Sharon Playhouse opened with a bracing run: Crazy for You (1992) as directed by Sarah Combs takes the audience back to the days when a young, ambitious hoofer like James Cagney had a shot at the big stage. An updated version of George and Ira Gershwin’s 1930 classic Girl Crazy (which was considered the brothers' best collaboration) has been refurbished by Ken Ludwig with more of the Gershwin brothers most famous songs. But dance, specifically tap dance, is the heartbeat of the play.
Three Actors Equity actors dominate the play: Justin Boccitto as Bobby Child, the rich playboy child who only wants to dance his way through life; Amanda Lea LaVergne (whom you may recall from last summer’s production of Anything Goes) as Polly Baker the rustic diamond discovered by the Broadway producer, and Joey Sorge as Bela Zangler, the cartoon caricature of mighty Ziegfeld (with his follies). This is nearly a two-character play showcase for Boccitto and LaVergne who deliver the great Gershwin solos and duos with zest and romantic tilt as they tattoo the floor with echoing clack.
The chorus line of six feathery ladies tap dancing across one’s eyelids exudes enough pep and energy to deliver exhilaration to a seat warmer. The over-the-top slapstick is so silly that you must see it to believe it, since it is performed with such deceptive panache that approaches the miraculous. While characters don’t move beyond stereotype, there is plenty of romance in song and dance. Moliere’s old formula for mis-engaged lovers that turn into the double marriage conclusion becomes self-consciously whacky with a quadruple marriage solution.
Boccitto with assist from Katie Hardin (as choreographers) have done a truly amazing job of snaking the thread across this stage. Kurt Alger’s costumes and Elizabeth Popeil’s sets exude top-shelf Broadway. Live orchestra ensemble was snazzy with rhythmic drums and bass under direction of Eric Thomas Johnson. I would have preferred a real piano upright to digital. While sound was clear and there were no obvious mikes hanging from costumes, some sound dynamics were slightly uneven.
The plot highlights the delights and frustrations of putting on a show. Amusing comedy is made of rehearsal gaffs. Some unexpectedly slick gymnastics provide some surprises. A few songs appear gratuitously dropped into the slight narrative but the delight of the singing itself makes the plot irrelevant. The large cast of minor characters directed by Combs viscerally convey the joy of acting on stage. Production stage managers Casey Cook and Ann Barkin have done cartwheels.
The stellar lyrics of “Shall we Dance,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Embraceable You,” “Tonight’s the Night,” “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” and “Nice Work if You Can Get It” carry the show beyond the rude plot. Hard to find another outing like this for a companion or friends to revel the night away! You would be crazy to miss the fun.
This sparkling production runs though July 7 at Sharon Playhouse which has remodeled its bar.