CRAZY FOR YOU
Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gerswhin
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
Presented by arrangement with TAMS-WITMARK MUSIC LIBRARY, INC.560 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York 10022
Crazy For You played Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Thursday 13th December 2012 – Sunday 27th January 2013
Becky has recently graduated from Bird College with a BA (hons) in Musical Theatre where she was awarded ‘Most professional student’ (2012).
Theatre includes: Ensemble in the Southbank Winter Festival (Royal Festival Hall); The Dance of Bollywood (Curve Theatre, Leicester); and Future Beauty: 30 years of Japanese Fashion (Barbican Theatre). Credits whilst training: Carmen Bernstein in Curtains (Studio House, Sidcup); Featured Singer/ Dancer in Hooray for Hollywood! (Dartford Theatre); Betty/ Ensemble in White Christmas (Studio House, Sidcup); Singer/ Dancer in Broadway Then and Now (Dartford Theatre); Ensemble in Burlesque and Other Distractions (Dartford Theatre). Commercials include: The Walking Dead (FX Channel); ‘Pretty Green’, Liam Gallagher.
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Ben started his professional career with the Pip Simmons Theatre Group working on a number of productions including Do It!; Superman; and An die Musik followed by a season with the Bubble Theatre. Previous theatre credits include: Rocky in The Rocky Horror Show (Kings Road Theatre); Arthur in Aren’t We All? (Haymarket); Yonadab (National Theatre); and Jeff in the revival of Absurd Person Singular, directed by Alan Ayckbourn (Whitehall Theatre). Ben spent three years in the English Shakespeare Company in The Wars of the Roses – Shakespeare’s history plays – on a worldwide tour and at the Old Vic.
Television includes: The Bill; Beddoes in Poirot; Von Schumberg in Genghis Cohen; as well as appearing as a regular presenter on the BBC’s Playschool.
Ben is a co-founder of Off the Page Theatre Company, where he directed Henry Fielding’s Tom Thumb; Sylvia Plath’s Three Women; and Lewis’s The Bells.
Ben recently performed his one man play, written in conjunction with Patti Holloway, John Clare – Reflections from the Madhouse (Etcetera Theatre in Camden Town) and is looking forward to presenting it in venues around Britain.
Georgie studied musical theatre at Guildford School of Acting. Whilst training she was lucky enough to play the roles of Flossie in On the Town; Housewife in Working; Jessie in The Match Girls; Copa Girl in Copacabana; Ensemble/Dance Captain in Moby Dick! The Musical; and played/understudied Aladdin in Aladdin (Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford). Theatre credits include: The Murder Musical (Kommedia, Brighton Fringe); Egyptian Music Hall (The Warren, Brighton Fringe); and The Murder Musical Tour (Small World Theatre, Cardigan). Recently presenting for JTX Fitness and as a dancer for Zumba2 on the Wii Fit.
Training: Guildford School Of Acting.
Whilst training James played Voltaire in Candide (Ben de Wynter); Arvide Abernathy in Guys and Dolls (Phyllida Crowley-Smith); Ensemble/Cover Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance (Nicholas Tudor); and was a featured soloist in Side by Side by Sondheim (Kenn Oldfield). Other theatre credits include: the world premiere of Dorothy Squires: Mrs Roger Moore (Stewart Nicholls) in London and Edinburgh and the workshop of Blondie: The Musical (Maeve Byrne).
James is also a musical director and composer, and his credits include: Just In Time For Christmas (St Andrew Holborn); Children of Eden (Phyllida Crowley-Smith), additional arrangements for Billy (Andrew C Wadsworth) and the 2012 GSA Showcase, as well as serving as Vocal Captain/Assistant MD during his time at GSA. James has written a musical, Lucy, which will play at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, and is also co-producer, arranger and musical director of a London revival of Children of Eden in April 2013.
Tamsin has recently graduated from The Royal Academy of Music with distinction. Roles whilst training include: Gladys in The Pajama Game; and Nora in A Doll’s Life. Prior to RAM Tamsin trained at The Arts Educational School, Tring Park (Scholarship in Musical Theatre). She has worked extensively with the National Youth Theatre where productions include: Living the Dream; Relish; Measure for Measure; The Merchant of Venice; 100 Words; Victory Street; Pageant; ID:1000; and The Clown Cabaret. Tamsin is also an associate artist of NYT. She also took part in the Olympic Handover Ceremony at the Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing, China. Recent credits include: Helen Furnival in The Seed (Goat & Monkey); Tigerlilly in Peter Pan (London Touring Theatre); Martine in DNA (The Cockpit); Lucy in Do Us Part (Hampstead Theatre); Mummar Anne in Goat & Monkey’s A Little Neck (Hampton Court Palace); and Kid in First Time Voters (The Bush Theatre).
Natalie graduated with Distinction from the Guildford School of Acting earlier this year where she was also awarded the MA Musical Theatre cup. She was thrilled to play leading roles in both final year productions as Golde in Fiddler on The Roof and Miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Since moving to London, Natalie has taken on roles such as Princess Maria in Call Me Madam and Deborah Pullman in The Fix (The Union Theatre); and ensemble in the Lost Musicals production of Flahooley (Lillian Baylis Studio Theatre, Sadler’s Wells).
Sara trained at Laine Theatre Arts, gaining a National Diploma in Dance and Musical Theatre. Productions whilst training include Mrs Lyons in Blood Brothers directed by Nic Greenshields.
Theatre Includes: Dancer for Kerry Ellis in Night of 1000 Voices (Royal Albert Hall); Ensemble in Cinderella (Theatre Royal, Plymouth);
Ensemble in Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood (Thameside Theatre, Essex); and Dancer in A Centennial Celebration (New Wimbledon Theatre).
TV and Commercial credits include: Dancer in FA Cup Final Pre-Match (Wembley Stadium); Dancer for Olly Murs and Rizzle Kicks in The Brit Awards (O2 Arena); Dancing Waitress in Strictly Anonymous for Elegant Entertainment – choreographed by Steven Paling; and School Girl in Orange Mobiles Advert.
Ricky trained at the Doreen Bird College, graduating with a National Diploma in Dance and Theatre Performance. His theatre credits include: playing Lyle and covering the roles of Chuck and Principal Clark in Footloose (UK tour); backing dancer on the Ray Quinn UK Tour; Sleeping Beauty (King’s Theatre Glasgow); and Fame where Ricky took on the role of Dance Captain and Swing as well as covering the roles of Mr Myers, Schlomo and Mr Sheinkopf (UK Tour).
Ricky has performed the roles of Cecco and Medicine Man in Peter Pan (The Empire Theatre, Sunderland), as well as part of the ensemble in the Crazy For You Showtime Challenge (London Palladium). Further ensemble credits include: Irish Wings (European Tour); Dance captain in Carmen and Dancer in Pinocchio both for Opera North (UK Tour). Most recently, Ricky has appeared in Essence of Ireland (UK Tour) and took the role of Dance Captain and Company Manager for the German Tour of Night of the Dance.
