.

Of course, that's not entirely fair. Anyone who's ever improvised in music or on stage knows that the level of discipline and training involved in becoming good in the form is daunting. I emphasize good, because there are a lot of lousy improv groups out there (who, sadly, don't seem to realize it). Fortunately, the cast of Baby Loves Candy doesn't fit the lousy description. Each performer is both funny and talented, and the chemistry of the collective unit is exceptional. Beyond that, the enthusiasm of the group is contagious, and it's nice to see the actors having as much fun as the audience throughout.

Fun is indeed the name of the game here. If you're looking for plot consistency or deeper meanings, you're decidedly in the wrong place. When I first saw this show as part of the 2009 Fringe Festival, the musical was "A Scotsman in Thailand" and the resulting confusion of accents and heartfelt love songs between tourists and brothel owners was funny in part because of how ridiculous it all was. In this performance it's "Nuclear Zombie Terrorists," and the plot is about a woman who only wants her boyfriend to marry her before the zombies eat them both somehow merges with two high school survivors at their prom. This in turn interweaves with a forbidden human/zombie romance (the latter member of which sings a love song in zombie grunts and groans) . . .you get the idea. Humor, not logic, drives the show.

Since there's no lighting, costumes, or set to discuss (though the performance took place on a stage with a set from another show, which itself became part of this show's structure), the only thing which remains is the music, which is very good. The four piece band (and particularly the musical director Jody Shelton) has to constantly adjust to changing conditions, after all, and that requires as much improvisation among the musicians as the actors on stage. I'm sure they develop patterns over time, and they're not really doing everything from whole cloth, but still. . .when you have almost seventeen hundred musicals to your credit (it helps that every night is the opening and closing of the new show), there's only so many times you can play the same stuff. And the fact that the musicians obviously are having as much fun as the actors adds to the quality of their performance.

The nature of an improvisational show is its ebb and flow, and Baby Wants Candy is consequently a little uneven at times. It's not always uproariously funny, and occasionally the cast members go more for crude than clever. But on the whole this is a well-constructed concept, welll executed by a talented cast. I f you're in the mood for a lot of laughs and a lot of energy from a musical, you could do a lot worse than Baby Wants Candy. Where else can you find Will Smith singing about love at a zombie prom, and where else can a reviewer not have to worry about spoiling the plot by telling you about it? My suggestion: throw up your hands, put away your notes, and smile.

Baby Wants Candy
Cast (on the evening of the performance reviewed): Peter Gwinn, Jeff Hiller, Michael Kayne, Glennis McMurray, Nicole Parker, Mike Still
Band (on the evening of the performance reviewed): Jody Shelton (Musical Director / Piano), Steve Jabas (Guitar), Johnny Pisano (Bass), Al Veteri (Drums)
Running time: One hour
SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam St., (866) 811-4111
From 1/8/11 to 2/26/11- extended to 4/30/11; opening 1/8/11
Saturdays at 10 p.m.
Tickets: $12-$25
Reviewed by Dr. Gregory A. Wilson based on Jan. 10th performance
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