Crazy For You Review

Leeds Grand Theatre – until 2 September 2017

3***

Crazy for You appears to be a classic comedy Broadway musical written in the roaring 20s. But this is a musical from the 90s, using classical songs written by George and Ira Gershwin.  Ken Ludwig’s quirky 1992 plot gave the Gershwin brothers this new feelgood hit, based on their 1930s Girl Crazy, but unashamedly adding some of their best-loved plums from elsewhere.  You are bound to recognise many of them, especially ‘I Got Rhythm’, ‘Embraceable You’, ‘Nice Work If You Can Get it’ and ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’.

It’s back to the 1930s and the first stop is Bela Zangler’s theatre in New York. Bobby Child is the son of a wealthy banking family, but yearns for a career singing and dancing. But Mr Zangler is unimpressed with Bobby’s talents and the stage-struck wannabe is sent out west by his mother to repossess a local theatre there. When he arrives in Deadrock, Nevada, he immediately falls for Polly whose father owns the theatre. Desperate to help save the venue, Bobbly disguises himself as Zangler and rounds up some dancers to put on a show and raise much-needed funds. But Bobby’s plans go awry when Polly falls in love with his alter ego.  Things take a turn for the worse when the real Zangler turns up with hilarious results; the mirror scene is exceedingly clever and funny.

The story isn’t overly riveting, but it’s saving grace is that it does not really take itself too seriously and there is plenty of wit and wry humour to make the plot more palatable.

With TV’s Casualty and Strictly Come Dancing star Tom Chambers and Caroline Flack billed as the stars of the show it is really Charlotte Wakefield (Polly) who drives the production.  A powerhouse of a performer, she sings and dances and acts sublimely.  Chambers is the unwilling banker who would rather perform in a theatre than close it down. He might not have a show-stopping singing voice but his dancing is superb and the audience loved his charm.  Flack had a tiny part, with one song in the second act.  Hollie Cassar’s resourceful Tess proves a real leader, not just of the sparkling Follies’ girls, but knocking the cowboys into shape as a useful men’s chorus (Arthur Boan, Matthew Hinchcliffe, Ned Rudkins-Stow).

Those girls, Cassar, with Abi Casson Thompson, Serena Sandham-Davies Emma Jane Morton and Kate Robson-Stuart radiate glamour and good-heartedness, looking gorgeous in sweet-wrapper bright bodices and smiling through Nathan M Wright’s marvellous routines, often choreographed for dancers simultaneously playing instruments.  Sixteen terrific actor/musicians share the stage with the audience, spilling out of Diego Pitarch’s ingeniously busy many-levelled set, working as theatre, saloon, street and desert, thanks also to Howard Hudson’s cunning lighting.

Stacey Ghent and Kieran Kuypers shine as Patricia and Eugene Fodor, the writers of the travel guides, who turn up in Deadrock as the shows only audience. And Neil Ditt is amusing as the real Zangler.

Crazy For You has no underlying pretensions about being anything other than what it actually is – great entertainment that enables one to escape the frustrations of daily life, for just over two blissful hours in Leeds, gloom is banished and spirits soar during this show.  In Leeds until Saturday and on tour around the UK

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