Television roles include: featured dancer in E4’s Bo Selecta: Tribute to Michael Jackson, recreating both the Thriller and Bad music videos and ‘The Baker’ in the recent Morrisons campaign.
For further information: Please visit: www.kmcagencies.co.uk
Training: Arts Educational Schools, London.
Productions whilst training include: Demeter in Cats directed by Christine Cartwright and Gillian Lynne and ensemble in Jerry Springer – The Opera directed by Gary Sefton.
Theatre credits include: Understudy Luisa in The Fantasticks original London cast (Duchess); Christmas in New York (Lyric); Understudy Dorothy in Wizard of Oz original London cast (London Palladium).
Workshops include: The Nightingale directed by Peter Addis and Super Alice Smith directed by Andy Barnes and Tim Dreisen.
Co-producer at IlliaDebuts – Jonathan Reid Gealt Concert (London debut), Kooman and Dimond Concert (London debut).
Training: Italia Conti Academy.
Theatre credits include: Squigie Man in Rent (Cockpit Theatre); Ensemble in Church Of Now (BBC Edinburgh); Mr Stanley in Flora The Red Menace (Rose and Crown and Landor Theatre); Soloist in Tim Prottey Jones Concert (Courtyard Theatre); Ensemble in West End Unplugged (Leicester Square Theatre); Ensemble in Nothing To Do With Love (Canal Cafe); Quentin in Popstar The Musical (UK Tour); Oberon/Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (UK Tour); and Ensemble in The Good Old Days (Leeds City Varieties).
Televison and Recording credits include: Vet in Direct Line Pet Insurance, Alexis in Converse Branded comercial, Vocalist in GMTV Grease Competition, Backing Vocalist for Julie Atherton Album (No Space For Air).
Tom has recently graduated from Guildford School of Acting, having previously studied at the University of Exeter. Credits whilst training include: Motel in Fiddler on the Roof; Edsel Mackey in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; Ralph Bates in A Period of Adjustment; Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors and Macheath in The Beggar’s Opera.
Tom has just completed a six week run of the European premiere of Curtains at the Landor Theatre as Daryl Grady.
Other credits include: The Mystery of Edwin Drood which began at the Landor Theatre and transferred to the Arts Theatre, West End.
Television credits include: Red Dwarf X for UKTV (The Man Who May Be Jesus/Judas).
Anthony trained at the London School of Musical Theatre graduating in 2007.
For Ovation: Smudge in Forever Plaid (Upstairs at the Gatehouse and Kuala Lumpur). Most recently Anthony understudied the role of Rolf in The Sound of Music (Bahrain); Other credits since graduating include: Governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Union Theatre); Evita (International Tour); Swing in the award winning Eurovision musical Eurobeat (Novello); 12 Tenors (European Tour); Jeter in Footloose (Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage); Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour), where he understudied and played the role of Joseph on numerous occasions; Lead singer in Under The Arches (Players Theatre, Charing Cross); Aladdin (Edinburgh Kings Theatre/Qdos) and Sam in Cleggmania (Light Tunnel Theatre). Anthony also took part in the Sitcom Trials in London.
Workshops include: Rumor Has It (London Palladium); Septimus Severus (Collective Artists); and Alice in Wonderland (Charles Miller’s). Cast Recordings: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2011); 12 Tenors (2010 – cast recording).
James trained at the Birmingham School of Acting and then went on to The Royal Academy of Music to train in Musical Theatre, graduating in 2011.
Theatre credits whilst training include: The Dreaming, Music Lessons, Epicoene, and Spend, Spend, Spend (Birmingham); and Star Spangled Girl, Little Me and Buddy Plummer in Follies (Royal Academy of Music).
Other theatre credits include: West End Story (UK and India) for which he was also musical supervisor; Leonato in Beatrice et Benedict – Opera (RAO); Prince Charming in Cinderella (Rose Theatre, Rugeley); Chad/Mr Eames in Trying To Get Back Home (Theatre Royal, Bury-St-Edmunds); Sammy in The Night Before Christmas (UK tour); Jack in Jack & The Beanstalk (Winsford Civic Theatre); Presenter in Rainbow Live! – with Zippy, George and Bungle! (UK tour).
James recently provided vocals for Brian May in the benefit concert Freddie For a Day at the Savoy. Other concert work includes The Songs of Bobby Cronin (Charing Cross Theatre); and Stephen Sondheim Concert (RAM for Mr Sondheim himself).
Oliver-John is a harpsichordist and conductor based in London. He began his musical career as a chorister at Westminster Abbey, and graduated in 2006 with a first class honours in Music from the University of Manchester. He has been Music Director of Hampstead Garden Opera Company since 2008. After a year as keyboards apprentice to the Monteverdi Choir under Sir John Eliot Gardiner, he has since performed and recorded as a member of the English Baroque Soloists in the UK and Europe. He has previously held positions as cover conductor to the Royal Ballet and Acting Director of the Halle Youth Choir. Music Theatre credits include: Assassins (Palace Theatre, Manchester); Little Shop of Horrors (Dancehouse Theatre); and Put on a Happy Face (Landor Theatre).
Grant is a massive fan of the 30’s era; a decade of many exciting breakthroughs in dance styles which are still evident in commercial dance today. When offered this opportunity, he was keen to route the choreography in an authentic style of the late 20’s and early 30’s. The likes of the Nicholas Brothers, Bill Bojangles, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, and Gene Kelly have, and still do, capture the hearts and imagination of all who watch them.
Training: Arts Educational School, Musical Theatre Diploma (Andrew Lloyd Webber Scholarship) and a Masters in Creative Practice.
Creative credits include: Directing, Whoopi Goldberg, for her performance in Sister Act (London Palladium); Belly of Hell (Southwark Playhouse); Gangsters Of Love (Charing Cross Theatre); In Touch (Perfect Pitch); Associate Director, Guys and Dolls (Cadogan Hall). Choreography, HMS Pinafore and Pirates of Penzance (Illyria Open Air Tour); Apply Within (Pleasance Edinburgh Fringe); Our House (BYT); 18 Stone of Idiot – The Johnny Vegas Show (UMTV); Funky Friday (MTV); Assistant Choreographer/Director, Chorus Line, assistant to Baayork Lee (London Palladium), Spring Awakening (Arts Ed); and tap coach to the Billy Elliot boys. As well as teaching at numerous colleges including Arts Ed, London Studio Centre, GSA, and Urdang.
He is currently Dance/Puppet Captain on Shrek the Musical (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane).
Performance credits include: Sister Act (London Palladium); Mary Poppins (Prince Edward); Footloose (Novello); Fame (Aldwych); The Beautiful Game (Cambridge) and The Fred Astaire Tribute (London Palladium).
His UK and International tours include: Hair; Mamma Mia!; Starlight Express; Oh! What A Night; and Dancing Queen.
