Fall in Love with ‘Crazy For You’ at The Encore
DEXTER – Everybody who’s wistfully sighed, “They don’t make musicals like they used to,” should do themselves a favor and see Encore Musical Theatre’s production of Crazy For You.This re-creation of George and Ira Gershwin’s 1930 show Girl Crazy is a fun-filled 2 ½-hour, laugh-a-minute song and dance extravaganza that kicks up so much positive energy that you’ll almost feel like you’re floating out of the theatre.
The show has pretty-in-pink show girls, rootin’ tootin’ cowboys who dance a lot better than they shoot, beautiful costumes, props that morph into dance partners, a field of cornball humor, and laugh-out-loud physical gags.
But the greatest strengths of this show are the music — 18 of the Gershwin brothers’ most treasured songs — and the dancing, which includes some of the most inventive choreography you’ll ever see. (No kidding. In the number “Slap That Bass,” chorus girls become stringed instruments played by cowboys. In the stomping spectacular “I Got Rhythm,” which ends the first act, pickaxes transform into swings for showgirls.)
Crazy For You was remade in the tradition of a classic Broadway musical with a large cast of singers, dancers and musicians. It won the Tony award as Broadway’s best musical in 1992.
The Encore Musical Theatre Company works from a much smaller stage, but the show still play’s “big” with Director Dan Cooney’s a cast of 21 and Music Director Tyler Driskill’s pint-sized orchestra.
Matthew Brennan stars as Bobby Child, a showbiz wannabe who fate has miscast into a New York City banking family. The play is set during The Great Depression. Bobby’s family’s bank sends him to deadbeat town of Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose on an old theatre that’s being used as post office for the few residents that remain after all the gold was panned out.
Soon after arriving, Bobby – who has a beautiful but bitchy fiancée back in New York – is smitten by the daughter of the theatre owner (and the only girl in town), Polly Baker. The high-spirited and big-hearted Polly is wonderfully portrayed by Rachel Hafell, who does justice to two of the production’s best-loved songs, “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “But Not For Me.”
Because Polly knows that the bank is sending Bobby Child to foreclose on the property, Bobby disguises himself as Bela Zangler – the Florenz Ziegfield-like New York impresario whom Polly idolizes – and convinces the townspeople to stage a show modeled after Zangler’s Follies starring chorus-girl friends from New York and the denizens of Deadrock.
Of course, there are a mountain of snags and gags before we know whether Bobby’s magical plan to save the theatre and his romance with Polly will work.
Brennan dazzles as Bobby and Zangler. His dancing, singing, and comedic timing are nothing short of superb. He delivers the Gershwin greats “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Nice Work if You Can Get It” with the perfect measure of emotion. Brennan also did the show’s wonderful choreography and serves as associate artistic director.
The memory of Brennan and Hafell ‘s lovely singing and dancing to “Embraceable You” and the first act, and “Things Are Looking Up” in the second act , will linger a long time.
Supporting performances for this show are also strong, especially Patrick Wallace as saloon/hotel owner Lank Hawkins, who also has an eye for Polly, and Sarah B. Stevens as Irene Roth, Bobby’s snooty socialite New York fiancée. When Irene vamps Hawkins to while singing “Naughty Baby,” it’s a solid crowd pleaser.
A few times the laughter from the audience was so loud that it drowned out caustic quips from soft-spoken actress Abby DeRosa (Patsy), but that’s my only disappointment from this thoroughly enjoyable, well-executed show.
Don’t miss it.