by Macey Levin
When it opened in 1992 Crazy for You was publicized as the “New GERSHWIN musical comedy” though it was an adaptation, of sorts, of George and Ira Gershwin’s 1930’s Girl Crazy. The basic plot is the same and the music is all Gershwin with five original songs and many more adapted from other shows. This delightful musical comedy hybrid is receiving a rousing production at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Connecticut.
Most of the musicals that pre-date 1943’s Oklahoma are of the boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl variety. This includes shows written by Rodgers and Hart, Hammerstein and Kern, Cole Porter, the Gershwins and many more renowned theatre personalities. Plot elements were minimal, but real draw was, and still is, the brilliant music. Some of the songs in this show that have survived time are Bidin’ My Time, Someone To Watch Over Me, Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, But Not For Me and Nice Work If You Can Get It, which is also the title of another revised Gershwin revival. In addition, some of the music to cover scene changes include I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise and Rhapsody in Blue.
In Crazy For You, and Girl Crazy, the story centers on Bobby Child (Justin Boccitto, also the show’s choreographer) who wants to be a dancer. His wealthy Manhattan-bank-owning mother (Emily Soell) send him to Deadrock, Nevada, to seize property, a post office formerly theatre, for failure to pay the mortgage. When he arrives he meets Polly Baker (Amanda Lea Vergne,) daughter of the property owner (Duane Estes), and he, of course, is instantly smitten. Bobby decides not to foreclose and suggests they revive the theatre with a show that he will produce, direct and star in along with Polly. She rejects the idea until he tells her a white lie that he’s a friend of the famed Follies producer Bela Zangler (Joey Sorge) Complications are followed by more complications and several sub-plots, all ending happily.
Boccitto’s Bobby is naive but endearing from his very first entrance. In addition to his exhilarating tap dancing he has a distinct feel for comedy timing. His and Vergne’s love songs and dances are touching and sensual. Her voice fills the theatre with beautiful sounds. They are well-matched performers whose presence on the stage is magnetic.
Ryan Thomas Curley as the bad guy Lank Hawkins is both tough and bumbling in his threats until he meets and is melted by Irene Roth (Addison Garner,). In New York, she believed herself to be Bobby’s fiancee and has arrived in Deadrock to “rescue” him. She is iron-fisted at first but soon beguiles the churlish Lank. Sorge’s Zangler is the stereotypical arrogant, self-centered Broadway producer until he arrives out west and relaxes into a warm human being. He and Bobby have a scene together that is priceless. The secondary actors and the ensemble acquit themselves beautifully as they infuse youthful exuberance into this old/new musical.
What makes Sharon’s production so high-powered and gloriously entertaining are the dances choreographed by Boccitto. The numbers are defined by sensational tap-dancing by the cast while the romantic duets are tender and simply performed. The brilliant original choreography by Susan Stroman, who has won five Tony Awards, is revived in this show. This alone is reason enough to see Crazy For You, but the overall direction by Sarah Combs is just as dynamic. She has created comic shtick as she moves her large cast into effective stage pictures. Her staging, in concert with the choreography, is smooth and her cast often moves several large set pieces quickly without affecting the pace of the show.
The costumes and wigs by Kurt Alger worn in the production numbers are absolutely gorgeous in their design and colors replete with plumes and spangles. The “everyday” costumes of the character actors fit into the tone and ambience of the many scenes. Elizabeth Popeil’s set design evolves from a Broadway backstage to a Manhattan street to the town of Deadrock; they are colorful and serve the production well providing interesting playing areas and units. Zach Pizza’s lighting design is sparkling for the lighter scenes and atmospheric for the more romantic moments. The seven piece orchestra led by Eric Thomas Johnson has a full sound that accompanies the singers without drowning them out. It’s delicious hearing them give substance to Gershwin’s music.
Crazy for You includes performers from New York and other areas of the country. Some of them are Equity actors, some non-Equity and, importantly, there are cast members from our local tri-state communities who are given a chance to shine.
Sharon’s production of this fun-filled show is ideal for the family with its humor, comedy and robust dancing. It’s must-see summer stock fun!
Crazy for You; Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin; Book by Ken Ludwig; Co-conception by Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent; Inspired by material by Guy Bolton and John McGowan; Director: Sarah Combs; Choreographer: Justin Boccitto; Music Director: Eric Thomas Johnson; Cast: Justin Boccitto (Bobby Child) Amanda Lea LaVergne (Polly Baker) Juliana Babb (Tess) Heather Klobukowski (Patsy) Joey Sorge (Bela Zangler) Amber Cameron (Elaine) Renee Griese (Louise) Michele Lemon (Margie) Katie Hardin (Betsy) Delaney Bailey (Mitzi) Addison Garner (Irene Roth) Emily Soell (Lottie Child) Dave Cadwell (Perkins/Buck) Bobby MacDonell (Moose/Stagehand) TJ Swetz (Mingo/Harry) TJ Kubler (Sam/Junior/Doorman) Dan Warman (Jimmy/Banker) Tony Harkin (Billy/Custus/Card Player) Duane Estes (Everett Baker) Ryan Thomas Curley (Lank Hawkins) John Champion (Eugene Fodor) Barbara Zucker-Pinchoff (Patricia Fodor) Delaney Bailey, Dave Cadwell, Amber Cameron, Renee Griese, Liam Grimaldi, Katie Hardin, Tony Harkin, TJ Kubler, Michelle Lemon, Bobby MacDonell, Joshua Spencer, TJ Swetz and Daniel Warman (Ensemble); Eric Thomas Johnson, Dave Pratt, Walter Barrett, Liz Handman, Rich Conley, Tim Hermann, Mike Lee (Orchestra); Set Design: Elizabeth Popeil; Lighting Design: Zach Pizza; Costume/Wig Design: Kurt Alger; Sound Design: Jeremy Oleska; Prop Design: Karla Woodworth; Technical Director: Tom Swetz; Production Stage Manager: Casey Cook; Assistant Stage Manager: Ann Barkin; Associate Choreographer: Katie Hardin; Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes; one intermission; 6/21/19 – 7/7/19; Sharon Playhouse, 49 Amenia Rd., Sharon CT 06069; 860-364-7469; http://www.sharonplayhouse.org