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