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Crazy For You: 4 Stars For Frothy Fun

A revival bursting with Gershwin's greatest hits.

Photo Credit: Johan Persson


Review By: Theatre Monthly Panel


Imagine you’re playwright Ken Ludwig, who wrote the fine farce Lend Me a Tenor. Producers call to ask you to write the book for a new musical. “We’re teaming you up with these brothers who do music and lyrics,” they explain. “Anyone I know?” you reply. The answer: the Gershwins. Oh, those guys. The team of Ludwig and Gershwin, who never met because George Gershwin died 55 years before their collaboration, created Crazy for You.


Posters for the show feature a third member of the creative team, director/choreographer Susan Stroman. She deserves the billing, with good, old-fashioned tapping, slapping (basses), and pratfalls. With a score that includes Embraceable You, Someone to Watch Over Me, But Not for Me, and many other all-time hits, the audience can’t help but tap their feet and clap their hands at every opportunity.


Ludwig’s book provides the standard ingredients for a farcical show business comedy: characters that fib, mistaken identity, a not-so-scary villain, and a hero who wants to be a star. Crazy for You’s hero Bobby Child is played by Charlie Stemp, who lit up the West End in Half a Sixpence in 2017. Stemp can dance and flash a smile so pixie-ish, you almost expect him to fly out from the wings in Peter Pan’s tunic and stockings. Stemp sings smoothly, though it’s a thin voice that wouldn’t be heard in the first row without microphones. No matter, Stroman’s design team has calibrated the sound perfectly for the Gillian Lynne Theatre.


We could close this review now with a simple instruction: see it, smile, and swim in the froth. And yet, could we ask for anything more? The answer is yes. For one thing, the acting in the show is, well, not really acting. It’s pulling faces and prepping for a Christmas pantomime. For not one moment do you think that Stemp’s Bobby is anything but a cartoon-like figure who can contort his face, twist his body, and pirouette with the plasticity of Mr. Fantastic. It’s a tribute to supple ligaments, but it raises a question. Could Crazy for You be staged with musical comedy actors who elicit an ounce of sympathy, along with guffaws? It’s not impossible. That’s what made stars of Barbra Streisand, Kevin Kline, and more recently, Sutton Foster.


Ludwig’s book sometimes sounds creaky, even though it was written “only” thirty years ago. For one thing, the female roles can be grating. Soon after the curtain rises, we meet Bobby’s fiancée, Irene (Natalie Kassanga). She’s crass, spoiled, and deluded into thinking that Bobby cares for her. But wait, aren’t they engaged? How’d that happen? Why is it her fault she’s deluded? Bobby (and the audience) can’t wait for her exit. Then we meet Polly Baker (Carly Anderson), an Annie Oakley-type and the doting daughter of a failing theatre-owner in Deadrock, Nevada. At first, Polly seems smart, but within minutes she’s fooled into kissing Bobby, who’s impersonating Bela Zangler (Tom Edden) a middle-aged impresario with an accent borrowed from a Halloween Dracula show. Irving Berlin’s original Annie Get Your Gun script somehow seems more modern.


Despite these flaws, when you walk out of Crazy for You, you will smile and forgive any of these faults, for which you certainly can’t blame George Gershwin.


Crazy for You Review: 4 Stars

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