ST. GEORGE — After an energetic performance of Crazy for You at St. George Musical Theater, it is clear the cast has got rhythm and they’ve got music. So, as Ira Gershwin himself wrote, “who could ask for anything more?”
Billed as “The new Gershwin musical comedy,” with music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, a book by Ken Ludwig, and directed at St. George Musical Theater by Gabriel Ashton Brown, Crazy for You tells the story of Bobby Child, a wealthy New Yorker who dreams of life on stage instead of cooped up in one of his family’s banks. Sent by his mother to Deadrock, Nevada, on a mission to foreclose on a local theater behind on its mortgage, Bobby meets — and immediately falls for — Polly Baker, the fiery daughter of the theater owner. Her disinterest in him and his desire to save the theater leads to a series of carefully crafted plans, mistaken identities and fancy footwork set against a backdrop of music from the Gershwins’ 1930s musical Girl Crazy, as well as several other Gershwin musicals.
The term “new musical” may be a bit misleading, as this production had its Broadway debut in 1992. Still, it definitely has a more modern feel, thanks to some of the jokes and inuendo (though nothing too shocking) that likely would not have fit into a show from the Gershwins’ heyday.
Without a doubt, the choreography and its execution shines as one of this show’s brightest stars. So, go ahead and tip your cowboy hat, or your fedora, to choreographer Maria Vaccaro and the entire cast for the creative dance moves throughout this show, including “Slap That Bass” and “I Got Rhythm.” Armed with cheese graters, washboards, tin mugs and more, the entire cast brought their A-game to “I Got Rhythm” in particular. And just when things seemed like they could not get any more exciting, the tap dance atop actual frying pans put even more sizzle into this show-stopping number. Indeed, high-quality tap numbers were peppered throughout the musical, along with several other dancing styles that added depth and emotion to the storytelling.
Coming in strong as one of the many character highlights, Abe Hegewald owned the stage anytime he set foot in front the crowd. Whether acting as his character Bobby Child, or as Bobby impersonatingtheater impresario Bela Zangler, Hegewald’s exuberant gestures, carefully timed humor and ability to lean into the physical comedy necessary made him a pleasure to behold. Hegewald’s strong dancing and vocal talent were also excellent components to his performance.
Holding her own as the main love interest in the show, Polly Baker (played by McKenna Hodge) had all the spunk and sweetness her character required. Hodge stayed true to her southern drawl for the most part, particularly in the musical numbers, which added a new layer to well-loved Gershwin classics like “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Embraceable You” and “I Got Rhythm.”
While initially set up to be a character to dislike for his treatment of Bobby Child in the opening scene, Bela Zangler (played impressively by Tysen Bang) brought another level of humor and wit to the second act when he arrives unannounced to Deadrock. I commend both Bang and Hegewald for their precision and attention to detail during “What Causes That” and the hilarity that ensues.
Meanwhile, the shrill and clingy Irene Roth (played by Brittnee Rodgers) really comes out of her shell when she trades the skyscrapers of New York for the tumbleweeds of the Nevada desert. Rodgers laid it all on the line in her “Naughty Baby” performance, which set things in motion for yet another plot twist, this time involving Lank Hawkins (played by Noah Gallagher). While not a focal point of the show, Eugene and Patricia Foder (played by Aaron Reep and Amber Foster, respectively) were a delightful addition to the second act. And the musical ability exhibited by the Cowboy Trio — Tanner Reep, Joey Allred, and Jim Zierse — offered a deeper look at the overall talent of the ensemble cast.
As more theatre companies are taking advantage of the technology available in the world, it was fun to see St. George Musical Theater incorporate video footage into the storyline, allowing the audience to witness scenes happening outside the theater itself. It is the kind of special effect that a little goes a long way, and in this case the production struck an excellent balance between adding some variety with video footage, while not using it as a crutch.
Despite the cast and crew’s praiseworthy execution of the show as a whole, there was some question as to the overall storytelling style. Whether this was a directorial decision or whether the script itself is the culprit is difficult to decode, but there were times the production seemed to be having an identity crisis. Is it a cheesy 1930s musical? Or is it a caricature of a cheesy 1930s musical that is meant to poke fun at itself and play certain elements a little tongue-in-cheek? Both vibes were present at different times in the show, which made it difficult to determine how an audience should receive the show.
Overall, there is plenty to be crazy about in St. George Musical Theater’s production of Crazy For You. I suggest audiences make room in their schedule to see it at the St. George Opera House before the show closes on Sept. 17.