Pictured Above: Cry-Baby (Ghana Haase) and Allison (Raven Janoski) sing a song for the gang. |. Ernesto Sosa photo for NFCT

Rock and roll voices are something unique. They croon and growl, howl and whisper, and can serve as a time machine to the early post-war freedoms that we could now view as nostalgia and kitsch.

“Delightful” is not a word you often hear in conjunction with the work of John Waters, but the North Fork Community Theatre’s new production of “Cry-Baby,” Waters’ raunchy and absurd musical send-up of rock musicals is just that.

Its well-chosen cast loves their roles, and by opening night they were already deeply ensconced in the lives of their characters, in the hands of veteran NFCT Director Bob Kaplan.

Ghana Haase, who made his NFCT debut in this summer’s Youth On Stage production of “Rent,” steals this show in the lead as Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker, with his great vocal chops, sly comedic timing and rock ’n roll bravado.

Cry-Baby, given his nickname because he’s an orphan who cried when his pacifist parents were sent to the electric chair after being framed for bombing a factory, is the head of a gang of Baltimore misfits in leather jackets who like to poke and prod the Straights, who go about town in letter jackets doing such things as holding anti-polio picnics and dedications of members-only bomb shelters at country clubs.

Deanna Andes’ costume designs are spot on, and the versatile yet simple set by Bill Weresnick and Bob Kaplan gives the actors room to move and platforms from which to pontificate.

Baldwin (Peter Peterson) and Lenore (Camryn Trant) twist the plot. |. Ernesto Sosa photo for NFCT

Raven Janoski is lovely in her role as Allison, a square girl who is also an orphan who falls for Cry-Baby, giggling and mischievous as she slips away from yet another absurd Straight celebration to the gang’s hangout, Turkey Point.

The audience is transported at Turkey Point to a bizarre dreamworld, plopped into an open mike, with milk crates for stools against a graffitied wall, where zany and insane Lenore, played with aplomb by Mattituck High School senior Camryn Trant, performs the song “Screw Loose,” which is about more than just Lenore’s bizarre take on the world.

Three female gang members immediately take Allison under their wings, helping give her a sinister makeover. Veronica Spaeth as Mona “Hatchet-Face” Malnorowski is great as the ringleader of this boisterous gang, along with Lea Kerensky as Pepper and Britteny Gilliam as Wanda.

This absurdity culminates in Cry-Baby taking Allison to his secret spot, where they watch the stars and dream of their futures and Cry-Baby sings the show-stopping and um, unforgettable number, “Girl Can I Kiss You with Tongue?” 

Back in Straight-land, Allison’s grandmother, played tenderly but forcefully by Eileen Trilli, and gee wiz too-good-do-gooder Baldwin, played to the nines by Peter Peterson (who, incidentally, also served as the show’s combat coordinator), are engaged in parallel trajectories to get Allison to come back. And when these worlds collide, you can be promised pyrotechnics. 

The gang doing time in the Baltimore jail.  |   Ernesto Sosa photo for NFCT
The gang doing time in the Baltimore jail. | Ernesto Sosa photo for NFCT

The cast and chorus of this production are blessed with fine vocal chops, and they all were in fine form on opening night — the air was abuzz with their songs. 

A live pit orchestra has often been a hallmark of NFCT musicals, and that’s one thing this production lacks that could have been of great benefit to the actors and the audience. There’s nothing like the clean sound of early electric guitars or the swell of a classic Hammond organ to make this style of music pop. There are plenty of local musicians out there who would love to test their chops on the score for a play. Times are tight for all working musicians, and this is a big ask for a volunteer theater company to make, but we hope more of these musicians make a home for themselves at the North Fork Community Theatre in the years ahead.

“Cry-Baby” runs Thursdays through Sundays at the North Fork Community Theater, 12700 Old Sound Avenue, Mattituck, through Nov. 6, with performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and are available online at nfct.com or by calling 631.298.6328.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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