BWW Reviews: Stratford's CRAZY FOR YOU
If you like musicals with amazing dancing, powerful singing and farcical comedy - and who doesn't? - get your tickets now for Crazy for You, on Stratford's Festival stage, as this show will sell out this summer.
Crazy for You is an interesting invention. George and Ira Gershwin's old songs from the 1930s were gathered together, and while people love the tunes and lyrics, the stories that go with them are dated. So in 1992, playwright Ken Ludwig wrote a script incorporating the Gershwin favourites.
You may recognize the name Ken Ludwig: he's the author of farces, several of which have been produced in the area. Last year, we saw the hilarious "Lend Me a Tenor" in Cambridge, and "Fox on the Fairway" in Petrolia. There was also a very funny production of "Leading Ladies" in Petrolia in 2011. Crazy for You has one of the same comedic tools used in Lend Me a Tenor: Two characters dressed alike, confusing the other characters and creating pandemonium. One of the biggest laughs in Crazy for You occurs when the two identical characters literally stumble on each other in drunken stupors, talk about their problems, and one says "I'm beside myself".
Bobby Child just wants to dance on stage. But his mother, a powerful New York banker, wants him to forget his dreams and come to work in her bank. His first job is to foreclose on a theatre in Deadrock, Nevada. Bobby agrees to go to Nevada to get away from Irene who insists they are engaged - while Bobby says they aren't. In Nevada, Bobby falls in love in Polly Baker whose father owns the old theatre, but she wants no part of him because he is an evil big city banker. So Bobby poses as Bela Zangler, the New York producer of Zangler's Follies. He convinces the Follies girls to put on a show in the abandoned theatre, and teaches the local ne'er-do-well cowboys to dance, to raise money for the mortgage. Spoiler Alert: there are many funny obstacles along the way, but in the end everyone is suitably paired off!
Natalie Daradich is perfectly cast as Polly Baker - she belts "I got Rhythm" with the power of Ethel Merman, for whom the song was originally written, and has a hint of the fluttery vibrato that made Jodi Benson famous when she originated the role of Polly on Broadway in 1992. Her voice has that 1930s sound, suitable for the Gershwin score. Daradich has one of those faces that you can't take your eyes off when she's on stage.
Josh Franklin as Bobby Child has 1930s leading- man good looks, with a singing voice and hoofing skills to match. He wins us over immediately and charms his way through the show.
Daradich and Franklin are very good, and they have to be, or the stage would be stolen by the outstanding ensemble. The mix of cowboys and show girls are the most amazing dancers - tapping, lifts, spins, they have it all. Not only are all feet perfectly synchronized, but the wrists snap up with flawless precision. Show stoppers include Slap That Base and I Got Rhythm - spontaneous applause erupts for the choreography.
Robin Hutton is perfectly haughty as Irene, the so-called girl friend from New York, and trades hilarious barbs with Bobby's overbearing mother, played by Lally Cadeau. Tom Rooney as Bela Zangler is hilarious as the stumbling drunk.
As the Gershwin tune says - this is nice work if you can get it - and the cast of Crazy for You has got it.
Crazy for You continues in repertoire until October 12 at the Festival Theatre, Stratford. Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check www.stratfordfestival.ca