Crazy for You

Music, dance and good old-fashioned fun just for the fun of it are celebrated in “Crazy for You,” the “new” Gershwin musical being produced at Pioneer Theatre Company through May 16.

“Crazy for You” was a Broadway sensation a few years ago when it premiered. All of the songs are from old George and Ira Gershwin shows of the ’20s and ’30s, while the script, characters and dialogue are all the modern inventions of talented playwright Ken Ludwig. The play is set in 1936, so you get the music of that era, combined with the typical Broadway-musical plot of that era, combined with some very snappy, witty dialogue that is more characteristic of the ’90s.

And of course the whole thing gets a very classy treatment at Pioneer Theatre Company, where even something as silly and fun as this somehow seems big and important.

The plot has New York banker Bobby Child (Stacey Todd Holt) having to go to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on an old theater. He falls in love with Polly (Nancy Anderson), who is the theater-owner’s daughter, but has to impersonate famous Broadway producer Bela Zangler (Max Robinson) in order to win her love, as well as put on a show to raise money to keep himself from having to foreclose on the theater. Naturally, the real Zangler shows up, Polly finds out, and everything gets all nutty.

The show is a joy from start to finish, with big musical numbers full of tap dancing and some very creative dance moves. (One scene has all the lights go out except for small lights attached to the cast members’ feet, so all we see is some well-choreographed movement of light. Very clever.) There’s plenty of singing, of course — those great old Gershwin songs like “Embraceable You,” “I Got Rhythm,” and “Someone to Watch over Me,” among many others — but there’s a lot of funny, broad dialogue too. The set-up/punchline one-two shot gets a lot of work in this show, with exchanges like:

“He’ll go to Deadrock over my dead body!”
“That sounds like a good route to me.”

Stacey Todd Holt is strong as Bobby. He sings and dances quite well, as does his co-star, Nancy Anderson. Pioneer mainstay Max Robinson is marvelously funny as Bela Zangler, and it is perhaps he who displays the most obvious knack for comedy in this show, though Holt gets big laughs with some of his physical shtick.

Even having seen this show twice before, I was still quite tickled by Bobby and Zangler’s scene together, in which they are dressed alike and sing “What Causes That?” It’s one of the quieter numbers in the show, but also one of the most charming.

A few aspects of the show are a bit more cartoonish than they ought to be. Sometimes Bobby’s physical stuff gets to be a bit TOO much, particularly early on, and the Fodors’ one-stroke characters seem out of place among the other, more endearing and real folks in Deadrock.

But these are minor complaints. The show is astounding even from a technical aspect, with huge set changes and about a thousand costume changes, all of them handled quickly and admirably. And those big dance numbers! Jim Christian’s choreography is a wonder to behold.

The show is occasionally a bit bawdier than one might expect, though never really downright crude. Aside from that, it’s suitable for the entire family, and is a swell way to spend an evening.

I saw this show with a date and a married couple. Never go on double dates with married couples if you, yourself, are single. This should be obvious, but somehow it escaped me. Married people walk a few paces behind non-married people, and whisper to each other all the time about married things, off in their own little married universe. That's all I have to say on the matter.