‘Crazy For You’ is a like compendium of all the very best routines from all those glorious good old fashioned Hollywood musicals of yesteryear. It’s difficult to deny that it’s a calculatingly constructed formula show, based on a great many other carefully calculated “boy meets girl / let’s do the show right here” formula shows…but it’s such fun, and the team is so downright super-talented, it’s impossible not to love it. And it’s so authentically done, I could readily imagine that Fred and Ginger and Bob and Bing were ready and waiting in the wings, desperate to come tap-dancing into the action themselves.
They’d certainly recognise the set up. A down and out theatre in a down and out one-horse desert town, 3000 miles from New York, is under threat unless someone can come along with a show to save it. That someone is Bobby Child, a would-be dancer, who is surplus to requirements on Broadway. Needless to say, he falls for Deadrock’s only eligible girl, Polly Baker, whose late mother once graced the very same stage.
The plot may be thin, but the musical accomplishment is outstanding. The score, borrowed from George and Ira Gershwin’s greatest hits, ranges from ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, though ‘I Got Rhythm’ to ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ and it’s all played live on stage, before your very eyes, by the same cast who have just sung, danced and cracked a raft of gags. And I’m talking about a full band. There are no fewer than 50 instrument credits in the programme, shared amongst 16 highly professional players. Emma Jane Moreton, to take one example, plays Alto Sax, Baritone Sax, Oboe and Clarinet, when she’s not busy flashing her feet and belting out show tunes in the chorus line. The music and musicians flow around the stage (the piano and double bass are on wheels) and yet, miraculously, the musical balance is perfectly maintained. Only the drum kit is static; though much of the percussion comes from some fast moving tap shoes.
In a show full of star turns, the Leads have to be very good indeed and Tom Chambers (as Bobby) and Charlotte Wakefield (as Polly) are terrifically energetic, entertaining and enterprising. I say ‘enterprising’ because, having made a gag about health and safety, they pretty near break every rule on the clip board. Tom climbs girders and acrobatically dangles upside down by a rope from a balcony without any hint of a safety harness. And they both fly in, perched on a half moon, as carefree as teenagers. In Hollywood they’d be calling for the stunt doubles.
Clare Sweeney is a class act (as ever) as the catty, jilted Irene; and whilst she is seriously underused by the story line, she gives her all to a great second-half vamp-song, seductively singing ‘Naughty Baby’; suitably attired.
Ken Ludwig’s book also gives her and her colleagues some fine lines to deliver, some of which are surprisingly acerbic for the period. When Bobby’s mother (a harridan role for Kate Milner-Evans) declares that if Irene marries her son she’ll cut off his allowance, Irene’s response is that if he does marry her, he won’t need an allowance.
When Bobby expresses a desire to travel to Deadrock, Mother comes up with the famous line “He’ll go to Nevada over my dead body”, to which the reply is, “An excellent route”.
And there’s much humour to be had when cowpoke meets show girl. The local lads are recruited onto the chorus line. “I’ve not seen as much excitement since I foaled my horse,” says one, which elicits the innocent reply “It must be hard to fold a horse.”
The set pieces work a treat. The plot requires Bobby to impersonate the bearded impresario Bela Zangler, who then, inevitably, turns up in Deadrock…and their hung-over, mirror-image double act is very slick example of precisely-timed stage-craft.
For nostalgic musical lovers, ‘Crazy For You’ is a guaranteed, feel-good, night out. They say “they don’t make shows like that anymore”. But, actually, they do.
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