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#142 Crazy For You at Regents Park Open Air Theatre

August 1, 2011
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East meets West in this best-of-Gershwin barnstormer production, and the audience are entranced. Look at the backs of those heads. ENTRANCED.

Katy bar the door! The last time we went to the Open Air Theatre, it was a meh-tastic rendering of The Beggar’s Opera. We’ve got used to seeing fun and frilly Gilbert and Sullivans there, and slight but fetching renditions of musicals like Camelot and High Society.

We weren’t expecting to be socked in the kisser with the best musical performance this or any other side of Broadway.

The plot of Crazy For You is so thin, it’s virtually see-through. A New York guy who just wants to sing and dance ends up in a sleepy Nevada frontier town. He revives the old theatre and falls in love with ‘the girl’. (Because this is the kind of place that somehow functions with only one girl, just like the Smurfs do.) That’s it. It’s 42nd Street meets Calamity Jane! Would you be surprised they’re going to close the old thee-ater down if they can’t put on one last show? Chuck in a handful of shenanigans involving impersonation, subterfuge, fake facial hair, drunkenness, showgirls, cowboys, mistaken identity, and an unnecessary but inoffensive couple of lost Brits, and you’ve got a hit on your hands, buster.

The singing, you ask? Gutsy and strong. The dancing, you enquire cautiously? Impeccably choreographed, with none of the dry, over-rehearsed feel you sometimes get from a big production. And the whole thing was so full of pep, it almost bounded off stage and filled the park with cartwheeling, lassooing, tapdancing troupers. Yeah, it’s cheesy. But so is Wensleydale, and Wensleydale is awesome too.

Now, your Open Air Theatre-goer is staid and respectable. He doesn’t pop his collar. She doesn’t wear neon. But when he/she watched this, he/she was whooping out loud, cat-calling and applauding whenever anyone stopped speaking. Not bad for a show that’s not actually an original musical: it’s a portmanteau of several plots from 30s shows, genetically engineered to contain as much Gershwin goodness as possible, and dating from only 1992. That’s why they can mash together songs like ‘Irreplaceable You’, ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ and ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ as well as the showstopping dance epic that ‘I Got Rhythm’ becomes.

You know those appalling quotes by Baz Bamingboye and the like, on film and theatre posters? Shows that never deserve them? This deserves something like that, much more than the latest crap. How about:

‘TAKE A HANKY – YOU’LL BE WIPING STARDUST OFF YOUR FACE FOR WEEKS!’

Oh no, wait, that’s ridiculous and a little nauseating. Just, you know, it’s good and stuff so you should see it. Mmm.

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