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Monday, 01 September 2014 12:09

Stratford Festival Review: CRAZY FOR YOU

Written by
JMatt Alfano (centre) with members of the company JMatt Alfano (centre) with members of the company Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.

Playwright Ken Ludwig, best known for his hit comedy, Lend Me A Tenor, created this new musical, Crazy for You, by working backwards. Firstly he chose songs from the old George and Ira Gershwin music vault, but particularly songs from the 1930 Gershwin hit, Girl Crazy, and then using the songs as a basis, he stitched together the delightfully absurd story which ultimately became a deserved 1992 Tony winner.

If you're not a fan of cornball musicals, then, to thoroughly enjoy this play you need to employ your 'suspension of disbelief', otherwise referred to as, putting aside your doubt or skepticism for the sake of a good story-even if that story has crazy fantastic moments and material in it like...well, like this one does.

It is a totally contrived plot, full of clichés and stereotypes and a very long list of corny, one liners, like, man #1; "I didn't come here to be insulted!" Man #2: "Oh, where do you usually go?" Bada bum!

But, and most importantly, this production has a positive plethora of superior music, dance, acting and humour.

There's much to choose from in Crazy for You, since this production's 'cup runneth over'.

There's Donna Feore's confident, inventive choreography and direction. Then there's a phenomenally talented, energetic, athletic and acrobatic chorus line that will tap, jive and waltz its way directly into your heart. Plus, we have our mandatory groupings of passionate lovers. There is a bizarre mixture of characters consisting of Follies girls doing brilliantly what talented Follies girls do, but almost all of it amongst a ragtag group of singing and dancing cowboys. And, of course, absolutely crucial to this mix, there are a host of Gershwin oldies that include knee-slapping, up-tempo numbers, like "I Got Rhythm", together with poignant ballads like "Someone to Watch Over Me", plus many other memorable classics such as "They Can't Take That Away from Me", "Nice Work if You Can Get It", "Embraceable You" and "I'm Bidin' My Time," to name but a few.

To add to this delightful package, there are several moments where the audience spontaneously erupts with cheers and wild applause to the singing and/or dancing, acting and truly cornball but genuinely laugh out loud humor. For example, a number called "Slap That Bass" ends on such a high, you wonder if the company have anywhere left to go or anything more to give...but they do!

One of the most memorable scenes of the evening, an over-the-top, totally absurd but hilarious bit of superior physical tomfoolery involves two staggering drunks who are dressed identically. Neither of them is sufficiently sober to be aware of the other's presence. One of these drunks is the Hungarian Impresario (Tom Rooney) and the other is his imposter, our male ingénue, Bobby, who was parading as the impresario, thinking that would impress Polly, the girl he loves.

The actual story, which, again, is intentionally lame, goes as follows; our male lead, Bobby (Josh Franklin) the son of a wealthy NY banker, is a 'wanna-be' song and dance man whose very controlling mother (Lally Cadeau) insists that he not go anywhere near showbiz. She aggressively sends him off on a bank assignment to 'Hicktown' USA, (Deadrock, Nevada), to foreclose on a bankrupt theatre. There Bobby meets and falls in love with Polly (Natalie Daradich) and her father's derelict property, the theatre in question.

Much of the play's high energy and hokey activities, revolve around the two-bit town, where our lead is doing his utmost to revive the dying town by resurrecting its theatre. All this, of course, is very intentionally reminiscent of that scene from the old MGM Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musical, where Mickey says, - "Hey kids, my Father's got a barn, let's put on a show!" Bobby, in an attempt to impress Polly and also to fulfill his life's desire to be a song and dance man, says, "Hey Polly, let's put on a show."

Our female ingénue, Natalie Daradich, started rather weakly, with a vocal pitch problem in her very first song, but improved at all levels as the musical progressed. Josh Franklin, the male lead, is a strong singer, actor and dancer who perfectly suits the role. As a couple, they were a perfect fit, likewise for the entire supporting company.

As you enter the theatre, the stage is almost bare, but appropriately so. The design by Debra Hanson, consists of two larger than life gold tassels hanging above the Festival stage. These represent the production, an uplifting, feel good, song and dance show with much broad comedy and with lots of open space for the performers to display their exuberant physical and vocal ware.

This musical comedy is a celebration of musical theatre and a tip of the hat to the power of love. What a spectacular evening in the theatre… not to be missed.

Crazy for You

Music By: George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin
Lyrics By: George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin
Book By: Ken Ludwig
Directed & Choreographed By: Donna Feore
Stage Design by: Debra Hanson
Musical Direction by: Shelley Hanson
Lighting by: Paul Miller
Sound by: Peter McBoyle

Starring Josh Franklin as Bobby Child & Natalie Daradich as Polly Baker
Brilliant Chorus; Female; Carla Bennett, Marisa Falcone, Alexandra Herzog,Bonnie Jordan, Ayrin Mackie, Natalie Moore, Kimberley Rampersad and Breanna Willis;
Male; Matt Alfano, Matthew Armet, Stephen Cota, Sean Alexander Hauk,Chad McFadden, Cory O'Brien, Jason Sermonia and Mike Tracz. Cowboys; Steve Ross, Stephen Patterson and Marcus Nance
Hungarian Impresario named Zangler; Tom Rooney
Villain named Lank; Shane Carty
Villainess named Irene; Robin Hutton
Bitchy, wealthy Mom; Lally Cadeau
Also Starring: Keith Dinicol

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Venue Festival Theatre
  • Theatre Address: City Stratford, Ont.
  • Show Style: Musical
  • Previews:: April 21, 2014
  • Opening Night: May 27, 2014
  • Closing: October 12, 2014
Last modified on Thursday, 09 July 2015 05:38