Arundel Barn Playhouse Presents Energetic And Exuberant “Babes In Hollywood.”
If ever a song-and-dance film perfectly portrayed youthful energy and exuberance, it’s “Babes In Arms,” MGM’s classic and melodic 1939 movie starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. The duo’s dazzling on screen chemistry in “Babes” led to a series of highly tuneful Hollywood movies starring the pair, and MGM hired Tin Pan Alley’s top songwriters and lyricists to compose some of the 20th centuries most popular scores.
Some of the most memorable songs associated with Garland and Rooney were recently packaged as “Babes in Hollywood,” a four-actor “jukebox musical” that seems destined to become a perennial staple of straw-hat summer theatre.
Arundel Barn Playhouse has mounted a topnotch professional production of “Babes in Hollywood” to open its eleventh season. Producing artistic director Adrienne Wilson Grant is presenting a new England premiere - and it’s defiantly one of Southern Maine’s must see shows.
David Grapes bundled more than three-dozen songs with a connective narrative thread that adds a bit of biographical background and cultural context. He has succeeded in shaping “Babes in Hollywood” into a coherent story that spans two lifetimes wrapped into one wonderfully engaging evening of musical theatre.
Garland was born in 1922 and died of an overdose of barbiturates in 1969, near the height of her career. Rooney was born in 1920 and is still living, he performed into he late 1990’s, when Arundel’s stage director, Karen Babcock, appeared with him in the national tour of “Wizard of Oz.” Nearing 80, Rooney still exudes charisma and charm that Babcock cites as inspiration for her work in directing “Babes in Hollywood.”
Four extremely appealing young singing actors represent Garland and Rooney. Katie Mulholland and Billy Marshall take the brightest roles of Young Judy and Young Mickey, while Rebecca Cesario and Daniel Fenaughty portray the pair as a bit older and more somber.
But Arundel’s production de-emphasizes the young-old dichotomy. Cesario and Fenaughty are still in their 20’s, and the four often appear together in big upbeat ensemble numbers. Perhaps the most memorable is a segment of boisterously joyful songs about clowns.
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