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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Crazy For You
Novello Theatre  Autumn 2011 - Spring 2012

This is what Broadway musicals used to be like, what they should be like, and what – hoorah! - they are like again: great songs, great dances, attractive stars and a thoroughly silly plot. 

George and Ira Gershwin's 1930 Girl Crazy had a silly premise about Broadway performers running a dude ranch (a kind of pretend-to-be-a-cowboy Butlins, briefly fashionable then) and Ethel Merman blasting 'I Got Rhythm.' 

In 1992 writer Ken Ludwig and director Mike Ockrent came up with an only-minimally-more-sensible new story, threw out all but four of the original songs and added fourteen more from the rich Gershwin catalogue and created this delightfully retro hit, an evocation of Broadway's Golden Age with a thoroughly modern feel.

Let me just list some of the songs: 'I Got Rhythm', 'Embraceable You', 'Someone To Watch Over Me', 'They Can't Take That Away From Me', 'Nice Work If You Can Get It', 'But Not For Me', and on and on. 

Get the idea? You don't have to be a pensioner or nostalgia freak to respond to a score like that. 

Ludwig's plot imagines a New York banker who really wants to be a Broadway dancer. Sent to foreclose on a Nevada property, he discovers it's an old theatre, falls for the pretty owner, and decides to save it by importing some of his Broadway friends and putting on a show. 

That involves his pretending to be a famous producer, the girl falling for the supposed producer rather than the banker, the real producer showing up, and you see what I mean about a satisfyingly silly plot. 

This new production, first seen in Regent's Park last summer, is directed by Timothy Sheader and designed by Peter McKintosh in the grand and colourful spirit of old Broadway, while Stephen Mear's choreography (based on Susan Stroman's original from 1992) delightfully mixes showgirl strutting, yee-haw cowboy moves and fancy tapping. 

The Fred-and-Ginger duets for the romantic leads do exactly what they're supposed to, telling us that the couple are meant for each other by the way they move together, and the big production numbers – to 'Slap That Bass' and 'I Got Rhythm' – build to an excitement that reminds us what a real Broadway musical is all about. 

Sean Palmer is in turn boyishly romantic, broadly comic (He has a very funny double drunk scene with David Burt as the real producer) and dance-up-a-storm energetic, equally adept in the ballroom duets and solo tap numbers. 

Clare Foster may be a bit too convincingly perky and feisty for her softer numbers, 'Someone To Watch Over Me' and 'But Not For Me', to be totally believable, but she stops the show by turning 'Embraceable You' into a comic seduction number. 

And Kim Medcalf and Michael McKell, funny throughout, turn 'Naughty Baby' into a textbook demonstration of what a comic duet should look and sound like.

If the only musicals you've seen have had more impressive sets than music, if you've always wondered what the supposed magic of Broadway was all about, if you want to hear a score made up of some of the best songs ever written, or if you just want to have a darned good time, you'd be crazy to miss Crazy For You.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   Crazy For You - Novello 2011

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