Television credits include: The Bill (Carlton); and The Biz (BBC). Recordings include: The Beautiful Game; and Fred Astaire: His Daughter’s Tribute.
Further information: www.access-uk.com
For Ovation: as Designer: Keep Calm and Carry On (ICC Birmingham); A Life in the Theatre; and Play It Again Sam (Upstairs at the Gatehouse). As Costume Designer: A Tale of Two Cities (Charing Cross Theatre in association with PN); and Iceberg Right Ahead! (Upstairs at the Gatehouse).
Other work as Designer: Tin (Lowry Studio, MAC); The Censor (JMK-1st Round); Fragments 2 (Riverside Studios); Frankly I Was A Fool… (Gilded Balloon); Less Than Kind (Jermyn Street Theatre); A Fool To Love You… (Thailand Tour); She From The Sea (LIFT Festival for Cleanbreak); Lesbian Bathouse (Assembly Rooms); Le Silence (White Bear Theatre); Apartment 2012 (White Bear Theatre); The Emperor of The Moon (Embassy Theatre, CSSD); Shakespeare Scenes (Trinity College Opera); Pythonesque (Cowbarn), Richard III (Studio One, CSSD), Oliver’s Army (Webber Douglas Studio, CSSD); Behind Closed Doors (Shoreditch Townhall Basement); Romeo and Juliet (Chipping Norton Theatre); and Return To The Forbidden Planet (Chipping Campden Theatre).
As Costume Designer: Less Than Kind (UK tour); The Captive (Finborough Theatre); Lautes Licht (Shunt Vaults); and House of Bernarda Alba (Embassy Theatre, CSSD). Associate Designer: Gasp! (The Hat Factory); Country Life (Old Red Lion); and Decline and Fall (Old Red Lion). Assistant Designer: Dealers Choice (Embassy Theatre, CSSD); and No Way Out (Southwark Playhouse). Design Assistant: Charged (Soho Theatre); and Pieces of Vincent (Arcola Theatre).
TV and film credits include: How We Made the World – MK-47 (Nutopia); Production Designer, Morning After (Cinematik Productions); Wardrobe Assistant, Jamie Oliver’s Family Christmas; Assistant Art Director, Short Lease; Assistant Costume and Makeup Designer, Transit.
Suzi is resident designer for Hiraeth Artistic Productions and a graduate of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Forthcoming Productions: Lady Windermere’s Fan (Bridwell Theatre) and Romeo and Juliet (Upstairs at the Gatehouse).
Tom trained at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) specialising in Lighting Design for Theatre.
Recent Lighting Design credits include: Chasing Beckett (The London Theatre); A Broken Rose (Cockpit Theatre); Departure Lounge (St. Augustine’s, Edinburgh); LIPA Musical Theatre Showcase (Criterion Theatre); Departure Lounge and Songs For A New World (Unity Theatre, Liverpool).
Credits whilst in training include: Lighting Design for A Streetcar Named Desire; Titanic: the Musical; and new musical Bucuresti (Paul McCartney Auditorium, Liverpool).
Max studied MA Theatre Design at Bristol Old Vic theatre school, and BA English Literature and Theatre Studies at Leeds University Workshop Theatre.
Set and costume design includes: Marguerite (Tabard Theatre – Off West End Awards nomination for Best Set Design) Disco Pigs (Tristan Bates Theatre); The Good Soul of Szechuan (Bristol Old Vic Studio); Macbeth (Redgrave Theatre); An Ideal Husband (Sevenarts Theatre); Phaedra’s Love, Bad House (Stage@Leeds + NSDF); Black Comedy, Playhouse Creatures (Stage@Leeds); and Little Red (Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival).
Max has made and operated puppets for Travelling Light’s Peter Pan (Bristol Old Vic); Cinderella (St James Theatre); Pinocchio (Tobacco Factory Theatre); Birmingham Rep young company’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Birmingham Rep Sept 2009); Ravenrock Theatre’s Phaedra’s Love (Stage@Leeds) as well as creating and directing The View From Down Here, a puppetry piece set in the Second World War.
Zoé is the Artistic Director of the independent production company Hiraeth Artistic Productions, which creates classical and contemporary theatre in and around the UK.
Previous productions for Hiraeth include: Director, A Life in the Theatre (in association with Ovation); Director and Producer, Titus Andronicus; Producer and Designer, The Spinning Wheel and Assistant Director And Producer, Macbeth.
Forthcoming productions for Hiraeth: Director and Producer, Romeo and Juliet; (which will play Upstairs at the Gatehouse February 2013); Director and Producer, Caucasian Chalk Circle and Director and Producer, Blood Wedding.
Freelance productions: Assistant Director and Co-Producer, The Constant Wife (Bridewell Theatre); Assistant Director, Iceberg – Right Ahead! (Upstairs at the Gatehouse).
Simon recently completed a Master’s in Musical Theatre at Goldsmiths College, writing a musical with lyricist Claire Rivers based on the novel Tall, Thin And Blonde by Dyan Sheldon (presented at the Tristan Bates Theatre, September 2012).
A music graduate from Edinburgh University, Simon is a keen composer, writing incidental music for productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Relapse, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Attempts On Her Life, as well as writing songs for a musical adaptation of the Greek-tragedy, The Oresteia.
Musical directing credits include: Sondheim’s Marry Me A Little (Bedlam Theatre); Company (sell-out show, Fringe 2008); and Jonathan Larson’s Rent (sell-out show, Fringe 2009). Most recent credits include assistant musical director on Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, directed by Craig Revel Horwood.
Benjamin started performing at the age of three and then trained professionally at Laine Theatre Arts. He has since had a successful career in the industry from casting for cruise ships, TV commercials, tours, films, music video and corporate events to leads in musicals.
Recent West End casting credits include: The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Search For A Twitter Star; and I Do! I Do!. Other credits include: One Touch of Venus; The Mark of Lia; Pop Factor; Old Goat Song; and The Sorcerer.
Film credits include: Neil and the new feature film Disorientated due for release in 2014.
Frances trained at RADA where she studied Technical Theatre and Stage Management and worked on a number of in-house RADA productions. For Ovation as Stage Manager: A Life in the Theatre; Iceberg Right Ahead!; Guys and Dolls; and Forever Plaid (Upstairs at the Gatehouse). As Assistant Stage Manager: Into the Woods and Cooking with Elvis (Upstairs at the Gatehouse). Other Stage Management credits include: Taboo (Brixton Club House); News Revue (Canal Café); Burlesque (Jermyn Street Theatre); and Call Me Madam (Upstairs at the Gatehouse).
Lyndall first trained in stage combat while studying acting at ArtsEd London. She later developed her training as an Actor Combatant with the dramatic combat company Rc-Annie Ltd, and continued on to certify as a Stage Combat Teacher with the British Academy of Dramatic Combat. Lyndall now works as a Professional Fight Artiste in stage and screen with Rc-Annie, as a teacher, performer and fight arranger, and is the artistic head of the company’s Fight Team.
