Crazy for You
Sacramento, CA 95814
Crazy for You left a sold-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Pavilion in stitches on opening night. The last musical of this summer’s Music Circus season featured physical comedy, witty dialogue and even—to the dismay of some older folks and the parents of young children—some crude sex jokes. With music by Ira and George Gershwin and book by Ken Ludwig, the combination of comedy, music, dance and costumes created an unpredictably funny, uplifting and celebratory vibe—the perfect way to send off the summer Music Circus season.
First appearing on Broadway and winning a Tony in 1992, the production tells the story of Bobby Child (Noah Racey), a 1930s New Yorker who travels to Nevada for opportunity—both for the chance to prove his dancing skills and a new place to meet girls. As soon as he sees Polly Baker (Anne Horak), the romantic-comedy juices flow, and Bobby begins posing as Broadway theatrical producer Bela Zangler (Matthew Shepard) to win her over. The love story gets complicated when Polly falls in love with Bobby’s impersonation of Zangler.
The play comes to a climax as the real Bela Zangler shows up during a rousing full-ensemble performance of “I Got Rhythm.” Shortly thereafter, Shepard and Racey share a particularly brilliant wordless scene as they drink together and lament their girl problems. Racey’s antics are especially crowd-pleasing, and he’s the liveliest presence onstage—darting around, jumping on tables, falling over and shaking uncontrollably like a worm.
Costumes hark back to the days of Ziegfield Follies; indeed, Zangler is a play on Florenz Ziegfeld. The girls of Zangler Follies—like those of Ziegfeld Follies and the original Folies Bergère—dressed in beautiful feather gowns, flashy rhinestone-encrusted headgear and revealing skirts. These girls are juxtaposed with the cowboy- and hick-filled town of Black Rock, Nevada, resulting in country-mouse-city-mouse comedy. At other times, the script makes fun of the girls’ airheadedness.
Reimagined in this twisted love tale are songs that span the Gershwin’s immense catalog, including favorites like “Embraceable You” and the aforementioned “I Got Rhythm.” Though the songs are old, the musical interludes are woven tightly into the plot.
Besides, it’s always good to celebrate the Gershwin catalog, one of the most important in all of American music history. “I Got Rhythm,” in particular, changed the course of music history more than once—first, as a Broadway hit in Girl Crazy and then again when its chord progression, known as “rhythm changes,” were repurposed for jazz compositions by Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.
One of the only gripes about this play is that—unfortunately—this entire cast is white. But then again, it’s set in 1930s Nevada.
Crazy for You’s strongest qualities shine through because it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a crowd-pleasing satire of the musical-theater industry, entertaining on many fronts, and certainly the funniest production of this year’s Music Circus season. The hardest part about watching it will be trying to catch it before it wraps on September 2.