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The Play-Goer: Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s Crazy for You

Like ice cream on a hot day

 

Photo credit © Alison Harbaugh, Sugar Farm Productions

      It takes a little chutzpah and a lot of hard work for a community theater to try to perform Crazy for You with the original Broadway choreography. With plenty of both, Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre has scored. The dancing awes, and the music and singing soars, riveting the audience for a full two and one-half hours (plus a 15-minute intermission).

     Crazy for You takes us back to the 1930s with music by George and Ira Gershwin performed by a nine-piece live orchestra.

     The play opens at the Zangler ­Theater in New York at the final performance of the season. Bobby Child (Jonathan Jackson) has come to dazzle impresario Bela Zangler (Josh Mooney) with his dancing skills and earn himself a place in the show next season. Zangler, though, has other things on his mind, namely the lovely Tess (Amy Luchey) and how to win her heart.

     Bobby’s fiancé of five years, Irene (Skye Martin) and his mother, Lottie (Martha Nell Fox) have other plans for him. Irene wants Bobby to set a date. Lottie and her associate (Tyler McKay White) want him to go to Dead Rock, Nevada, to foreclose on the run-down Gaiety Theater. Bobby chooses foreclosure over marriage and rushes off to Nevada.

     Meanwhile, in Dead Rock, beautiful and pragmatic Polly Baker (Emma Godfrey), the town postmistress and daughter of theater owner Everett Baker (Peter N. Crews) has read the letter from the bank and loathes Bobby before he arrives. But Bobby is immediately smitten with Polly. He resolves to save the theater by calling his showgirl friends to stage a show in Dead Rock. When Polly learns of Bobby’s identity, she doesn’t believe that he wants to help. What can he do? Pretend to be Bela Zangler, stage the show and win Polly’s heart, of course.

     Godfrey and Jackson are wonderful to watch as the young romantic leads. Godfrey’s voice, especially in the poignant ballads, Someone to Watch Over Me and But Not for Me, is powerful and yet heartbreakingly wistful. Jackson’s Bobby is a charming character and an energetic dancer who achieves complicated moves without a hitch.

     Director Vince Musgrave, music director Anita O’Connor, choreographer Andrew Gordon (who also plays Sam and Harry) and dance captain Luchey (Tess) have skillfully guided this cast, which proudly uses the original — and difficult — Broadway choreography of Susan Stroman. 

     All of the show is enjoyable, but the scope of what they have achieved really comes together in the larger numbers such as Slap the Bass, I’ve Got Rhythm and the finale.

     Two of my favorites are much smaller in scale. Skye Martin as Irene shows a remarkable voice in Naughty Baby; and Bobby and Bela are hilarious in the comic What Causes That? 

     Scenic artist Jacob Cordell conveys the texture of both gritty New York and the softer, more laidback feel of the ex-boom town Dead Rock in sets designed and built by Todd Croteau, with set builders Tom Cagie, Jim Degeneffe, Cheryl Davidow, Carla Hilling and Homer Sandridge.

     Lighting by Thomas Gardner and sound by Chris Timko are beautifully managed, both achievements in an open-air setting in a busy downtown theater.

    Costumers Miriam Gholl and Beth Dietrick have created costumes, and wig and hair designer Tommy Makek styles that evoke the era for glamorous showgirls, cowboys and well-heeled New Yorkers. 

     Fight scenes were terrifically coordinated by Atticus Boidy.

    Credit also goes to stage manager Jennifer Smith and assistant stage manager Josephine Horrell; technical consultants Dan Caughran and Bill Reinhardt; pre-season tech-prep crew Ricky Biaha, Brett Hite, and Matthew Walter. As my nephew, a theater-tech major says, “if you notice me, something has gone dreadfully wrong.”

     Congratulations to all these invisible people: Everything went right. 

     Crazy for You is like ice cream on a hot day: a summertime treat. Treat yourself and your friends and go see it. You’ll enjoy the play and the experience of an open-air theater in the heart of downtown Annapolis.

 

      Also featuring Victoria Rose Brown, Amanda Cimaglia, Thomas James Crabtree, Brandon Deitrick, Robbie Dinsmore, Logan David Donnelly, Andrew Gordon, Debra Kidwell, Brian Kraszewski, Kelsey Luchey, Steve Mangum and Caitlyn Ruth McClellan.

     Orchestra conducted by Ken Kimbell, also on piano, with Trent Goldsmith, Justin Kaley, Allyson Wesley, John Laszakovits, Kristie Snivley, Randy Neilson, Tony Settineri, Reid Bowman and Kevin Brady. 

     ThFSaSu 8:30pm, thru June 15, Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, $25, rsvp: www.summergarden.com.