Monday, June 13, 2011

Theatre: Crazy for You

By George and Ira Gershwin
Book by Ken Ludwig
WAAPA 2nd & 3rd Year Music Theatre students
Directed by Crispin Taylor
Music Director David King
Set Design by Steve Nolan
 Regal Theatre
June 10 - 18, 2011

Crazy for You, WAAPA’s ravishing mid-year musical, has perhaps the greatest provenance of any Broadway show.
In its original form, as Girl Crazy, its opening in 1930 was a defining moments in American musical theatre history. Ethel Merman made her Broadway debut, the show made a star of Ginger Rogers, and, incredibly, the pit orchestra, conducted by George Gershwin himself, included Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, Red Nichols and Jack Teagarden. My stars – strike up the band!
Girl Crazy was reworked as Crazy for You by Ken Ludwig in 1992 with a completely new plot and additional Gershwin material, and was widely credited with restoring the mantle to the American musical after two decades dominated by the Brits.
The story, such as it is, is essentially showfolk meet cowpokes in Hicksville and get down to singin’,  dancin’ and fallin’ in love. There’s a fight or two, a dash of mistaken identity, a fair bit of drinking and a town hall meeting. It’s perfect.
What it’s perfect for is as a showcase of the talents of this and next year’s graduating class of the WAAPA music theatre course.
They get some of the greatest songs ever to light up a stage: Embraceable You, They Can’t Take That away from Me, Nice Work if You Can Get It, and the hall-of-fame showstopper, I’ve Got Rhythm, along with terrific character tunes like Bidin’ My Time, Slap That Bass, Stiff Upper Lip and The Real American Folk Song.
And, boy, there’s some bright and shiny talent on show.
James Handley and Hollie James
The leads, Hollie James and Tom Handley, as the true heart Polly Baker and the ardent Bobby Child, breezed through their demanding roles. Handley has the comic touch to complement his fine musical skills, and the poised, natural James has the rare ability to incorporate her character’s hokey accent into two of the most sophisticated love songs ever written, Someone to Watch over Me and But Not for Me, without lessening their emotional impact.
There were many star turns from the supporting cast. Ben Adams’s Bela Zangler combined hilariously with Handley for What Causes That?; Lisa Hanley’s Irene smouldered her wicked way into the affections of Andrew Cook’s long, lanky Lank Hawkins in Naughty Baby; while Holly Meegan as Mrs Lottie Child and Simon Loughton and Adéle Parkinson as the Fodors added plenty of zing to the show’s comic roles.
The statuesque Sian Johnson and pocket blonde bombshell Loren Hunter shone among an excellent principal chorus, while Mark Strom, Josh Stent and Kazim Kent were fabulous as the close-harmonising cowboy trio Sam, Moose and Mingo.
The boys and girls in the ensemble were great, the Dream Girls were almost hallucinogenic, and special mention has to go to Tim Grimes’s dazzling pratfall from the top of the set to the floor in Real American Folk Song, a stunt that brought the house down.
Director Crispin Taylor delivers a tightly managed and exuberant reading of the book,
designer Steve Nolan and costume designer Sian Redgrave give it some gorgeously extravagant touches, and choreographer Jenny Lynnd and musical director David King put their young charges – the orchestra is made up of WAAPA music students ­– through their paces in fine style.
The opening night’s performances were a little tentative at the beginning, a slightly watery overture and a bit of self-conscious tap work betraying some early tightness, but this is entirely understandable in a show opening after only one preview (Broadway juggernauts often preview for weeks — Spider-man: Turn off the Dark has been in previews since last November!).
But once it ramped up – and it didn’t take long – it was an utter delight. It’s a rare and precious thing for us in far-flung Perth to see a show with feathers and spangles and beautiful girls in a high-kicking chorus line, a hero and heroine dancing up a staircase that lights up as they ascend, the harmonies, the colour, the swelling orchestra and a tinselly moon. It’s an early dividend on the community’s investment in WAAPA, and one we should be grateful for. 
The only disappointment for us was when we walked out of the theatre to find the cabs were still white, not yellow, and it was still the Llama Bar across the street not Sardi’s, so completely had the show swept us along to another time, another place. I’ve no doubt some of the talented kids we had just seen will have a taste of them in their bright futures.  

An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian link here.      

No comments:

Post a Comment