Watermill Theatre - Crazy For You
28th July to 17th September 2016.
Review from Newbury Theatre.
Crazy for You was first produced, with the title Girl Crazy, in 1930. Its enduring popularity owes more to the songs of George and Ira Gershwin than to the boy-meets-girl story, and in traditional actor-musician style the Watermill makes the most of those songs.
In New York, aspiring dancer and actor Bobby Child tries unsuccessfully to impress impresario Bela Zangler. Bobby’s mother, part of the family banking business, gets him to go reluctantly to Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose a mortgage. There he meets, and falls for, Polly the postmistress whose father owns the decrepit Gaiety Theater – the property with the mortgage. Bobby tries to save the theatre and win Polly by impersonating Zangler and getting the locals to put on a show.
So, singing, dancing and playing music on the tiny Watermill stage (including a large piano and a spiral staircase) with a cast of 14 – how hard can that be? Well, respect to choreographer Nathan M Wright and director Paul Hart for making it appear effortless, although the confines of the stage make some of the exits resemble a post office queue.
Tom Chambers and Caroline Sheen are outstanding as the two main characters Bobby and Polly. Both have strong singing voices that can belt out the big songs as well as bringing pathos and poignancy to songs like Someone to Watch Over Me and They Can’t Take That Away From Me. Chambers is particularly impressive when impersonating Zangler (a touch of Groucho Marx) and his descent from the gallery on a rope got a well-earned round of applause.
Dancing, including lots of tap dancing, pervades the whole show and gives it great pace and the energy of the whole cast is breathtaking.
But for me the ensemble songs were the highlight of the show, particularly the two big numbers Slap that Bass, delivered with bags of verve, and the fantastic finale to Act 1: I Got Rhythm with its manic percussion interlude. Please put this on YouTube!
The country hicks introduce us to Deadrock with a beautifully languid rendition of Bidin’ My Time. Jeremy Legat was Lank Hawkins, the owner of the Deadrock saloon and the butt of many jokes, unexpectedly finding love in Act 2.
Bobby’s waspish fiancée Irene (Lucy Thatcher) brought out her vampish side in Naughty Baby and Lindsay Goodhand showed her versatility with the roles of Bobby’s mum and English twit Patricia.
It’s always a delight to see the Watermill doing musicals with actor-musicians, and Crazy for You is a feel-good show to brighten up our rather dull summer.
Review from The Times.
The charm factor is certainly strong this summer at the Watermill. For his first crack at a musical during his inaugural year as artistic director, Paul Hart has chosen Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent’s award-winning 1992 revamp of George and Ira Gershwin’s 1930 Broadway smash Girl Crazy. The production is a delight — as silly yet smart a catch-all for a swell bunch of songs as you could wish for.
Hart continues a Watermill tradition of casting musical-comedy actors who also play instruments. This means the terrific 14-strong ensemble doesn’t just burst into song, as characters in musicals tend to do. They also burst — or sometimes gently, unobtrusively sidle — into lively, communal music-making.
Pinned to romantic complications that arise when New York City slickers rub shoulders with the denizens of a sleepy Nevada town that happens to have an abandoned theatre, the script is a bright and breezy amalgamation of self-aware corn and wisecracks. In lesser hands some of the gags could induce groans. Hart and his snappy company tend to bag outright laughs instead. Although at its most far-fetched the opening night felt a bit drawn-out, this bustling production is by and large huge fun put across with consistently inventive panache.
It helps that the two leads click. Tom Chambers isn’t a musician per se, and at best a perfectly adequate singer. Yet as a beleaguered but optimistic would-be dance star aiming for a lucky break, his true musicality is in his peppy, debonair hoofing and flair for physical and character comedy. The man’s got style plus personality to spare.
He’s well-paired with Caroline Sheen as the truculent cowgirl he falls for at first sight. She lands the night’s loveliest vocal — a blissfully simple, honest and softly yearning rendition of Someone to Watch Over Me.
The supporting players multitask together beautifully. Almost all have a chance to shine, but special mention must be made of Lucy Thatcher as a frustrated sophisticate turned by the West into a ravenous vamp. Other highlights include a mirror image routine for Chambers and Peter Dukes, as an overripe Hungarian impresario, that is straight out of the Marx Brothers. And in Nathan M Wright’s choreography for the joyful closing number of Act I, everybody’s got rhythm. Who could ask for anything more?
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
It's music, music, music
Watermill director Paul Hart's second actor/musician production for the Bagnor theatre has all it takes to make a hit
Crazy for You, at The Watermill, Bagnor, until September 17
Based on a 1930 musical, Crazy for You caused shock waves on Broadway in 1992. An earlier tryout had not met with success, but this very American musical now had everything, including four Gershwin songs from the original musical plus 13 more from other Gershwin shows, glamorous dancers, incredibly fast routines and a very funny dialogue.
It couldn't – and didn't – fail. Neither does this latest actor/musician Watermill production.
Aspiring dancer Bobby Childs (Tom Chambers) unsuccessfully trying to persuade theatre impresario Bela Zangler (Peter Dukes) to give him a chance, begins the performance along with four Zangler Follies girls – and it's a cracker of an opening.
Chambers will inevitably be remembered as winner of the 2008 BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, but that must have been a doddle compared to the extraordinary energy, expertise and exuberance he pours into this part.
When Bobby's mum (Lindsay Goodhand) tries to push her son into a safe banking career, sending him to foreclose on a rundown Nevada theatre, it leads to romance with the only girl for 50 miles, Caroline Sheen in the Doris Day-type role of Polly Baker.
They fall in love – with songs like this how could they not – and plan to save the theatre with the help of the cowboys – wonderfully laid back characters including 'bad guy' Lank Hawkins (Jeremy Legat).
Childs inveigles the four dazzling, dynamic Follies girls (Hollie Cassar, Seren Sandham-Davies, Anne White and Katrina Kleve) into helping save the Gaiety, but finds he needs to pretend to be Zangler himself – and that's when everything goes wrong.
There are songs which will bring back memories, among them Someone to Watch Over Me and But Not For Me, both poignantly sung by Caroline Sheen, the beautifully lethargic Bidin' My Time from those cowboys and the fantastically fast, furious I Got Rhythm, with the whole cast tapping, beating, playing an avalanche of musical sound.
The costumes are magnificent, especially a gorgeously sinuous silver number worn by Child's ex-fiancée (Lucy Thatcher). The large cast (for a Watermill production) fills the stage and those four glittering, superb dancers somehow give the impression of being a whole row of Busby Berkeley babes.
Full of action, humour, dance and music, music, music, Paul Hart's second production since taking over as director promises great things. This is one not to miss.
There are reviews from The Reviews Hub ("a fun, light-hearted musical performed by an energetic cast of actor-musicians... the supporting characters have little opportunity to shine... a rollicking musical that evokes the old Broadway musicals performed by a tenacious cast" - 4 stars), Jonathan Baz Reviews ("the acting is strong throughout, with some fine moments of physical comedy too... an evening of fine entertainment" - 4 stars), The Stage ("entirely irresistible, irrepressible and inventive production... a talented versatile cast, making for an inimitable treat" - 5 stars), What's On Stage ("a crazy summer cocktail that sends you home on a high" - 4 stars).