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Center Stage: Spirits soar with Gershwin adaptation

By Staff | Jan 21, 2015

“Crazy For You” is a delirious musical comedy and a perfect antidote from the gloom and doom news of the day that fills our daily lives.

Thank goodness for three or more blissful hours where gloom gets banished and spirits soar listening and watching a brilliant 1992 reworking of an old Gershwin musical originally titled “Girl Crazy.”

“Crazy For You” is actually a brilliant fake. When asked to adapt the George and Ira Gershwin 1930s hit “Girl Crazy,” playwright Ken Ludwig decided to junk the original book and write his own. And though he kept most of the original songs, most notably “I Got Rhythm,” which becomes the show’s signature theme, Ludwig also imported as well as introduced a whole bunch of other hit tunes from the Gershwin’s files that weren’t in the original show. The result is a wow!!!

Ludwig manages to scrape away decades of night club, jazz and variety show star performer’s interpretations and, in a single leap, reclaim the simple, straightforward way to perform these wonderful Gershwin standards in all their glorious, dynamic simplicity for the live stage. No frills, no embellishments are necessary in this show’s music.

As soon as the overture begins, you know that the creators of this show have had new and thrilling ideas; they are determined to make us hear these familiar songs as if for the first time. As a result, the show is full of surprises.

In this endeavor everyone connected with this Broadway Palm’s production of “Crazy For You,” starting with the director Dean Sobon, choreographer Samantha Hewes, musical director Loren Strickland, set designer Robert Andrew Kovach, costume designer John P. White, add to that an ebullient ensemble of feature players, wonderful principals, a terrific cast of singers and dancers, all splendidly deliver the goods — “big time”!

The daffy plot is simple enough: showbiz-crazed NYC banker Bobby Child (played by talented Jake Delaney) is sent out to Deadrock, Nevada, by his wealthy and controlling mom Mrs. Lottie Child (Kay Francis). Deadrock is a sleepy and impoverished former mining town, and Bobby has been sent to foreclose on the local theater.

Instead, he falls in love with Polly Baker (scintillating Emily Grace Tucker), daughter of its owner Everett Baker (James D. Hefferman, Jr.). Our hero decides to save the theater by adopting the disguise of a Hungarian impresario from the Broadway stage — Bela Zangler. Bobby is going to put on this show a la Mickey Rooney, “right here” in Deadwood, with a gaggle of Broadway chorus girl friends.

Rehearsals and putting on the show become both complicated and hilarious when the Real Impresario Zangler shows up, and the two men get drunk, and they blearily contemplate each other’s identical images in the stupefaction of horrendous hangovers; this becomes one of the show’s funniest numbers, “What Causes That?”

The dancing and staging are first rate, with choreographer Hewes paying great tribute to this show’s original choreographer Susan Stroman, especially in some of the staging of “Slap That Bass” where the chorus girls are swung on pickaxes that change and get plucked by the local guys like double basses.

As the spunky heroine Polly, Emily Grace Tucker had vocal chops, tons of energy and moved like a dream in the dance sequences. Jake Delaney had real charm, style in both his singing as well as his dancing as Bobby Child banker turned theater producer/musical hero. First-rate performances in supporting roles were given by Millicent Hunnicut as Bobby’s “Naughty Baby” demanding fiancee; add to that a terrific comedic interpretation given by Craig Smith in the role of the Hungarian impresario Bela Zangler.

The ensemble cast gives this show its sparkle and sense of fun; they were in a word Great!!!!!

The creative team and the cast of “Crazy For You” have whipped up a fabulous production that celebrates what a Broadway musical is all about, one that had the entire audience stop the show time and time again with joyous applause, celebrating the beauty of watching skilled professionals, at the top of their form, move in glorious precision to glorious music. Folks, “it don’t get better than that”!

So if you love a zippy show, a fun evening out, enjoying a hell of a good show, then “Crazy For You” is the show to see. Start by calling the Broadway Palm box office at (239)-278-4422. Order your seats now since the show closes Feb. 14.

When you phone, remind ’em Marsha sent you.