Theater Review: ‘Crazy for You’ taps into talent at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival
The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival production of “Crazy for You” is crazy good on multiple levels.
Singing, dancing, choreography, music, acting, set design and costuming are beyond superlatives. PSF’s “Crazy for You” will captivate and transport you to Broadway’s Golden Age of all-singing, all-dancing, all-fun musicals.
A veritable stampede of tap dancers takes over the Main Stage in Labuda Center for the Arts, DeSales University, Center Valley, where “Crazy for You” continues through June 30. The cast even dances during curtain call. Director Gina Lamparella elicits incredible performances from every cast member.
They tap, standing on chairs. They tap on tabletops. And they tap on the stage, of course. At one point, there’s a line of tap dancers from one end of the Labuda stage to the other. The tap dancing isn’t only done to music. At times, the tap dancing is done to tap dancing. It’s all tap, all alone. The effect is exhilarating.
Choreographer Stephen Casey infuses the show with an intense, aggressive yet graceful style and the dancers respond with precision. The dancers’ kicks are so high as to appear nigh impossible.
PSF’s “Crazy for You” is one of the most high-energy shows ever to grace the stage. If the energy of those tapping feet could be harnessed, it might reduce the carbon footprint.
This is a big show. The musical has a cast of 27, backed by a 15-piece orchestra, conducted by Music Director Ryan Touhey, in his PSF debut. Sound Designer Matthew Given lets the music and vocals reverberate in the theater.
At the center of the high-powered musical is the performance of Danny Gardner (Bobby Child), who combines the balletic lightness of Fred Astaire and the athletic strength of Gene Kelly. During curtain call (yes, a full maroon curtain opens above the Labuda stage), Gardner did a cross-legged leap during which he seemed to levitate in mid-air. All this, and with an effervescent smile.
“Crazy for You” is a jukebox musical of Gershwin tunes before there were jukeboxes. Ken Ludwig (“Lend Me A Tenor”) was commissioned to write a Broadway show around the songs of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. It’s based on the Gershwins’ 1930 musical, “Girl Crazy,” and includes songs from their other shows. “Crazy for You” received the 1992 Tony Award for Best Musical.
The storyline has Bobby Child, a New York City banker, foreclosing on a theater in Deadrock, Nev., where Polly Baker (Hayley Podschun) is the most eligible bachelorette. Her father, Everett (Christopher Coucil), has to hold off her suitors, including Lank Hawkins (humorous Matthew Patrick Quinn), who as the former gold-mining town’s saloon owner is the least eligible bachelor.
Among the outstanding production numbers: “Bidin’ My Time,” by Dominick Sannelli (Mingo), Jerry Gallagher (Moose), Rashaan James II (Sam) and the Men; “Someone to Watch Over Me,” by Podschun; “Embraceable You,” by Gardner and Podschun, and the first act stupendous closer, “I Got Rhythm,” by Podschun and the Company.
Act Two hallmarks include “Naughty Baby,” by show-stopper Kate Loprest (Irene), Quinn, and a Male Quartet of Michael Bingham (Harry), Richard Westfahl (Junior), Joshua J. Schwartz (Wyatt) and Gallagher; “They Can’t Take That Away From Me, by Gardner; “But Not for Me,” by Podschun, and “Nice Work If You Can Get it,” by Gardner and the Showgirls.
The funniest scene has no tap dancing and no music. It’s right out of a silent movie. Child, disguised as Broadway impressario Bela Zangler (complete with mustache, glasses, curly-hair wig and gray suit), sits at a table opposite the real Bela Zangler (Vishal Vaidya). Their identical gestures mirror each other. The scene is superbly acted and jaw-dropping hilarious.
Another funny scene is when a no-holds-barred fight erupts. Credit Fight Director J. Alex Cordaro for well-executed mayhem.
JoAnn Wilchek Basist impresses as Bobby’s mother, Lottie. She’s not in many scenes, but with her usual confident flair, owns every scene she’s in.
Lottie’s outfitted in beautiful suits, coats and hats, emblematic of Costume Designer Sam Fleming, who designed gorgeous costumes for the Zangler Showgirls, contrasting nicely with rustic outfits of the Deadrock cowboys.
Scenic Designer Steve TenEyck created detailed storefront backdrops for Deadrock. Lighting Designer Eric T. Haugen fills in the rest of the elements.
PSF’s “Crazy for You” is crazy good.
Tickets: Labuda Center for the Performing Arts lobby box office, DeSales University, 2755 Station Avenue, Center Valley; pashakespeare.org/psf_tickets.php; 610-282-WILL (9455)