In spite of a slow start on its opening night, “The Ballad of Baby Doe” hit the mark.
The latest production from the department of music and department of theater is an American folk opera about success, failure, love and faith. It is a story about one man’s boom-and-bust in America’s west.
“The Ballad of Baby Doe” is set around silver mines in Leadville, Colorado from about 1880 through the turn of the century. It’s a love story about Horace Tabor, a Colorado businessman and community leader who made his fortune in the late 1800s in Leadville’s silver mines. He and his first wife, Augusta, were well-respected for their hard work and generosity. Their immense success in the mines, coupled with their rise in station, led to friction at home, and Horace’s eye began to stray. Enter Elizabeth McCourt “Baby” Doe.
Bobby Akinboboye, Jenina Gallaway and Maria Elena Altany ably portray their individual characters, but they shine when they interact with each other.
Akinboboye portrays Horace Tabor, and his character’s joie de vivre while the money is rolling in will put a smile on anybody’s face. Conversely, his arguments with his first wife, portrayed by Gallaway, are painful to watch. And when “Baby” Doe, portrayed by Altany, enters Horace’s life, one can’t help but root for the two of them, despite the affair.
Fortunately, as well as the leading actors performed, the production did not have to rely solely on their talents to carry it through.
Augusta’s friends, a pack of gossipy, disapproving and simple-minded women are intolerably obnoxious. Horace’s friends, who disappeared when his money ran out, are insincere, fair-weather friends.
Love story and history lesson aside, “The Ballad of Baby Doe” could have been set in the year 2010. Horace Tabor’s financial ruin is the result of a bad decision. He was mortgaged to the hilt and bet that silver would continue to be king. When the value of silver collapsed, he lost everything.
Well, not everything. The love that Horace and “Baby” Doe have for each other is worth more than gold. It is the only bright spot in the second act, which gets progressively darker.
As clichéd as it sounds, “The Ballad of Baby Doe” is yet another reminder that love is the only thing that matters. Love may not put bread on the table or a roof above one’s head, but it makes life worth living.