Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Crazy for You: Audiences will go crazy for Feore and Girshwin

Crazy for You
Stratford Festival
Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book by Ken Ludwig
Co-Conception by Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent
Inspired by material by Guy Bolton and John McGowan
Originally produced on Broadway by Roger Horchow and Elizabeth Williams
Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore
April 27 – October 12
Festival Theatre
Approximate running time: 2 hrs. 46 mins, including one interval and unbridled applause

Review by Geoff Dale
STRATFORD – Monday night Colm Feore reigned supreme as the Festival launched its 2014 season, so what be more fitting than to turn the stage over to the marvelously innovative choreographer/director Donna Feore.
She wears the crown well, masterfully offering up a wonderfully tuneful, energetic and boisterous Crazy For You – a classic musical collection of some of George and Ira Gershwin’s most memorable numbers from the Depression era ‘30s.

While the tunes may not be new for many of us, this is an abundantly joyful creation that Feore and her exuberant cast of singers, dancers and musicians can rightfully call their own. As George Gershwin once said, ‘It is always possible to create something original’, and one could easily argue this is precisely what has been done here.
For those living on another planet for the past eight decades or so, a little background on Crazy for You, a tune-filled love story based on Ken Ludwig’s book, Ira Gershwin lyrics and George Gershwin’s music. Based somewhat loosely on the songwriting brothers’ bubbly 1930 hit Girl Crazy, the modern adaptation includes numbers from other productions.
Winner of a Tony for best musical in 1992, it would be kind to suggest that folks don’t flock to the theatres just to see the boy-meets-girl, loses-girl, decides to stage a big show and on and on plot. The storyline may be light in the extreme but it is still fun with a capital F. Besides the music is sublime, the dance numbers brim with physical exuberance and the overall tone bright enough to bring the most jaded of us back to life.
The central characters – a stage-struck New York playboy, Bobby Child (Josh Franklin) is dispatched by his mother Lottie Child (Lally Cadeau) to the little town of Deadrock, Nevada to close down the local theater. Predictably he falls head-over heels in love with the theater owner’s daughter, the headstrong Polly Barker (Natalie Daradich).
Vowing to save the local theatre, he dreams up the idea of staging a money-making show a la Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland style. Along the way he dons the guise of New York impresario Bela Zangler (Tom Rooney) to further pursue the lady and, well, you take it from there.
The result is sheer magic as Feore and cast conjure up delightful scene-after-scene in flawless fashion – providing seemingly endless moments filled with splendid hummable melodies and feel-good lyrics from the Gershwin brothers and bountiful, death-defying choreography numbers that dazzle the eye and get even the most timid audience members tapping their feet in unison.
Franklin, making his Stratford debut, is a sure-footed triple threat as singer, dancer and deft physical comedian while Daradich possesses an impressive set of vocal chords that could both topple those proverbial Walls of Jericho and then sooth the most savage breast a moment late.
With his flamboyant bearded, mustachioed Bela Zangler, modeled on real-life theatrical producer Florenz Ziegfeld, Tom Rooney demonstrates yet again that he amongst the most versatile performers to be found anywhere – a well-rounded singer/dancer/actor who is delightfully funny, especially when his character is three-sheets-to-the-wind.
Paired with Franklin in a musical duet of the dueling Zanglers What Causes That, Rooney is in top form wringing a non-stop barrage of laughs and applause from an audience that often interrupts the action onstage with unsolicited cheers of approval.
Shawn Wright, looking uncannily like veteran British character actor Bernard Fox, is an engagingly silly travel writer Eugene Fodor, matching notes and dance steps with his equally fish-out-of water wife Patricia Fodor. Kayla James, as Zangler’s love-interest, is a sheer delight as Tess.
As Slim, the bass player, Michael McLennan brings down the house with his jazzy little rendition of Slap That Bass, while his cowboy counterparts Steve Ross (Moose), Marcus Nance (Mingo) and Stephen Patterson (Sam) capture both the musical and comic style of the classic Gershwin numbers.
The engaging combo of Robin Hutton (Irene Roth) and Shane Carty (Lank Hawkins) provide proof positive that there are no real villains in this enterprise. Lally Cadeau tosses about snappy one-liners with the precision and timing befitting a female Don Rickles and 28-year Festival veteran Keith Dinicol (Everett Baker) demonstrates his tapping talents, keeping in step with his younger co-stars as Polly’s light-on-his-feet dad.
Hats off to the remarkable Donna Feore and her talented crew, both on and off-stage, for lightening the mood and firmly planting the melodies of those timeless Gershwin songs likeSomeone To Watch Over Me and They Can’t Take That Away From Me in this scribe’s head well in the wee-hours of the morn.
This is Gershwin. This is the Stratford Festival. This is Donna Feore. This is pure entertainment.

Crazy for You taps, sings and jokes its way to five out ***** stars.

This review originally appeared online at Donald's Dish.

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