Crazy for You
The New Gershwin Musical
Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Matthew McCoy
The old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney ‘let’s throw a show’ film Girl Crazy is the basis for this amusing, always energetic musical adaptation to open Bay Area Musical’s fourth season. Artistic Director Matthew McCoy plays it tight to the 1992 original Broadway production, even re-creating Susan Stroman’s Tony-award winning original choreography. The story, which includes: mistaken identities, unrequited love, saving a theatre and unlikely romances is the main driver of this show, the Gershwin’s score, a patchwork quilt of songs borrowed from other shows, the weak link.
BAM has the concepts, structures, talent and skill components down pat. This season opener continues that pattern. The 20-person cast is well adept at musical theatre comedy; the facial mugging, the exaggerated stereotypes that often populate this style of musical, and certainly the dance steps that elevate BAMs shows. When the cast is all onstage hoofing away, the stage shakes with the power of the movement.
Danielle Altizio and Conor DeVoe head the cast as star-crossed lovers Polly Baker and Bobby Child. Excellent dancers both, their romance is the focus of the zany plot that has some humorous side-stories that fuel the action. Morgan Peters (Irene) and Sean McCrory (Lank Hawkins) provide comic relief in scene-stealing supporting roles. The action starts in the Big Apple where wanna-be dancer Bobby auditions for theatre impresario Bela Zangler (a nice turn by Tony Michaels) in direct opposition to his no-nonsense, all business mother Lottie (Mary Gibboney) who wants him to travel to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on a local theater.
Escaping his wealthy, longtime fiancée Irene, Bobby heads to Nevada where he’s of course, instantly smitten with the only gal in town, Polly. Her father owns the now dilapidated theater and, well, Bobby must save the day by putting on a show and paying off the back rent (to himself). He impersonates Bela Zangler and whips the local cowhands (Lucas Brandt as “Moose,” Mitchell Moseley as “Mingo,” Jean-Paul Jones as “Sam,” Patrick Brewer as “Harry,” Brendan Looney as “Junior” and Jesse Cortez as “Custus”) into a crack dance troupe in no time. Of course, there has to be plenty of showgirls and Zangler Follies dance captain Tess (Dani Cheiken) brings her troupe (Leslie Waggoner as “Patsy,” Zoe Swenson-Graham as “Mitzi,” Alyson Chilton as “Elaine,” Katie Baritell as “Louise,” and Laura Morgan as “Susie,”) to Nevada to help put on the show. Paul Plain plays “Eugene Fodor,” the travel writer who visits Deadrock’s hotel and Charles Evans plays Polly’s father “Everett Baker”.
The score includes some cowboy drawl (“Bidin’ My Time”), the jazzy “Slap That Bass”, and Gershwin classics like “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “Embraceable You” and “I Got Rhythm”, patchworked into the storylines, but leaving a feeling of detachment and lack of cohesion. It is a revue however and that’s what you get. The choreography, handled by McCoy and Danielle Cheiken is a delight, aided by the heavy use of props designed by Clay David. Kuo-Hao Lo’s revolving set create both NYC and the slow, weathered town of Deadrock. Eric Johnson’s smart lighting, Jackie Dennis’ wigs and Brooke Jenning’s costumes flesh out the bi-coastal look of 30’s NYC and the wild west of Nevada. Musical Director Jon Gallo and his band set the pace for the score.
Crazy for You is silly fluff that only demands you watch and enjoy. In that, it succeeds wildly.
Crazy for You continues through December 16th, 2018 at the Alcazar Theatre, 650 Geary Street, San Francisco. Tickets are available at www.bamsf.org or by calling (415) 340-2207.
Photos by Ben Krantz