Book: Ken Ludwig
Music: George Gershwin
Lyrics: Ira Gershwin
Director: Paul Hart
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
You have to feel sorry for Bobby Child. He’s caught between two overbearing women in New York, his mother, Lottie, who wants him in the family banking business and Irene, his fiancée of five years standing. Neither woman gets on with the other. No wonder all he wants to do is join the Zangler Follies and dance. But despite being popular with the girls of the chorus, Bobby can’t convince Zangler to take him on and he ends up sent to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on a rundown theatre in a rundown town.
In Deadrock, he meets Polly – the only girl in town – and falls for her. But the course of true love never did run smooth. His suggestion that they put on a show to raise funds to save the theatre isn’t really welcomed when Polly realises he’s from the bank. Desperate to help, he impersonates Zangler and the show goes ahead with ‘Zangler’ galvanising the town and Zangler’s girls arriving from vacation to help out. But now Polly falls in love with ‘Zangler’, the show can’t find an audience, the real Zangler, Lottie, Irene and, bizarrely, Eugene and Patricia Fodor, a terribly English couple researching a travel guide, arrive and it all gets terribly complicated before all the threads untangle and all live happily ever after.
Crazy for You is a dazzling demonstration of song, dance and playing – the music is played onstage by the talented cast even as they take part in production numbers. And it’s the production numbers that Crazy for You is really all about – they are big and brash showing off the talents of the Gershwin brothers superbly. The songs might be standards, but some of their arrangements may be less familiar – in Deadrock, Bidin’ My Time becomes a somewhat upbeat twangy, close-harmony country and western tune, for example. However, one can’t argue with the presentation of Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm and the aching longing of They Can’t Take That Away from Me (as Bobby prepares to leave Polly and Deadrock forever) or But Not For Me (as Polly realises the opportunity she has lost).
While the music, singing and dancing truly dazzle, the creaky storyline is showing its age. The songs mostly serve as punctuation and don’t really feel as if they carry that narrative; this emphasis makes the characters unashamedly two-dimensional and one doesn’t really emotionally invest in them. There are lots of one-liners and bits of physical funny business – most memorably, perhaps, when Bobby-as-Zangler and the real Zangler act out a long, almost silent, sequence as mirror-images on stage. But any niggles are minor when this is a production that can whisk us off to a world of bright lights and primary colours and where love at first sight isn’t just real but pretty much compulsory. Paul Hart’s direction ensures the whole runs smoothly
Tom Chambers is smooth and affable as Bobby. He brings an easygoing charm, as well as his well-documented dancing skills and a certain amount of athleticism to the rôle. But it is Charlotte Wakefield’s sassy but vulnerable Polly who really impresses. A strong, vibrant voice and assured dancing along with great timing mean that she is always the centre of attention when onstage. Neil Ditt brings the humour inherent in Zangler’s character to the fore – his scenes with Bobby, especially, Bobby-as-Zangler are a particular joy. Claire Sweeney brings swagger to Irene, as well as the seductress in Naughty Baby when she eyes up Lank – local hotel-owner and villain of the piece.
Crazy for You doesn’t pretend to be an in-depth or challenging piece; but taken on its own terms, it’s an enjoyable, escapist romp, full of glamour and glitz.
Runs Until 12 May 2018 and on tour | Image: Richard Davenport