Review by Jess Zintschenko.
What Babirra Music Theatre achieves with their production of Crazy For You is spectacular. I am a Gershwin fan, so at the very least I was always going to be pleased with the musical numbers, but having never seen the show before I wasn’t sure what else to expect.
Crazy For You is set in the 1930s in dazzling New York city and deserted Nevada and follows reluctant banker/hopeful performer Bobby Child (Jonathan Guthrie-Jones) and a cast of New York chorus girls, and Wild West miners in their efforts to save the Gaiety Theater in Deadrock. It is the classic tale of a bunch of underdogs deciding to put on a show to raise money and save their beloved theatre/town/church/house/school etc. But it is the story as you, or at least I, have never seen it before.
Under the direction of Tyler Hess, Babirra Music Theatre has created a wonderfully tongue in cheek production which doesn’t take itself seriously. Crazy For You really does have everything; fluffy puppies, startling gun fights, bubbles, puppets, magical dresses, giant carousel horses, glitz, glamour, and, of course, plenty of excitable chorus girls.
I don’t want to start rumours, but I’m pretty sure Jim Carrey and Andrew Rannells had a love child and his name is Jonathan Guthrie-Jones. Leading the cast as the endearing Bobby Child, Guthrie-Jones mixes the physicality and comic expressiveness of Jim Carrey with the voice and earnest appeal of Andrew Rannells. Kristen Beayni plays love interest Polly Baker as a tough Wild West woman with a sweet side. Beayni gets the chance to showcase her incredible voice in her solo performances of ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ and ‘But Not For Me’. The entire cast sing and dance their hearts out, and the energy generated by the cast is a delight to watch. I have to give a special mention to one of the talented, younger cast members and featured dancers Mitchell Chapman, who captures your attention not just with his dancing skills, but also with the sheer joy you see he gets from performing.
From both a design and a performance perspective, everything about this production is caricatured and over the top, and it all works together so beautifully. In the opening number when you see chorus girls wearing ridiculously large headdresses which require suitably uninterested stage hands to hold them up you realise everything about this show is going to be larger than life.
Director Tyler Hess obviously collaborated very closely with set designer Merinda Backway and costume designer Victoria Horne to establish a very strong stylistic difference between New York and Nevada.
I don’t think I have enough words to describe what Victoria Horne and her skilled costume team have achieved with this show so I’ll just use one word – incredible. It isn’t just the quality, or scale of the costumes which is incredible, but the attention to detail. Who knows how many hours were spent designing, sourcing, fitting, sewing, etc. but I hope everyone involved looks at the final product and knows every stitch and sequin was worth it. If you don’t like musicals but love fashion I’d suggest you go see Crazy For You just to view a stunning heightened fashion showcase of 1930s clothing.
The set design works well and is easily manipulated by the cast and crew to form multiple locations in New York and Nevada. Even though the overall design of Nevada is a rather blank cartoon storybook style, there are plenty of great extra details, such as beautifully painted Wild West scenic posters, fake horses, dressing room mirrors, an ethereal ‘stairway to paradise’, and don’t think I didn’t notice the saloon balcony cleverly painted to resemble glass bottles.
Jason Bovaird’s lighting design supports the stylistic difference in the worlds of New York and Nevada. On occasion, it is difficult to hear dialogue over the orchestra, but for the most part Greg Ginger’s sound design is effective.
‘I Got Rhythm’ is one of my favourite songs, and the Act One finale in this production is insane. The song is brilliant enough on its own, but once you add a chorus of tap dancers in cowboy boots, gold miner percussion, and a whole bunch of other bells and whistles, it is elevated to another level entirely. Craig Wiltshire’s choreography throughout the show is original yet appropriate for the time period, but ‘I Got Rhythm’ is definitely the standout number of the show. It is one of those numbers when you sit there in open mouthed amazement thinking this can’t possibly get better…and then somehow it does.
Another highlight of the show is ‘What Causes That’ in the second act performed by the two Zanglers (Bobby Child disguised as Bela Zangler and real Bela Zangler (Garry Barcham)). There is a real Commedia dell’arte lazzi feel to the scene thanks to the physical comedy, ridiculous moustaches, wild suits, and Hungarian accents of the two Zanglers. The two men work very well together and their comedic timing is impeccable.
This production of Crazy For You is a long show, coming in at just over 3 hours (including interval). Some of the dance sequences feel they run a bit long, but if the audience are enjoying it, and as long as the cast can keep singing and dancing, and Danny Forward can keep his orchestra pumping out those Gershwin tunes, then what’s the problem with that?
The enormous energy of the show is expressed on stage by the performers, but the time, effort, and attention to detail of every element of the show is obviously a reflection of the dedication and love of musical theatre from every single person involved.
At the end of the day, they have successfully delivered an easy to love old fashioned cornball musical which has you still smiling long after you’ve left the theatre. Who could ask for anything more?