Musical theatre has always served to enrich the bleakest of times with some dopey show-tunes and gooey gowns. Crazy For You is (heavily) adapted from Girl Crazy: an original Gershwin musical serving as a much-needed break for Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Later re-worked, with added songs courtesy of Ken Ludwig, Crazy For You released on Broadway in 1992, managing to recapture the levity that brought light to those dismal days. Now, a new tour brings that old-school musical back with the same memorable songs – a standout being I’ve Got Rhythm.
Almost in the guise of one of Shakespeare’s love stories, Bobby Childs – a banker who longs for the stage – is forced to leave his dreams behind, travelling to Nevada to discuss the closure of a theatre. Whilst there, he is forced to don a disguise in order to obtain the love of Polly, whom we discover is the daughter of the theatre’s owner. With Polly potentially engaged to another, and his ex-fianceé on the scene, Bobby struggles to balance his desire and profession, whilst also putting on a show in an attempt to save the theatre.
Strutting down the aisle, the first instinct is one of intrigue. The set is striking, bordering on Andrew Lloyd Webber territory with its Phantom aesthetic. For that moment, the brutal pathos of a run down theatre exists, the potential for conflict, to see this place restored grows. It fades quite quickly…
Tom Chambers toys with the set pieces in the most charming manner, injecting a level of physical comedy completely unexpected; nothing groundbreaking but a welcome inclusion. This charisma, however, has its limits. A talented dancer, his great footwork – particularly with co-star Charlotte Wakefield as Polly – is on point. Singing, on the other hand, is easily the weakest aspect of Chambers performance. Thankfully, Wakefield scores solid marks for this category, balancing out the talent they bring to the table. It’s a real shame the script allows for so little solo numbers for her to truly belt out and own the stage.
The second half accomplishes something remarkable – a mastery of time enviable by physicists. Somehow it manages to feel both three hours long, yet twenty minutes at most. Where was the tension? The drama? Where on earth were the vaudeville villains, the scheming seductress or the doppelgangers anger? The ending of Act One serves us with possible eruptions for something to happen; The theatre’s foreclosure by the bank, an alliance between ‘antagonists’ Irene (wonderfully over-acted by Claire Sweeney) and Lank, all of which fizzle into nought.
What is on offer from Crazy For You is old-fashioned, albeit out-dated, entertainment. Many may find themselves infected with the deadliest of rose-tints: nostalgia. Saying this, the forced romance, shaky pacing and lack of tension can detract from the warm bulbs of the spotlight.
There is clearly dedicated talent in this production, something which many will adore. Crazy For You will bring enjoyment to most show-goers on drizzly spring evenings, though for some it will represent a once-glimmering relic, which requires a good polish.