In a musical comprised of George and Ira Gershwin’s greatest musical theater hits, you’d think the famous songs would be the highlight. During Theatre Three’s charming if sometimes uneven production of Crazy for You, it’s not the heavy-hitters like “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Embraceable You,” or “I Got Rhythm” that steal the show, it’s a lesser-known song called “What Causes That?” from 1928’s Treasure Girl. Sung by Sam Beasely and Brian Hathaway—who are, for purposes of the plot, dressed identically and drunk as skunks—the number is appealingly comedic and delightfully engaging. It’s not surprising that a pair of drunkards makes for great stage comedy, but is it surprising that this scene more than holds its own against the tap-dancing, ballad-belting frenzy that is the rest of this show.
A jukebox musical before Mamma Mia! was even a twinkle in ABBA’s eye, Crazy For You is a loose interpretation of the Gershwin brothers’ 1930 musical Girl Crazy, smooshed together with a few other popular Gershwin tunes from long-forgotten shows. It premiered on Broadway in 1992 with a book by Ken Ludwig, who retained the corny “let’s put on a show!” attitude while wisely making room in the script for some real zingers (personal favorite: “She’s the only woman in Deadrock.” “That explains why she looks so tired.”).
The resulting show is like a cozy pair of slippers: familiar and easy to slip into. An admittedly ridiculous plot, some pretty showgirls, a few adorably uncoordinated cowboys, and a zany mistaken identity ploy that of course involves a bad wig and stick-on moustache—it’s all here. And, for the most part, it looks and sounds fabulous thanks to director/choreographer Michael Serrecchia, co-choreographer Megan Kelly Bates, and technical director David Walsh, whose multifunctional set design boggles the mind by once again making Theatre Three’s little stage seem five times larger than it is.
Another huge nod goes to Sam Beasely, a nonstop ball of energy who sells each scene he’s in (which is nearly all of them) with dizzying enthusiasm. Playing Bobby Child, a New Yorkrich kid obsessed with show business who gets sent to Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose on an old theater, Beasely taps into the vaudevillian showmanship he so perfectly channeled in Pfamily Arts’ Sideshow and kicks it up a few notches. Kicks it, twirls it, step-ball-changes it—Beasely handily demonstrates why he’s one of DFW’s rising stars.
Not quite as carefree is Emily Lockhart as Polly Baker, Deadrock’s lone woman and the focus of Bobby’s instant infatuation. She’s sassy and bubbly enough to endear, but doesn’t quite reach the emotional depths required of the show’s more tender moments. She’s also tasked with most of the big solo songs, and her voice doesn’t possess the smoothness that Gershwin music requires.
Rounding out the large cast is Theatre Three favorite Hathaway, once again donning a ridiculous wig and outrageous foreign accent like he did in last season’s The Drowsy Chaperone, this time to play Ziegfield stand-in Bela Zangler. It’s him who Bobby impersonates to win over Polly, and Hathaway provides enough nuanced material to make Beasely’s send-up recognizable and hilarious. Other standouts include Calvin Roberts and Preston Isham as eager Deadrock cowboys and Whitney Hennen as dim-bulb chorine Patsy.
Though the songs may not scale the hoped-for aural heights, the cast’s athletic dancing and sheer enthusiasm goes a long way to make up the difference.
Photo by Jeffrey Schmidt