OREM — I always look forward to attending productions at the outdoor SCERA Shell Theatre, and I was excited to have the opportunity to review Crazy for You directed by Jerry Elison, with music direction by Martha Glissmeyer, and choreography by Sam Alva.
Crazy for You, with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and book by Ken Ludwig, is a romantic musical comedy telling the story of Bobby Child, a young New Yorker from a rich banking family, who loves the theater and dancing, much to the disapproval of his mother. When Bobby is sent to Dead Rock, Nevada, to foreclose on a property, he meets Polly Baker. Polly’s father owns the property, a theater, Bobby is there to foreclose on. Bobby decides that they should put on a show to raise money to save the theater from foreclosure. He disguises himself as Bella Zangler and gets his friends in the Zangler Follies to come be in the show. The rest of the show is full of mistaken identities, multiple people falling in love, fun music, and lots of tap dancing.
One of the strong suits of this production was the choreography by Sam Alva, who, according to the director’s notes, also taught the cast to tap dance. I loved that he did not overly simplify the choreography, but rather pushed the cast to bring the dancing to a more professional level. I was especially impressed with the entirety of the “I Got Rhythm” number, with the stage full of people, many whom probably had little prior tap experience, tapping together on stage. There were also elements of ballroom dancing as well. The dancing was not perfectly executed, but was generally well done for a community theater production.
I also enjoyed the set design by Nat Reed. This production is made up of several locations, and therefore can be a very challenging set to design for. The use of movable set pieces, wagons, made this possible in Reed’s design. Many of the wagons used were two different set pieces, thus eliminating wasted space and materials. I especially enjoyed the set pieces for the town of Dead Rock. Instead of doing traditional woodwork painting, the wood-grain effects were created using different bright colors such as red, turquoise, blue, and purple. This brought a livening of the otherwise sleepy town. One of the technical challenges of this production is the use of a car on stage that a plethora of show girls have to magically emerge from, much like a clown car. This production had such a car, custom created and designed so that it could also have someone dance on top of it. It served its purpose and other than appearing a little too small visually, the only problem I saw was when the people who were supposed to be disappearing into the car could promptly be seen exiting out the upstage door.
The costume design team, consisting of Kelsey Seaver, Deborah Bowman, and Danielle Berry, had to dress a cast of over 50 people, who all required multiple costume changes—no small feat. I particularly enjoyed the variety of the show girl costumes, with the jewel toned finale outfits being my favorite. I also enjoyed the snazzy pinstriped suits for Bella Zangler and Bobby Child as Zangler. The costumes for Mrs. Lottie Child and for Irene Roth were perfectly dazzling, especially Irene’s dress during the “Naughty Baby” number. Overall, the women’s costumes were well done. I did have a few issues with some of the men’s costumes. I had to hold myself back from running up and untucking the pant legs stuffed into cowboy boots on a small handful of cowboys. Real cowboys don’t tuck their pants into their boots; it’s the instant way to spot a city slicker. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that a lot of the cowboys were wearing their regular jeans that were baggier than seen on actual cowboys. Additionally, in the first act there was also just one cowboy in the ensemble wearing white fringe, and it made him stand out. I kept expecting him to be a principle character, but he wasn’t. In spite of these little discrepancies in the male costumes, the costumes for the cast were still better than what is normally seen in a community theater production.
Christopher Gallacher‘s interpretation of Bobby Child, the leading male character, was not my favorite because I felt that he was played too awkward and whiny. A little awkward can be good and funny, but too much makes this character appear to be a fool. Bobby Child should be a dreamer, yet a little charming. The awkwardness should arise from the situation more than from the character himself. I felt that Gallacher’s heart was not in the role of Bobby, but rather in the role of Bobby playing Zanglar. It was in those moments that Gallacher truly came to life. I agree with Bobby when he says, “Why am I so much better as Zangler?” I was wondering the same thing myself. Gallacher did amazing in his “imitation” of Zangler. I especially enjoyed the “What Causes That” number, which tends to be a favorite for the production.
Polly Baker, played by T’Naiha Ellis, is a girl raised in a town full of single cowboys. She’s spunky, a little sassy, and yet still sweet. I would have liked to see more energy and spunk in this interpretation of Polly, especially in her reaction to getting kissed by a complete stranger. I felt that Polly was a little too sweet the majority of the time. Nevertheless, Ellis had a solid voice and was beautiful dancer. I especially enjoyed her grace in the “Shall We Dance” number.
Some of my struggles with this production have more to do with the script than with the performers. This script was put together to showcase the Gershwins’ music. As a result, the storyline doesn’t allow for strong character development. I do feel that I would have liked to have seen more energy from the performers as a whole, and more chemistry between Bobby and Polly. I do need to give a shout out to Jasmine Petrell, who played Tess. Every time she was on stage she was there wholeheartedly and with her entire being. Her facial expressions were visible from a distance, and her movements also visually carried far.
In the end I feel that this was a good basic performance of Crazy For You. Could it improve? Yes, but what community show is perfect on opening night? The set was well done, along with the costuming and props. There were some truly delightful moments, especially in the “What Causes That” and “Naughty Baby” numbers. The choreography is well done, and the execution of it is sure to improve as performances go on. So if you love tap dancing and the music of George and Ira Gershwin, I’d recommend giving this show a go.