OREM — George and Ira Gershwin are arguably two of the greatest songwriters in American history, and perhaps two of the greatest songwriters in the world. So couple their music with a solid, face-paced script from notorious comedy writer Ken Ludwig, and you are bound to produce something wonderful. Well, that something wonderful is called Crazy for You, the winner of the 1992 Tony Award for Best Musical. Its brilliant one-liners, clever physical comedy, and timeless music kept it on Broadway for four years. Now, twenty years later, Crazy for You has found its way to the stage of the Hale Center Theater Orem.
Crazy for You is jam-packed with classics like “Embraceable You,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and “I’ve Got Rhythm,” and it’s guaranteed to have you singing and dancing the whole way home. It is light, wholesome, toe-tapping fun. Every dance seems to be longer than the last, and I mean that in the best way!
This production of Crazy for You at HCTO was a well-crafted piece of theatre. Director/Choreographer Dave Tinney engaged me right from the start. During the overture actors were hard at work backstage at the fictional Zangler Theatre, preparing for the season’s final performance of Zangler’s Follies. Soon the stage was filled with beautiful showgirls and all the backstage hubbub of a performance. It was a perfect transition from my everyday life to the world of Crazy for You. Tinney’s choreography was exciting, charming, and classic. But more than that, it felt motivated. Obviously, it’s musical theatre, so at any point someone may start tap dancing. But Tinney was able to create a sense of real justification in all the dance numbers in the show. It made each of the never-ending dances feel fresh and lively.
Anyone who has visited the Orem Hale will agree with me that the space is unique, and can be challenging to work with. So, I was a little concerned about how a large tap dancing production musical would adapt to the small confines of the space. I was pleasantly surprised. The cast was kept as small as possible, which aided the audience in catching everything that happened. It felt that audience members in any seat would be able to easily see and understand what was going on, which is good, considering how often wonderful little moments can occur on stage.
David Smith starred as Bobby Child, the New York banker who dreams of a career in show business. Smith brought an impeccable comedic timing to the role, and just about every jab and one liner he dropped left me laughing. Smith’s comedic work did not feel as if it were self-gratifying, however. Instead, I felt that Bobby Child was just a funny guy, not someone who was trying to be funny. His vocals were strong, and his command of the stage made it impossible to dislike Bobby Child. Smith’s dancing was good, though not the best work in the whole cast. His solo tap dancing in “I Can’t Be Bothered Now” revealed some slight weaknesses, but it didn’t matter to me. His head-in-the-clouds attitude and energetic physicality in songs like “Slap That Bass” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” lead the show to success.
Hailey Morey starred as Polly Baker, the only girl living in Deadrock, Nevada. Morey easily created a powerful Polly, who became the lifeblood of the tiny town she lived in. She was spunky and demanding, while still maintaining some girlish poise and refinement. Morey’s tap dancing was stronger than that of her counterpart, and her ballroom skill seemed very comfortable. Her vocals were inconsistent, however, and I thought that there were some pitch and tone issues in “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “But Not For Me,” both of which left me wanting more vulnerability in the character. But I definitely felt her fire and stubbornness in songs like “Can You Use Me?” and “Embraceable You.”
Other notable performances came from Nicole Riding and Ben Henderson. Riding played the role of Irene Roth, Bobby’s controlling fiancé from the other side of the pond. She captured the grace and decorum of a proper English woman until she let her hair down and showed her naughty side in “Naughty Baby.” She was a terrifying temptress in the best way. Henderson played the town’s saloon and hotel owner, Lank Hawkins. His focus and commitment to his role made his performance memorable. Henderson created a very real character, one who really just wanted to do what was best for him and the town. His dedication to his part impressed me.
The ensemble did a wonderful job of filling the rest of the production with life. Each show girl and each cowboy had a specific personality. They did not distract from the main action of the play, but only added to it. Their character work could be seen especially in the dances, such as in “Stiff Upper Lip.” This song was less about dancing and more about the relationships on the stage, and any place I looked, there was plenty to see. On top of that, the ensemble vocals were excellent. I didn’t feel for a moment that the golden-age style ensemble sound was sacrificed to a small casting. For that I am very glad.
Scenic designer Bobby Swenson created a very simple set that was effective in creating the world of the play. The space is small, so his design was simple: a grand curtain for the Zangler Theatre, Street Signs for New York, and a back drop made of old western artifacts for Nevada. It was charming, and more importantly, it didn’t distract from the action happening onstage. Costume designer Maryann Hill created some adorable and flattering pieces for the cast. They added color and life to the whole production, and they were very true to the period. With the small space and minimal set, the costumes were instrumental in transporting the audience to the world of Crazy for You.
Crazy for You at HTCO was a true delight. It’s fun for the entire family, and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. I think theatregoers and non-theatregoers alike can find a lot in this production that they will love. Crazy for You has some double-castings, so if you see it, you may not see the same cast that is reviewed here. However, I am confident that whichever cast you see, you’ll be tap dancing the whole way home.