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Theatre Review (Ventura): Hello! My Baby by Cheri Steinkellner at the Rubicon Theatre

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If you are tired of shows with loud rockin’ scores with words you don’t understand, then Hello! My Baby, which just opened at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, might just be your cup of tea. Written by Tony nominee (Sister Act) and Emmy and Golden Globe winner (Cheers) Cheri Steinkellner, the show is a loving tribute to a great period of music–making in America between the late 1800s to the Depression, when sheet music was king. There were music publishers gathered in one area where people could come and try out their new songs. Tin Pan Alley referred to the cacophony of a whole bunch of pianos pounding out different tunes. People could buy the sheet music once it was published and take it home to play.

The story is simple: one Mickey McKee, the King of Song-Pluggers, dreams of writing the next big hit, but he can’t write a note. He meets a young girl, as ambitious as himself, who wants to write the music. The musical explores the ins and outs of their story and the stories of their neighbors. All is fine until the girl, Nellie, puts on trousers and calls herself Ned, the new King of the Pluggers.

Along the way they encounter society at the debutante level as well as Delancey Street, and must contend with class struggle, social reform, and gender politics as they try to find “THE SONG” and as they slowly come to the conclusion that they are made for each other.

The show stars Ciaran McCarthy as Mickey and Evie Hutton as his rival/lover. Veterans George Ball and George Wendt also make appearances along the way. There are winning performances from Kristine Zbornik and the scene-stealing Harley Jay.

The musical direction is by Lloyd Cooper. Lee Martino is the choreographer, Craig Safan is the orchestrator, Thomas S. Giamario designed the sets, and Jeremy Pivnick the lights. Marcy Froelich provides the costumes. Brian McDonald is the director of this a toe-tapping hum-along musical which is bound to please. However, it is the first fully staged professional staging of the show, representing only the first stage of a long developmental process.

The classic Tin Pan Alley-era songs include “Some of These Days,” “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” “You Made Me Love You,” and “Hello! My Baby.” Go see the and receive a huge batch of nostalgic fun.

Hello! My Baby will play at the Rubicon until April 15 and then it will transfer to the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.

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