sPlaywright Ken Ludwig hit gold in 1989 with his first Broadway play, Lend Me a Tenor, and he hit more gold with Crazy For You, his second Broadway production, three years later. In fact, Mr. Ludwig is so prolific that he’s got two shows currently running at the same time in San Diego (North Coast Rep’s Moon Over Buffalo, and San Diego Musical Theatre’s Crazy For You) along with a world premiere play, The Gods of Comedy, opening in May at The Old Globe. Mr. Ludwig’s popularity is well-earned, as amply demonstrated in SDMT’s production of Crazy For You.
Based on a Gershwin musical called Girl Crazy, Crazy For You invents a number of twists and turns on a well-worn plot and sweetens the mix by providing songs from the entire Gershwin catalog. Bobby Child (Jeffrey Scott Parsons) eagerly pesters Bela Zangler (David McBean), the producer of a Broadway revue not unlike the Ziegfeld Follies, for a job as a singer/dancer in order to avoid being forced to work as a gofer in his mother’s (Katie Gucik) finance business. He’s also trying to avoid his (apparently) self-designated fiancé, Irene Roth (Kelly Derouin).
Bobby doesn’t get the job, and his mother ships him off to Deadrock, Nevada, to repossess an old theatre whose owners, Polly Baker (Tayler Mettra) and Everett Baker (Richard Van Slyke), haven’t been keeping up with its mortgage payments. Once in Deadrock, Bobby quickly falls for Polly and comes up with a “let’s put on a show” scheme to raise the money to save the old building. It turns out that the men of Deadrock sing and dance, and Bobby persuades some women friends from New York to make an appearance in his production.
Eventually, Bela Zangler, Irene Roth, Bobby’s mother, and travel guide writers Eugene and Patricia Fodor (Mr. McBean and Ms. Gucik) end up in Deadrock to help assure a happy ending. You wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?
The Horton Grand Theatre is pretty small for a cast this large, plus a 17-piece orchestra piped in from a separate room. So, efficiency of both direction and choreography is required, and that’s what audiences get from director Kirsten Chandler and choreographer Jull Gorrie. With a cavalcade of songs such as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Slap That Bass,” “Embraceable You,” “Bidin’ My Time,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “But Not for Me,” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” there’s lots of different styles of dancing to be created. And, they sing, too, in voices well-coached by music director Don LeMaster.
The women (Kylie Molnar, Emma Nossal, Kiara Geolina, Andrea Williams, Madeline Edwards, and Alison Teague) are supposed to be professional singer/dancers, and Ms. Gorrie has costume designer Janet Pitcher deck them out in matching outfits (and wigs, designed by Peter Herman) a good deal of the time. Ms. Gorrie also gives this crew a lot of precision dancing, and they shine at the kinds of togetherness that made the Follies so popular with audiences. The male ensemble (Austin Wright, Donny Gersonde, Jonathan Sangster, Isaac Jackson, Luke H. Jacobs, Alex Nemiroski, and Matthew Ryan) are supposed to be residents of Deadrock, so Ms. Pitcher costumes them in complimentary but not matching outfits. Several of the men have smaller character roles (more so than the women), so they need to dance as their character. Ms. Gorrie’s dances for the men tend to require less precision and leave the most spectacularly athletic moves to Mr. Jacobs, the dance captain.
Mr. Parsons and Ms. Mettra pair well together as lead dancers and performers, and Ms. Mettra demonstrates a particularly fine musical theatre singing voice, shifting styles easily and belting effectively when needed. Mr. McBean and Ms. Derouin adroitly handle the comic duties.
The rest of the technical aspects – Dwight Richard Odle and Mathys Herbert’s scenic design, Michelle Miles’ lighting design, and especially Kevin Anthenill’s expertly blended sound design, manage to keep the inherent difficulties of producing musicals in a small, historic, theatre at bay.
With this production, San Diego Musical Theatre gets off to a fast start on its 12th season. If you love old-fashioned musicals, Crazy For You is a must-see. It runs through March 3.
Performs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm, at the Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Avenue in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. Street parking may be available, or there are numerous pay lots and garages in the area. Be careful to check prices on the pay lots before parking, as because the area is a nightlife district many of the lots have variable pricing in effect. The Gaslamp Quarter Trolley Stop is also a short walk from the theatre. This review was based on the press opening performance, Saturday, February 2.