Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Crazy for You"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


"Crazy for You"

Book by Ken Ludwig
Music and Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin
Directed by Jennifer Turey and Robert J. Eagle
Susan Stroman's Original Choreography Recreated by Jennifer Turey
Production Stage Manager Denise Dean

Scenic Design by Robin Wagner
Lighting Design by David Wilson
Costume Design by William Ivey Long

Bobby Child....................Dean Stroop*
Bela Zangler..................Scott Willis*
Irene Roth....................Juliet Ewing*
Mother...........................Bea Waring
Polly Baker.....................Karen Culp*
Everett Baker...............Joseph Caliguri
Lank Hawkins...................Daren Kelly*
Tess.........................Ellen Peterson
Patsy............................Mia Price*
Sheila......................Bethany Cassidy
Mitzi......................Allison Waggener
Maude.........................Joanna McNeil
Peggy.......................Jennifer Turey*
Susie........................Jill Brannelly
Louise..........................Katie McCue
Betsy........................Karen Shipley*
Margie......................Wendy Pasquale*
Vera.........................Valerie Kramer
Elaine......................Jennifer Sagan*
Perkins.....................Timothy Devaney
Moose.......................R. Glen Michell
Cody............................Reese Snow*
Mingo........................Sean Kilbridge
Custus.....................Michael Goddard*
Junior.......................Andy Swansburg
Joe...........................William Nagle
Jimmy.............................Jay Carey
Billy..........................Kai Schmoll*
Wyatt.....................George Livengood*
Johnny Joe..................Timothy Devaney
Pete.........................Al Micacchion*
Sam..........................Jonathan White
Eugene........................John Marshall
Patricia........Aurelie McCarthy Allegretto

* indicates members of Actors' Equity Association


Watching "Crazy for You" his third musical presentation of this summer, I realized that Robert J. Eagle is keeping alive two great American theatrical traditions on the big stage at Waltham High School., one of which is summer stock. The ensembles for all three shows were roughly the same people --- either youngsters earning their spurs, or reliable regulars with years of experience. Then the big roles were handled by "names" --- many of whom had done the roles with touring companies and could sell the songs in their sleep. But in each of these shows for their thirtieth anniversary season Eagle included a couple of stage-filling spectacle scenes with what amounted to a dress-parade for excellent costumes, often on masses of tap-dancing bodies. In that, Bob Eagle is in another grand theatrical tradition --- glorifying the American girl.

"Crazy for You" has a famous director whose name isn't Flo Zeigfeld but Bela Zangler, whose annual "Zangler's Follies" ends with a few long-stemmed beauties tottering into place in flesh-colored body-stockings and elaborately ornate plumage that would make a peacock look dowdy --- costumes that it must have taken a structural engineer to execute.

And along with authentic costumes and sets, Eagle is proud of the credit "Original Choreography Re-created by". He gives people live dance routines that consistently rival the best from old MGM movies, remembered step-for-step by dance-captains and choreographers who know how everything should go.

One of the set-piece routines in "Crazy for You" has the hero, who has disguised himself as Bela Zangler, and the real Bela, mirroring each other's every move as they drown their sorrows at being unlucky in love --- Scott Willis as Zangler and Dean Stroop as his likealook. It's not the precision of the movements that's so effective, but the apparent ease with which they're executed.

Stroop is an excellent buffoon. Ken Ludwig's trumped-up plot for this "New Gershwin Musical Comedy" paints him as the theater-crazed scion of a banking family who wants a stage career so much he's even willing to disguise himself as that very Bela Zangler and invite the vacationing cast of Zangler's Follies to do a show in Deadrock, Nevada, to revitalize a ghost town and save an abandoned theatre --- instead of foreclosing on it as his mother expects. He gets to play the tenderfooted Easterner, to get walloped around by the girl (Karen Culp) who owns the theatre, to upstage the villain/straight-man (Daren Kelly) bent on buying the girl along with the theatre (but we know who she'll end up dancing into the sunset with, don't we).

He's also a pretty good hoofer. Hoofin' is another standard element at The Reagle Players this year. The essence of "Crazy for You" is stated in the title/refrain of a song our hero sings when his banker mother insists he join the family firm: "I'm Dancin' And I Can't Be Bothered Now!" Say that Gershwin-written line out loud; notice how your lips and teeth and tongue rattle off a little tap-routine with all those clattering consonants? You can almost feel the swing of the dancer's arms in the rhythms of the vowels. That's the staccato style of musical theater before Agnes deMille and Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse moved musicals out of tap shoes into ballet slippers, and got a different kind of music from Dick Rogers and Stephen Sondheim.

Bob Eagle is not above schmaltz, either. There's a lot of mugging and slapstick and double-takes here. They'd look hokey if the execution weren't so clean and precisely timed. Even the broad portraits of sex-starved cowpokes tread a delicate line between caricature and ham.

And the hoofin' never stops.

Love,
===Anon.

"Crazy for You" (till 15 August)
REAGLE PLAYERS
Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM
1(781)891-5600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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