Musicals at Richter

Oh, the wishes you can wish for tonight!

Crazy for You

Press Release:

Bursting with song and dance
Richter opens season with ‘Crazy for You’

By Chesley Plemmons
NEWS-TIMES THEATER CORRESPONDENT
2002-06-28


The opening production of Musicals at Richter, Danbury’s outdoor summer theater, might just as well be billed “Crazy for Youth” instead of its actual title, “Crazy for You.”

Nineteen of the cast of 27 are high school or university students, giving the show the look of a college production — albeit, a well-danced, well-rehearsed one.

The point is not to fault the casting, for summer theater is a perfect outlet for talented fledglings awaiting their next school production.

It’s more a matter of identity. Musicals at Richter may wish to tip the scales toward the younger crowd and their families and friends — that could make it very popular — but risks alienating theatergoers who expect the company’s productions to be cast to character.

Maybe one of the three shows on each summer’s schedule should be designed for a mostly student cast and promoted as such.

Richter’s “Crazy for You” is nevertheless well worth a visit for two primary reasons: the wonderful score by George and Ira Gershwin, and some neat precision tap-dancing by leading man Daniel Bayer and a chorus line of guys and girls who execute director/choreographer Jen Turey’s steps without even a glimmer of fear of a misstep.

The show is a reworked version of the Gershwin brothers’ 1930s musical “Girl Crazy,” and concerns playboy Bobby Child, who travels to Dead Rock, Nev., to foreclose on one of the properties his ritzy mother’s bank owns.

There he runs into feisty Polly Baker, the local Post Office mistress, and promptly falls in love with her. In true Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney fashion, he suggests the locals put on a show to raise money to save the theater the bank wants to take over.

For his part, he offers to get showgirls from New York’s Zangler (read Ziegfeld) Follies to join the scruffy inhabitants of Dead Rock in a musical production.

Playwright Ken Ludwig (“Lend Me a Tenor,” “Moon Over Buffalo”) supplied the new book for “Crazy for You,” and he’s added some funny business about Bobby impersonating the famed showman Zangler, only to have the real impresario show up in Dead Rock.

There’s also a classic comedy “mirror” sequence, with both Zanglers doing double-takes across a barroom table.

What matters most is the music and the dancing, and the score has been beefed up with Gershwin tunes from other shows. It doesn’t matter where they came from, you won’t hear a single nay from me when it comes to “Bidin’ My Time,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “But Not for Me,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Embraceable You.”

Turey, who has done an excellent job of steering this large cast through the many scenes, wisely emulated many of the ingenious choreographic routines Susan Stroman devised for the 1991 Broadway production.

There’s tapping on garbage can lids, music played on farm tools, and chorus girls turned into bass fiddles that the guys swing in the air while standing on pick-axes.

Reid Thompson’s sets, which easily switch from New York to Dead Rock locales, are filled with true Western touches and a Manhattan art deco air. The costumes by Dee & Don’s Costume Closet are both dust-bowl funky and follies bright.

Bayer turns in a terrific performance as Bobby, singing and dancing like a pro — think of the young Donald O’Connor — and he’s nicely partnered with Jessica Esposito, who possesses a steady, lilting soprano — think of the young Jane Powell — in the role of Polly.

The cast is too large to mention everyone, but the energy of all of them was infectious. Juliette Garrison, as Bobby’s snobby girlfriend, turned up the vamp wattage in “Naughty Baby,” which she sang to equally grown-up Lank (Christopher Gladysz).

Ron Rogell hammed up Zangler nicely, and Christopher Berks, the company’s executive director, made a sympathetic appearance as Polly’s father.

A show with as many light cues and set changes as this one can’t make it without super backstage support. It was supplied here by technical director Eve Clulow and stage manager Anthony Grasso.

Joyce Northrop was the producer who pulled it all together.

copyright © 2001 by The News-Times

 

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