What a delight! For me, musical theater is pure escapism: I can be entertained, tap my foot to the music, and sometimes even sing along with the cast (softly, of course). I leave the theater with a jaunty jingle in my head and a skip in my step. It is also comfort food for my soul. The Rockville Musical Theatre’s (RMT) production of Crazy for You provided all of that — and more.
Crazy for You is, in essence, the standard boy meets girl, boy loses girl, then boy and girl end up living happily every after. When Crazy for You burst onto Broadway in 1992, the book by Ken Ludwig came alive with the music of George and Ira Gershwin. Some of the songs were reprisals of Gershwin’s 1930 musical, Girl Crazy, some were composed for this particular production, and others were adaptations of songs from other popular Gershwin musicals.
The stage (with scenic design by Bill Brown and Daniel Tobiassen) first felt barren. Upstage from a stylized backdrop of Times Square sat one door, the entrance to the offices of The Zangler Follies. The setting proved to be a most appropriate backdrop for a rather bleak situation: Bobby’s (Ian Brown-Gorrell) haughty mother (Victoria Winter) and her minions commanded him to go to Dead Rock, Nevada to repossess a theater; his fiance of five years, Irene (Stephanie Miller), petulantly insisted that he stay in New York, and; he was once again rejected by Bela Zangler (Brad Carnes-Stein) who, unimpressed by Bobby’s dancing, again rejected him from The Zangler Follies.
Bobby’s destination, Dead Rock, was brought to life by the scenic design and its implementation by the master carpenter, Daniel Tobiassen, Scenic Artist Betsy Welch and their respective build and paint crews Each setting felt natural. Why, of course a cowboy trio belonged in a wheelbarrow out side of Lank’s Bar.Turn the structure around and a rowdy fight could take place inside the bar. The theater was appropriately shabby without being cliche. Despite appearing quite substantial, the buildings and props were repositioned with nary a break in the forward movement of the plot. The lighting, designed by Noam Lautman, was especially effective in accenting the changes in mood in Dead Rock when fantasy was crushingly tossed aside by the truth.
Every member of the cast provided something special; I can’t think of one who could be spared. Ian Brown-Gorrell (Bobby), was a wonder to watch. He was at his best when he transformed from a hen-pecked wimp into his farcical false identity of Bela Zangler, the owner of the Zangler Follies in New York. His performance as Zangler was so spot-on that I had to check my program to make sure it was, indeed, Brown-Gorrell playing the part. Throughout, his pratfalls and comic timing were impeccable and he could probably tap his way around the world without missing a beat.
Laura Gepford (Polly), showed her tremendous vocal range, comfort on stage, and ability to connect with the audience throughout the evening. Both her pure voice and demeaner made her a most believable character. Her rendition of “Someone to Watch over Me” ached with despair. “I Got Rhythm,” performed by Polly and the chorus, was an uplifting end to the first act. Gepford continued her strong character development, singing, and dancing throughout the second act where she had few opportunities to perform unaccompanied.
Given that we’re talking about musical theater, kudos are due to both Sound Designer Sam Horwich and Musical Direction Stuart Weich. The orchestra supported but never overwhelmed any of the singing. This was particularly well done during the solo performances by Bobby and Polly.
The Follies Girls were a vision of mid-century perfection, aided by costumes designed by Tina Weich, sassy attitudes and synchronized tap. The costumes were designed to make each of “the girls” look hot despite their varying physical appearances I particularly liked their second act patriotic-themed Follies costuming. Their performance in the second act, both as individual actors and as a group, provided many light moments One standout was Andrea Burmeister, who played the ultra-sassy role of Mitzi. She effectively separated “sassy” from “sexy” when called for. he rest of “The Follies” girls matched Burmeister in zest and dancing ability.
Perhaps the funniest scene occurred when the real Mr. Bela Zangler (Brad Carnes-Stein) and the fake one (Ian Brown-Gorrell) end up in Dead Rock at the same time. They perform a lengthy mirror scene when Bobby is trying to avoid recognition as a fake Zangler. Sitting facing each other across a small table, Bobby mirrored every facial expression and subtle movement of Zangler. This is a difficult feat even when well-rehearsed.
The Cowboy Trio of Moose (Michael Yesenko), MIngo (Alden Michels), and Sam (Eric Yeh) provided verbal and sight gags that delighted the audience. Naturally, they would make their first appearance singing “Bindin’ My Time” early in the first act while lazily hanging out in a wheelbarrow in front of the Lank’s Bar in Dead Rock. They provoked outbursts of laughter but were also able to blend with the rest of the cast when needed. I particularly liked them in the second act song, “Naughty Baby,” performed with Irene and the bar owner, Lank (Jeff Breslow).
The English couple (Liz Weber and Jack Stein) perfectly overplayed their role as adventurers working on a guidebook of the wild west and very surprised to find themselves in the middle of worries over a theater in Dead Rock. While looking for the luxuries of home, they maintained their stalwart constitutions and energy in pursuing their mission of exploring the west. The audience laughed whenever they appeared.
The actors were well supported by the production staff. The choreography by Duane Monahan felt fresh and new; quite a feat for a show that has been performed countless times around the world. The choreography in the scene dominated by “Naughty Baby,” and that of Bobby and the Follies Girls with “Nice Work if You Can Get It” added mightily to their impact. I loved the costumes designed by Tina Weich. They accented each actor’s role and station in life. Though a problem for some community theaters, nothing here seemed repurposed from a previous production.
The whole package of Crazy for You, produced by James Eustice and beautifully directed by Chad Wheeler, and wonderfully executed by every participant, is a treat not to be missed.
Running Time: Two and one-half hours, plus one intermission.
Crazy for You plays through July 28, 2013 at Rockville Musical Theatre at The F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. Tickets can be purchased by calling (240) 314-8690.