“Crazy For You” brings the music of George and Ira Gershwin and the days of classic Hollywood musicals to The Playhouse Edinburgh stage for one week only (Tue 3 to Sat 7 April), via the leading role talents of Strictly Come Dancing winner Tom Chambers and West End & TV star Claire Sweeney with Charlotte Wakefield as Polly, and the end result is a little bit of theatre song and dance “magic”.
The original stage version of this show was performed in 1992 and it quickly won major awards - 1992 Tony Award (Broadway) and 1993 Olivier Award (London). Using the wonderful music of George and Ira Gershwin, this show is based heavily on their 1930 musical “Girl Crazy”, but also features songs from some of their other films. “Crazy For You” is a celebration of “The Great American Hollywood Musical” and ”The Great American Songbook”, and few people contributed more pages in that songbook than The Gershwin brothers. “Crazy For You” though, is not only a tribute to the music, but to classic choreography of those films - great talents like Busby Berkley and Hermes Pan.
“Crazy For You” was for me an unexpected treat as there is so much that can go wrong with a production like this, and as well as a big production budget to re-create that film magic on stage you also require a cast with the lightness of touch to make the very difficult look so easy and natural. This show has it all. High production values that show everywhere and a solid cast of talented performers.
Tom Chambers as lead man Bobby Child is a real surprise here as on top of his dancing abilities he has a real feel for light romantic comedy, and Claire Sweeney as on-off love interest Irene Roth is a perfect partner for him on stage. Irene Roth is a good, solid stage character, and Claire Sweeney gets some classic comedy lines in this role and plays them perfectly. Also great to see Claire in an over the top and perfect for this role performance of “Naughty Baby”.
“Crazy For You” is a well written (original book by Ken Ludwig) musical with some wonderfully funny lines and just the right touch to bring this era alive on stage. The formula of bringing a big stage show to bring some small town stage back to life has been used so many times in Hollywood musicals, but for some reason it keeps on working, and works so well here. I suppose part of this success is that, as a viewer, you have to enter into that fantasy world of “the musical” and accept that combination of the sublime and the ridiculous. Along the way we of course have the double identity, girl falls in love with wrong identity scenario too. A rather clichéd format, but it worked for some of the greatest operas ever written and it works for “Crazy For You“ too.
The musical stage star of this show though is small town girl (and new love interest for Bobby) Polly Baker played wonderfully by Charlotte Wakefield with a performance that has the perfect lightness of touch, comedy timing plus the song and dance skills to make a role like this work. There is also a little bit of on stage magic between her and Tom Chambers, and you need that to make a show like this work.
There are some very inventive uses of the songs in this show, and one of my favourites was Tom Chambers as Bobby Child and Neil Ditt as Bela Zangler in the classic little comedy performance of “Zangler and Zangler”. If this sounds a little confusing, then go and see the show, I am not giving the story away here.
Without doubt though, the overall star of this show is the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, and what songs – “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”. “Embraceable You” and “Someone To Watch Over Me” being just a few of the classics in this show.
There are so many people that behind the scenes go into making a show like this work and the attention to period costume detail and a very good set are just two of the many areas that all go to make this production work so well.
“Crazy For You” is simply a classic “musical theatre” night out for the whole family with strong performances from everyone involved on stage.
Review by Tom King