Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July, 2002
I am about to launch in to a scintillating dissertation of the creative history of Crazy For You, so if you want to cut to the chase and find out whether or not the production currently running at the Mac-Haydn is any good, let me just tell you this. At the opening night performance the sound the audience made at the finale of each act was “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY” (yes, even your curmudgeonly critic found that sound emanating from her lips), this was followed by prolonged clapping and other general noises of approval. And the glowing looks on the faces of the able young cast showed their appreciation of our reaction.
Crazy For You was billed as a “new” Gershwin musical when it opened on Broadway in 1992. Considering that George Gershwin passed away in 1937 and his lyricist brother Ira died in 1983, they obviously had not collaborated on the creation of Crazy For You, although it contains twenty of the brothers’ most memorable songs.
Starting with the 1930 Gershwin show Girl Crazy librettist Ken Ludwig (author of Lend Me A Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo) and Broadway director Mike Ockrent add 13 other Gershwin songs to the seven numbers retained from the original score. Seven came from Broadway shows (Treasure Girl from 1928, Oh! Kay from 1926, Show Girl from 1929, and Ladies First from 1918). Five more were borrowed from two Hollywood films for which the Gershwins provided music and lyrics (Shall We Dance and Damsel in Distress both from 1937). And finally there was one last addition, Naughty Baby, which was not written either for the stage or films.
The end result is the most fabulous fabricated score of the 20th century framed by a cheerfully silly book. The plot is your basic Boy Meets Girl, Girl Falls In Love With Boy in Disguise, Guy the Boy is Disguised as Comes to Town, Let's All Put on a Show in the Old The-ay-ter Before the Bank Forecloses, all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza. In other words, who cares. And who does care when a flock of good-looking young men and women are tap dancing and wearing sequins and singing songs like Embraceable You, Someone to Watch Over Me, I Got Rhythm, Shall We Dance, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Bidin’ My Time, But Not For Me, and the aforementioned discovery Naughty Baby?
Richard Schwartz and Karla Shook head the talented cast as Bobby Child and Polly Baker, the boy and girl in question. Shook belts admirably and handles her tender ballads with grace. Schwartz dances with ease and vigor, and really shows his stuff in a mirror scene and song What Causes That? with the always amusing David Bondrow.
Megan Midkiff, as Irene the frustrated fiancée, delivers Naughty Baby with panache and plenty of pretty legs in view (she only has two, but oh what she does with them!) Also dramatically in evidence are the physical charms and dancing talents of Robin Campbell as the bubble-headed chorine Patsy. I got a kick out of seeing Tiffany Thornton and John Baker in character roles this time around as British twit guide-book authors Patricia and Eugene Fodor.
I want to save a special paragraph to give kudos to director Deanna L. Dys and choreographer Kelly Shook (who also appears as Tess). Dys has a long association with Crazy For You, on Broadway and on tour around the world, and she has obviously passed her love of this property on to the cast and crew at the Mac-Haydn. Shook, a Mac-Haydn veteran, knows exactly what can and cannot be done in the Mac-Haydn’s quirky space. The result is some of the most dazzling and innovative choreography I have seen on that stage.
Costume designer Cathleen Crocker-Perry and her crew have made everyone look just great through a myriad of costume changes (I imagine the backstage at the Mac-Haydn during a performance as just a mass of half-naked performers all zipping each other up). Set designer Kristian D. Perry’s coup de grace is a tiny 1930’s era auto out of which an entire chorus line of fantasy girls emerge.
And I have not given adequate praise this season to hat amazing three-person band headed by musical director Angelynn Fullarton. They are just always there in their corner producing amazing sounds and keeping flawless pace with the performers. It is not an easy trick to learn and perform an entirely new score every two weeks, and Fullarton et al. make it look and sound ridiculously easy.
Crazy For You runs through July 28 at the Mac-Haydn Theatre on Rt. 203 in Chatham, NY. The show runs two hours and forty-five minutes, including one intermission, and is suitable for the entire family. Call the box office at 518-392-9292 for tickets and information.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2002