REVIEW: Crazy For You
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REVIEW: Crazy For You – David Cradduck enjoys a feel-good night out at the Mayflower.
(Images – Richard Davenport)
Tom Chambers – the award winning star of Top Hat, Holby/Casualty heart-throb and deserved winner of BBC’s 2008 Strictly Come Dancing – is back in a delightfully schmaltzy feel-good musical at The Mayflower.
With a musical score by the Gershwin brothers, a frustrated love story background, high-kicking, oh-so-traditional song and dance routines (many of which people will know, like ‘I Got rhythm’, ‘They can’t take that away from me’ and ‘Nice work if you can get it’) the show can’t really go wrong.
Bobby Child, played so effortlessly and enthusiastically by Chambers, is sent from New York to close down a run-down theatre in Deadrock, Nevada, but falls in love with the owner’s daughter Polly (beautifully portrayed by Charlotte Wakefield of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and ‘Mamma Mia!’ fame). Bobby adds comedy to the proceedings by impersonating Bela Zangler, a Hungarian impresario, and proceeds to put on a show to save the theatre from extinction and the hotel owner next door.
The plot is fairly unimportant, to be honest. In line with good traditional musical format, all is bound to come right at the end and a lot of fun should be had along the way. Some great singing (was Chamber’s voice sounding a little croaky by the end of the evening? – there’s a lot of lurgy around), colourful staging, costumes and, of course, THAT music. A winning combination that should be taken at face value.
This is not the most sophisticated of big touring shows; the set is as relatively straightforward as the storyline and static compared with some big budget touring shows; the lighting is competently understated, the costumes glitzy but not over the top. The finale is a pretty traditional and modest affair – if you exclude the happy couple flying in from the Gods seated on a gold crescent moon (below)– but its simplicity is endearing and rather refreshing. It is well acted, sung, danced, dressed, lit and is hugely entertaining.
There are some rather lovely touches – the ‘mirrored duet’ between the real Zangler and Bobby’s uncanny impression of him is fun; Chambers’ and Wakefield’s tap dancing is delightful; the dance troupe’s ability to juggle choreographed high kicking routines and musical instruments is amazing; the cowboys’ mock gun and fist fights are impressive and the almost ‘Stomp’-like quality of some of the improvised rhythms played on stage – much of it by Tom Chambers himself – is foot-tappingly contagious.
But what makes this show stand out head and shoulders for me is the current trend for pulling the orchestra out of their traditional pit, giving them characters, costumes, lines, dance routines and centre stage positions. All this whilst playing, as well as any live orchestra can play, without sheet music and in full view of the audience.
I feel rather sorry these days for the traditional musician who can’t sing, dance and act as well! It’s a technique which works really well in ‘Crazy for You’ and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. But sometimes it falls short, as in the recent touring production of ‘Sister Act’. In the present context it adds another layer of complexity and excitement, colour and just ‘feels’, sounds and looks right for this production.
This current incarnation of ‘Crazy for You’ is fresh out of the world-acclaimed Watermill Theatre near Newbury and bears the influential mark of producer Jamie Wilson whose list of work on UK and international shows is as long as it is impressive.
‘Crazy for You’ runs at The Mayflower until Saturday 25th November (02380 711811) before heading off to Manchester and points beyond. This tour finishes in June by which time the boys and girls of Deadrock, Nevada, will probably be on their knees!