“Crazy for You” a Gersh-Winner From Class Act

It was no surprise that in the capable hands of Musical Director/Conductor, Rae Moses and his 13-piece orchestra, the overture to Class Act Production’s latest gem, Crazy For You, would offer a perky and delightful rendition of the Gershwin tunes that pepper the score. It was a good omen that would soon be justified under the fine direction of Keith Brumfield, Class Act co-founder (along with Kathryn Goodfellow).

Before the good news, let’s reflect that opening nights are seldom flawless. In this case two issues are worthy of attention. First, the volume of the audio was unnecessarily over-the-top, causing some troubling vocal distortion at times. Second, the book of the show (Ken Ludwig) is in my view much too long, and at times a bit too silly. Of course a show titled “Crazy…” gives us some warning in that regard. With all of that in mind, this Class Act offering is really quite wonderful. Leading that success is the lush collection of Gershwin melodies, beautifully performed by lead singers, Michael Hanna as Bobby, and his co-star, Whitney Brandt, as Polly.

The simple “boy meets girl” plot presents us with wanna-be actor, Bobby, a wealthy man about town who is trying desperately to gain the approval of Broadway impresario, Bela Zangler (comically portrayed by Keith Hale). A plot twist sends Bobby out west where he meets Polly in a dusty desert town and comes to the financial rescue of her family’s crumbling old theater, all the while masquerading as Zangler himself (Hanna is a riot in that effort, and when the “two” Zangler’s meet in a drunken stupor, the comedy is first rate and the laughs non-stop). Love blooms, and showbiz prospers, amid a slew of great Gershwin songs. When heavy-handed comedy and excess shenanigans do not get in the way of the beautiful songs, the singing is most often glorious from our co-stars, as well as the terrific ensemble. (Two of my favorite tunes, “Bidin’ My Time,” and “Shall We Dance,” featured way too much unnecessary horseplay, to the exclusion of what should be sheer melodic joy). The colorful array of fine costumes (Caroline Zirelli) is Broadway-worthy, and both the cheerful sets (Jonathan Shelledy), and very effective lighting (Blake Minor) serve to richly enhance the production.

Towering above it all is the astounding quality of the choreography (Tony Smith). The dancing from the large cast of “Follies Girls,” and the young “Follies Kids” was an absolute joy to watch. Like the costumes they wore, it would have been at home on any Broadway stage to the delight of any Broadway audience. Through their talented and tapping toes, the stage exploded with the joys of a jazzy, “I Can’t Be Bothered Now” (with Mr. Hanna’s fine voice and dancing on full display), “Tonight’s the Night,” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” yet another smooth delivery from Hanna. Meanwhile the full company dazzled the audience with the rhythmic and choreographic merriment of “Slap That Bass,” a stellar “I Got Rhythm” (led beautifully by Brandt), a sensational ensemble finish for “Stiff Upper Lip,” with an amusing turn from Brad Rizzo and Megan Doyle as travel experts, Eugene and Patricia Fodor. Other elegant vocals from Miss Brandt included an exquisite “But Not For Me,” and a fine “Embraceable You” duet with Mr. Hanna, who delivered another memorable solo of his own with a richly romantic, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

A fine supporting cast included Caitlin Lashier as Mother, Laurelyn Korfhage as Tess, Katlin Newman as Patsy, and Alex McCauley as Everett. Zachary Tavlin, Aaron Boudreaux, and George Downham comprise the Cowboy Trio. Also featured were Lauren Lawson as Irene, and Sean Rooney as Lank, the saloon owner. Their amusingly racy “Naughty Baby” apparently slipped past the censors. Rooney, by the way, is amusing both on stage and off. I witnessed that at the free spirited Opening Night cast party in an area restaurant, where he literally held Comedy Court to the uproarious delight of his fellow cast members. As the song says, “Who Could Ask For Anything More?”

Crazy for You will be performed July 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Nancy Bock Center for the Performing Arts, 3800 S. Panther Creek Drive in the Woodlands. For tickets and information call 936-271-3532 or visit the website at www.classactproductions.org.

(The Courier    7.24.09)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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