It seemed like the least demanding way to ease the Whingers back into the reality of London Theatre (In the rum world of the Whingers the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre‘s annual summer musical comedy counts as “reality”).
And it’s usually a dead cert (Hello, Dolly!, Gigi etc.), one of the Whingers’ annual highlights.
And Crazy For You has been showered with five star reviews, the reliable Timothy Sheader directs, it boasts a Gershwin score and – most importantly to the Whingers – it offered a welcome return to the dignity of reserved seating following weeks of queuing (usually in the rain) for shows in the frenzy that constitutes the Edinburgh Fringe.
But having been overindulged by shows mostly lasting no more than an hour, how would the Whingers cope with an interval? Would they depart thinking it was all over? Would their attention spans, unsteady at best, be able to cope or would they be off seeking a late night cabaret to round off their evening before persuading themselves to have “one” for the road in the Gilded Balloon’s Loft bar until 6am (it’s an Edinburgh thing)?
CFY was originally launched on Broadway in 1992, opening at the Prince Edward in London the following year where it ran for three years. It is largely based on the the Gershwins’ 1930 musical Girl Crazy but buoyed up with other Ira/George hits, so you know you are on to a winner there (“Someone to Watch Over Me”, “Embraceable You”, “I Got Rhythm”, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”, “But Not For Me”, “Nice Work If You Can Get It”).
But then there is a book by Ken Ludwig who gave us the damp lettuce which was Lend Me A Tenor, both in play and musical form. Who would win? Surely the Gershwins would effortlessly wrestle Ludwig to the ground leaving the Whingers with nicely warmed cockles even on an unseasonably chilly August evening?
American Sean Palmer (Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid on Broadway; Stanford Blatch’s boyfriend Marcus in Sex and the City) plays pretty banker Bobby who for some inexplicable reason is in love with the theatre.
But he fails an audition for the Zangler Follies and in any case his wealthy mother (Harriet Thorpe) has other plans for him, dispatching him to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on its dilapidated theatre.
Bobby of course falls for the only female inhabitant, the daughter of the theatre owner, pretty Polly (Clare Foster, The Bill, Casualty). Bobby comes up with a plan: he will stage a show to earn enough dough to pay the mortgage and save the theatre (involving premium seating, souvenir brochures, iniquitous booking fees and an over-priced bar, we imagine).
It may be a one-woman, one-horse town, but fortuitously the place is full of latently talented chorus boys…
And the show is pretty perfect in many ways. The costumes are splashily colourful against the woody browns of the fluidly revolving set, the cast are perky and funny (where the script allows), the two leads are charismatic and the choreography is as good and as sparky as we have now come to expect from Stephen Mear. Plus there’s simply oodles of tap dancing: Phil’s autumnal chill was dissipated by Andrew’s inner glow every time he spotted the tell-tale metal sparkling on the bottom of the cast’s shoes each time they built up to a full on number.
But it does lack something. Wit? A point? “I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise” (the score features tantalising snatches of one of Andrew’s favourite Gershwin songs but never delivers the goods). We enjoyed ourselves, but still…
The show is transferring to the Novello Theatre hot on the trotters of the early-closing Betty Blue Eyes but we do have to wonder if musicals are going out of fashion again. There were plenty of empty seats at Tuesday’s CFY and it has even appeared on the TKTS booth.
As the Whinger’s negotiated the seemingly endless Regent’s Park ring roads in an attempt to find their way out of the park the end, Andrew burbled, “Production 4, engagement 3.”