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'Crazy for You'

Quarter moon in a ten cent town

by Stuart Sweeney

July 8, 2004 -- Churchill Theatre, Bromley, England

I remember the 1990’s West End production of "Crazy For You" as a fun show with no pretensions to the emotional depth of musicals such as "Oklahoma" or "Carousel" and this show provides another feel-good evening. Based on the song-book of George and Ira Gershwin, many of the numbers are from the film "Girl Crazy", bolstered with favourites such as "Someone to Watch Over Me".

The story is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, against a "let's put on a show!" backdrop. The setting is New York and Deadrock (out West) with some fun from the clash of cultures; and, of course, the sophisticated New Yorkers are bowled over by the simple charm of the locals. The heir to a banking fortune is sent to Deadrock to foreclose on the town’s sole theatre, but as his first love is the stage he decides to put on a show in the disused venue. He invites his showgirl friends from New York, who are only too happy to give up their summer break and wealthy boyfriends to come to a dusty little town for no money. The chorus boys are recruited from the locals who have an unexpected flair for musical comedy. However, the plot stereotypes are lifted by some sharp one-liners such as:

Performer: I'm unknown in New York, but I have prospects.
Impresario: Yes, one day you'll be unknown all over America.

Darren Bennett as Bobby Child, the stage-struck banker holds this production together. With experience ranging from Festen "Twelfth Night" to lead roles in "West Side Story" and "Singing in the Rain", Bennett is a genuine charmer with a musicality that ensures his tap dancing is a pleasure to watch. He brings a softness to the melancholy songs and gets plenty of laughs in the comedy numbers. Melanie Stace as the local girl, who steals Bobby's heart gives a high-octane performance from the start, but her portrayal is generally on one level and she fails to get the best out of her songs - her approach to phrasing is generally to dawdle behind the spirited, small orchestra.

Elsewhere, Jenny Cox plays the other woman competing for Bobby and she brings light and shade to her songs and a feisty manner to this "naughty girl" role. The programme notes tell us that she first appeared in an Australian version of the show, as a "swing" - someone who covers for several roles. As a lesson for budding hopefuls, Cox has capitalised on this early experience and on this tour doubles as the dance captain. From the corps, Alan Burkett always gives 110% and shows why he has won awards for his tap dancing. Mention must also be made of Kelly Homewood who brightens the production with the loveliest legs I've seen in a long time.

After a series of ups and downs the lead couple are reunited, the theatre is saved from redevelopment and most of the rest of the cast are paired off. It's a breezy, cheery evening and if you enjoy light musical comedy, it's definitely worth a visit.

Edited by Jeff.

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