13 December 2012 (released)
18 January 2013
I love a Gershwin tune, how about you? Ok, you don’t have to LOVE Gershwin tunes to enjoy this utterly delightful comedy musical, but of course it helps.
This production of Crazy For You is, by the way, the first ever fringe production of the musical, thanks to Gatehouse wizards Katie and John Plews, who also produced and directed the show for Ovation.
That’s not saying because it is performed in a relatively restricted space it is less effective. Far from it! The two-and-a-half-hour long spectacle is so full of energy and fabulously choreographed dance numbers; you will barely notice the relatively compressed space.
Although Ken Ludwig based his relatively new show (it premiered on Broadway in 1992) on Gershwin’s 1930 smash Girl Crazy, there are only five songs in Ludwig’s version that featured in the original. However, he got the green light from New York producers to incorporate any numbers from the Gershwin back catalogue, thus Crazy For You became a hybrid show comprised of George and Ira Gershwin’s best loved songs.
The story – set in New York during the 1930’s - revolves around young banker Bobby Child (played with relish by American Jay Rincon, a native of Michigan). While his dominant mother Lottie (Tamsin Dowsett) and his constantly nagging fiancé Irene (Natalie Lipin) both have their own ideas and plans for Bobby, all he wants is to follow to his dreams and become a theatre star. Enter the Zangler Theatre, a place where Bobby has just auditioned but failed to impress impresario Bela Zangler (James Doughty, delivering a convincing Hungarian-German-Yiddish accent).
With his snooty mother putting Bobby under ever more pressure to carry on with his banking malarkey, and Irene expecting to finally get married to him, Bobby’s mind begins to drift… and who could blame him? In a scorching number called ‘I Can’t Be Bothered Now’, he fancies himself as the star he so would like to be. For this imaginary outing, he got support from the ZANGLER FOLLIES Tess (Sara Morley), Mitzi (Georgie Burdett) and Patsy (Becky Bassett, whose exaggerated comical expressions and shrill voice remind of a young Lucille Ball).
Back in reality-land, fate has different plans for Bobby however. He’s ordered to head for the little mining-town of Deadrock in Nevada, to foreclose the ramshackle Gaiety Theatre.
Then, some magic happened courtesy of set designer Suzi Lombardelli: with a few turns and revolving boards, the Zangler Theatre turned into a ramshackle saloon bar/hotel, while at the other end of the stage we gawked at an even more ramshackle Gaiety. New characters popped up too, in the shape of jolly dancing and hard-punching cowboys Moose (Ricky Morrell), Mingo (Simon Ouldred), Custus (Tom Pepper), and James Wolstenholme as frustrated hotel owner Lank Hawkins.
But what would a musical be without a love story? Nothing! Along came sassy Polly (Ceili O’Connor), a lass blessed with attitude and barrels of talent (if her voice is anything to go by!). As love stories go, she’s the first person who Bobby Childs encounters and predictably enough, he promptly falls for her - cue for ‘Things Are Looking Up’. Soon, the stage was set for an array of flamboyant dance numbers, a little jealousy (Polly is Lank’s girlfriend, but she too falls for Bobby), and a great deal of comic interludes.
When Polly comes to realize who Bobby really is and that the reason for his visit is to shut down the theatre (the very venue in which Polly’s mother used to be a star in her day), O’Connor skilfully cranked up her vocal chords and sent him to hell.
Not contend with giving her up, we witness Bobby coughing up a plan… by dressing up like Zangler and pretending to be him. Add to that the support of the Zangler girls he calls for help, the Gaiety should have been saved from closure. But that would have meant a premature ending of the show. Hence, gutsy Zangler girl Patsy got ample opportunity in displaying her talent for slapstick by teaching the local cowboys a few dance steps. Initially though, the lads prove less than capable in the dance department and we cracked up over another amusing scene. Unfortunately, the only folks to arrive to come see the show turne out to be some stereotype tourists (hilarious: Anthony Williamson, and Tamsin Dowsett again), something that gave director Plews a chance to play on all sorts of accents and dialects.
Shortly after, the Gatehouse audience was treated to one of the most recognisable and catchy tunes from the entire Gershwin catalogue – ‘I Got Rhythm’. Indeed, that’s precisely what the whole cast displayed during a truly infectious performance – lead by O’Connor and Rincon. What a scorching way to close a (relatively long) first act!
The second act continued with great entertainment, namely when the real Zangler came stumbling into Deadrock. Why? Well, find out and come see the show!
Fact is that his unexpected appearance set the action for more screwball antics, mix-ups, a fiery Polly who mistakenly falls for the real Zangler instead of the disguised Bobby, and an increasingly jealous Lank Hawkins. Oh, and lets not forget another highlight during which the real Zangler and Bobby (in disguise) drunkenly acted as each other’s mirror images. The audience roared with laughter.
More amazing dancing and songs – not to mention capers - marked the second part, while outstanding acts proved to be a solo by Jay Rincon (‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ / ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ – opting for a semi-comical Gene Kelly impersonation), a smouldering ‘Naughty Baby’ by Natalie Lipin’s Irene, and Polly’s belter ‘But Not For Me’.
A little giveaway though: there’s a glorious happy ending, and an equally glorious finale!
The award-winning musical is a firework not to be missed and hey, the entire cast really can sing and dance for sure! Oh, did I mention an ace live band playing as well?
So book now and catch it while CRAZY FOR YOU still running until January 27th!
UPSTAIRS AT THE GATEHOUSE
London N6 4BD
BOX OFFICE: 020 8340 3488
BY TUBE – Highgate Station:
(Northern Line – High Barnet Branch - plus 7minute walk - Zone 3).
Exit 3. Cross Archway Road then walk up and to the end of Southwood Lane. Look to the right and you will see The Gatehouse Pub.
BY TUBE – Archway Station:
(Northern Line – High Barnet branch - plus a steep hill walk for 20mins OR a 7minute bus ride - Zone 2 & 3). Turn left out of the main exit and left into Highgate Hill.