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A CurtainUp London Review
Crazy For You
The only thing that can dampen the spirits is the rain! Fortunately, an early shower was swept away by men in period costume and the circular wooden stage mopped to allow the tap dance numbers which would have been dangerous on a wet surface while the audience were kindly supplied with plastic mackintoshes. I did hear someone suggest that next year they should put on Singing In the Rain to incorporate the fickle weather!
I had seen the London production in the 1990s but had little memory of it apart from the crescent moon poster and the scene where the male dancers play the girls as if they are stringed double basses using ropes. The plot may suffer from taking in songs from other musicals but Ken Ludwig's book has a coherence based on the show business ambitions of New Yorker Bobby Child (Sean Palmer) who goes to Deadrock, Nevada, "the armpit of the American West", and turns this hick town into an embryonic Vegas, whilst pretending to be the famous Zangler of Zangler Follies. Bobby's love interest is the only woman within 50 miles, cowgirl Polly Baker divinely sung by Clare Foster.
The show opens in sophisticated New York with the well matched, platinum blonde Follies chorus in bright turquoise and royal blues, colours which come even more alive as night falls in Regent's Park, daylight making way for the preponderance of stage lighting. Deadrock is delineated by some giant spiky green cacti and splay legged cowboys. Bobby as Zangler has a couple of duets with Polly, "Could You Use Me?" and "Shall We Dance?" which is turned into an Astaire and Rogers routine with Polly in a corduroy skirt! When the Follies girls arrive, the cowhands can't believe their eyes as the girls high kick, cartwheel and strut their stuff. The solo romantic highlight of the show is Polly's emotionally taut "Someone to Watch Over Me". In "Slap That Bass" the girls become the double basses as I remembered from 1993 making way for Polly and, Bobby still as Zangler, in the wildly romantic "Embraceable You".
Disappointed with the lack of an audience, just two British tourists in Safari suits and no tickets sold, Polly injects some joie de vivre with the end of Act One, and the iconic "I Got Rhythm". In Act Two the real Zangler (David Burt) turns up and there are two men onstage in a black striped suit and black hair with a sweep of white to confuse Polly. "I am beside myself!" says the real Zangler. Bobby 's rejected New Yorker fiancée Irene (Kim Medcalf) neatly hits it off with Polly's ex, Lank Hawkins (Michael McKell) in "Naughty Baby". Eugene and Patricia (Samuel Holmes and Harriet Thorpe) inject some British backbone with "Stiff Upper Lip" "Chin up, keep muddling through" is their advice and Bobby sings the soaring "They Can't Take That Away From Me" another crazy love song. The Follies chorus take the stage for a beautifully lit "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and in a visually sparkling finale, the elegant Tiller type chorus girls take to the stage with feathers and spangles in pretty state of the art, white costumes.
There is nothing to fault in this lovely show with its toe tapping tunes brilliantly sung, exciting choreography expertly executed and the magic of a Broadway musical in the outdoor atmosphere of the shimmering fairy lights of Regent's Park. This London's hottest ticket!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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