Great dancing highlights "Crazy for You" in Sarasota

'Crazy for You' has great songs and joyous dance by winning cast

mclear@bradenton.comOctober 31, 2013 

Logan O'Neill is Bobby Child Kathryn Parks is Polly Baker in the Players Theatre production of "Crazy for You." PHOTO PROVIDED

ARAN S. GRAHAM

Finding the triple-threat cast demanded by old-fashioned musicals can be a daunting task for any theater, especially a local community theater. Finding a couple of dozen performers who can all sing, act and dance well enough to entertain audiences for a couple of hours just isn't easy.

Usually, if one element falls short, it's the dancing. So it's a wonderful surprise that the dancing in the Players Theatre production of "Crazy for You" is terrific.

The whole cast, from the leads to the chorus, does precise and energetic work with the barrage of lightning-fast tap and soft-shoe numbers in the show that's packed with great songs by George and Ira Gershwin.

The cast does good work delivering those songs, too. The score includes such musical wonders as "Someone To Watch Over Me", "I Got Rhythm", "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "Embraceable You." The cast doesn't knock any of them out of the park, but they give decent renditions of all of them. The performers in the smaller roles are so strong that some of the best vocals come in harmony numbers, rather than the solos.

And the acting's pretty good too -- good enough that the audience can actually care about the stock characters in a silly story.

Playwright Ken Ludwig, who's best known for writing "Lend Me a Tenor" and "The Game's Afoot," took an old Gershwin show called "Girl Crazy," added some other Gershwin songs and reworked the script into "Crazy for You." It was billed as a "new Gershwin musical" and it ended up winning the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1992. It also sparked a resurgence of the traditional American musical.

The story has to do with a wealthy young New York City man who longs to sing and dance on Broadway, and who constantly bugs a big-time producer, obviously patterned after Flo Ziegfeld, to give him a break.

His no-nonsense mother sends him to a small town in Nevada on business. He goes reluctantly, but ends up falling in love and helping to rebuild the town's theater.

Logan O'Neill has the perfect clean-cut look and gee-whiz attitude for the role of Bobby, the rich kid who yearns for the life of a hoofer. Kathryn Parks is a charming Polly, the small-town innocent girl for whom Bobby falls.

The characters and the plot are intentionally stereotypical -- even a lot of the jokes are familiar -- but playwright Ludwig, director Jared E. Walker and the cast have a lot of fun playing around with clichés.

This show does drag at times, most notably a take-off on a classic Marx Brothers but (the one where two guys pretend to be each other's reflection in a mirror) that goes on much, much too long, and there are a couple of smaller performances that aren't quite up to the bar this production sets.

But you don't mind the weak spots too much because you know that within minutes you'll hear another great Gershwin song or see another great dance number choreographed by Kyle Turoff and performed deliciously by the Players cast.

Audiences already seem to be loving the show. Its run was end Nov. 3, but two performances have been added the following weekend.

It now runs through Nov. 10 at the Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. No shows Nov. 4-8. Tickets are $25-$30 for adults and $12 for children 12 and younger. Call 941-365-2494 or go to www.theplayers.org.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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