Her recent works include: The Seasoning House (feature film–fight double); fight arranger in Wind in the Willows (The Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton); fight performer in The Three Musketeers (The Unicorn Theatre); and fight arranger in The Importance of Being Earnest (Theatre Royal Haymarket).
A top tribute to Gershwins
Enjoy magical slice of musical theatre
This show was first produced in 1992 long after the Gershwin brothers were no more – but Ken Ludwig had the great idea to incorporate many of their greatest hits into this magical slice of musical theatre.
It is set in the 1930s in a small Nevada town one hour’s walk from the nearest train station – a town with a small theatre in big financial trouble.
The characters are lazy cowboys who spend their days waiting for something to happen – and nothing ever does – until Bobby Child (played by wonderful tap dancer Jay Rincon) arrives from New York, begins to stir things up and gets them energised and dancing.
Beautiful Ceili O’Connor plays the feisty heroine Polly – a Calamity Jane kind of character who just happens to sing and dance like an angel.
Choreography has become the new art form and now every musical has the entire cast singing and acting but, most of all, dancing. This requires performers with enormous skill and energy and this show has certainly got them!
The terrific cast, choreographed by Grant Murphy, dance their way through each of the 20 or so numbers in electrifying dance routines – I defy any production to top the first act finale of I Got Rhythm. Even Someone to Watch Over Me, the romantic hit from Okay, gets the dance treatment.
Katie and John Plews produce and direct the show and have triumphed again – I thought nothing could beat the Guys and Dolls of last year but here we have a show that probably outshines it.
This is a must see!
Rating: 4 out of 5
Much of the attention on London fringe musicals goes to the pocket powerhouses south of the river like the Union and the Landor but some of the most exciting productions are to be found above a pub in Highgate. Under John and Katie Plews’ artistic directorship, they have regularly secured the rights to host the first London fringe productions of such massive shows like Buddy and Guys and Dolls and have done so to great acclaim. And they’ve done it once again by putting on the fringe premiere of Gershwin songbook musical Crazy For You, last seen here at the Open Air Theatre and then the West End.
Although based on the Gershwin production Girl Crazy, this is a relatively new show that was reconceived to feature more gems from the Gershwin back catalogue. Ken Ludwig’s book is a frothily light thing, a boy and a girl from different worlds fall for each other even though his family bank is about to close down her family business, including a theatre, and the only way to save the day and any chance of love is to put on a show. It’s silly but charming, wit and warmth are the order of the day and John Plews’ production never loses sight of that.
Jay Rincon is excellent as Bobby Childs, who has to carry much of the show on his lithe shoulders. He brings a gorgeously endearing goofy charm to his leading man which really opens up the heart of the show and he’s thoroughly engaging throughout. Ceili O’Connor’s Polly doesn’t quite have the same breadth of geniality though meaning their relationship never quite catches fire as it ought, O’Connor could afford to bring in a greater note of sweetness to her portrayal to balance the feistiness.
But the pair sound great together and dance beautifully. Grant Murphy’s choreography really is superb from start to finish, pushing at the boundaries of what an ensemble of 12 can do on a narrow traverse stage with a breath-taking verve – the act one closer of I Got Rhythm has to be seen to be believed – and a clever mix of classic and contemporary moves ensuring it feels period-appropriate yet simultaneously fresh. He’s alive to the opportunities of working in such an intimate space and frequently highlights the percussive musicality of tap-dancing to great effect.
And the ensemble around the leads are huge amounts of fun. Plews’ idea of two trios split by gender works wonderfully: Sara Morley, Georgie Burdett and Becky Bassett make a vivacious set of showgirls and Ricky Morrell, Simon Ouldred and Tom Pepper an appealing group of cowpokes and both serve the production well in terms of the heavy lifting of the set changes and also dancing up a storm. Natalie Lipin is excellent as Irene, the it girl who is mellowed out by country living and James Wolstenholme’s Lank and Anthony Williamson and Tamsin Dowsett shine as a double double act, Dowsett particularly impressing as an actress of considerable convincing range.
So whilst the story may be a little light, there is nothing but fierce commitment on the stage of the Gatehouse and it makes for great uplifting viewing. And to the music of some of the greatest songs ever written – played excellently by Oliver-John Ruthven’s band – you’d be crazy to miss out on this show.
“Stagestruck banker Bobby Child, caught between his termagant mama and impatient fiancee, is despatched to the Nevada desert to foreclose on an ailing theatre; instead, he falls in love with the owner’s spunky daughter Polly and hatches a plan to impersonate a successful Broadway impresario, Zangler, borrow his bevy of leggy chorines, and save the theatre by putting on a show right there. All sorts of silly shenanigans naturally ensue, including some nifty comic confusions when the real Zangler shows up.”
An exceptionally strong cast bring Crazy For You to life Upstairs at the Gatehouse. This high energy show was delivered with skill and enormous enthusiasm. I Got Rhythm which is performed just before the interval was my highlight. With impressive vocals, incredible tap dancing and bags of energy I could not have asked for more. This was the first time I have seen a production of Crazy For You. I really enjoyed the show and especially loved the (unexpected!) French number, Bidin’ My Time, as well as the spectacular finale.
Jay Rincon and Ceili O’Connor are brilliant as Bobby and Polly, singing and dancing their way through the show. Georgie Burdett, Sara Morley and Becky Bassett (who plays her ‘dumb blonde’ role to perfection) are extremely talented performers along with Ricky Morrell, Simon Ouldred and Tom Pepper who each portray their character perfectly. The entire cast keep the show alive. From beginning to end I was entirely engaged as there is not one slow scene.
Natalie Lipin and James Wolstenholme play nasty characters Irene and Lank convincingly. The scene between the two Zanglers when they perform What Causes That in a mirror image of each other is delivered brilliantly, producing much laughter in the audience. Also Tamsin Dowsett’s portrayal of Patricia Fodor is beautifully exaggerated, ably supported by Anthony Williamson as Eugene Fodor.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse is a lovely intimate theatre, bringing the audience close to the cast making us feel involved with the action. The set is minimal but effective with the cast doing seamless set changes. Crazy For You is enormously entertaining and will bring a smile to your face. Bring your kids… bring your grandparents… bring anyone!
It’s got rhythm: Crazy For You, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
This forerunner of the now common juke-box musical may feature a collection of those favourite Gershwin numbers via a truly crazy story, but the cast make up for it in an ambitious, energetic song and dance production that will leave you wanting more.
