By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor
If you ever wanted to know if truly professional actors, dancers and singers, timeless music, magnificent sets, beautiful costumes and an extraordinary orchestra could lift your mood and make your heart soar, have I got a show for you! As Frank Rich said in his 1992 “Crazy for You” review of opening night on Broadway, “This is a riotously entertaining show.” And so it is! I saw the pre-Broadway try-out here in Washington and I can honestly tell you that this Signature Theatre production, with its intimate setting and this wonderful cast, is far superior! Boom!
Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent wrote the “Crazy for You” book to incorporate as many danceable George and Ira Gershwin songs as possible from the 30’s, hanging them on a rather slender plot of mistaken identities, foreclosures, and a New Yorker’s image of a rough and tumble Wild West. Why? Because they could, perhaps? But no matter because we get to hear roughly 20 of the Gershwins’ best-loved songs backed up in fine style by the incomparable conductor Jon Kalbfleisch and his superb 14-piece orchestra. We also get to see loads of stunning costumes (the gorgeous Follies girls’ outfits get more fanciful and elaborate for each scene). I lost count of the big, big production numbers; they come at you in waves. And wait until you see and hear 23 actors tapping their hearts out on that stage!
Channeling a young Fred Astaire and a super smart, but perky-when-she-needs-to-be Ginger Rogers, are Danny Gardner as Bobby Child and Ashley Spencer as Polly Baker. Oh my! They both have it all: elegant dancing expertly choreographed by Denis Jones using every inch of the versatile stage, lovely perfect-for-the-period singing voices, and personalities galore! And as a friend of mine wisely said of the show, “Danny Gardner is an incredible find and deserved every bit of his standing ovation.” With handsome staging by Paul Tate dePoo III, and costumes by Tristan Raines, these two will simply sweep you away to the sophistication of the bright lights of New York City in the 1930’s and an old creaky, but historic theatre in Deadwood, Nevada.
The absolutely first-rate cast includes many Signature Theatre regulars: Bobby Smith as Bela Zangler, Natascia Diaz as Irene Roth, Sherri Edelen as Mother and Patricia Fodor, Harry Winter as Everett Baker, Thomas Adrian Simpson as Pete and Eugene Fodor, Maria Rizzo as Tess, Kurt Boehm as Ming, DeMoya Watson Brown as Louise, Jennifer Cordiner as Betsy, Colleen Hayes as Patsy, Andre Hinds as Custus, Robert Mintz as Jimmy, Harrison Smith as Sam, and Robbie Roby as Wyatt. And this is only part of the strong 23 member cast. The creative team also includes impressive designs in lighting by Jason Lyons, sound by Ryan Hickey, and wigs by Leah Loukas.
There’s a whole lot to love in addition to the fabulous music in this show, including tons of hilarious slapstick comedy handled as only Bobby Smith and his perfect foil, Danny Gardner can; there’s a take-charge Maria Rizzo as Tess, the dance captain; a sweet Harry Winter as Polly’s father; and the all-dancing, all-singing, all-instrument-playing Nevada miners and cowboys. But wait, there’s more. You won’t be able to forget the glamorous Follies girls, as well as the racy (in the 1930’s) scenes between sexy Natascia Diaz as Irene Roth and handsome Cole Burden as Lank Hawkins. See the accompanying photos. Is it getting hot in here? You’re going to love this production!
Ticket and Performance Information: “Crazy for You” runs now through January 14, 2018. Tickets are available in person at the Signature Box office, 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington, Va., by calling 703-820-9771, or online at www.sigtheatre.org.