Whatever plans you lay, producing theatre in the open air has its pitfalls, particularly when the elements are as unpredictable as they are this summer. Just as we were taking our seats for this opening of 'Crazy For You' the weather tried to dampen the first night mood with a hefty downpour which had everyone donning plastic capes and putting-up umbrellas. And only a few minutes into the show, the proceedings had to be halted while a brave brigade mopped-up the stage to make it safe for the dancers and actors to perform. That done, the show went on and, thankfully, there were no further breaks.
Last up in the Open Air Theatre's 2011 season, 'Crazy For You' is a fun and fitting way to round things off, and adds yet another triumph to the impressive credits of the venue's artistic director, Timothy Sheader, who is also in charge of direction here. The story is not exactly riveting, but it's saving grace is that it does not really take itself too seriously and there is plenty of wit and wry humour to make the plot more palatable.
It's back to the 1930s and the first stop is Bela Zangler's theatre in New York. Bobby Child is the son of a wealthy banking family, but yearns for a career singing and dancing. But Mr Zangler is unimpressed with Bobby's talents and the stage-struck wannabe is sent out west by his mother to repossess a local theatre there. When he arrives in Deadrock, Nevada, he immediately falls for Polly whose father owns the theatre. Desperate to help save the venue, Bobbly disguises himself as Zangler and rounds up some dancers to put on a show and raise much-needed funds. But Bobby's plans go awry when Polly falls in love with his alter ego.
Song and dance numbers feature prominently in what is otherwise a standard kind of 'book musical'. Some of the routines feel somewhat stretched for my taste, but Stephen Mear's choreography is superb and the dancing could hardly be better. If you love tap or you enjoy a chorus line of beautiful, leggy blondes, then this is the show for you. George Gershwin's music is a joy, with several numbers that became standards years ago. You are bound to recognise many of them, especially 'I Got Rhythm', 'Embraceable You', 'Nice Work If You Can Get it' and 'Someone To Watch Over Me'. The company singing is generally very good, and an incredibly fine band, under the direction of Gareth Valentine, really do make the most of the catchy music and terrific orchestrations.
Peter McKintosh's excellent set design features a rotating stage and angled wooden structures that morph impressively into a variety of locations, adding perspective to the setting. And Timothy Sheader's polished, but subtle direction lets the music and choreography shine through while adding some nice touches of fairly unsubtle humour.
The rain at the start of the evening might have been mildly irritating, but the show itself was certainly worth braving several more downpours. 'Crazy For You' has no underlying pretensions about being anything other than what it actually is – great entertainment that enables one to escape the frustrations of daily life – and that's how it began back in the post-depression days of the 1930s when lifting spirits was the name of the game.
"Superb and for the most part uplifting musical.."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard
"Spirits soar during this delirious revival...The result is a delight, a production that simultaneously spoofs and celebrates classic Broadway musicals with a score that doesn’t contain a single dud tune. "
Charles Spencer for The Daily Telegraph
External links to full reviews from popular press
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