The last decade has seen a fair few juke-box musicals infuse the West End’s nostrils, and a handful have gone on to prove lucrative and successful. To quote Sondheim, “Musical comedies aren’t written. They’re rewritten.” Crazy For You (based on a 1992 reworking of the 1930 Gershwin musical Girl Crazy) is one of them. On the face of it, all that book writer Ken Ludwig appears to have done is crowbarred in several additional Gershwin songs to enhance, what is essentially, a formulaic (boy meets/repulses/fights for/gets girl) and frankly ludicrous plot. It ran in the West End for three years when it opened in 1993 and survived a further six months there last year. This is its first official London Fringe Production, something Ovation at the Gatehouse is quite rightly proud of, no doubt fuelled by their ever-popular record of revivals.
John Plews’ direction ensures it’s as eagerly paced as possible, though it’s still a tad clunky and laboured in places, generally where scenes aren’t terribly inspiring. It’s only when Grant Murphy’s choreography kicks in that it becomes energetic, and the hard-working ensemble don’t disappoint. Yes, it’s very dance-heavy but it gets the toes tapping and the urge to hum or sing along to the more familiar tunes is evident on the faces of the audience – which are quite noticeable as the show is played in traverse. This also means however, there is inevitable “tennis-neck” as the action frequents left and right. But the format works well with the cleverly constructed moveable sets designed by Suzi Lombardelli, taking us back and forth from New York to Nevada.
The six-piece band, led superbly by Oliver-John Ruthven, provided great support and the incidental music of George Gershwin’s more evocative orchestral compositions smoothly covered the scene changes. Being on a raised platform at one end of the theatre tempered some of the sound imbalances with the (miked) performers but it’s no substitute for an end-on rear stage or pit band.
I am deliberately avoiding outlining the story in this review as it’s almost irrelevant in my humble opinion – just too improbable albeit humorous. What makes this show work for me is the cast’s vigour – it may as well be a song and dance review. Jay Rincon plays romantic lead Bobby: he can dance (boy can he dance!) and he is also adept at the comedic role, delivering some Groucho-Marx-type lines with ease. The girl of his affection is Polly, played with Doris-Day-like verve by the awesome Ceili O’Connor. Her flawless rendition of “Someone to watch over me” was heartfelt and captivating. As a couple, they blend exceptionally well together, effortlessly so in “Shall We Dance?”
Tamsin Dowsett was outstanding in her dual role as Bobby’s fiendish New York mother and eccentric English travel writer Patricia Fodor, wife of Eugene, played by Anthony Williamson, both of whom impressed in their “Stiff Upper Lip” routine along with ensemble.
From the trio of shrieking but sexy showgirls, to the quartet of cool but camp cowboys came some glorious harmonies such as in “Bidin’ my time”, and very fancy footwork in “Tonight’s the Night” leading into the Act I finale showstopper “I Got Rhythm” – which took my breath away in an extended routine which left us wanting more – and more we got. Crazy or not, it’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
West End prices will drive you crazy, so stay closer to home and see this great musical
THE telly is always bombarding us with suspicious ways to save money on car insurance and phone bills and stuff we don’t need.
They all seem a little too good to be true. Maybe it’s partly the job of a local paper to provide some homely advice, so here is a genuine money-saving tip for you all which comes with no catches or sucker punches: SAVE MONEY ON EXPENSIVE WEST END THEATRE TICKETS AND GO TO SEE CRAZY FOR YOU IN HIGHGATE INSTEAD.
Take it seriously. Those big-bucks musicals in town are all very nice, but at Upstairs At The Gatehouse they treat their Christmas show as a drive for perfection that comes across in every tap dance.
Plus: you’ll be able to see every arched eyebrow, every jazz hand right up close for a quarter of the price.
Crazy For You is a surprisingly recent musical – it premiered in 1992 – but it is doused in the goodness of Gershwin, plumbing his 1930s catalogue, including the hum-along I’ve Got Rhythm.
And that all provides the soundtrack for a classicly barmy tale of a West End dancer man who heads to Nevada and falls in love with a feisty cowgirl. There’s a broken-down theatre to save with a let’s-do-the-show-right-here spirit and people being fooled by ludicrous fake beards.
It’s all preposterous, but that’s musicals. And this one’s great, especially because of its leading couple. Jay Rincon clicks as schemer Bobby Child and silly old me fell in love with Ceili O’Connor as denimed-up Polly.
A marvellous voice, she’s a former Dorothy at the Palladium.
See. I told you right at the top, you don’t need to go down up West and pay the big money to see the best. They’re up in the village this Christmas.
When it comes to writing a compilation musical, Jennifer Saunders should take a leaf out of Ken Ludwig’s book. His cheeky Gershwin mash-up Crazy For You puts Viva Forever! to shame. Following the Open Air Theatre’s hit 2011 revival, it receives its fringe premiere at Upstairs at the Gatehouse. Taking all of George and Ira’s biggest hits, Ludwig’s musical monolith is a barnstorming rom-com with no dud tunes but plenty of epic dance numbers. Surely you need space to tackle this love story to showbiz, right?
Technically, yes and no. After the sort of logistical effort that would impress even Ludwig’s pushy hero Bobby Child, director John Plews has provided all that the Gershwin estate could ask for. Ostensibly this production ticks all the boxes, but at some cost.
New York banker Bobby (Jay Rincon) wants to pack it all in and be a stage star. So he travels West, meets the plucky Poppy (Ceili O’Connor), falls in love and tries to save her theatre by putting on a show. Suzi Lombardelli’s interchangeable, bookended set transforms into each location with ease. Grant Murphy’s choreography is infused with MGM references and has a lot of charm. Musical director Oliver-John Ruthven’s tidy musical sextet provides a rhythmic momentum worthy of any bandstand, while with her gusty charisma, soaring vocals and fancy footwork, O’Connor is a future West End star.
As the dark days of January close in around us, who wouldn’t want to be whisked off to the bright lights of Broadway? Fortunately, anyone on a budget can achieve the effect by taking a short bus ride to Highgate.
There, the ever-inventive Ovation company is presenting *George and Ira Gershwin’s Crazy for You in the Upstairs at
the Gatehouse theatre, running until the end of January.
Making miraculous use of the limited space available, a fizzing cast of 14 conjures up New York’s chic theatreland one minute and then a drowsy Wild West frontier town the next as the story follows would-be impresario Bobby Child and his quest to win the heart of the beautiful Polly by putting on a show at her father’s crumbling old playhouse.
There are two stories behind this production. First, Crazy for You is a modern-day Gershwin musical, dating back only as far as 1992. Creator Ken Ludwig based the production on Gershwin’s 1930 hit Girl Crazy and was given permission to use other songs from the Gershwin back catalogue, effectively creating a greatest hits show.
There are some great numbers in there: Embraceable You, Things Are Looking Up, But Not For Me and Nice Work If You Can Get It, plus a storming Act 1 dance finale for I Got Rhythm. Secondly, Ovation’s John and Katie Plews had to fly to New York to convince the Gershwin estate that they could do justice to such a massive show in a tiny theatre with no stage machinery, limited wing space and precious little room for scenery.
