Crazy For You at Regent’s Park review

He is…Crazy For You

Image sourced from London Theatre Hotels' site: www.lth-hotels.com/ london_events/crazy-you.htm

What better way is there to spend a Saturday afternoon other than sitting on the grass banks of Regent’s Park watching Timothy Sheader’s glorious revival of Ken Ludwig’s 1993 version of Gershwin’s Girl Crazy? Since discovering Crazy For You back in 2006, I would have quite literally cut off my ear to see it. Thankfully, such dramatic gestures were not called for, when I realized it was playing at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

The show’s plot is delightfully ridiculous and just a little far-fetched. Bobby Child is a young banker with an overbearing mother and a hard-faced fiancée, who dreams of making it on Broadway. After failing to impress at an audition for the Zangler Follies, his mother sends him from New York to Deadrock, Nevada on a mission to foreclose on a derelict theatre. He happens across an all singing all-dancing town and, quite naturally, falls for the only female inhabitant and daughter of the theatre owner, Polly. He conjures up an ingenious and fool proof (yeah, right…) plan to raise the money needed to buy out the mortgage and save the old theatre by putting on a new show.

Deadrock may only have one woman, but my God, do they have a whole load of talented cowboys. The male chorus were somewhat of an unassuming and fairly odd bunch, which made it all the more enjoyable as the show progressed and they began to find their dancing shoes. American Sean Palmer who played lead Bobby, positively shined as the hapless, lovestruck banker and managed to keep the audience enchanted whether he was playing ‘himself’ or his…alter ego.

Image sourced from Encore Theatre Magazine: encoretheatremagazine.blogspot.com/ Heroes.html
Ruthie Henshall as Polly in Crazy For You 1993
Image sourced from Encore Theatre Magazine: encoretheatremagazine.blogspot.com/ Heroes.html
Clare Foster as Polly in Crazy For You 2011

Clare Foster led the minimal female cast, as the feisty, rough and ready Polly Baker, originally played by Ruthie Henshall. Whilst she entertained me, I could not help but feel she could have done more. Her voice was pleasant, but she kept it level, never really ‘going for it’, even during the heart wrenching But Not For Me. Even her movement about the stage felt a little lazy. Lackluster would be the word that springs to mind to sum up her performance. Still, her brilliant smile and chemistry with Palmer almost made-up for her lack of oomph.

For someone familiar with the 1993 London cast recording, I eagerly anticipated each song and it was wonderful to be able to fill in the visual blanks. But even if you aren’t familiar with the cast recording and you don’t know much about the Gershwins, you’d still have your head bopping and your feet tapping away. I don’t know how they did it, but every song has that quality and feel of a well-loved classic.

Probably the most exciting thing about the show – bar the score – however, is the costume. I quite literally squealed with delight when I saw the chorus girls/Zangler Follies making their way through the audience and down onto the stage in all manner of colours and styles. The plethora of colours contrasted nicely against the woody browns of the stage and surroundings, and kept things bright despite the light downpour- hey, that’s an English summer for you.

The entire company numbers such as I Got Rhythm and Nice Work If You Can Get It had me about ready to run up and join them on stage. The energy was fantastic and the choreography was beyond enthusiastic. At one point a member of the chorus discreetly apologised to the front row as he nearly kicked one of them in the face. The one-on-one dances between the two leads were also just as charming to watch.

I cannot lie, as a huge fan of both Ruthie Henshall and the original London cast recording, I wasn’t quite as overwhelmed as I would have liked, but I am so pleased I got to see it, and I will definitely think about dropping by to see them at the Novello.

So in short, the cast were upbeat and fun, the songs of course were all winners and the dancing was beyond a delight. Definitely one to catch when it moves to the Novello Theatre after Betty Blue Eyes finishes its short run. Not to mention, there are some moments of pure, old style vaudeville, which will ensure that you have a grin on your face from start to finish.

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