Encore Michigan

‘Be My Baby’ at Tibbits is old-school romance

Review June 27, 2019 Bridgette Redman

COLDWATER, Mich.–In the days before everyone owned a television or computer and movies could be watched from home with a couple clicks of a button, you went to live theater to watch romantic comedies.

It was a period in which playwrights such as Neil Simon thrived and became a role model for more modern playwrights such as Ken Ludwig, a writer of farces such as Lend Me a Tenor and Leading Ladies.

Even as the new millennium dawned and theater began to grow out of that conventional structure, acknowledging that movies could do it better as they wouldn’t force audiences to sit through 27 blackouts as stage hands changed the set pieces, some of these traditional shows continued to be created.

Thus it is with Ludwig’s Be My Baby, which premiered in 2005 and is now playing at Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater.

It’s the type of play that held an appeal for a long time. Boy and girl meet—hate each other, and then…well, let’s not spoil the obvious.

Be My Baby opens with two women on the road to a manse in Scotland. Gloria Nance (Bailey Kote) is on her way to her wedding to Christy McCall (Max Gonzalez). She’s accompanied by her aunt, Maud Kinch (Gloria Logan), who disapproves of her marrying so young and disapproves even more so of the man who raised Christy, John Campbell (Matthew C. Scott) whom she finds rude and obnoxious.

Soon, John and Maud are thrown on an overseas trip together despite the way they mutually despise each other and are brought together over their mutual devotion to the infant they must care for through delays that keep them from taking her back home to Scotland.

Charming family fare

It’s a sweet and charming show with plenty of laughs. The cast adeptly handles the Scottish and British accents, though they become less strong as the play waxes on. It’s a great deal of fun to watch the sparks fly between Logan and Scott who are both fine actors who play up their irascibility to such a degree that the audience becomes enchanted when they have their vulnerable moments.

They are perfect contrasts to the younger couple whose relationship is all physical and soon sours. Kote’s Gloria is brightly energetic and completely self-absorbed, while Gonzalez gives Christy a somewhat sad, dignified air.

Rounding out the cast are Chad Talion and Harli Cooper who play all the other roles from cook to waiter to room service attendant to judge. They do a fantastic job of differentiating each character and providing comic moments throughout the show.

Director Charles Burr does his best to keep the scene changes quick. Scenic Designer Rachel Lucas created mostly simple sets that could be flown in and out. Scotland had a mere postcard backdrop while the hotel in San Francisco was detailed with doors and furniture. Together they tried to keep things moving, but with 20+ scene changes, there was no way to make the show short.

Burr also made the choice to set it in the early 1960s, a choice that makes a lot of sense given the context of the play. Samuel French claims the play is set present day, but it would not work as well in an age with the Internet and cell phones. It felt perfectly appropriate for the 1960s.

It also doesn’t help that Ludwig himself included far more scenes than were necessary to tell the story or make the relationships work. Theater by its nature telescopes things, it makes things happen faster than they do in real life—or even in the movies. Be My Baby doesn’t really attempt anything theatrical when it comes to the passing of time, making it a longer show than it needs to be to tell the story it is telling.

However, for those who enjoy the conventional comedies of days gone by, Ken Ludwig’s Be My Baby fills the bill and Tibbits does the show justice.

Week of 2/6/2023

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