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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Crazy For Crazy For You

Also see John's review of Dusk Rings a Bell

Crazy For You
Matt Loehr and Showgirls
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre presents Crazy For You, featuring music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and book by Ken Ludwig. Though billed as "The New Gershwin Musical Comedy," it is largely based on the 1930 musical Girl Crazy written by the Gershwins, plus some songs from other productions as well (Girl Crazy marked the stage debut of Ethel Merman). The Broadway production of Crazy For You opened at the Shubert Theatre on February 19, 1992, and ran for 1,622 performances. The original production received two Drama Desk Awards and three Tony Awards. The cast included the late Bruce Adler who was nominated for both a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his performance as Bela Zangler.

Set in the 1930s, Crazy For You is the story of Bobby Child, a wealthy young New York City banker. With a beautiful fiancée and a promising career ahead of him, Bobby longs for a career in the theater. His mind and his heart are not on his job. He'd simply rather be dancing! When Bobby (Matt Loehr) is asked to travel to Nevada on behalf of the bank to foreclose on a rundown theater, he falls in love with Polly (Vanessa Sonon), the feisty daughter of the building's owner. Bobby decides to try and save the theatre rather than close it down, giving himself a venue in which to perform, and perhaps a way of winning the heart of his new found fancy.

The formula is classic "boy-meets-girl" where they fall in love after an appropriate period of rubbing each other the wrong way. There are one-liners reminiscent of vaudeville, a carefully staged mirroring scene, and plenty of cases of mistaken identity. The Gershwin music is glorious to listen to, and the dance sequences aim to please.

This production is overflowing with talent. Though I have seen the show before, I have never realized how funny some of the lines and bits are in the hands of the right director and cast. From witty jabs between Bobby's mother (Anna McNeely) and his high maintenance fiancée Irene(Trisha Rapier), or Irene and hotel owner Lank (Michael Halling), to the habit of Polly's father Everett (David Titus) of repeatedly recalling the same story of his late wife on stage, the script has been mined for humor—and they have come up with gold.

A live, nine-piece orchestra led by music director Helen Gregory plays the score beautifully, and the choreography by Shea Sullivan is sensational. There are fine dancers and good character actors in the ensemble, many with impressive credits. Vanessa Sonon is a wonderful Polly, finding the right mixture of sweet and strong in her character. She has a lovely singing voice in "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "But Not For Me," and partners Matt Loehr well in both acting and dancing scenes.

An effervescent Matt Loehr (Bobby) is the reason to rush to see this production of Crazy For You. His animated facial expressions, gift for physical comedy, and impeccable timing are surprising in a role that can be all about the dancing. In this case, Bobby also has a great singing voice, boundless energy, and an endearing goofiness. As for the dancing, it's sensational. Loehr brings the same acting presence to his dancing as he does his acting. He portrays tenderness, comedy and romance all danced to near perfection. In truth, the entire cast of this show dances with great joy and exuberance.

The team of composer George Gershwin, and his elder brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin practically needs no introduction. Together they worked on more than a dozen Broadway shows including: Lady Be Good, Oh Kay!, Funny Face, Strike Up The Band, Show Girl, Girl Crazy and Of Thee I Sing (the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer Prize). Their long list of memorable songs includes "But Not For Me," "Embraceable You," "I Can't Get Started," "I Got Rhythm," "The Man I Love," They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "'S Wonderful," "The Man That Got Away" and "Strike Up the Band." The sweeping melodies and romantic lyrics they created together have understandably made these songs a part of the Great American Songbook.

The other works of playwright and director Ken Ludwig include Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo, the book for a musical adaptation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Shakespeare in Hollywood, Leading Ladies, Be My Baby, and adaptations of The Three Musketeers, Twentieth Century, and Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Ludwig is the recipient of one Olivier Award, two Tony Award nominations, two Helen Hayes Awards, the Edwin Forest Award, and an honorary doctorate from York University.

Crazy For You will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through April 17, 2011. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, FL. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-3332 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.

Cast:
Tess: Aaron Bower*
Mitzi: Stephanie Card*
Sam: Carl Draper
Zangler: Michael Brian Dunn*
Lank: Michael Halling*
Hank/Eugene Fodor: Jay Johnson
Patsy: Elise Kinnon*
Custus: Jeff Kuhr*
Bobby: Matt Loehr*
Moose: Charles MacEachern
Lottie/Patricia: Anna McNeely*
Susie: Sierra Minott
Mingo/Dance Captain: Dennis O'Bannion*
Irene: Trisha Rapier*
Polly: Vanessa Sonon*
Everett: David Titus*
Betsy: Lauren Zapko*

Crew:
Director: Mark Martino**
Choreographer: Shea Sullivan**
Musical Director: Helen Gregory
Scenic Design: Dan Kuchar***
Lighting Design: Donald Edmund Thomas***
Sound Design: Keith Kohrs***
Costume Design: Jose M. Rivera***
Wig Design: Gerard Kelly
Stage Manager: Brandy Demil*

*Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

**Designates member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.

***Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.


Photo: Alicia Donelan/Fresh Appeal Photography


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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