By: Laura Fries
“Crazy For You,” a madcap comedy designed to showcase George and Ira Gershwin tunes, harkens back to the old days of the Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, “Let’s Put on a Show” mentality. Yet the T.C. Williams drama department, headed by Hope Bachman-Miller and Leslie Jones, is far more sophisticated than any ragtag production. The duo (along with student director Elaine Bledsoe) takes a big gamble with such an ambitious production –full of chart-topping songs, complicated dance numbers and a huge ensemble cast—and comes up aces with this crowd-pleasing winner.
Banking heir Bobby Child (Sam Jones), under the thumb of a domineering mother (Leia Moran) and equally formidable fiancé (Kirby Porterfield), dreams of joining the Zangler follies, but instead is tasked with foreclosing on bank property in Deadrock, Nevada. A mile from the nearest train stop, the one saloon town is home to a bunch of bored cowboys and a lone female, Polly Baker (Ellen Broetzmann). Polly, like her father, dreams of restoring the town’s old theater back to its original glory. Aware of its impending foreclosure, Polly is fighting off the advances of local saloon owner Lank Hawkins (Andrew Dewhurst) and swears revenge on Bobby for his role in her misfortune. Bobby, smitten by Polly, can’t win her over as himself, so he pretends to be famous showman Mr. Zangler. He enlists his show business pals from New York including top show girl Tess (Sarah Paez) and her dance crew, to spend their vacation putting on a show to restore the theater, and hopefully help him win over Polly. Things are going swimmingly until Polly falls for the fake Zangler. The real Mr. Zangler (Michael Rawls), Bobby’s fiancé, mother and a traveling pair of Brits come to town and mayhem ensues.
Gershwin standards like “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “Embraceable You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me,” are peppered throughout a script filled with some great lines and physical stunts. Sam Jones has all the charm and charisma required for the role of Bobby and shares onstage chemistry with his leading lady Ellen Broetzman. Broetzman is adorable as Polly even if her western accent evokes Sandy Squirrel from SpongeBob at times. Both have wonderful singing voices but could benefit from a better sound system. In fact, voices are solid throughout the cast and Porterfield shines with her saucy Naughty Baby number.
More than just a musical, however, “Crazy for You” is full of choreographed dance routines and stunts, and Mary Strum’s hard work pays off with great ensemble routines that employ the whole stage. Remarkably cohesive and lots of fun, the supporting ensemble groups are also worthy of note, including the cowboy trio of Kamen Wilks, Joey Risdon and Sam Davies, and Paez, a top show girl and stage mother whose troupe of chorus girls follow her around like a gaggle of colorful pastel chicks. The production boasts a clever rotating stage set, with hidden compartments for cowboys and chorus girls to pop in and out of, great period costumes, and a full orchestra pit. It’s a great play if you can see it and you can see it through May 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the T.C.Williams Main Auditorium.