Crazy For You, music by George Gershwin, Lyrics by Ira Gershwin, Book by Ken Ludwig, inspired by material by Guy Bolton and John McGowan. Directed and choreographed by Tralen Doler.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
NO PHOTO SUPPLIED; cactus photo: J. Peter Bergman
"Loving her is what causes that."
Okay, I can be easy. Give me even twenty tapping feet and Iím happy. When the cast of "Crazy For You" gets down to work and there are at least 42 tapping feet on the circular stage at the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, New York I am happy as a pig in you-know-what. Of course when the dancing is exceptional and the number is choreographed with glee then I am transported and that was what happened with this show at this viewing.
"Crazy For Youí is really the Gershwin Brothers 1930 musical hit "Girl Crazy" - filmed twice and almost three times if you count the version with Liberace and Connie Francis - with a revamped book and a bunch of Gershwin songs not written to be heard in this particular story. This version opened in 1992, starring Harry Groener and Jodi Benson and was a huge hit. The songs range from "The Real American Folksong" written in 1918 through songs from the film hit, "A Damsel in Distress" which was made in 1937. The visual inspiration for the show was clearly the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; Ginger also played the lead female role in "Girl Crazy" and Fred secretly choreographed a number for that show.
At the Mac-Haydn a youthful cast exhaust themselves, and the audience too, in 23 songs and two hours and forty-three minutes of playing time. I donít usually like pastiche shows like this one, but it has always been a favorite and it was wonderful to see it again and to see it so very well performed. The production, unfortunately, points up some difficult things about current performance practice. I have been seated now, in every section of the theater, and there are always difficulties hearing the actors. Whether they have been instructed not to project because they are wearing body mikes, or whether they are simply not trained to project their voices, it was increasingly more difficult to hear lyrics being sung during this show. The band was excessively loud (that synthesizer and drums combo they use here) and the singers were not producing sounds. I was in the second row and could not hear the soloists most of the time. For $26 a ticket you should be able to hear a pin drop off their beautiful costumes let alone hear boisterous singing. But when I could hear them it was almost as good as watching them dance.
Colin Pritchard plays Bobby Child, a New York banker who wants to be a hoofer on Broadway. Pritchard is nice looking, has charm and can sing, act and dance. His Bobby has a sweet sensibility that comes to the fore and when he impersonates an impresario he does it so well that at first even I was fooled, and I know the story. He and Ben Jacoby indulge in a hilarious second act scene of mimicry and mockery that practically stops the show cold it is so funny. Jacoby is a wonderful Bela Zangler, making more of a secondary role than he has this summer in some of his leading parts. Their duet "What Causes That" is a gem that belongs on this theaterís press role, if they have one.
As Polly, a woman of the West, Emily Thompson is a joy. Her refreshing good looks and her unstrained enthusiasm for performance give an energy to her role that is very appropriate here. She dances wonderfully, too and sings her ballads in a fine, plaintive voice.
Quinto Ott is very funny as Eugene Fodor and Kendall Chaffee-Standish does well as his wife, Patricia. Joe Bettles is marvelous as Lank, a cowpoke-entrepreneur. Karla Shook does well as Irene, the vamp and her performance is matched in enthusiasm by Carol Charnigaís version of Lottie Child, Bobbyís mother.
But this isnít a show that showcases just the talents of the leading players. The chorus here is what makes this musical the spectacle that it is, start to finish. Dolerís dances have so much energy that it is surprising that the lights donít dim while they are on. The first act finale, "I Got Rhythm," went on for eleven minutes and twenty-one seconds and at the end of it, I hoped for a full encore. This is all so very well done that time doesnít seem of the essence, although it really is, I suppose.
This yearís crop of talent is amazing at the Mac-Haydn. It extends to the designers, who have delivered exquisite productions, including Jimm Halliday whose costumes here for this show are so wonderful and quirky and delicious, from cowboy outfits with chaps to showgirl spectacularís with headdresses that would make Ziegfeld jealous. The most amazing thing about Hallidayís output here is how well the clothes dance. They move with their occupants in such a way that you would swear the clothing was merely the outer layer of skin. They are that good and that appropriate to the large company of players.
Joshua Zecher-Ross, the musical director, keeps the tempos bright and lets the songs dictate the performance pace. He is proving himself once again to the right choice for this material. Matt Wardís sets are fun and do everything they need to do, which is sometimes amazing stuff. Andrew Gmoserís lighting design plays with mood, place and time of day in just the right way.
I cannot say enough good things about "Crazy For You" so I will stop soon and let you just go and see it for yourself. But I must congratulate Tralen Doler for his work with this amazing cast. It is rare that so many people can do so much so well for so long for so little (I am sure they are all underpaid for this one). "Crazy For You" is something youíd be crazy to miss, so get your tickets, polish up your tap shoes and get a move on, partner.
Crazy For You runs through August 23 at the Mac-Haydn Theatre on Route 203, just north of the center of Chatham, New York. For information and tickets call 518-392-9292.