Whatever they said worked, and they’ve delivered in style. The intimacy of the theatre is perfectly suited to the tenderness of Someone to Watch Over Me, sung to perfection by Ceili O’Connor as Polly, but it also comes alive in a riot of tap dancing and hand waving for the big dance routines. You can’t help but be swept away by the spirit of it all when 14 people are hoofing their hearts out to a live band just a few feet in front of you.
Cleverly, John and Katie have arranged the auditorium so that the action takes place in a long stage area between an audience split in two and banked on either side. Every time I looked across at the faces opposite me, they were
wreathed in smiles. For a winter escape, you couldn’t go anywhere better.
I’ll admit I approached Upstairs at The Gatehouse to watch the fringe premiere of Gershwin’s Crazy For You with some trepidation. After being less than wowed by Regents Park’s multi-award winning revival last year, particularly finding the set design uninspiringly inept in portraying the contrasting worlds of razzle dazzle Broadway and the wide open spaces of Nevada, I was concerned that a fringe production would face the same difficulties. I needn’t have worried. Under John Plew’s pacy direction this Crazy For You is an utterly charming smash that feels far fresher and original than previous incarnations.
The small cast and traverse staging brings Ken Ludwig’s slightly convoluted story of wannabe hoofer Bobby (Jay Rincon) and his attempts at reviving the town of Deadrock, whilst falling for local girl Polly (Ceili O’Connor), into sharper focus with the streamlined ensemble of three cowboys and three showgirls dazzling the audience in the Act 1 showstoppers ‘Slap that Bass’ and ‘I Got Rhythm’. Grant Murphy’s slicker than slick choreography, a fusion of 30s dance styles and commercial choreography, works the audience into a frenzy and teamed with the best of Gershwin’s back catalogue delivers the kind of musical theatre ecstasy one craves in such a show.
Not everything is perfect. There are some characterisations that need to be more clearly honed and a few of the comedy moments don’t work. Though this is mostly down to Ludwig’s book, a reworking of an early Gershwin show Girl Crazy, that just isn’t as laugh out loud funny as it thinks it is.
James Doughty as theatre impresario Bella Zangler, Natalie Lipin, who delivers a sublimely cheeky rendition of ‘Naughty Baby’ and James Wolstenholme as the cowboy she falls for, impress with performances of great skill, but the standout here is recent Royal Academy of Music graduate Tamsin Dowsett, delivering hilarious dual roles far beyond her years and providing an all guns blazing musical comedy performance that reminded me of a young Kaye Ballard or Tyne Daly. Extraordinary work by a young actress who one wishes was around during the Golden Age of Broadway as she surely would have had shows written for her, but with fringe theatres all over London reviving these classic pieces in such an invigorating manner, one has little doubt that the Broadway of yesteryear is very much alive and tapping, especially up in Highgate where Crazy for You is the perfect festive fringe treat.
As a musical constructed from existing numbers, I suppose you could class this in that contemporary genre the “juke-box musical”, or at least as a “song-book show” for it was the brain child of Mike Ockrent who, invited to direct a revival of the 1930’s Gershwin musical Girl Crazy decided he would rather direct a new one. He was given permission to draw on the whole back catalogue of the Gershwin brothers’ songs and developed this show with Ken Ludwig.
The new book took some material from Guy Bolton and John McGowan’s original for Girl Crazy, including the idea of show girls going out West, and some of its songs—including such favourites as “I’ve Got Rhythm”, “Embraceable You” and Bidin’ My Time“—and added more than a dozen other great songs. They fitted them into a story about the tap-dancing son of a New York banking family who dreams of a career in show business and the only girl in a tiny town out West who runs a post office with a derelict theatre attached that he brings back to life.
It’s a slight and rather implausible tale of boy gets girl, though only when he’s in disguise. That’s because Bobby’s family bank is about to foreclose on Polly’s dad’s mortgage. She sees the real Bobby as the enemy. You don’t have time to question the plot while enjoying director John Plews’s fast-moving production, driven by great songs and Grant Murphy’s tippy-tap dances. The original show Girl Crazy helped cheer up a Depression-deep America. This co-concept of Ludwig and Ockrent, as with its earlier airings in Regent’s Park and the West End, can brighten up squeeze-depressed London.
It is billed as the London Fringe première and Ovation once again proves that you don’t need a West End budget, vast sets and a big chorus to deliver if you have imagination and choose your talent carefully.
It is played on a traverse stage and looking across a space, empty except for a clothes rack, at a black wall and the other half of the audience is unengaging, but the band is barely into the overture before three long-legged, high-kicking, glittery showgirls bring on the glamour.
The showgirls, Sara Morley, Becky Bassett and Georgie Burdett all singing and dancing at full pitch, are as funny as they are glamorous. They are matched with the cowboy trio of Ricky Morell, Simon Ouldred and Tom Pepper whose characters are already adept at let’s-pretend shoot-outs. Now they comically progress from three pairs of left feet to happy hoofers who would win points on Strictly Come Dancing.
Bobby’s dumped fiancée (Natalie Lipin) moves from uptight sophisticate to passionate predator when she follows him West and meets James Wolstenholme’s saloon owner Lank Hawkins, once she gets over the primitive facilities with which his hotel provides her.
There is an hilarious pairing in Tamsin Dowsett and Anthony Williamson as an OTT so-English British couple compiling a hotel guide—and Dowsett doubles equally forcefully as Bobby’s mother with Williamson as her business sidekick. Then, in a world of his own in his old rocking chair is Everett Baker as Polly’s laidback Pa, fondly repeating how he used to watch her late mother performing.
This is a company that never seems to miss a note or put a foot wrong. They are not idly boasting as they sing “I’ve Got Rhythm” to close the first act. At the centre of a vigorous ensemble are the two leads: Jay Rincon’s Bobby and Ceili O’Connor as Polly.
Rincon is an American import who was a charming Bill Kelly in Steel Pier a few weeks back at the Union. His Bobby has a strong voice and feet with pizzazz but Rincon adds a slight touch of awkwardness. Well, the banker boy has spent five unsuccessful years since leaving Harvard. Could that have something to do that he seems to end his auditions by treading on toes?
O’Connor makes Polly a lovely mixture of romantic innocence and determination with a soaring voice. As they circle the stage in “Shall We Dance”, this pairing seems to guarantee a joyous evening and a happy ending.
It is a brave company which puts on the first Fringe production of the Gershwins’ ‘Crazy for You’ so soon after the Regents Park Open Air production, which transferred successfully into the West End and only closed a few months ago. However, Ovation’s chutzpah is almost entirely justified.
