by Molly Gilmore
“Baby,” Broadway Olympia’s first musical since the pandemic began, is about three couples facing unexpected pregnancies. Despite the title, the show’s focus is not on the babies but on the expectant mothers and how the big news causes them to reexamine their lives and relationships.
TWO NEW PERFORMANCES ADDED: 7:30 p.m. March 10, and 2 p.m. March 11.
“The men have stories, but it’s primarily about the women and how they figure out how they’re going to handle these situations,” said director Kathy Dorgan, well-known from her years teaching drama at Olympia High School and directing Creative Theatre Experience. “I really wanted to do something that focused on women.
“The show is pretty darn powerful,” she told Oly Arts. “It’s also funny, and the music is beautiful.” The 1983 musical — by David Shire, Richard Maltby Jr. and Sybille Pearson — follows three couples, Alan (Bruce Haasl) and Arlene (Heather Christopher), whose youngest child is in college; Pam (Carolyn Fry) and Nick (Brett Hartman), 30 somethings who’ve struggled with infertility; and Lizzie (Kate Anders) and Danny (Kameron Bustetter), college students who just moved in together.
“I love the show so much,” Fry said. “It’s a really lovely exploration of three of many, many pathways to parenthood, which is such a personal journey for everyone. There are so many scenes that are relatable for so many people regardless of their circumstances.
“Because the show came out in the ’80s, sometimes people think it’s a little dated,” she told OLY ARTS. “But the themes are still so relevant. There’s a female anthem that we sing toward the beginning of the show called ‘I Want It All.’ It’s about these women wanting to have a really full life experience and not just be a mother or just be a working professional. … I don’t think we’ve solved that as much as we think we have. It’s been a challenge to figure out ‘What does my identity look like?’ and ‘How can I really have it all?’ ”
What has changed since the play’s debut is the defeat of Roe v. Wade. “It was written when women had choices about whether or not they wanted to have babies and be pregnant,” Dorgan said, adding that that was part of what she found appealing about the show.
Material from Planned Parenthood will be available at the theater.
“This show has been on my radar for a long time,” the director said. “I feel like I’ve known about it forever. I’m super nerdy about theater, so if I read about a show that seems interesting, I will find versions of it. It stuck with me.”
“Baby” has stuck with Fry, too. The University of Oklahoma produced it while she was a student in musical theater. “I wasn’t part of the production,” she said, “but I just fell in love with the show and specifically the character of Pam. Ever since then, I’ve been hoping I would get to play this part. … She has this beautiful neuroticism that I can really relate to. She feels on a big level and loves on a big level.”
The two talked about “Baby” in the summer, and Dorgan, now retired from both Olympia High School and CTE, got even more excited about directing it. It was Dorgan’s enthusiasm that drew Broadway Olympia managing director Kyle Murphy to the project. “I was mostly interested in working with Kathy,” he said. “The material was secondary. I have been fortunate enough to work with some great directors who had a high degree of passion for the shows they were working on, and it’s always translated into really impactful works of art.”
Murphy said he knows a lot of people who’ve been inspired by Dorgan — including his sister, Christie Oldright, who has acted professionally, and graduated from Olympia High School. in 2004. “She did every show all four years that she was there, and she also came back when she graduated from college and musically directed ‘Damn Yankees’ in 2011,” Dorgan said. “It’s the coolest thing in the world to see her all grown up and doing this incredibly fine work.
“We’ve got a great cast,” she said. That includes the six leads plus an ensemble — Sophie Bustetter, Nicole Galyean, Brian Graff, Robert Kam and Anne Tracy — and pianist Dave Lane.
8 p.m. Feb. 17, 18, 24 and 25 and March 2-4 and March 10; and 2 p.m. Feb. 19 and 26 and March 5 and March 11
Broadway Olympia Productions’ Black Box Theater, 625 Black Lake Blvd., Olympia
$25, $15 for students