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Drapes vs. squares

John Waters' hit 'Cry-Baby' coming to Engle Lane

For hundreds of years, thespians have been coaxed by their directors and cohorts to not overact.

Next week in the William C. Schiffbauer Center for the Performing Arts, overacting will be the norm.

“That’s the style,” said Lostant’s Samantha Farb, the female lead of “Cry-Baby,” the musical that will open the 2018 season for Community Players of Streator, better known as Engle Lane.

“It’s kind of crude and over the top. Hopefully we can make it happen. It’s not funny unless you overact.”

“Cry-Baby” is a musical based on the 1990 John Waters film of the same name. Taking place in mid-1950s Baltimore, it concentrates on a rivalry between two factions — “drapes,” greasers from the wrong side of the tracks; and “squares,” clean-cut members of the city’s social upper crust.

The musical is somewhat of a cousin to “Hairspray,” another Waters movie-turned-play that was staged memorably by Engle Lane in 2012. Civil rights was the theme to “Hairspray” and “Cry-Baby” tackles a subject — juvenile delinquency — that created some hysteria six decades ago.

“Every generation has this. Everyone says ‘those damned kids,’ ” said Farb, who portrays Allison Vernon-Williams, a prominent square among Baltimore’s teen set.

Allison falls for Wade “Cry-Baby,” Walker the king of the drapes, played by Marco Gutierrez. The romance draws the ire of Allison’s boyfriend, Baldwin Blandish, played by Ottawa’s Nik Frig, who also is directing “Cry-Baby.”

“I jumped in to help out. We need all sorts of men to fill out our casts,” Frig said.

The division between the drapes and the squares coincides with the musical preferences of each factions.

While the squares prefer the squeaky-clean, white-bread doo-wop popular on the music charts of the time, the drapes dig rock ’n’ roll, the new music many feel goes hand in hand with the menace of juvenile delinquency.

Cry-Baby is a budding rock ’n’ roller while Baldwin leads the doo-wop group the Whiffles. The lure of playing a rock ’n’ roller appealed to Gutierrez.

“It was a chance to be an Elvis type of character, and I really love Elvis Presley,” the Spring Valley resident said. “It was something I thought I could do, but the audition really was spur of the moment.”

Frig said “Cry-Baby” is an improvement over its movie version, as well as the stage version of “Hairspray.”

“The movie jumped all over the place. This is more cohesive and easy to follow. It’s a lot funnier,” he explained.

Yet when it comes to the moral of each story, “Cry-Baby” and “Hairspray” are similar.

“It’s about acceptance. You have two sets of people. Even though they are very different you have to take those differences and accept who people are,” Frig said.

The over-the-top “Cry-Baby” attitude makes the play a delight, said Gardner’s Dawn Cardwell, making her Engle Lane debut. She plays Hatchet Face, the baddest of the drapes’ bad girls.

“I love the show and a friend told me about it. I felt I had to be a part of it,” she said.

How bad is Hatchet Face? She gets plastic surgery to improve her facial appearance, yet proclaims “Don’t worry, I’m still ugly inside.”

While the squares and their drapes have their battles, it’s Cry-Baby and Allison, representatives of two different groups, who fall in love.

Farb teaches music at Grand Ridge and Tonica grade schools, and has explained to her students that “Cry-Baby” in some ways resembles William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

Shakespeare might scratch his head if he watched “Cry-Baby.”

“It has a context that’s over the top you hope people are getting. You go enough over the top that people will recognize it’s a joke,” Frig said.

For Gutierrez, playing his first lead character both is challenging and intimidating. Yet he loves being part of a close-knit ensemble and looks forward to bringing “Cry-Baby” to the public.

And he accepts being called “Johnny Depp,” after the actor who played the title role in the screen version of “Cry-Baby.”

“A little bit. Mostly from my family. But it’s OK,” Gutierrez said.

The drapes would approve. And maybe even the squares.

“Go” Info

“CRY-BABY,” a Community Players of Streator musical, will be staged Sunday, May 13, through Saturday, May 19, in the William C. Schiffbauer Center for the Performing Arts at Engle Lane, 1012 Columbus Road, Streator.
PERFORMANCES WILL take place at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
TICKET INFORMATION is available by calling the center at 815-672-3584, or visiting

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