‘Crazy For You’ is a reworking of ‘Girl Crazy’, the 1930 musical that was a kind of breather for the Gershwins on the road to transforming the possibilities of the musical from ‘Strike Up the Band’ to ‘Porgy and Bess’. The original had much fun with the concept of the then-fashionable Dude Ranch, a kind of Cattle-Trail-lite offering easy cowboy living to rich pampered Easterners. Ken Ludwig’s completely rewritten book wisely cuts the dated satire, substituting an implausible plot about a run-down theatre in the middle of Nevada which our stage-struck hero Bobby is sent to foreclose on by his domineering hero, only to try and revive its fortunes instead. In the process, he falls in love with Polly, the only woman left in town, and foregoes the delights of wedlock with wealthy bullying Irene, to whom he has been engaged for five years. It’s as light and preposterous as a Knickerbocker Glory, and really an excuse to shoehorn in a number of songs from other Gershwin musicals, in what is one of the first jukebox musicals.
‘Girl Crazy’ furnished the Great American Songbook with three great standards: Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm and But Not For Me. To these are added Someone To Watch Over Me, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, and Nice Work If You Can Get It. Pretty much every other song will have audience members of a certain age singing along under their breath. What is perhaps more interesting to the aficionado is the more obscure songs which are also imported. Five of the interpolations are from ‘A Damsel in Distress’, the least known of Fred Astaire’s 1930s movies because the only one not to feature Ginger Rogers.
The core of ‘Crazy For You’ is in the dancing, much of which is carried by Jay Rincon as Bobby. He has an engaging personal style of hoofing, all angular elbows, shoulders and hips. We have seen technically better tapping on the Fringe in 2012, but none more charming. He has a gift for comedy and brings real rapport to his scenes with Polly (a feisty full-throated Ceili O’Connor). Talking of comedy, he has a wonderful ‘false mirror’ scene, a variation on the classic Marx Brothers shtick in ‘Duck Soup’, with James Doughty.
Elsewhere, the chorus bring an almost exhausting energy and great close harmony work to their support. Grant Murphy’s choreography is at its most inventive when working with non-dancers, but runs out of steam a little with the more down-the-line virtuoso stuff. The production is marred by an over-literal set which involves bringing on and taking off large quantities of rather ugly MDF, but otherwise makes good use of the strip stage that runs the length of the theatre between two banks of audience.
Perhaps the biggest lack in the show is moments of stillness and genuine emotion. It contains three of the most enduring ballads in the canon, which are rather pertly polished off here. It would have been good to allow the performers a little more personal space to achieve a genuinely moving rapport with the audience. Nevertheless, audiences will come out with great big grins on their faces, as ‘Crazy for You’ offers a more-than-acceptable alternative for the Panto Season.
Crazy about it
Polished, well cast, well sung, slickly directed by John Plews and superbly choreographed by Grant Murphy, this is the first time this “invented” Gershwin musical has made the “fringe.” A Christmas treat to relish, almost as good as this theatre’s Guys and Dolls last year, it is loosely based by Ken Ludwig on a show the brothers wrote in 1930 called Girl Crazy.
But Ludwig has revamped the plot and added more songs from other musicals until it is more of a “Sing-along with the best of Gershwin” than anything else. He has possibly added too many songs because one or two very good ballads get such short shrift that at times it seems like one darned thing after another. Nor do they necessarily fit either the characters or the plot, especially when the verse is sung. But that is by the by.
The story is the one about putting on a show right here – “Mickey Rooney does it all the time,” one character says. In a Nevada hick- town the local theatre is threatened with closure by a New York bank and Bobby, a dance mad young banker, has come to do the dirty deed. The rest really does not matter. Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl and that is about it.
The heroine, Polly (Ceili O’Connor, who is very pretty and sings delightfully) is a cowgirl in jeans with a mean right fist, but will as we all know scrub up beautifully Calamity Jane fashion at the end. Bobby (Jay Rincon, nicely nerdish and dancing splendidly) impersonates a Broadway impresario to win Polly, puts on a show to save the theatre which belongs to her father, turns the cowpokes into chorus boys, and imports some real Broadway chorus girls to help out.
The three chorines high kick amazingly and their routines steal the show – no mean feat as the competition is tough. But why do they all have to be miked?
A dozen or so Gershwin songs and 14 hoofers are currently residing at Highgate’s Gatehouse, tapping up a storm in the first ever fringe version of this classic.
Effortlessly split-jumping their way across barrels and tables, managing to avoid the imminent proximity of audience winter booted feet at all times – this team of Crazies deserves an A for effort.
Jay Rincon (Bobby) and Ceili O’Connor (Polly) make up the young lover leads but seem more at ease in the comical character duo moments than romantically smooching till the cows come home.
Another young newcomer, beautiful Natalie Lipin (Irene), rather steals Act II with a wonderfully coquette yet classy rendition of Naughty Baby. Lipin is
most suited to the style of this piece, perfectly timing her biting one-liners in sensual frocks and blending suitably back into the ensemble as and when required.
Further highlights include some well-thought out stage fighting with Simon Ouldred (Mingo) and Ricky Morrell (Moose) standing out as pros on top form. Tamsin Dowsett and Anthony Williamson prove a delightful double act, particularly as stiff upper lip British clichés Fodor couple. Recent graduate Dowsett is particularly one to watch, comfortably and convincingly playing well beyond her years.
James Doughty gives a decent turn as Bela Zangler with some strong vocals and Grant Murphy’s choreography wisely incorporates some original steps with new, fresh twists. An entertaining evening that is bound to be a seasonal crowd pleaser.
Christmas has come early to Highgate. Get yourselves over there. A year after the Open Air theatre’s Crazy For You, which relied entirely on excellent legs for effect, how wonderful to find a production that draws out the story, providing some genuinely moving moments. The Gershwin musical is the story of rich Bobby who wants to dance, and stubborn Polly whose family theatre is being repossessed. By Bobby. Cue a coup de foudre and proof that they’ve got rhythm…
With a small cast – three delightful chorus girls are legs a-plenty – and two fabulous leads, the small traverse stage is set for two and a half hours of high octane action. Jay Rincon – an American import – is a dazzling Bobby. Playful and slinky with a gentle voice and a comedy body – his knee slides and falls during Things Are Looking Up are cracking – he’s a lovely foil to Ceili O’Connor as Polly. Her soaring voice is truly moving on showstoppers like Someone to Watch Over Me and Embraceable You.
Grant Murphy’s choreography is contained and contagious and the director, John Plews, plays to the strengths of the cast and the stage. Diversionary favourites like Slap That Bass are muted, keeping the thin storyline on track, and it really works. The one gripe is the limited lighting, which made some scenes quite dark, and Bobby’s fake moustache – which kept curling like a fortune telling fish.
In conclusion: A glorious night out. Grab a ticket and get on the northern line before the locals beat you to it. The band is terrific and, as with the Arcola’s Sweet Smell of Success, it is sheer luxury watching musicals up close.
Warm fires, great grub, and friendly faces; the Gatehouse is a hospitable and homely Highgate pub, serving as the ideal retreat from a brisk and, as always in Britain, soggy trek through London. The pub’s jovial atmosphere drifts upstairs to the theatre, fashioning the perfect ambience for the 1992 jukebox musical, Crazy For You.
