Crazy For You at Signature Theatre

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Music is the magic that makes ev’rything sunshiny! And dancing is the thing that makes all your troubles seem tiny! And when you’re sitting watchin’ Crazy For You at Signature Theatre this holiday season, it’ll be all sunshine and smiles with no troubles or cares and you won’t be bothered o’er anything else, I swear! They’ve got the music and it’s magic, and they’ve got the best dancing once could ask for! Directed by Matthew Gardiner with astonishing choreography by Denis Jones, this Gershwin & Ludwig classic will waltz its way straight into your heart, spirit its way straight into your soul, and give you all the warmth to make you crazy for it all holiday season long!

Ashley Spencer as Polly Baker (center) and the ensemble
Ashley Spencer as Polly Baker (center) and the ensemble Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

Deceptively simple yet strikingly beautiful sets come to mind with Scenic Designer Paul Tate Depoo III at the helm. New York and Deadrock couldn’t be further apart but they slide in and out of place with ease thanks to the backdrops and clever illuminating assists from Lighting Designer Jason Lyons. The curving staircases that flank the sides of the stage— which serves both the desperate and dying tumbleweed town in Nevada as well as the live and thriving theatrical circuit of the big apple— is the most versatile and yet elegant piece, and it’s a great deal of fun to watch when in use— in either town on either side.

Covering glamour and glitz as well as dust-bowl filth, Costume Designer Tristan Raines has the aesthetic of Crazy For You well in hand. There is something to be said for the disparity between the two locations— all the more so once the folly and farce of the show’s plot gets underway and Bobby brings Broadway to Deadrock— and Raines’ striking differentiation tactics between the posh threads of New York— complete with showy sequins and shiny colors— and the downtrodden dull as ditchwater togs of the desert really makes the difference in the way show looks.

Ultimately, despite the fabulous costumes, vibrant set, and all the other wonderful things contributing to a stellar aesthetic, the one thing that everyone who sees this show is going to remember seeing is the electrifyingly brilliant dance routines set down by Choreographer Denis Jones. Terrific and tightly uniformed tapping beyond compare— especially when it comes to the solo work put in by the Bobby character and all the fine fancy footwork he has to show during numbers like “K-ra-zy For You”— and group routines that will stun you speechless are what Jones brings to the table with his award-winning style choreography. Picture perfect group tapping is featured during “I Can’t Be Bothered Now”, further setting the high bar for the rest of the show’s routines. Jones soars through the show with sensational dance routines that are truly Broadway-quality.

Director Matthew Gardiner does the show a favor by using house locals for the more salty and seasoned character tracks. Sherri L. Edelen and Thomas Adrian Simpson, treasured veterans of the Signature Stage, make their cameo roles as Patricia and Eugene Fodor respectively. Their comical shenanigans, as these posh travel-writing tourists, makes for excellent chuckles with which to pepper the plot in the second act, particularly when it comes to their big number, “Stiff Upper Lip.”

Danny Gardner as Bobby Child, Bobby Smith as Bela Zangler
Danny Gardner as Bobby Child, Bobby Smith as Bela Zangler C. Stanley Photography

Gardiner’s smart placement of Signature’s Bobby Smith in the role of Bela Zangler is yet another show of his vision when it comes to knowing how to utilize his cast to best serve the show. Smith’s outrageous accent and vocal affectation suits the character well and serves the humor of Zangler’s larger-than-life existence. When he collapses into town (in Nevada) it’s hilarious. Even more so during the insane duo “What Causes That” where Smith’s Zangler faces off against Danny Gardner’s ‘Zangler’ (who is really just Bobby in disguise.) This is the most uproarious and laugh-worthy number in the production, going hands down second to none in its laugh value, musical quality, and overall enjoyment factors.

Danny Gardner as Bobby Child and the ensemble
Danny Gardner as Bobby Child and the ensemble C. Stanley Photography

The aforementioned Danny Gardner is the cat’s meow, the bee’s knees, and whatever other fine and fancy label you throw on a good old-fashioned triple-threat performer! With a golden voice well suited for these Gershwin classics, like “Things Are Looking Up” and his duet “Embraceable You” it makes it very difficult not to fall for the character. In addition to a sublime sound, Gardner brings strong acting chops to the character, working out the nuances of the sticky situations in which he keeps finding himself. And boy oh boy can he ever dance. Showing how to hot foot it, fleet foot it, and all around show off those dancing feet, Gardner is one to watch out for.

Playing opposite this astonishing leading man is Ashley Spencer in the role of Polly Baker. While the character is rough around the edges, there is a polished shine to Spencer’s portrayal that radiates through in her songs, especially “Someone to Watch Over Me” and again in the second act during “But Not For Me.” Filled to the brim with a veritable cauldron of emotion, Spencer takes the character as well in hand as Jones’ does the choreography. She’s spirited, and a perfectly energetic match to play opposite Gardner.

Cole Burden as Lank Hawkins and Natascia Diaz as Irene Roth
Cole Burden as Lank Hawkins and Natascia Diaz as Irene Roth C. Stanley Photography

There’s a saucy spice to be thrown into the mix— because every good musical, be it old-school classical or modern-day hit— has a side-plot with a pinch of romance. It’s difficult to tell whose earning more roars of approval from the audience when it comes down to Lank Hawkins (Cole Burden) and Irene Roth (Natascia Diaz.) Though Burden is generally the vile critter that you love to hate— and he wears his character’s boorish nature like a badge of pride— there’s something to be said for the way he fits into the whole grand scheme of things. It’s Diaz’ mouthy, fiery, and zesty portrayal that sets her scenes ablaze, especially when she settles into “Naughty Baby”, a number that blazes, dazzles, and all but burns up the stage as it unfolds.

Hats off to the cowboys as well— Kurt Boehm, A. Ross Neal, Harrison Smith, Thomas Adrian Simpson (doubling-up undercover), Andre Hinds, Robert Mintz, Sean Bell, and Robbie Roby as Mingo, Moose, Sam, Pete, Custus, Jimmy, Billy, and Wyatt respectively— for holding their own in numbers like “The Real American Folk Song” which features heavily the bold and brash voices and attitudes of Boehm, Neal, and Smith. The Follies Girls— Maria Rizzo, Colleen Hayes, Corinne Munsch, DeMoya Watson Brown, Jennifer Cordiner, Tricia DeSario, Georgina Moore, and Elise Kowalick as Tess, Patsy, Mitzi, Louise, Betsy, Margie, Shelia, and Vera respectively— are equally as impressive, perhaps even a bit more so as they really get to showcase some of the trickier dance routines in numbers like “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and “I Can’t Be Bothered Now.”

Ultimately a feel-good, classical winner for the holiday season, with stellar dancing the likes of which you’ve never seen, Crazy For You at Signature Theater will have you going crazy for it! You don’t want to miss your chance to go crazy for Crazy For You this holiday season so book your tickets soon!

Running Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission

Crazy For You plays through January 14, 2018 in The Max Theatre at Signature Theatre— 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington, VA. For tickets call the box office at (703) 820-9771 or purchase them online.

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