“Dancing makes my troubles all seem tiny”
There’s no hiding the fact that the Open Air Theatre’s Crazy for You is pure hokum but for sheer escapist fun and a feel-good atmosphere that will whisk you away from the troubles outside of Regent’s Park for an evening, this will pretty much do the trick. Based on the George and Ira Gershwin musical Girl Crazy, Ken Ludwig – he of the recently departed Lend Me A Tenor – wrote a new book in 1992, heavy on post-modern knowingness and light on substance: silly but fun – if you come here looking for authenticity you’re bound to be disappointed!
Banker Bobby Child is forced to abandon his Broadway dreams and is dispatched to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on a theatre there. Sensing an opportunity as he falls head over heels with the daughter of the theatre’s owner, he decides to impersonate the Broadway impresario he longs to work for and arranges for a benefit show to be put on to save the theatre: madcap fun ensues with mistaken identities – clearly a Ludwig fave – at the fore.
But what makes this show is the singing and dancing. The musical has been co-opted into a Gershwin compilation show and so classic follows classic as the catalogue is cherry-picked and strongly invigorated by Gareth Valentine’s arrangements and musical direction. Adding Stephen Mears’ vibrant choreography really does lift things into the stratosphere with routine after routine filled with breathtaking delight: the thrill of the opening of Bidin’ My Time the playfulness of the prop-filled I Got Rhythm, there are so many highlights but they do all come with the music.
A vivacious cast do their impressive best. Sean Palmer exudes genuine Broadway pizzazz as Bobby and Clare Foster makes for a charming Polly, together they work beautifully. Harriet Thorpe and Samuel Holmes’ number is just brilliant; the incredibly hard-working David Burt is great prat-falling fun; Carl Sanderson, Kim Medcalf and Michael McKell all deserve mention too. It is lots of fun, not quite reaching the heights of the big musicals that have filled my heart with so much joy this year – the nudge-nudge-wink-wink factor not quite balanced with enough charm – but a great way to cocoon yourself against harsh reality for a couple of hours (and I’d recommend taking a blanket or two to literally cocoon yourself too!)