If the folk of the USA demanded to be uplifted in the midst of the Great Depression, American songbook writers George and Ira Gershwin were the ones to comply with their escapist musical Girl Crazy, first performed in October 1930.
A few decades later, the storyline was updated and a whole host of popular Gershwin songs were added for good measure – Crazy for You was born.
Telling the story of happy-go-lucky wannabe dancer, New Yorker Bobby Child (Tom Chambers of Strictly fame) and his romantic encounter with the no-nonsense, spunky Polly Baker (Charlotte Wakefield) in her hometown of Dead Rock, Nevada, Crazy for You is a love story with dance, good tunes and comedy. The ‘good tunes’ part here is important because these songs are timeless gems and even though I didn’t know many of them (my dad did), they still felt like a comfy old pair of jeans. Class always shines through and the Gershwins had it by the bucketload.
Set mostly in a run-down theatre turned post office, it’s fun to be watching a theatre from a theatre – the cast dancing for us, dancing for them, dancing for each other. Singing for everyone. The merriment barely stops and almost every member of the cast plays an instrument, sometimes whilst still razzmatazzing away up there, smiling widely, costumes colourful, tap shoes clicking. There are laughs-a-plenty too, whether provided by the indefatigable Chambers, the cheeky chappy with the right dance moves, his domineering mother, played with humour and maternal love by Kate Milner-Evans or by the fun troupe of New York dancers who flirt amiably with the loveable hicks from a post-glory Gold Rush town.
Caroline Flack gives good relief as Bobby’s sex-kitten fiancée and you just know who she’ll end up with, while Wakefield is bursting with strong voice, portraying a believable, likeable gal. The audience love Chambers and its warranted – the boy can dance, act and sing with seeming effortlessness and a lot of charm.
Crazy for You is an enjoyable romp through a difficult period in history. You’ll leave humming and wondering how you don’t actually know more Gershwin songs. Recommended, whatever your age.
Did I tell you that I don’t even like musical theatre? Funny that.
Crazy for You runs at Bristol Hippodrome until 14th October