Culture critic Ruth Horsburgh enjoys a truly spectacular Christmas treat at the Birmingham Symphony Hall.Written by Ruth Horsburgh on 31st December 2017
REVIEW: Crazy For You
Life&Style Editor Maddie Bourne enjoyed an entertaining evening watching a talented cast bring this musical to life
Caroline Flack may have been a controversial choice, for some, to cast in the remake of Gershwin classic, Crazy For You. While some people will have raised their eyebrows, and rolled their eyes at seeing the Love Island presenter and strictly come dancing star, cast as top of the bill in this production, there are also many people who are ready to see what all the fuss is about.
“It let us dance in the stars, before chucking us out of the sky and landing us back in Birmingham
Sitting down at the Hippodrome on Tuesday evening, the audience was met with an energetic performance that was captivating, sending those watching on a flight to America – enthralled throughout. It let us dance in the stars, before chucking us out of the sky and landing us back in Birmingham, out into the cold evening. The unassuming humour of the show, with its character one-liners that produce a little giggle at first (and then end up properly tickling you a moment after) are the products of a talented cast, performing a script that may have otherwise appeared, at times, rather cheap and cheesy. Every instrument was played onstage, being incorporated into the body of the scene, and providing the music in real time - a refreshing sight that made the musical feel a lot more immersive. Crazy For You is definitely a show to brighten up your dull Tuesday evening.
Crazy For You, which includes hit songs by the famous Gershwin brothers, ships us back to the 1930’s. We find ourselves in Bela Zangler’s theatre in New York City. Bobby Child (Tom Chambers), son of wealthy banking parents, wishes for a career in the spotlight, however, his mother, and Zangler (whom he auditions for) aren’t exactly fans of his tap dancing and singing. Bobby is sent out to Deadrock, Nevada, by his mother to repossess a local theatre there. As soon as Bobby arrives, he (of course) falls in love with the daughter of the theatre owner, Polly (Charlotte Wakefield), leaving his girlfriend Irene (Caroline Flack) completely alone back in NYC. The slight problem? Polly doesn’t really fancy poor Bobby back. Desperate to save the theatre for the love of his life, Bobby disguises himself as Bela Zangler and gathers together some dancers and the townsfolk to put on a show to raise funds for the theatre. But in true, ‘the narrative is looking as if it’s heading to a resolve now, let’s complicate things again’ style, Polly decides to fall in love with Bobby-disguised-as-Bela, and everything starts to go not so much to plan.
“Crazy for You is definitely a show to brighten up your dull Tuesday evening
With a top billing alongside Tom Chambers as the show’s leading man, Flack attracted a lot of media attention. With the inconsistent performances elicited from the star over the years, all curiously wanted to know how she would perform on the night. But she’s not the leading lady, in fact, unlike Charlotte Wakefield, who plays Polly, Caroline hardly appears. During the first and second acts, she only sings in one song and though she dances a little, there’s none of the tap-dancing that has become synonymous with the musical itself over the years.
I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed by this, Flack was a bundle of energy onstage, seductive, sassy and shining as her character, Irene, should. Her dancing, as we’ve come to expect, was wonderful, her vocals, for a TV presenter, were surprisingly good – though, it’s important to remember, Flack does have theatre training under her belt. Still, it was hard for Caroline to dazzle us, whatever she did, in her limited role.
Despite the fact that I expected more of Caroline Flack, I loved the show. Tom Chambers, as leading man, was the essence of panache, with his tap-dancing and Strictly-style moves complimenting a quietly confident humour that had the audience in stitches. Charlotte Wakefield was the real star of the show as the leading lady, giving the audience the delightful surprises we were all hoping for. Her vocals were incredible and did not falter when she was leaping across the stage, executing incredible dance moves, and wowing the audience with unexpected bursts of energy. Her feisty, yet adorably lovely character, was delivered exceptionally - a personality bubbling over.
One scene, in particular, had the audience in stitches, it was a sketch Tom Chambers (whilst pretending to be Bela Zangler) did alongside the real Bela Zangler. Reminiscent of a Laurel and Hardy sketch, the pair had one drink too many and began mirroring each other’s movements. This was comically timed and incredibly astounding to watch, as although the two actors were pretending to be drunk, the sheer complexity of the dance shone through. We were in awe of their talent, and continually laughing at the absolute comedy of the scene at the same time.
The understated stars of the show are the ensemble. The ability to dance at the level of the show’s stars, as well as play various instruments live onstage throughout the musical, was incredible to witness. This was a great aspect of the show, and one that was refreshing to see onstage. The audience seemed fully immersed in the show itself, lost in the music and storyline, watching all the strands of modern theatre come together on the stage, rather than having the musicians hidden in an orchestra pit.
Crazy For You will fill you with complete joy.