Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Crazy For You, Production Company, July 15, 2009 ***

Crazy For You
Music & Lyrics by George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin, Book by Ken Ludwig
By The Production Company
State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, July 15 to 19, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on July 15, 2009
Published in Herald Sun, Melbourne
GEORGE AND IRA GERSHWIN wrote countless memorable songs for Broadway (Funny Face) Hollywood (Shall We Dance) and the opera stage (Porgy and Bess). Even posthumously, it seems, they can create new music theatre. Crazy For You first hit Broadway in 1992 decades after the brothers died.

How does one write a show after departing this world? Cunningly, Crazy For You was constructed from the 1930 Gershwin show called Girl Crazy and a bunch of other Gershwin songs from other productions and the rather silly story from the original show was replaced with a new book by Ken Ludwig. Enter Crazy For You.

Bobby, played with vigour by Christopher Parker, is a rich, young banker who wants to dance in Bela Zangler’s Broadway show. (Think Ziegfeld Follies.) When he is sent to foreclose on an old theatre in Deadrock Nevada, he falls in love with Polly (Natalie O’Donnell) the owner’s daughter, then attempts to revive the theatre by bringing his pals, the Zangler showgirls, to town.

This production brings together director, Terence O’Connell, choreographer Alana Scanlan and Orchestra Victoria under Peter Casey. The Production Company mounts its shows with limited rehearsal. This means that they do not have all the bells and whistles of a full-scale musical but often the urgency of short development gives the shows energy and excitement.

There are some wonderful moments, particularly the crazy chorus scenes, but also some flaws that may be attributable to restricted rehearsal. Natalie O’Donnell as Polly does not have the vocal power and control to carry the role and her upper register is unpredictable. The beautiful Gershwin song, Someone To Watch Over Me, seems out of her reach. We cannot help comparing her rendition of I’ve Got Rhythm with that of big-voiced Ethel Merman who sang the original version.

Parker’s warm, light voice is suited to They Can’t Take That Away From Me. He is at his strongest when he plays Bobby impersonating the showman, Zangler. As the real Zangler, Adam Murphy is a real highlight with his comic characterisation and his duet with Parker (What Causes That?) is fun.

The big chorus numbers are the feature of this production. The male chorus of cowpokes and the female chorus of showgirls provide plenty of colour in Slap That Bass, Tonight’s The Night and I Got Rhythm. And Chloe Dallimore, Robyn Arthur, Peter Hosking, Melissa Langton and Alan Brough provide strong support roles.

By Kate Herbert 15 July, 2009

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