Kiki Baby, a new musical by Lonny Price, Grant Sturiale, and Kitt Lavoie now at Theatre at St. Clement's, abounds with whimsical charm as it tells the story of its precocious title character.
The show -- which is based on the 1947 novel Sing, Brat, Sing -- is narrated by Kiki (Jenn Collela) who was catapulted into the spotlight at just four years of age, and is now writing her memoirs and looking back on her fifteen minutes of fame. Colella glows in the role, instantly endearing us to her as she flits about onstage. Even as she becomes a baby diva and treats those around her as pawns for her amusement, we can't help but smile even as we cringe.
The show opens with Kiki's mom, Christine (Jill Paice) losing her job as a seamstress in Europe when she's unable to meet the unreasonable demands of her boss, Markus (Eric Leviton). There's a tender moment when Christine reassures her daughter that everything will be fine, and then with an amazing stroke of luck, an impresario, who's in the building to audition an older singer, Marina (Jennifer Laura Thompson), hears Kiki singing along through the floorboards and is struck by her angelic voice.
It's a short road to fame from there, and the four-year-old quickly establishes an entourage of adults who go to great lengths to keep her happy. The act two opener, "Peep Peep Peep," encapsulates this insanity in musical snippets as it displays a series of humiliating routines to which the adults subject themselves.
Price and company paint a comically vicious portrait of how the show business machine can be all consuming, which is juxtaposed nicely with Kiki's undeniable charm. Her father, Maladin (Louis Hobson), upon returning after building a life in America for his family, finds a daughter he doesn't recognize and is the only catalyst for change in her life, underscoring just how easy it is to lose perspective under the seductive glow of the spotlight.
-- Chris Kompanek