Book: Ken Ludwig
Music: George Gershwin
Lyrics: Ira Gershwin
Director: Paul Hart
Reviewer: James Garrington
Crazy for You, as a show, has everything a traditional musical theatre enthusiast could ask for. With a rich Gershwin score full of well-known numbers, big choreographed routines, and a book full of comedy aimed at a modern audience, done well it can be a delight. The show is based on the 1930s Gershwin original Girl Crazy, heavily adapted in the 1990s with a new book and a number of the original numbers being replaced by other songs from other Gershwin shows, and it’s a classic boy-meets-girl story. Bobby Child dreams of working in the theatre, trying to resist pressure from his mother and his fiancée to work in a bank. When he is sent to foreclose on a theatre in the middle of nowhere, is it possible that his opportunity may have finally arrived?
There are some excellent individual performances, but as it comes to the end of a long tour the production overall is feeling a little tired and underplayed. Tom Chambers gives Bobby a boyish exuberance and, although he may not have the purest vocals, he seems to be having such a great time on stage that his enthusiasm is infectious. It’s a well-known fact that Chambers can dance, but he also does a competent job of the comedy too, with some apparently impromptu business with an audience member. Playing opposite him is Charlotte Wakefield as Polly, displaying a superb voice as she gets possibly the best numbers in the show to deliver. As well as leading the company in a lively I Got Rhythm, Wakefield shows great tenderness and control in Someone to Watch Over Me and a delightfully poignant But Not for Me, though sometimes her performance feels more like Calamity Jane than the usually more feminine Polly Baker. The other lady in Bobby’s life is straight-laced fiancée Irene (Claire Sweeney) who delivers her one song-and-dance routine well, coping admirably with some challenging choreography as she is singing.
The use of actor-musicians presents some opportunities and some challenges, and in this production, the concept doesn’t always work well. The skill of the performers is admirable – almost all of them are multi-instrumentalists and they produce a rich sound with effectively a larger orchestra than is often found on the modern professional stage. However, Crazy for You is a show full of music and dancing, with some huge choreographed company routines. Although choreographer Nathan M Wright has done his best to incorporate the instruments into the routines where possible, it is incredibly difficult to dance with an instrument in your hand. The ensemble vocals also suffer, despite having a relatively large cast as too many of them are playing rather than singing. Intimate moments are spoilt too, as cast members troop on stage to play during love scenes. The problem could be alleviated by lighting drawing the focus in, but as it is it’s all a bit of a distraction.
This is not only a song-and-dance show of course. Crazy for You is also extremely funny and so packed full of humour that even where the comedy has been missed – some of the characters would benefit from being bigger and more stereotyped – there is so much there that a lot of it still hits the mark. Despite some of the flaws in this production, Crazy for You is nonetheless a wonderfully silly, delightful show and worth catching as it wraps up its tour in Leicester. It just feels as though it is lacking that extra bit of sparkle that would make all the difference.
Runs Until 9 June 2018 | Image: Richard Davenport