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  • Finian Hackett

Crazy For You review: Chichester strikes gold with toe-tapping Gershwin revival

Chichester Festival Theatre is one of the premier regional houses in the UK and always delivers shows to the highest possible standard. Just last year, they produced a glorious revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific which has just now opened in Manchester before heading to London and then the rest of the UK. I always come to Chichester expecting the best and always get the best, and Crazy For You is no anomaly.

The Gerswhin musical first started life as Girl Crazy back in 1930 before being transformed into Crazy For You in 1992 when the show opened on Broadway. It won great acclaim from critics and transferred to the West End the following year with Ruthie Henshall starring. The Tony and Olivier award-winning musical was last seen in the West End in 2011 when the show played Regent's Park and the Novello, winning the Olivier for Best Musical Revival.

Charlie Stemp and Carly Anderson

Charlie Stemp and Carly Anderson lead the phenomenal cast of this 30th anniversary production. Stemp's performance as wannabe performer Bobby Child is his strongest performance to date. After his breakout role at Chichester in Half A SIxpence six years ago, he has flourished as a performer and has continued to go from strength to strength. His dancing is to die for and he commands the stage with such vigour. He's truly cemented himself as one of the UK's best. Anderson is a loveable Polly Baker, the only girl in the Nevada village of Deadrock. Though fiery and fun, she brings a flowing gracefulness to the stage. Her rendition of 'Someone To Watch Over Me' was just beautiful. Together, the pair are an absolutely formidable force.

The company of Crazy For You perform 'Stiff Upper Lip'

Tom Edden gives a hilarious turn as big time vaudeville producer Bella Zangler. The precise mirrored movements between him and Stemp at the beginning of Act 2 had the audience chuckling away. Merryl Ansah is a sizzling Irene Roth, making her enemy Lank Hawkins (played brilliantly by Matthew Craig) swoon during 'Naughty Baby'. Don Gallagher appears as Polly's supportive father Everett and Gay Sopher elegantly wanders the stage as Bobby's demanding mother Lottie. Adrian Grove and Jacqui Dubois bring smiles across everyone's faces as the English travelling pair of Eugene and Patricia Fodor.

Susan Stroman, the show's original choreographer, is back doing both choreography and directing. The dancing is phenomenal. Some of the best I've seen. Though largely the same as the original choreo, Stroman has updated it to fill the thrust stage of the Festival Theatre and does so with great ease. It's a joy to watch and has made me want to become better dancer! The tight ensemble nail every tap break, and gained a lengthy standing ovation at the end of Act One finale, 'I Got Rhythm'.

The Gerswhin score is the real glue binding this whole show together. From 'I Can't Be Bothered Now' to 'Slap That Bass' and 'Nice Work If You Can Get It', it's just hit after hit. The new arrangments and orchestrations by Doug Besterman, Mark Cumberland and David Krane spruce up the bouncy score, conducted by Alan Williams.

Charlie Stemp and the ladies of the company

The sparkling set by Beowulf Borritt stands alongside costumes based upon the show's original designs. As always Chichester has the best in the biz, with Ken Bliington, Kai Harada and Campbell Young Associates working wonders for lightning, sound and wigs and makeup respectively.

Chichester really has done it again. Toe-tapping tunes, ever fantastic production value and a riveting cast to boot. It truly ascends you to the heights of joy and laughter and that is, in my opinion, what classic musical theatre is all about.

If this production doesn't transfer to the West End (or beyond), I'll eat my hat.

Step aside Anything Goes, there's a new tap dance treat in town.


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