RIVERTON— How do you pull a community together over the summer break and unite them in a common cause? Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland knew how in Babes in Toyland. Bobby Child and Polly Baker knew how in Crazy For You. And the Bluffdale Arts Advisory Board knows that one of the best ways to involve a lot of people in a common goal is to put on a show and let everyone get involved. A community coming together in a united front is the theme of the show and the working mantra of their summer youth theatre production of Crazy for You, directed by Laura Garner and performing at South Hills Middle School in Riverton through Saturdany. With a cast of 40, plus a full pit orchestra of 23 and a production staff and stage crew, costumers, set loaders, ushers, concessions and board members, close to 100 people worked together to produce a show their community could rally behind and of which they could be proud.
Crazy for You is a show biz musical, yet another of the jukebox musicals that string together a catalogue of hits from one composer with a flimsy storyline. The difference with this show is that the catalogue is made up of classics from George and Ira Gershwin, and the story is a more than adequate to keep the audience’s attention. Bobby Child (Peter Johnson) is a song and dance man longing for a break in theatre and itching to escape both his overbearing mother (Amanda Beckstrand) and bossy fiancée (Amber Brill). He jumps at the chance to go to Deadrock, Nevada, to take possession of a run down theater, and finds love in the form of tom-boyish Polly Baker (Jessica Yergensen) and his chance to perform in the spotlight along the way.
Johnson is an enthusiastic dancer, with lightening speed steps during the tap numbers, but had a hard time staying on tempo with the orchestra. His best dance numbers were the duets with Polly, especially “Shall We Dance,” wherein they brought a Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire panache to the stage. Yergensen shone as Polly, in a role that showed off both her vocal chops and her clearly evident formal ballet training. These two were well-matched and played off each other believably. The ensemble choreography from Vicki Wartman (with assistance from JD Kay, Johnson, and Yergensen) was fresh and fun and interesting to watch. The highlight of the ensemble was Regina Farnsworth in the role of Patsy. Farnsworth was consistently the best performer and had confidence and stage presence to spare and share with the rest of the cast. I couldn’t help but watch her every time she was onstage. “Slap That Bass,” and “Stiff Upper Lip” were other choreographic high points, while “The Real American Folk Song is a Rag” had many great ideas, but suffered from a general lack of energy from the cast. One of my favorite choreographed moments in the show wasn’t a dance at all, but was an extended fight scene which involved 10-12 cowboys in the saloon. This fight, while lengthy, was well thought out, well rehearsed, and kept my attention the entire time. Stage Combat director Shayne Hiatt is to be congratulated. Other performers of note were Dan Garner as Bela Zangler, Eric Peterson as Everett Baker, and JD Kay as Moose. These actors were well cast and embodied their characters well, although Zangler’s accent occasionally got too thick and obscured his lines, which possibly were funny, but it was often hard to tell.
One thing that sets Bluffdale Arts Advisory Board shows apart is their use of a live orchestra, which is becoming rarer in these days of digital recordings and minus tracks. There are certainly pros and cons to a live orchestra, too. This pit orchestra, under the direction of Burke Sorenson, had a beautiful blended sound, with some fantastic trumpets and a great rinky-tink piano sound in some of the numbers. I loved the overture and entr’act music especially, and found them delightful. My only complaint was that they were sporadically too loud for the cast members who did not have microphones (or whose microphones were malfunctioning) to be heard, and much of the dialogue was lost. The sound issues were rampant and detracted from the overall enjoyment of the show. But hopefully for future performances, the technical team can work out the bugs. A few missed entrances, befuddled light cues, and flubbed costume changes are also issues that could be neatly fixed and contribute to an otherwise charming show.
Bluffdale’s production is beautiful to look at, with stunning costumes and elaborate sets. Angelle Anderson‘s costume designs for Bobby’s mother were especially stunning, and her use of brighter colors to set apart the featured dancers from the ensemble was particularly effective. The set purchased from Alta High School undoubtedly gave the production a more professional feel. The detail and scale of the set pieces were impressive. But the lengthy set changes tended to bog down the rhythm and pace of the performance, although they created a beautiful picture when they were completed. At close to three hours, the performance was overlong, and the second act suffered the most from flagging energy, but at its essence this is a cute show, which will bring enjoyment and pride to the community that came together to make it happen.
There are two more performances of Crazy for You. Leave extra time to find the venue, as road construction has torn up the roads surrounding the school, and there is little in the way of parking areas. Show up to support your community and give the cast and crew something to cheer about at South Hills Middle School in Riverton!