Stuart King

Review: CRAZY FOR YOU at Gillian Lynne Theatre

Song and dance man Charlie Stemp stomps and stamps his mark on yet another all-singing, all-dancing feel good musical, this time CRAZY FOR YOU which has just opened at the Gillian Lynne Theatre and is nothing short of Stemptastic.

Crazy For You at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Charlie Stemp and cast. Photo credit Johan PerssonCrazy For You at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Charlie Stemp and cast. Photo credit Johan Persson

In the tradition of Anything Goes and 42nd Street, C4U is crammed full of charming, familiar, easygoing tunes from the American playbook, which roll as mellifluously as tumbleweed across a western prairie, signposting key moments in the charmingly twee narrative. The untaxing yarn tells of a wannabe hoofer who gets sent west to Deadrock Nevada to foreclose on a run down theatre, but ends up winning hearts and the future of the town with his positivity, energy and enthusiasm for Polly (Carly Anderson) as they put on a show in a bid to stave-off the creditors.

The original production opened on Broadway in 1992 (followed soon after by a three-year run at London’s Prince Edward Theatre) and was essentially Ken Ludwig’s reworking of George and Ira Gershwin’s 1930 musical Girl Crazy populated with songs from the brother’s back catalogue with the blessing of the Gershwin estate. With everything from Ziegler-esque Follies sequences to western era shoot-out re-enactments, a comic mirroring routine par excellence and Susan Stroman’s superbly choreographed dance numbers (which on occasion defy the best containment efforts of the theatre health and safety boffins), there is barely time to catch one’s breath.

Numbers come thick and fast including swirling romantic interludes, slapstick wordplay and a twelve-minute arrangement of I Got Rhythm which enables one of the many high point dance routines of the show. Whilst any actress would struggle to match the combination of earnest song delivery and joie de vivre of Ruthie Henshall’s Polly from 30 years ago, Ms Anderson with her mane of long blond hair bears more than a passing resemblance to Sally Anne Howes (in the film version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and even Ginger Rogers as she is swirled and wooed by her likeably quirky out-of-town suitor. Tom Eden as Bela Zangler matches Stemp’s timing to perfection in a scene which surely required half the entire rehearsal schedule to conclude and the likes of Natalie Kassanga and Lucas Koch will surely be monopolising leading roles ‘erelong.

In a world where much is singularly depressing and dispiriting, this production does exactly what it sets out to do — entertain. It may be a little traditional and even old fashioned, but it’s nice to be reminded that they don’t make them like this anymore. Long may there be a place for wonderful productions like this joyous, timely revival.