Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A few weeks ago Owen and I made a rare visit to the Strand Theatre as was, the Novello Theatre as is, to see the Regents Park Open Air transfer of it's summertime hit CRAZY FOR YOU.

The Open Air Theatre's artistic director Timothy Sheader has hit upon a winning streak with his musicals: HELLO, DOLLY! won them the Evening Standard award for Best Musical as well as 3 Olivier Awards and last year's INTO THE WOODS won the Best Musical Revival Olivier Award and CRAZY FOR YOU has gone one better than those by moving into the West End.

I must admit that looking back on the experience I am a little surprised as, although enjoyable, I found the show a little under-powered with choreography which seemed to echo 42ND STREET a little too strongly.I think my problem with the show is Ken Ludwig's rather one-note book: it has enough stock musical comedy characters such as the energetic leading man and spunky leading lady; the high-class unwanted girlfriend and the rough-and-ready joe she sets her sights on; the waspish grande dame and the egomaniac theatre director et al but none of them seem particularly well-developed and their actions are dictated by the needs of the cobbled together Gershwin songs.

Peter McKintosh's standing set which would have filled the Open Air's stage seems oddly forlorn within the proscenium stage at the Novello and rather than looking tastefully elegant tends to just look a bit cheap.It doesn't seem like I enjoyed it much does it? I did actually and my enjoyment had a lot to do with the delightful performances by the leads.

Sean Palmer gave a winning performance as Bobby, the banker who has a secret desire to dance on Broadway - I know, ONLY in musical comedy. After failing in an audition with the over-the-top Broadway producer Bela Zangler his imperious mother packs him off to foreclose a failing theatre in Nevada. Needless to say Bobby turns this to his advantage and persuades the townsfolk that he is in fact Bela Zangler and he has come to give their theatre a boost. Palmer is a real find, a likable personality who can carry a tune, and more importantly, dance up a storm!

One reason that Bobby is determined to stay is the go-getting charms of Clare Foster's theatre-owning Polly and she too, gave a performance of great charmth and warmth (to quote Sam Goldwyn said). They were a delightful couple on stage - a rarity these days.

The supporting company were a bit more uphill in the charm department but the show gave David Burt a marvellous opportunity to shine as the over-the-top Zangler. His bewildered fish-out-of-Broadway-water when he unexpectedly pops up in the town was a great comedy showcase for him and his double-takes and pratfalls were a real joy.Needless to say any show that boasts a score including SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, EMBRACEABLE YOU, I GOT RHYTHM and THEY CAN'T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME is a must-see and there are enough lesser-known Gershwin songs to keep the show bouncing along - whatever the drawbacks of the book you know there is going to be an enjoyable song along in a while.

CRAZY FOR YOU has no obvious star performers, is not based on a film (although a few have been made from it's source show GIRL CRAZY) and is not a pop/rock songbook musical - so to transfer it into the West End which is dominated by all the above is a brave venture - and for that alone it deserves to succeed.

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