SU:Media writer Chris Thorpe is crazy for Theatre Royal's production of Crazy For You; with performances on until the weekend, he tells us to go if you can!
Crazy for You - The Lyric, Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Music and Lyrics: George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book: Ken Ludwig
Director: Paul Hart
Reviewer: Chris Thorpe
Crazy for You delivers a stunning evening’s entertainment, proving you can take a contemporary comedy musical that's somehow also set in the classic Gershwin music-playing 1920s.
The story follows the life and loves of Bobby Child (Tom Chambers) who desperately wants to leave the family bank and become a dancer. Kicked back by impresario Bela Zangler (Neil Ditt) and torn between his love for his mother and her money, and his girlfriend Irene Roth (Caroline Flack), he chooses mother and money, heading off to Deadrock in the wilds of Nevada to foreclose on a family theatre. The theatre is owned by Polly Baker (Charlotte Wakefield) and her father. Bobby falls deeply in love with Polly, who in turn can’t stand him, and to win her over he sets about saving her theatre by impersonating Bell Zangler and delivering a lifesaving production.
Tom Chambers' has an almost lifelong love of Crazy for You, something that shines through in his delightfully high-spirited and highly physical performance. His persona is strong enough to project his character to the audience, be that as a desperate young dancer looking for his first break from Zangler, to his character impersonation he puts on to win Polly. He is a talented dancer with a great comedic skill.
Based on tonight’s performance it's easy to see how Charlotte Wakefield won an Olivier Award for her portrayal of Wendla in Spring Awakening. As the feisty Polly, the only girl in a town, she delivered the strongest performance of the evening and had a voice that complimented, but did not dominate, that of Tom Chambers.
Nathan M. Wright’s choreography for both the leads and ensemble has clear references to some of the classical musical films of the 1930s and is all the better for that. In the contemporary style, the orchestra are on stage as part of the cast. In many jukebox musicals, this grates, but here through a combination of choreography and Paul Hart’s direction, it works quite well.
The tale is told in Deigo Piutarch’s clever set which maximises the three-dimensional space with scene changes produced by different backcloths and a few props. It. Skilfully lit, the atmosphere and focus changes at the flick of a switch. There are many funny set pieces, which on their own might seem dated and predictable, but in context provided some big laughs.
Whilst essentially a production focussed on the leads, the cast deliver sterling support in the ensemble numbers. Neil Ditt’s performance as Zangler is just arrogant enough. Polly’s character is nicely framed by that of her father, Everett, played by Mark Sangster. Christopher Fry as the next-door salon owner, Lank Hawkins, is threatening enough in a musical comedy to provide a counterpoint to the good guys.
The odd characters in the production are the British explorers, the Fodors’, played in a nicely over-the-top style by Stacey Ghent and Kieran Kuypers, who turn up in Deadrock just before the saving performance; my question is why, as they seem rather out of place?
The impressive cast deliver a memorable musical evening reminiscent of the old time Broadway productions with much laughter along the way. Did we leave crazy for the show? Pretty much yes! With performances on until the weekend, go if you can!
The Lyric, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, 17th to 26th August 2017