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Review: `Crazy For You’

This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1

Newspaper on April 28, 1999. All rights reserved.

A 1930s vintage limo stops on 42nd Street outside a

theater. In it, a young man, heir to a wealthy banking family, is

arguing with his mother and fiancee over his career. As the argument

continues, he dreams of escape and of life as a dancer in the theater.

Suddenly, like the old circus trick, the young man and a line of chorus

girls in pink tutus emerge from the car and fill the stage, tap-dancing

to "I Can’t Be Bothered Now." Exactly. The Gershwin centennial

could not be celebrated with more appropriate enthusiasm than with

the Paper Mill Playhouse’s spiffy and spectacular new production of

"Crazy For You."

This is the 1992 Tony Award-winner in which some 18 great songs by

George and Ira Gershwin (some with additional lyrics by Gus Kahn and

Desmond Carter) got the support of a hilarious, nostalgia-based, joke-fueled

new book by Ken Ludwig ("Lend Me a Tenor"). It brought new

life to the Gershwins’ 1930 hit, "Girl Crazy," a project that

Ludwig co-conceived with the show’s original director, Mike Ockrent.

For the Paper Mill revival, the show is in the capable hands of director

James Brennan, who played Bobby Child in the Broadway production.

That Brennan seems to effortlessly validate the show’s perpetually

buoyant moods, comedic thrust, and wholesome charms is not to be underestimated.

But if one has to name the most indelible and unforgettable ingredient

that made the original show special, it was Susan Stroman’s choreography,

as amusing as it was vigorously inventive. What a pleasure that the

freshness and wit that propelled Stroman’s dances are happily part

of this grand new staging.

Angelique Ilo, who was dance captain for the show on Broadway and

has restaged it regionally, gets the credit for recreating Stroman’s

homage to the legacy of such talents as Micky and Judy, Fred and Ginger,

and particularly the kaleidoscopic dances immortalized by director

and choreographer Busby Berkeley. The good news about this staging

is that the sly, tongue-in-cheek fun that invigorates the dances is,

if anything, more humorously revealed here than in the original. Worthy

of the sustained applause it earns is the "Slap That Bass"

number, in which dancers are turned upside down to become bass fiddles.

In the grand, almost forgotten tradition of blending

comedy with music, this wonderfully zany spectacle is a delight from

start to finish. What observant eyes can see, even as they tear up

from laughter, is the verve and talent of the present company. Given

its rapport with such ear-pleasers as "I’ve Got Rhythm," "Embraceable

You," and "Stiff Upper Lip," this company is tops. The

two leads — Jim Walton, who plays Bobby Child, and Stacey Logan,

who plays Polly — are as personable and appealing as any musical

comedy could want.

The smile-inducing panache that Walton brings to "Things Are Looking

Up" and "They Can’t Take That Away From Me," is as impressive

as his flair for the broadest of comedy shtick. Walton pulls out all

the stops to make us laugh heartily at this dance-intoxicated young

banking heir who finds love and a vaudeville theater in the dying

mining town of Deadrock, Nevada.

Love and, of course, more songs ("Someone To Watch Over Me,"

"But Not For Me") are delivered by the spunky Logan, another

veteran of the original cast. Worthy of the Ethel Merman mouth-that-roared

award, Logan, the only eligible young woman in Deadrock, belts out

her songs with the same aggressive conviction that she belts any man

in her way.

This means that she doesn’t let Jeb Brown, as a mean-spirited saloon-owner,

Bruce Adler, as a Broadway impresario, Jane Connell, as the banking

matriarch, and Lori Alexander, as a society snob, get away with more

than their fair share of scene stealing. Alexander’s pulse-racing

"Naughty Baby" comes wonderfully out of the blue late in the

second act, as she abruptly changes into a no-holds-barred vamp and

literally sweeps the saloon owner off his feet.

A glittering affection for both the Great White Way and the Wild West

is demonstrated with an almost giddy sense of fun and extravagance

by set designer Robin Wagner and costumer William Ivey Long. Yes,

the Gershwin brothers are back and "Things Are Looking Up."

— Simon Saltzman

Crazy For You, Paper Mill Playhouse, Brookside Drive,

Millburn, 973-376-4343. $25 to $55. Performances through May 30.

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