If you like dancing, from thunderous tap to swanky Astaire/Rogers swirls to high-kicking chorus lines, then Music Theatre of Wichita's "Crazy for You" is the place to be this week.
The 1992 musical by Ken Ludwig, which won awards for best musical and best choreography on both Broadway and London stages, pays homage to the giddy Gershwin musicals of the 1930s by repurposing vintage music and broad humor to tell a new story.
It looks and sounds like a period piece, but it's a smartly updated show to tickle and thrill today's savvy audiences.
It's somewhere between delicious spoof and ardent valentine. And under direction of James Brennan, who once starred on Broadway in the lead, this MTW version is high-gloss, high-energy and supremely high-fun. Brennan keeps the tale of romance and mistaken identity bubbling right along by pulling out every old stage convention and giving it a delightful twist.
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And the wondrous choreography by Alan Coats runs the inventive gamut with number after number seemingly rolling out forever, a la Busby Berkeley. Coats gets the show off to an eye-popping start with 10 pink-haired chorus girls piling out of a fantasy limo (think circus clowns out of a toy car) while a guy taps on the limo roof and hood. He's got dancers tapping furiously — and fearlessly — on tables, chairs, stacks of suitcases and even on a corrugated tin roof for the unique sounds. By the end, Coats has practically the entire cast in a line at the edge of the stage high-stepping to "I Got Rhythm." Who could ask for anything more, indeed!
Opening night had a couple of rough patches, but the overall fun couldn't be stopped by those distractions.
Instead, we will remember the easy grace and charismatic charm of David Elder (a Broadway veteran who just closed in "Curtains") as Bobby, a happy-go-lucky, irresponsible playboy who dreams of a showbiz career rather than going into the family banking business. Elder has warmth and fun in his voice when he sings. He's a natural crooner. His dancing is remarkable, and seemingly nonstop. And his comic pratfalls, including one in a drunken stupor down a full flight of stairs, brought gasps and applause.
We will also remember the spunk and beauty of Darcie Roberts (another Broadway veteran just seen in MTW's "Smokey Joe's Cafe"), who was silky smooth as Ginger Rogers at times ("But Not for Me," "Embraceable You") and brassy as Ethel Merman at others ("I Got Rhythm"). Roberts plays Polly, a sturdy Nevada frontier woman trying to prevent Bobby's family from foreclosing on her father's old theater. Bobby falls for Polly but her anger at the foreclosure won't let her explore her own feelings for him.
When Bobby disguises himself as a famous Broadway producer to put on a show a la Mickey and Judy to save the theater, Polly falls for the producer, not realizing it's actually Bobby, and delightful complications ensue. If Shakespeare did a musical, this would come close.
Matthew Shepard, riveting as the driven Inspector Javert of "Les Miserables" here previously, does a complete about-face for some farce and slapstick as Bela Zangler, the producer Bobby is pretending to be. When the two inevitably come face-to-face, they play off a Marx Brothers mirror-image scene — perhaps not quite as precise as it could have been, but still very funny.
If you go>
'crazy for you'
What: Gershwin-flavored musical and third show of the summer for Music Theatre of Wichita
Where: Century II Concert Hall
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday
How much: Tickets: evening, $20-$55; matinee, $18-$47. For more information, call 316-265-3107 or go online at www.mtwichita.org.