By JESSICA NEU
I was on the phone with a friend as I pulled up to the Andrew Carnegie Library and Music Hall for Stage 62’s production of Crazy for You. She asked what show I was seeing, but she was not familiar with the title. I asked her if she had ever seen the 1995 film Mr. Holland’s Opus, which she had. As soon as I said, “Crazy for You is the musical they perform in that movie,” a core childhood memory was unlocked, and we both broke into a chorus from the song “I Got Rhythm.”
Besides this familiar song, George and Ira Gershwin’s acclaimed 1992 musical also features classic numbers such as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Slap That Bass,” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”
Sometimes, performing a show with such iconic numbers can prove daunting as audience members’ familiarity comes with an underlying expectation of how they believe the music should sound based on the original cast production or a preferred cover version. Stage 62’s interpretation of Crazy for You proves traditional yet refreshing. Director Art DeConciliis and Producer Haley Hiller deliver a period piece that transports audiences to 1930s Nevada but relies on its cast’s talent, precision, and technique to bring Gershwins’ songs to life.
Crazy for You tells the story of Bobby Child (Chad Elder), who vivaciously continues to audition for director Bela Zangler (Dominic Bell), head of the Zangler Follies performance group. Zangler is not interested in casting Child, who has been engaged to Irene Roth (Sarah Hennesy) for years now but has no intention of marrying her, partially because he is not in love with her and partly because she wants to force Bobby to follow his family’s tradition of working in banking. Exasperated by NYC life and the pressures from Irene and his mother (Amy Lynn Bonner), Child escapes to Deadrock, Nevada. This small town, an hour’s walk from the train station, is home to a group of lackadaisical cowboys but also to Everett Baker (Patrick Palamara). Everett owns the theater, now a post office, because there has not been a performance in Deadrock since his wife passed away. Next to the theater/post office is the Hotel and Saloon, owned by Lank Hawkins (Alex Hazen). Lank wants to buy Baker’s property from him to expand his own business, but Baker refuses. Baker’s beautiful daughter, Polly (Maggie Smith), supports her father’s wishes to keep his company but has no way of helping him earn the money needed to prevent foreclosure.
Child’s arrival in Deadrock disrupts the town’s life, especially Polly’s, in ways unimaginable to the small-town inhabitants. As with any good show, drama and hilarity ensue as the Child attempts to stage a musical to raise money to save Baker’s theater.
The original book by Ken Ludwig combines the essence of 1930s small-town Western America but also has modern, slightly edgy comedic elements that make Crazy for You feel like a classical musical, much along the lines of Anything Goes or Guys and Dolls. Crazy, written in the late 20th century, still seems fresh, relevant, and delightfully engaging. The talent in Crazy for You is nothing short of spectacular.
The production comes together seamlessly and professionally, creating a show far superior to a typical community theater production. Elder delivers a triple-threat performance with an effervescence that makes it appear that he is tap dancing on air. Smith matches Elder’s talent with a gorgeous tone that brings Gershwin’s music to life and represents Deadrock with equal parts angst and tenacious hope.
As Deadrock residents and the Follies prepare to perform for the first time, Polly exclaims how performing and theater “make you feel alive, and gives you purposes because before that we were just drifters.”
The theater holds a different function or purpose for each audience member, but Stage 62’s production of Crazy for You is special. It reminded me why I love theater and provided a sense of nostalgia for my days in my HS theater department. This performance will not make you want “to ask for anything more.”
TICKETS AND DETAILS
Crazy For You , November 9–19, 2023, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 PM | Sundays at 2:00 p.m. at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall. Tickets at: https://www.purplepass.com/#260491/Stage_62-Crazy_for_You-Andrew_Carnegie_Free_Library_&_Music_Hall-November-09-2023.html