NYMF 2011 Review #4: Kiki Baby

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    I want all the dolls in the world.

    Yes, I will give you all that, and I'm sure it won't make
    you spoiled at all.

                 STROKE-RIDDEN GRANDMA

    I want unlimited candy.

    Sure, my four year old daughter, I shall raise you with
    no preceived boundaries.

                 STROKE-RIDDEN GRANDMA

    Grandma what are you doing?

                 STROKE-RIDDEN GRANDMA
    I have the sort of stroke that causes omnious-foreshadowing
    moans when poor parenting choices are made.
Having a chat with NYMF's Isaac Hurwitz after yesterday's performance of Kiki Baby, I was surprised to learn that the show has been kicking around for almost a decade.  Perhaps it explains why the show is in such good shape, or why a concept that may have been unusual back then seems totally palpable just a few years later. 

The story: Four-Year-Old Kiki's mother is a European seamstress unable to make ends meet, her father is off in America looking for a new life and business, and her grandmother is a mute stroke victim.  An impersario hears young Kiki singing and decides to make the child a star, giving her everything she wants, and co-opting the building's tennants as her entourage of chefs, bodyguards, voice teachers, music directors, etc.  At the end of Act 1 Kiki's father returns to Europe with a new life ready for the family in America, only to find his daughter a spoiled celebrity brat.

This could have been cloying had it been set in modern day Texas instead of the early 1900s, or had Jenn Collela not been so fantastic at playing an adorable 4-year-old (sans winking).  The book is probably the strongest part of the show but most of the songs are pretty entertaining as well, even if a few too many of them are just variations of explaining how spoiled Kiki is.  Lonny Price's direction is as solid and natural here as it ever was, and in tow is a top-notch cast who is able to embody a menagerie of unique and entertaining characters that don't get lost in the shuffle.

When your critiques become particularly specific, you know that they matter less and less.  And I have only two of them.  The first is that the character of the Father comes in particuarlly out-of-nowhere halfway through, when at least I wasn't entirely positive whether he even existed.  This could be easily solved by having his presence earlier in, perhaps via singing telegrams or some theatrical trope like that.  The second is the character of Grandma who literally sits around as a silent plot device, aside from her subtext-highlighting wails whenever somebody says something that's a bad idea.  Her other use is as a pawn in Mother's decision that Kiki should stop performing, which would have been achieved enough just by Mother seeing the slutty songs that comprise her daughter's performance.

Either way, thanks to a great story and a phenomenal performance by Jenn Collela, Kiki Baby is charming enough to take over some off-Broadway theater with only the most minor of enhancements.

1 Comment

Kiki Baby has actually been around for more than a decade--it was first mentioned on PBOL in 2000 (under the title Entourage), at which point it had already had a few readings.


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