It’s a classic Hollywood story - the bad boy and the nice girls who want to date him - and it’s just as alluring today as it ever was.
In 1990, director John Waters took a big risk in making “Cry-Baby,” a musical film that starred Johnny Depp as a 1950s teen rebel. The La Jolla Playhouse is currently staging the Broadway-bound world premiere musical adaptation of Waters’ cult classic film.
With a book by Tony Award winners Mark O’Donnell (“Hairspray”) and Thomas Meehan (“Hairspray,” “The Producers”), the story is set in 1954 Baltimore at the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll. As directed by Mark Brokaw (Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “How I Learned to
Drive”), the play unveils a not-so-typical version of “bad boy meets good girl.” Brokaw considers “Cry-Baby” a “celebration of nonconformity” and Waters the creative godfather of the project.
“Waters is so practical about the work, he’s really great to have as a touchstone,” Brokaw said.
The cast includes Elizabeth Stanley (“Company,” “Aida,” “Noises Off!”) as the naive good girl Allison Vernon Williams. James Snyder (“Rock of Ages,” “Happy Days,” “Hamlet”) takes on the title role of the King of the Drapes, Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker, and will make his Broadway debut in 2008 in the same role.
Laughs typical of Waters’ creations ensue as Allison is tempted by Wade and, like most teenagers, ignores the warnings offered by older, wiser people in the town. The new stage adaptation has both similarities and differences from the movie.
“It has the same general theme,” said Stanley, who started playing piano at age 7 and majored in voice and earned a theater degree from Indiana University. “It’s loosely based on class and the Romeo-and-Juliet (type of) star-crossed lovers, but it’s not as cliche as the movie.”
Stanley, who played oboe, tuba and alto saxophone throughout her performance in “Company,” noted the stage version of “Cry-Baby” has different music than the film, with lyrics and music by Emmy Award-winner David Javerbaum (“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”) and Grammy Award-nominee Adam Schlesinger of the pop group Fountains of Wayne.
“This is a stellar creative team and cast and I couldn’t be happier welcoming them into my new home,” said newly appointed Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley. “John Waters is one of my absolute heroes. He’s outrageous. He’s funny. He has become an icon of popular culture, and I’m delighted to have ‘Cry-Baby’ at the theatre.”
Fun is the major component in the show, Stanley said.
“Everything about it makes you laugh,” she said. “Many of the play-goers will enjoy the decor set in the 50s, and it’s sure to bring back some wonderful memories. When I described my dress to my mother, she said, ‘I had a dress like that.’ ”
Probably the best summation of the show can be found in the man who originally created it, John Waters. “Cry-Baby” embraces themes of sexual repression, wayward youth, cool juvenile delinquent music and joyous, bizarre rejects who will warm your heart in the end.
“Cry-Baby” is playing now at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Theatre through Dec. 16. Call (858) 550-1010 or visit lajollaplayhouse.com for more information or tickets.