Crazy For You at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. London cast. Photo: Johan Persson
Crazy for You is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a musical. Not that it is green or ugly but that it is made from recycled parts; Ken Ludwig’s book retroactively fits hits from forgotten Gershwin musicals to mould a fresh take on old classics. Somebody to Watch Over Me, I Got Rhythm, and ‘Embraceable You’ are meshed together into a nostalgia-tinged love letter to the musicals of yesteryear.
We are in the 1930s: top hats, double-breasted suits, flapper girls and Art Deco. Bobby, a New Yorker and son of banking stock, who dreams of performing on stage, ends up in a rusty hillbilly town in Nevada. It just so happens to be home to a derelict theatre, which just so happens to be run by the girl of his dreams. To win the girl and save the town he puts on a show. Nothing makes a case for the power of musicals like a musical.
Crazy For You's London cast at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson
Say what you will about the plot, it does the job: tying together some of the most memorable tunes of the 20th century with a flimsy but undeniably joyous thread of tongue-in-cheek wit. Susan Stroman’s choreography fires on all cylinders, fluidly morphing from dreamlike serenity to grounded earthiness. The ingenuity is intoxicating. The inhabitants of the sleepy Nevada town, wooden chairs, pickaxes, tables and instruments are brilliantly incorporated into whirlwind-like set pieces.
The plot is of little importance anyway. Who cares about the narrative when Charlie Stemp’s tap dancing Bobby takes to the stage, pulsating to the jazzy fizz and whirling rhythms of Gershwin’s spark-filled music? Every beat is a firework, but he is in total control of each little gymnastic explosion. How astonishing it is to watch him move with such controlled ferocity.
Charlie Stemp and Tom Edden, Crazy For You at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson
Even the acting hits the right comedic notes. Stemp, alongside Tom Edden’s brilliantly cartoonish impresario Bela Zangler, are the Marx Brothers by way of Looney Tunes. Together, they’re a bombastic cocktail of slapstick electricity. A carousel of caricatures and eccentric oddballs, the entire cast sizzles with a glorious chemistry.
Storman knows when to find breathing space, and moments of open-hearted tenderness provide balance away from the zany antics. Carly Anderson, as Bobby’s love interest Polly, conjures a warm tenderness with her smooth and soulful rendition of But Not For Me. However grandiose the attention-grabbing toe-tapping numbers are, a smoky melancholy always lingers beneath the surface. Such was the Gershwin brothers’ brilliance.
|What||Crazy For You, Gillian Lynne Theatre review|
|Where||The Gillian Lynne Theatre, 166 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PW | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Holborn (underground)|
24 Jun 23 – 20 Jan 24, 7:30 PM – 9:45 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|