Theater Review: ‘Crazy For You’ feel-good show at Pa. Playhouse
“Crazy For You,” through Aug. 12, Pennsylvania Playhouse, Bethlehem, is one of those feel-good, toe-tapping shows not unlike the wildly-popular romantic musical comedy movies of the 1930s.
That’s because “Crazy For You,” which premiered on Broadway in 1992, is based heavily on George and Ira Gershwin’s 1930s hit “Girl Crazy.”
Like its escapist Great Depression-era counterparts, the Tony award-winning “Crazy For You” features a fairly simple plot. Audiences know it is going to end well, despite a few glitches along the way. It’s a love story, of course. Boy and girl meet; girl rejects boy; boy and girl fall in love at first dance. Sound familiar?
The boy and girl, Bobby and Polly, are played delightfully by Tyler Fernandez and Vanessa Ruggiero, respectively. They sing and pair well, with just the right chemistry to make the audiences root for them to get together.
Director James A. Vivian calls Fernandez a triple-threat. It was easy to see why on opening night, July 27, the performance seen for this review. Fernandez’s pleasing voice and lanky legs serve him well as he sings, tap-dances and plays the comedian like an accomplished trouper. One of his funniest scenes is “Slap That Bass,” when he tries to teach the clumsy cowboys how to dance.
Ruggiero is appealing and versatile as Polly. She can be strong and independent, then coquettish, flirting with Bobby in “Someone to Watch Over Me.” She reveals a vulnerable side singing “But Not for Me.”
Also notable is Brian Houp as Bela Zangler, owner of the Zangler Follies. His scene with Bobby (“What Causes That?”) is intriguing. The two men, dressed alike, sit at opposite ends of a table and become mirror images of each other in an intricate “ballet” of movements.
Christina Concillo stands out as a “Betty-Boop-type character, Patsy, with the deliberately squeaky voice. Watch her. She has a million facial expressions.
Bobby’s fiancé, Irene, played by Victoria Scovens, does a surprising about-face, from sophisticated New Yorker to table-dancing vamp in an engaging rendition of “Naughty Baby.”
The bulk of the 28-member cast are Follies Girls and Cowboys. The Cowboys grow on you, and it turns out they really can sing, as in “Bidin’ My Time.” The Follies Girls sparkle whenever they are on stage and execute some fairly-demanding dance numbers.
Vivian has given both groups clever things to do on stage, such as the rope routine near the end of Act One. His direction of the mirror-image scene with Bobby and Zangler is ingenious.
Choreographer Joanellyn Schubert and costume designer Paula Hannam both rate four stars for their achievements. Schubert brings rousing, well-synchronized tap-dancing to the stage in a musical where ‘30s-style tap-dancing is a key component of the show.
Hannam does a nice job of creating functional costumes that help the actors look their part while at the same time adding color and pizazz to please the audience.
Nancy Schumaker plays piano and directs the nine-member orchestra, which is out of sight of the singers on stage. Keeping singers and musicians together is no small task in a musical with a score of 20 songs, including “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”
Tickets: Pennsylvania Playhouse Box Office, 390 Illick’s Mill Road, Bethlehem; paplayhouse.org; 610-865-6665