Book: Ken Ludwig
Music: George Gershwin
Lyrics: Ira Gershwin
Director: Paul Hart
Reviewer: Clare White
Dazzling romantic comedy Crazy For You started life over 80 years ago as a musical called Crazy Girl, the last by the acclaimed song writing team the Gershwin brothers. It was reworked in the 1990s by Ken Ludwig, incorporating more of the duo’s timeless classics and renamed Crazy For You.
It’s a familiar tale of boy-meets-girl – in this case, the boy is Bobby, a lovable New Yorker who is forced to work in his overbearing mother’s bank, but desperately craves the showbiz spotlight. He’s sent to sleepy Dead Rock in Nevada to collect the debts of a rundown theatre before it closes, where he meets beautiful Polly, the theatre owner’s feisty daughter. Bobby seizes the opportunity to dust off his tap shoes, save the theatre and win Polly’s heart. However, the course of true love never did run smooth, and mistaken identities, frothy farce and the small issue of Irene, Bobby’s glamorous girlfriend means craziness ensues.
The narrative is, well, quite crazy, and the characters lack any real depth. However, Watermill Theatre’s production, under the direction of Paul Hart, is packed full of feel-good razzamatazz and 1930s glamour. From I Got Rhythm to Nice Work If You Can Get It and Someone To Watch Over Me, the Gershwin brother’s score is magical; Nathan Wright’s sharp choreography fuses the best of the golden age of Hollywood and Vaudeville; and the talented cast work hard to squeeze every ounce of comedy and joy out of the flimsy storyline.
Actor and Strictly Come Dancing champion 2008, Tom Chambers is fabulous as Bobby – a clumsy clown with good intentions. Chambers is the epitome of showmanship; he’s charismatic, confident, comedically spot on and has more than just a touch of Fred Astaire about him. In what must be a physically demanding role, every move appears effortless and he is a delight to watch.
Equally good is Charlotte Wakefield. As Polly, she matches Chambers’ dance skills and steals the show with her rich vocals. TV presenter and fellow Strictly winner Caroline Flack completes the top billing, starring as Irene in her musical theatre debut. She really impresses, despite what turns out to be limited stage time, and has a fine singing voice. It’s a shame, however that her dance talents aren’t used more.
The supporting cast is made up of multi-talented actor/dancer/musicians who play live on stage – one minute Bobby’s mother is berating him for his failure in the financial industry, and the next she is playing the saxophone. At times the staging does feel a little over-crowded and clunky as a result. The set itself is an old theatre, which with a swift change of backdrop, successfully transports the setting from uptown New York to the Nevada desert.
Despite the tenuous plotline, Crazy For You is funny, feel good and enjoyable. The charming score and show-stopping dance numbers are fabulous. To steal a line from the Gershwin’s, who could ask for anything more?
Runs until 28 October 2017 | Image: Richard Davenport