Based on a reworking of the 1930 Gershwin musical Girl Crazy, Ken Ludwig’s book Crazy For You tells the simplistic yet warming tale of Bobby Child (Jay Rincon); a goofy New York dreamer, who unwittingly falls for Polly (Ceili O’Connor), the owner of a theatre his family bank is attempting to close down. In charming style, Ovation presents the shows first official London fringe production with astonishing vigour.
The intimate theatre and traverse staging infuses us with the exceptionally exuberant cast. Rincon is perfect as the adorably comic Bobby Child and O’Connor puts in a beautiful performance with spectacular vocals as Polly. Both performers harmonise delightfully and set the benchmark for an exceptionally talented ensemble to follow suit. Another standout performance comes from Tamsin Dowsett who takes to the stage as Bobby’s demanding New York mother and later as eccentric English travel writer Patricia Fodor. Although her performances come close to being too exaggerated, Dowsett never oversteps the mark and delivers a wonderfully entertaining performance.
Grant Murphy’s choreography doesn’t disappoint either with spellbinding bursts of energy as the cast dance from bar table to balcony to lamppost, brushing the noses of those in the front row as they ignite the stage. With such choreography and the live music of a six-piece band, it becomes impossible to resist the odd toe tap, head nod, or rye smile.
Although the set can sometimes seem clunky and out of sorts with the production, there is no doubt that taking a successful Broadway show and placing it within a London fringe theatre takes courage, enthusiasm and perseverance. Under the artistic directorship of John and Katie Plews, Crazy For You Upstairs at the Gatehouse admirably revives a perhaps forgotten musical with true class.
I love a Gershwin tune, how about you? Ok, you don’t have to LOVE Gershwin tunes to enjoy this utterly delightful comedy musical, but of course it helps.
This production of Crazy For You is, by the way, the first ever fringe production of the musical, thanks to Gatehouse wizards Katie and John Plews, who also produced and directed the show for Ovation.
That’s not saying because it is performed in a relatively restricted space it is less effective. Far from it! The two-and-a-half-hour long spectacle is so full of energy and fabulously choreographed dance numbers; you will barely notice the relatively compressed space.
Although Ken Ludwig based his relatively new show (it premiered on Broadway in 1992) on Gershwin’s 1930 smash Girl Crazy, there are only five songs in Ludwig’s version that featured in the original. However, he got the green light from New York producers to incorporate any numbers from the Gershwin back catalogue, thus Crazy For You became a hybrid show comprised of George and Ira Gershwin’s best loved songs.
The story – set in New York during the 1930’s – revolves around young banker Bobby Child (played with relish by American Jay Rincon, a native of Michigan). While his dominant mother Lottie (Tamsin Dowsett) and his constantly nagging fiancé Irene (Natalie Lipin) both have their own ideas and plans for Bobby, all he wants is to follow to his dreams and become a theatre star. Enter the Zangler Theatre, a place where Bobby has just auditioned but failed to impress impresario Bela Zangler (James Doughty, delivering a convincing Hungarian-German-Yiddish accent).
With his snooty mother putting Bobby under ever more pressure to carry on with his banking malarkey, and Irene expecting to finally get married to him, Bobby’s mind begins to drift… and who could blame him? In a scorching number called ‘I Can’t Be Bothered Now’, he fancies himself as the star he so would like to be. For this imaginary outing, he got support from the ZANGLER FOLLIES Tess (Sara Morley), Mitzi (Georgie Burdett) and Patsy (Becky Bassett, whose exaggerated comical expressions and shrill voice remind of a young Lucille Ball).
Back in reality-land, fate has different plans for Bobby however. He’s ordered to head for the little mining-town of Deadrock in Nevada, to foreclose the ramshackle Gaiety Theatre.
Then, some magic happened courtesy of set designer Suzi Lombardelli: with a few turns and revolving boards, the Zangler Theatre turned into a ramshackle saloon bar/hotel, while at the other end of the stage we gawked at an even more ramshackle Gaiety. New characters popped up too, in the shape of jolly dancing and hard-punching cowboys Moose (Ricky Morrell), Mingo (Simon Ouldred), Custus (Tom Pepper), and James Wolstenholme as frustrated hotel owner Lank Hawkins.
But what would a musical be without a love story? Nothing! Along came sassy Polly (Ceili O’Connor), a lass blessed with attitude and barrels of talent (if her voice is anything to go by!). As love stories go, she’s the first person who Bobby Childs encounters and predictably enough, he promptly falls for her – cue for ‘Things Are Looking Up’. Soon, the stage was set for an array of flamboyant dance numbers, a little jealousy (Polly is Lank’s girlfriend, but she too falls for Bobby), and a great deal of comic interludes.
When Polly comes to realize who Bobby really is and that the reason for his visit is to shut down the theatre (the very venue in which Polly’s mother used to be a star in her day), O’Connor skilfully cranked up her vocal chords and sent him to hell.
Not contend with giving her up, we witness Bobby coughing up a plan… by dressing up like Zangler and pretending to be him. Add to that the support of the Zangler girls he calls for help, the Gaiety should have been saved from closure. But that would have meant a premature ending of the show. Hence, gutsy Zangler girl Patsy got ample opportunity in displaying her talent for slapstick by teaching the local cowboys a few dance steps.
Initially though, the lads prove less than capable in the dance department and we cracked up over another amusing scene. Unfortunately, the only folks to arrive to come see the show turne out to be some stereotype tourists (hilarious: Anthony Williamson, and Tamsin Dowsett again), something that gave director Plews a chance to play on all sorts of accents and dialects.
Shortly after, the Gatehouse audience was treated to one of the most recognisable and catchy tunes from the entire Gershwin catalogue – ‘I Got Rhythm’. Indeed, that’s precisely what the whole cast displayed during a truly infectious performance – lead by O’Connor and Rincon. What a scorching way to close a (relatively long) first act!
The second act continued with great entertainment, namely when the real Zangler came stumbling into Deadrock. Why? Well, find out and come see the show!
Fact is that his unexpected appearance set the action for more screwball antics, mix-ups, a fiery Polly who mistakenly falls for the real Zangler instead of the disguised Bobby, and an increasingly jealous Lank Hawkins. Oh, and lets not forget another highlight during which the real Zangler and Bobby (in disguise) drunkenly acted as each other’s mirror images. The audience roared with laughter.
More amazing dancing and songs – not to mention capers – marked the second part, while outstanding acts proved to be a solo by Jay Rincon (‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ / ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ – opting for a semi-comical Gene Kelly impersonation), a smouldering ‘Naughty Baby’ by Natalie Lipin’s Irene, and Polly’s belter ‘But Not For Me’.
A little giveaway though: there’s a glorious happy ending, and an equally glorious finale!
The award-winning musical is a firework not to be missed and hey, the entire cast really can sing and dance for sure! Oh, did I mention an ace live band playing as well?
8 out of 10