Don’t let the title fool you. Expect to find yourself hysterical, possibly even howling, at the Long Island premiere of “Cry-Baby: The Musical,” a good girl-bad boy 1950s romance adapted from the John Waters 1990 cult movie about a teen rebel with a unique talent for shedding just a single tear.
But for audiences of the newest production at Oakdale’s Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center, which opens Saturday and runs through May 12, any drops rolling down faces, contends show director Patrick Grossman, will be from “laughing so hard.”
The gleefully campy musical created originally for the big screen by the “Hairspray” writer-director boasts a colorful assortment of characters. The charismatic hip-gyrating lead, delinquent Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker (Steven Cottonaro), and his tough gang “The Drapes” clash at a Baltimore high school with the pals of “square” boyfriend Baldwin (Matthew Paredi) of the liberated goody-two-shoes Allison Vernon-Williams (Gabrielle Farah).
Add a dizzying succession of full-out dance numbers, vintage doo-wop songs, bouffants, pompadours, ponytails and a period set with some 75 constantly moving components, and “Cry-Baby” is the perfect “escape from reality,” says Grossman, “where you can come in and don’t need to think.” The show is a perpetual jocular romp with fired-up choreography filled with flips, lifts and even tap dancing with license plates strapped to the actors’ shoes, as in the Act 2 showstopper “A Little Upset.”
For Grossman, the theater — specifically the Noel S. Ruiz Theatre — has served as his own escape, starting in elementary school when he would frequently help out behind the scenes. Now, 26 years later — after stints acting, stage managing, choreographing, set designing (which he still does) and directing — the Oakdale playhouse has become very much reality for the Sayville resident.
“I don’t think a lot of people get to imagine something from beginning to end and have it all come true, have it come to life,” he says, acknowledging the creative team on and behind the stage who work with him. “It is particularly exciting for me that since it’s the ‘Cry-Baby’ musical’s debut on Long Island, the majority of the audience will not have seen it. It gives us more leeway.”
The production’s extravagance takes its cue, in part, from over-the-top scenarios in its otherwise standard “star-crossed lovers” storyline. Allison and Cry-Baby, for example, find out they are both orphans: Each of her parents were killed in separate plane crashes, and his were executed as communist traitors (the inferred source of his tear duct blockage).
Despite Cry-Baby’s unjust lockup in the slammer and Allison’s brief return to priggish Baldwin, the show’s closing number strikes the requisite musical comedy note of optimism with “Nothing Bad’s Ever Gonna Happen Again.” While obviously enjoying his immersion in the 1950s sendup, Grossman muses, “Wish it could be that simple.”
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday, through May 12, The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale
INFO $18-$40; 631-218-2810, cmpac.com