Bobby Child, played by Sean Palmer, is the young man with a dream: to ditch banking and become a star dancer. Work however, the preferred occupation of his mother (played by the wonderful Harriet Thorpe), sends him to Nevada to take possession of The Gaiety Theatre, as payments by Polly Baker (Clare Foster) have not been kept up.
Fortunately for Polly, Bobby’s passion for the theatre and his dream of being a dancer take over – as does as his desire for her affections. Through various twists and turns he poses as theatre producer Bela Zangler to put on the show and win Polly’s heart, but all comes to close to unravelling as the real Bela Zangler (David Burt) comes to town, followed closely by Bobby’s mother.
Crazy For You is very much a play of ‘will they, won’t they?’… of course they will. Written by George and Ira Gershwin, with book by Ken Ludwig, the piece is very in keeping with the style of the era. It is a lavish production with lots of show girls, but many of the references are still as true today as they have ever been. I wouldn’t be surprised if down the line Bela Zangler becomes Cameron Mackintosh.
Practically all the songs in this production are well-known. Thanks to the charm and stand-alone quality of these numbers by Gershwin, the audience are practically singing along to songs such as I got Rhythm, Slap that Bass, Embraceable You, and a superb rendition of Someone to Watch Over Me by Clare Foster.
As with any production set in this era, though, it is the choreography that steals this show. Stephen Mear had his work cut out with a show that has number after number of the most infectious tap routines. I am happy to say with a cast of more than 20 filling the stage (made up, I am happy to report, of all shapes and sizes rather than the skinny-boy stereotypes found across the West End), Mear has created dance that you cannot help but be in awe of. The rousing company numbers, along with the more subtle duets of Foster and Palmer, really do give a variety to the piece and showcase the talent on stage. Theatre such as this, and the recent revival of Singin’ In the Rain, is what the term ‘triple threat’ is all about, as these talented casts sing, act and tap the hell out of the West End.
My only complaint is that, as expected in a Gershwin musical, the piece is just that bit too long, with the second half starting to lose its way a little. Generally, though, the energy of the performance keeps you gripped, with many an audience member showing how little rhythm they have by clapping out of time at the end.
A delicious treat, this evening of camp entertainment is a nice return to time gone by. With the Shreks and Legally Blondes of the world performing you’d be forgiven for proclaiming: “they don’t make them like this any more.”
Crazy For You is playing at the Novello Theatre until 17 March. For more information or tickets see the official Crazy For You website.