The last decade has seen a fair few juke-box musicals infuse the West End’s nostrils, and a handful have gone on to prove lucrative and successful. To quote Sondheim, "Musical comedies aren't written. They're rewritten." Crazy For You (based on a 1992 reworking of the 1930 Gershwin musical Girl Crazy) is one of them. On the face of it, all that book writer Ken Ludwig appears to have done is crowbarred in several additional Gershwin songs to enhance, what is essentially, a formulaic (boy meets/repulses/fights for/gets girl) and frankly ludicrous plot. It ran in the West End for three years when it opened in 1993 and survived a further six months there last year. This is its first official London Fringe Production, something Ovation at the Gatehouse is quite rightly proud of, no doubt fuelled by their ever-popular record of revivals.
John Plews' direction ensures it's as eagerly paced as possible, though it's still a tad clunky and laboured in places, generally where scenes aren't terribly inspiring. It's only when Grant Murphy's choreography kicks in that it becomes energetic, and the hard-working ensemble don't disappoint. Yes, it's very dance-heavy but it gets the toes tapping and the urge to hum or sing along to the more familiar tunes is evident on the faces of the audience – which are quite noticeable as the show is played in traverse. This also means however, there is inevitable "tennis-neck" as the action frequents left and right. But the format works well with the cleverly constructed moveable sets designed by Suzi Lombardelli, taking us back and forth from New York to Nevada.
The six-piece band, led superbly by Oliver-John Ruthven, provided great support and the incidental music of George Gershwin's more evocative orchestral compositions smoothly covered the scene changes. Being on a raised platform at one end of the theatre tempered some of the sound imbalances with the (miked) performers but it's no substitute for an end-on rear stage or pit band.
I am deliberately avoiding outlining the story in this review as it's almost irrelevant in my humble opinion – just too improbable albeit humorous. What makes this show work for me is the cast's vigour – it may as well be a song and dance review. Jay Rincon plays romantic lead Bobby: he can dance (boy can he dance!) and he is also adept at the comedic role, delivering some Groucho-Marx-type lines with ease. The girl of his affection is Polly, played with Doris-Day-like verve by the awesome Ceili O'Connor. Her flawless rendition of "Someone to watch over me" was heartfelt and captivating. As a couple, they blend exceptionally well together, effortlessly so in "Shall We Dance?"
Tamsin Dowsett was outstanding in her dual role as Bobby's fiendish New York mother and eccentric English travel writer Patricia Fodor, wife of Eugene, played by Anthony Williamson, both of whom impressed in their "Stiff Upper Lip" routine along with ensemble.
From the trio of shrieking but sexy showgirls, to the quartet of cool but camp cowboys came some glorious harmonies such as in "Bidin' my time", and very fancy footwork in "Tonight's the Night" leading into the Act I finale showstopper "I Got Rhythm" – which took my breath away in an extended routine which left us wanting more – and more we got. Crazy or not, it's "Nice Work If You Can Get It."