Crazy For You – Review

Dazzling showgirls in glittering costumes and crazy cowpokes swinging their gals on pickaxes. Crazy For You, the fabulous five star musical which opened at Chichester Festival Theatre this week is a triumph with a joyous, uplifting, doozy of a show to celebrate its 60th birthday.

This madcap romcom, set in the hicksville backwater of Deadrock Nevada (pop. 37), is a sheer delight from its dazzling Vegas-style opener to its spectacular finale.

And in-between there’s laughs-a-plenty, slapstick routines, extraordinary choreography, a playlist of George & Ira Gershwin’s famous songs, a love story and more.

Crazy For You puts a cheesy smile on your face and entertains the socks off you. It’s 165 minutes of pure sunshine and laughter.

The show itself is celebrating its 30th anniversary and this revival, with its original director and choreographer, Susan Stroman at the helm, is pitch perfect.

It also sees the return to Chichester of its favourite son, Charlie Stemp, who appears to have won honorary citizenship since being discovered and given the lead in the theatre’s Half A Sixpence musical in 2016.

He’s right at home here as idealist Bobby Child who rebels against his family’s banking business to be a song and dance man.

The show started out as a bit of a juke box musical packed with Gershwin songs and, to be honest, you could have written the simple plot on the back of a fag packet. Bobby, who has stars in his eyes, is ordered to Deadrock to foreclose on a rundown old theatre.

But when he arrives at the back of beyond he falls instantly in love with the only woman in town still with her own teeth, and is determined to help her save the theatre.

“I know! We’ll put on a show!” How many times have we heard that?

There’s lots of crazy knockabout humour from the villagers and the charismatic Stemp further endorses his leading man credentials by proving an animated physical comic as well as a gifted hoofer and singer.

But more than anything else audiences can wallow in the nostalgia of watching foot-perfect dancing, knockout singing and inventive choreography.

His leading lady is another Chichester find and Carly Anderson’s fabulous singing voice is more than a match for Stemp.

She plays the lovely, homespun Polly who plays hard to get until it gets too hard to resist the gauche charms of the eager to please Mr Child.

There are some terrific set pieces in Crazy For You not least the lengthy and inventive I Got Rhythm Act One finale which, on press night, had everyone on its feet. It’s not often you get a standing ovation mid-show and particularly from hard-nosed critics and industry insiders.

And you can’t help but be impressed by the very cleverly staged bit of business when a drunken Bobby, dressed as theatre impresario Bella Zangler, mirrors the real Zangler’s movements in What Causes That?

Tom Edden has a ball hamming it up as the larger-than-life Zangler, a sort of poor man’s Flo Ziegfeld, who pursues his love interest showgirl, Tess, and her chorus-line way out west, to win her heart.

There is also an outstanding turn by Merryl Ansah as Bobby’s determined fiancee who turns up to haul her intended back to civilisation plus a lively company playing rednecks and dancers.

Ken Ludwig’s characters are broadly written and lacking much depth but so what? Crazy For You is pure entertainment and there’s comedy gold in every line – nothing wrong with that.

A big shout out to William Ivey Long‘s fabulous costume design and Alan Williams‘ super musical direction (though a shame the superb orchestra were hidden away somewhere behind Beowulf Boritt’s set design).

Stroman’s pacy direction makes for a zingy, ebullient production that left theatre-goers positively euphoric. There were silly smiles on everyone’s faces as they walked into the night humming Embraceable You.

Outstanding, exuberant (where did they find the energy?) and sparkling, you’d be K-ra-zy to miss Crazy For You. It’s another spangle in Charlie Stemp’s ever rising firmament. Surely the West End beckons for his blistering blockbuster of a show?

Crazy For You runs in the Festival Theatre until September 4.

Crazy For You
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Summary

Charlie Stemp triumphs in Chichester Festival Theatre’s glorious revival of the blockbuster musical, Crazy For You, playing until Sept 4.

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