BWW Review: CRAZY FOR YOU, Bristol Hippodrome
There's always a place for upbeat escapism in musical theatre. When times are tough, a few numbers that wriggle their way into your consciousness is a welcome thing.
Indeed, that's how Crazy For You started life - in the 1930s in the midst of economic depression. Back then it was Gershwin musical called Girl Crazy. Deemed too simple a plot, it was updated in the 1990s by Ken Ludwig who gave it a new story and lease of life.
There are flashes of such escapism in this production. The delightful Gershwin tunes of "I Got Rhythm" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me" just cannot be suppressed. Those timeless Broadway show tunes just about see this production through.
Away from the joy of the few standout numbers, the show does feel a little laboured. Considering the original plot was deemed too thin for a modern audience, it's hard to see that Ken Ludwig's book has made much of an improvement in that department. The characters are all underdeveloped, and even in escapism, you have to care a little bit about them for the show to work.
Nevertheless, Tom Chambers does his best to bring a charm and warmth to Bobby - a son of a rich New Yorker who'd rather perform than go into banking. He's got the tap dancing, the grin and the punchy one-liners that go a long way to make up for the shortcomings in the book. No doubt the Strictly Come Dancing training has come in handy.
Top of the pile though is Charlotte Wakefield who grabs this production by the scruff of the neck with her headstrong Polly. She seizes numbers like "Someone To Watch Over Me" and sends them soaring to Row Z. It's here that her musical theatre pedigree shines like a beacon.
Caroline Flack does a respectable job as Irene. Her dancing is first rate (another Strictly winner), but she does lack the stage presence of some of her more experienced cast members. Director Paul Hart has the presence of mind to put the actor-musicians on stage in a helpful move that breathes much-needed life into the show.
Is there a demand for feel-good musicals? Absolutely. On this one though, I'm left more in mild admiration for the show than crazy for it.
Photo credit: Richard Davenport