CENTERVILLE — Among any list of creators of the great American musical, the names George and Ira Gershwin are certainly near the top. CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, in their latest production of Crazy For You, has a delightful show based on greatest songs of the Gershwin musical genius set to a story written by Ken Ludwig. This production, directed by Jim Christian, is a fun evening of dancing and musical heart.
Crazy For You follows the story of Bobby Child, a man stuck in the family business while he dreams of a life on the stage. Child is played masterfully by Craig Williams, whose endearing humility and passion was a surprise for the role. Williams is very skilled at physical comedy, and he used that skill many times throughout the production. From his first number, “Crazy For You,” and in many of the songs that he sang in, Williams’s charismatic presence on stage was astounding. Through most of the play, Bobby impersonates theater manager Bela Zangler, a character played by the hilarious Ricky Parkinson. Bobby does this to win the heart of Polly Baker, played by the exquisite Morgan Western. Parkinson and Williams have a number in the second act, “What Causes That,” where their physical comedy and comedic timing together resulted in one of the best performances of that number that I have seen in this popular show.
Western plays the role of Polly with the perfect balance of strength of character and vulnerability to love and change. Some of the most famous Gershwin songs, from “Embraceable You” to “Someone to Watch Over Me” to, of course, the iconic “I’ve Got Rhythm” were in good hands when Western sang them. Her clear and consistent vocals were a pleasure to listen to, and her acting showed the understanding of the character needing to be strong in a town of men, while lonely for a life more fulfilled.
Crazy For You is know mostly though as a dancing show. With this, the CenterPoint team did not disappoint. The ensemble was well rehearsed and tightly in sync with the choreography by Jessica Merrill. The Follies girls were a pleasure to watch each time they came on stage, and the precision with which they approached each number was fascinating. Within the program there is a note that “I’ve Got Rhythm” was choreographed by director Christian, and that number by itself made Crazy For You was worth. Christian had directed the cast to use different things such as pots, pans, washboards, and other tools as percussion instruments, and a segment with pie pans was especially exciting. It is rare to see a cast in a non-Equity production display such a caliber of dancing talent, and the resulting production was much better for it.
Much can also be said about the costuming by Laurie Oswald and the set by Ricky Parkinson. Making two different settings, the old western town and New York City, mesh together in the same production can present a challenge, but Parkinson did a fine job balancing both. Oswald’s costumes were quite fun, especially the dancing costumes of the Follies girls, and the entire wardrobe of Mrs. Lottie Child, played in quite a regal fashion by Betsy Barker. Other supporting characters, such as Irene (played by Katelynn Ostler Bills) and Everett Baker (played by Dave Hill), were excellent additions to the full production, with Bills providing a steamy version of the song “Naughty Baby” and Hill playing a loving and supportive father.
As I have said before, the step I would love to see taken to improve the CenterPoint productions in general would be to incorporate live music into their productions. Especially with the epic orchestrations of the Gershwin music, a live orchestra would add an essential feel to the production, and there is the caliber of talent in the community to sustain such a step. I found the canned music the only part lacking in an otherwise flawless performance.
Crazy For You is a show full of fun and excitement, where the audience will leave the theatre with a smile on their face and a spring in their step. Such well designed choreography and direction make this particular production an exciting summer retreat.
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