Valley actor D. Scott Withers isn’t a father in real life, but says that hasn’t been a problem in tackling the role of a 40-something father of three in a musical titled “Baby” opening July 22 at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria. Like all actors, Withers has done plenty of things onstage that he’s never done in real life.
He’s quick to point out that despite the musical’s appeal to parents or those expecting a child, it’s really a work about relationships. “The baby,” he says, “just puts a magnifying glass on them.” Seems his couple, the oldest of the three, experiences an unexpected pregnancy just as they’re preparing for life in the “empty nest.” One is thrilled, but the other — not so much, really.
The youngest expectant parents in “Baby” are college students. Another couple deals with infertility. “Parents will recognize these relationships,” says Withers. But plenty of folks without kids love the work for other reasons. Withers describes “Baby” as a cult favorite among musical theater lovers.
“The music,” says Withers, “is fantastic.” Think catchy, upbeat numbers and beautiful ballads. Just ask my daughter Lizabeth, who knows to crank up the volume every time the SiriusXM Broadway channel plays “The Story Goes On.”
Still, Withers says it’s “not a dance show.” Instead, it’s a “character driven” musical with a small cast. All the more reason to rejoice that seasoned actors like Withers are involved. Withers is a longtime “associate artist” with Childsplay in Tempe whose other plans this season include directing “The Music Man” and performing in “Gypsy.”
“Baby” features book by Sybille Pearson, music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. It was performed on Broadway in 1983 and 1984. Withers’ preference for the music over the writing is shared by several who’ve reviewed the work.
It’s infrequently performed in these parts (Withers recalls a Theater Works production from a decade or so ago), meaning that those who worship at the altar of musical theater will want to make the pilgrimage to Peoria for this production. For all its charms, “Baby” is a show that’s unlikely to come around again anytime soon.
After years of watching Withers perform in Childsplay shows like “Go, Dog. Go!” and “A Year With Frog and Toad,” I’m eager to witness his work with more mature fare. If his “Alan” in “Baby” is even half as engaging as his “Edna” in “Hairspray,” Valley audiences are in for a real treat.
Coming up: Performing arts “sneak peek” events, Childsplay’s 2011/12 season, Parenting meets performing arts, From book to stage, Girl power!