“Crazy for You” (the 1992 Broadway hit now hitting The Players stage) is basically a fix-up of “Girl Crazy” (the 1930 Broadway hit). The reincarnation juggled the original plot elements and gave the story more zip — not that the new story makes any more sense. It’s charmingly preposterous. You not only have to suspend your disbelief, you have to put your disbelief in concrete overshoes, drop it off the Brooklyn Bridge and change your address. Simply put …
Back in the 1930s, Bobby Child (Logan O’Neill), a rich young fellow in New York City, just wants to dance. Bela Zangler (Chip Fisher), the Flo Zeigfeld clone, wants him to dance in somebody else’s theater. His mom (Donna DeFant) wants him in the family business (banking, that is) and sends him to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on a cowboy theater. There, Bobby falls in love with Polly Baker (Kathryn Parks), the theater’s cowgirl proprietor. Complications and misunderstandings ensue. Bobby and Polly put on a show to save the theater. They do. (Spoiler alert: They also live happily ever after.)
This short synopsis sounds nearly sane. Trust me, it’s not. Hilarious, yes. Logical, no. But the plot’s not the point. As with the original “Girl Crazy,” the story’s just an excuse to put the George and Ira Gershwin songbook on stage. These crowd-pleasers include “I Got Rhythm,” “Bidin’ My Time,” “I Can't Be Bothered Now,” “They Can't Take That Away from Me,” “But Not for Me,” “Embraceable You and Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Naughty Baby,” “Stiff Upper Lip,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and, of course, “K-ra-zy for You.”
This ear candy is delivered via Jared E. Walker’s screwball direction, Kyle Turoff’s high-voltage choreography and a cast bubbling with chemistry. O’Neill is a snappy dancer (tap and non-tap), a great singer and a fine physical comic, too. Parks brings the same level of talent — nicely playing the down-to-earth comic foil to the untethered balloon of Bobby’s optimism. Fisher’s Zangler is the classic domineering, temperamental, bearded impresario seen in nearly every Marx Brothers movie — though he’s not a heel. Speaking of which, O’Neil (disguised as Zangler) and Fisher (as the “real” Zangler) bring down the house in a spin on the mirror scene in “Duck Soup.” That scene alone is worth the price of admission. But Jeffrey Kin (as Lank, the bad-guy saloon keeper) and Lindsey Nickel-de la O (as Irene, Bobby’s ex-fiancée, who proves to be a naughty baby, indeed) are equally sidesplitting. There are no weak links in the cast’s comedic chain — or weak legs, in the killer congeries of chorus girls. Fine orchestration, great costumes and clever fly-away sets, as well.
Improbability aside, the story framing the songs is sharply penned. Ken Ludwig (the playwright behind the musical’s “book”) is self-consciously working in the pre-Sondheim, pre-Andrew Lloyd Webber tradition of American musical theater. (With plenty of post-modern winks to the audience.) As crazy as it is, his story makes you care. Ultimately, it’s a heartfelt love story — to the music of George and Ira Gershwin.
And that ain’t so crazy, after all.
IF YOU GO
“Crazy for You” runs through Nov. 3, at Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
For more information, call 365-2494 or visit theplayers.org
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