Review by Danny Gaisin
The Gershwin brothers wrote a rather short-lived musical in 1930 titled GIRL CRAZY. Six decades later it had an overhaul (sort of like any Danielle Steele book) with the names changed, and a plot modification. The new version -”CRAZY FOR YOU” and Sheridan’s theatre faculty has staged a super interpretation directed & choreographed by Julie Tomaino.
Seems every’ Old fart’ reaches a point where he remembers trivia from way-too-far back; this scribe recalls two anecdotes learned first-hand about the original iteration. At a serendipitous meeting with Ethel Merman, I learned that Girl Crazy was her first major Broadway show.
A late-night drinking session with Gene Krupa let me in on the fact that his 1st contract gig was for the same show along with his buddies Benny Goodman; Glenn Miller & Jimmy Dorsey in the pit. Fast forward – today.
‘Crazy For You’ tells the story of a young New York real estate scion who’d rather be a song & dance actor than a slumlord. He forces an established producer into a brief audition opportunity which bombs, and then must go out west to foreclose on a derelict theatre. Meets and falls in love with the theatre proprietor’s daughter; must imitate said N.Y. Producer in order to stage a play (shades of Rooney & Garland) and the girl falls for his alter ego. Methinks that Shakespeare oft-times utilized this plot vehicle himself! Naturally, this affords the cast numerous opportunities to sing, dance, and interact…and readers, they sure do.
Tomaino has taken a page out of the Donna Feore director’s page book and emphasizes both the duets and chorus dance numbers – almost over-accentuating terpsichore and thus reducing the on-stage dialogue. However. She redeems herself in the elaborate and detailed big chorus numbers whose participants are perfectly synchronized and faultless in execution. There is also a delicious tribute moment to ‘Les Miz’ with furniture stacked and a big red flag, and a full cast performing the number. Tomaino has demonstrated that she’s willing to be innovative and yet still offer the final year undergrads opportunities to shine both individually and cohesively.
The main characters are ‘Polly’ and ‘Bobby’ (Molly & Danny in Girl Crazy). Meghan Caine is the former and she had an innate ability to sell every song she solos. Her voice, range and note holding is the equal of Dolores O’Riordan, late of the ‘Cranberries’. Her suitor is Braeden Woods and he is a full quadruple threat. His ability to fluidly dance the play’s demanding numbers seems to be the result of unusually flexible joints and an aerobics background. His inebriated pratfalls in the play’s infamous Zangler/pseudo Zangler scene are reminiscent of Dick Van Dyke’s tripping over everything in his eponymous TV. Show.
Polly’s father is portrayed by a credibly aged Benjamin Todd and although his dialogue is tiresomely repetitious, he makes each iteration of his late wife’s stage moments glean laughs. A stand out beauty is Melissa MacKenzie as Bobby’s ‘Big Apple’ fiancee and her solo about being naughty – IS! The genuine Bela Zangler is Matthew Fearnley Brown. He too, has a true dancing talent and an instinct for comedic timing and expression. He’s got a thing for chorus girl Tess, and Hailey Balaz is sexy enough to be the distraction she’s supposed to present.
There are some noticeable standouts among the large cast, especially Jacob Sheffield as ‘Moose’ who performs the ‘Slap that Bass’ bit in Act I. Grapevine tells us that he’s already got a 6-month post-grad stage contract out East which says lots about the industry’s affinity for Sheridan’s graduates.
The play’s set is minimal but a reversible mobile prop is effective in accenting both the bar and the theatre. The rest of the action is simply stage front. The costumes are numerous and diverse, but lighting has some disappointing dark spots during some of the action moments. Having recently become mindful of the challenges of stage management; Katie-Fitz-Gerald must need full measure from her 3 cohorts in order to keep the action on & off stage running so smoothly. The quintet orchestral accompaniment conducted by Joseph Tritt, fortunately never overpowers the lyrics, something that happens far too often with staged musicals.
CRAZY FOR YOU is at Sheridan’s Trafalgar location until April 22nd, with “IF /THEN opening Thursday in the venue’s Studio Theatre.