“Babies the Musical” at The Other Palace

Mark Shenton in the West End
17 June 2024

Musicals about teenagers are all the rage right now. The Outsiders, based on a novel that was also turned into a 1983 film about rival gangs of warring teenagers in 1960s Oklahoma, has just won this year’s Tony Award for Best Musical. Meanwhile in London Mean Girls has arrived after a Broadway run from 2018 to 2020 (when it was wiped out by the arrival of Covid), and Heathers has just returned to the West End for a run at @sohoplace.


Photo credit: Matt Crockett.


And that show’s original London home The Other Palace is now hosting Babies, billed as “a newborn musical” about a group of teenagers who are learning some parenting skills by being assigned robot baby dolls to look after in pairs for a fortnight. (There’s nothing mechanical to the dolls actually employed to represent them, though, which slightly undermines the realism of how the kids are supposed to be tending to them.)

It’s a slim premise for a musical, to be honest, but Martha Geelan’s book provides a series of sketches to embed Jack Godfrey’s instantly catchy and approachable pop songs within. There’s not really much in the way of character development or plot, but Geelan, who also directs, provides a brightly vivacious, propulsive production that keeps it moving seamlessly, on a perfunctory climbing frame of a set by Jasmine Swan (who also designed the more realistic costumes).

Though the show could do with more heft, it has an engaging freshness and polish, most of it supplied by the youthful cast, at least half of whom are making their professional debuts in this production.

And as a lesson in parenting, the show’s producers have shown an admirable commitment to helping their child grow from its early origins as a prize winner at the BYMY New Musical Award in February 2021. A development workshop a year later resulted in a much-streamed EP release of four of its songs (now up to over 100,000 streams, with a video reel reaching over 3 million views), before an initial showcase of the full show another year later, in April 2023. In June that year, songs were performed on the stage of West End Live in Trafalgar Square, and then a full concert version was presented for a few nights at the Lyric on Shaftesbury Avenue.

This is how a new show should be grown and developed, one stage at a time. But I’m not sure it has reached its full maturity quite yet with this production, though there’s plenty to like already.

Younger members of its potential audience may also find it more relatable than I did. In an era in which Six has become a huge hit, there’s plenty of room for shows that appeal to a more youthful demographic than usual (though Six is undoubtedly a lot slicker). For my own taste and generation, though, I much prefer Baby, an underrated 1983 Broadway musical by the brilliant songwriting team of David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr. about three sets of new parents going through actually having kids.

But Babies does at least serve one important purpose. It affords, like Heathers does, the chance to showcase the next generation of new young musical theatre actors. One of them is Bradley Riches, who I first saw stealing the show from a starry transatlantic cast in 2016, before going on to star in the Netflix series Heartstopper, and here he has an easy provocative confidence as a gay teen. Another standout is Lucy Carter, who I saw in the title role of Jane Eyre while she was training at the Royal Academy. But truly, the entire cast excels.