Crazy For You, Novello Theatre
Director: Timothy Sheader
Author: Ken Ludwig
Key Cast: David Burt, Sean Palmer, Clare Foster, Kim Medcalf and Michael McKell
Rating: 2 stars
After much anticipation Crazy for You has finally arrived at the West End, having moved from its open theatre home in Regent’s Park. Over the course of the evening, Novello’s small stage played host to an action-packed pantomime of a production, made up of lively dance numbers and overplayed slapstick humour intertwined with ‘witty’ double entendres.
The story revolves around a banker’s son, Bobby Child (Sean Palmer), who decides to give up his job in the city to pursue a career on stage. His mother sends him to the small town of Deadrock, Nevada with the task of repossessing an old theatre and in the hope that the trip will knock some sense back into the heir to her fortune. Unsurprisingly (one thing the story doesn’t lack, is predictability), Child falls in love with the owner of the theatre (Clare Foster), and decides to help her repay the debt by organising a show. In a quick attempt to gain her trust, he dresses up as a renowned Broadway impresario, Bela Zangler (David Burt), which ultimately backfires in his face (because lying is bad, bad, bad, and we shouldn’t do it).
Although the storyline proves easy to follow, it is accompanied with big and loud dance numbers, some of which were a little too big for the Novello’s compact stage; with the male lead falling and almost sliding off the stage to the excitement (and panic) of the elderly in the front rows. That being said, that one literal slip-up aside, the main troupe was captivating to watch, and were successful in drawing attention away from the mediocre singing of the female lead.
The story is set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, whilst all the costumes and dances actually show the US in the 50s. A supposedly Hungarian producer leads the troupe into fast-paced Cossack dancing, and is nicknamed ‘Karl Marx’ by one of the characters for his likeness to the man behind “Das Kapital”. By the end of Act 1 I was expecting Trotsky or Lenin to make an appearance, but even I was shocked at the final turn of events – in spite of all the polkas, can-cans and hopaks, the multicultural mishmash of the musical took a turn for the worse, as a travelling English couple sang about ‘keeping their chins up’, whilst waving the British flag ostentatiously, and yes, drinking tea.
If anything, the music did not leave the audience disappointed; the Gershwin brothers’ classics like “I Got Rhythm” and “Embraceable You” draw attention away from the poor humour and actually make the production quite enjoyable. Being a heavily revised version of Girl Crazy, the 1930 Gershwin creation, Crazy for You benefits from the impressive line up of catchy and pleasant musical numbers, with the songs borrowed from George and Ira Gershwin’s other productions (Damsel in Distress, Shall We Dance) fitting seamlessly into the story. The music makes it obvious why the production earned itself a Tony Award back in 1992, although the performance on the night was far from pitch perfect.
I’m giving this one two stars, mainly because the musical score and the quality (but not necessarily the aptness) of the dancing deserved recognition (with a guest appearance from a dance couple practising their routine for that week’s Strictly Come Dancing…and spanning the stunned audience in the process). Misguided cultural references, clumsiness and bad singing aside, it was an entertaining evening, it bode well with the Anglophiles in the audience to see the British save the show, and there was a confetti canon at the end.
So providing you don’t treat the production with the seriousness of a history lesson, and enjoy random eruptions of glitter, you won’t come out disappointed. The main moral of the story is this: work hard for that Goldman Sachs internship, because if tap shoes and Bolsheviks on uppers are not your scene, you probably won’t get a confetti canon. Or tea.
An edited version of this article appeared in Issue 753 of the Newspaper of the LSE Students’ Union, The Beaver.