Thursday, November 29, 2012
Theater review: Fall in love with Crazy For You at Theatre Three
A timeless tale of heartfelt emotion brought to life by a brilliant director and choreographer.
DALLAS Theatre Three's production of Gershwin's Crazy for You exemplified classic theatre at its best; to say otherwise would be a downright insult. Offering old school comedy bits, dancing that soothes the soul and a lust for falling in love as much, and as often, as possible, the show is set as a musical within a musical with lover and dreamer Bobby Childs at the helm. Childs is on a quest to become New York's brightest new star amidst pacifying his own mother's stern business objectives. On his adventurous journey of self-discovery he falls in love on and off the stage, fulfilling his purpose above and beyond what he ever thought possible.
Set Designer David Walsh created a simple set with multi level platforms on either side. These large pieces, when covered in scrims, became the Zangler Theatre amidst the New York nightlife, but when the scrims rose, the stage transformed into the rigid mountains of the Nevada desert. The seats of Theatre Three are set on tiers, always allowing for optimal viewing. The director's staging places the actors in and around the audience without breaking the fourth wall, keeping the viewers engaged with the players as they perform scenes close by and up high. Dear friends, I tell you, there is not a bad seat in the house.
The show's, Director, Michael Serrecchia, has an impressive list of Broadway accolades including the original cast of A Chorus Line that made him a perfect match to direct this show. The writer, Ken Ludwig, wrote Crazy For You to be bold and snarky but not to be devoid of the idea that one needs love in order to accomplish your dreams. Serrecchia achieved the playwright's intentions without a single beat missed.
The best scene of the entire show was the drunken mirror scene between Bela Zangler (Brian Hathaway) and Bobby Child's (Sam Beasley) imitation of Zangler. Without giving too much away, the comical bit that Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx made famous on the classic hit I Love Lucy is revamped to perfection. It is Serrecchia's attention to detail combined with the actor's comedic timing that made the ride with this duo nothing but a barrel of laughs.
Serrecchia had an uncanny ability to deliver a captivating upbeat spirit without losing the musical's softness or realism. Emily Lockhart's rendition of Polly Baker's "Someone to Watch Over Me" is the first breath in the musical where the tap dancing is gone, the comedy is gone, but the longing for love is realized.
While Serrecchia skillfully crafted the show and its dance pieces, this musical's secret weapon was its choreographer, Megan Kelly Bates. The music of George and Ira Gershwin begs for many a dance number in this great musical, and I dare say Serrecchia and Bates more than lived up to the challenge. The choreography on every piece received applause and accolades before the last step was even taken. With "follies and flapper"-style numbers, tap dancing on cars and ladies being played like human stand up basses, all the numbers were spectacular and delightful to watch. There is a wonderful sequence when the whole cast tap dances on silver tins in a conga line and not one tap was off beat. Mucho kudos kids!
Bates even created a lovely nod to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers when Bobby and Polly reunite with a waltz across the floor in a long flowing gown and tuxedo. However, the real treat was watching folks from the audience tap dance their way out of the theatre after the show as a result of being so moved by the fabulous choreography.
Crazy For You had some incredibly talented and gifted actors gracing the Theatre Three stage. Stealing the show was Brian Hathaway as Bela Zangler. His portrayal of the feisty theatre-owning entrepreneur was spot on. He was hilarious and brash in his scenes with Bobby Childs but pulled heartstrings in a paternal moment with Polly Baker.
Emily Lockhart brought life and energy to the show as Polly Baker. Ms. Lockhart created a character made of tough stuff but with a rich heart of gold. It was easy to fall in love with her maternal ways toward the men in this musical's one horse town. Watching her journey to find love with Bobby Childs brought out her honesty and sincerity, Ms. Lockhart carried the stamina and stature of a true Broadway actor.
A few others worth writing home about were Greg Hullett as Lank who was perfect in every interaction and was never without a commanding dynamic presence. His impressive onstage persona was especially evident in the song "Naughty Baby" with Julie Mayer's Irene Roth. Ms. Mayer created a character that was obnoxious, stuck up and, needless to say, seemingly hated. But with the surprise outburst of "Naughty Baby," Ms. Mayer brought out a side of Irene that was delectable and sexy and positively a show stealer.
Honorably mentioned were Joseph Holt and Kathryn Taylor Rose as Eugene and Patricia Fodor respectively, with sublime accent work and a perfect amount of British snobbery. Also not to be left out is Dan Nolen Jr. as Everett Baker. With his constant reminiscence and pride for his deceased wife, his time on stage may have been short but was as sweet as a moment on grandpa's knee.
And man oh man did the showgirls shake their goodies! With long-legged kick lines and high pitched giggles, all the ladies in glittery pink and matching red bobbed wigs captured the essence of the original Follies showgirls. Sassy maidens Tess and Patsy, played by Kelly McCain and Whitney Hennen, created the perfect stage picture and acted as strong compliments for Bobby Childs, played by Sam Beasley.
Mr. Beasley was a gifted dancer and floated across the stage with ease. In his shiny taps and solid form, one could not help but be impressed. His execution of Bobby Childs, though, was a bit one-note. His performance was without varying levels of emotion making his portrayal of a nervous but ambitious leading man slightly but distractingly effeminate. However, his character acting was spot on as the imitation of Bela Zangler. He transformed his demeanor and look so much that a few in the audience thought he was Brian Hathaway (the man who plays the real Bela Zangler) and did not realize it was an imposter until the actual reveal of the real Bela Zangler later on in the plot line. Mr. Beasley was lovely to watch as a dancer and performer and was indeed a talented character actor but he only excelled when playing something other than the part he was cast in.
Theatre Three's production of Crazy For You had creative and loveable dance numbers but lacked strength vocally. The cast as a whole was not very strong and, unfortunately, this was the only element keeping the show as a whole from achieving Broadway caliber perfection. There was uneasiness when hitting high notes and inconsistency in tonality and pitch. However, as the show progressed the singing was more enjoyable thanks to the strong choreography and direction.
The masterminds behind Crazy For You, George and Ira Gershwin were a dynamic duo whose music and lyrics are, needless to say, ageless and still produced worldwide today. Whether it is at the local theatre or selling you insurance on television, their musical creations are universal, elegant and comforting.
Crazy For You is cheerful and vibrant with music that moves the hardest of hearts. It is a timeless tale of love that is brought to life by a brilliant director and choreographer in conjunction with a vivacious cast full of exemplary talent. This is a show I recommend not be missed and, much like the title, we can't always help whom we go crazy for, but Theatre Three and gifted Gershwin men ... I'm definitely crazy for you.
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