Whether you grew up with the Gershwins or don’t know a thing about the American composers’ music, you won’t want to miss Beef & Boards’ “Crazy for You,” the musical comedy featuring some of brothers George and Ira Gershwin’s most beloved tunes.
Bobby Child, a slightly wayward young man with a love of dance and motivation for little else, is tasked by his mother, the ruthless owner of a bank, to carry out the bank’s business at a rundown theater in Nevada in danger of foreclosure.
Within moments of his arrival in the dried-up little town, Bobby falls for a local girl, leading him to discard his duty to shut down the theater and declare his only mission is to help the town save its old beloved playhouse (in hopes of winning the girl in the process).
To accomplish the task, Bobby impersonates theater mogul Bela Zangler, inspiring the townsfolk to put on their first show in years in hopes of a sell-out. When the real Zangler shows up and encounters his double, chaos ensues.
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Blake Spellacy is likable as Bobby from the very first scene, when he begs Zangler (Eddie Curry) for an audition. It’s not just Spellacy’s comedic timing, but his skills as a physical actor that make him so believable as the lovable but unpolished protagonist.
Spellacy shines during the show’s many tap numbers, bringing not only expert dance moves but a youthful charisma that makes him all the more fun to watch.
Hillary Smith plays the town sweetheart, Polly Baker, Bobby’s love interest who finds him more attractive when he is pretending to be Zangler, the one man who might save Polly’s hometown theater.
Smith’s southern accent falters during some of the more demanding vocal numbers, but her voice is lovely enough you don’t mind the minor incongruity. She struggles a bit — losing volume, not quality — projecting the lower range of some of the show’s ballads, a challenge for anyone who tackles Gershwin. When you hear her belt “But Not for Me,” however, you’ll forgive all past transgressions.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable numbers in the show (even to non-Gershwin fans), “I’ve Got Rhythm” is one of her best,” made better by the ensemble joining in with some help from nontraditional instruments ranging from plungers to miners’ sifters adding to the cacophony of sound.
The number brings a joyful end to the show’s first act, which flies by.
In terms of the set, it never ceases to amaze how much Beef & Boards can accommodate in such a small space. The stage is seamlessly transformed from Zangler’s Theater to Lank’s Saloon with just a few carefully chosen set pieces that create the atmosphere without imposing on the modest performance space. The stage does extend to make way for some of the more elaborate group numbers.
A few other notable moments:
“Biding my Time,” sung by the chorus of cowboys (that manages to sound drunk while maintaining tight harmonies) is a delight, and you’ll be disappointed when the number is interrupted midway through so the scene can continue.
When cowboy Custus (Sam Weber) reaches for an upright bass — originally holding it like a guitar to exaggerate his unfamiliarity — at the start of “Slap That Bass,” the audience is on the edge of its seat waiting to see if Weber can actually play — or at least pantomime well enough to be believable while being covered by the show’s band.
Weber, it turns out, knows the instrument well, and he doesn’t disappoint. His performance is one of the show’s high points. Adding to the number are the chorus girls who become stand-up basses by holding stretches of rope from their feet to their heads, showcasing some of choreographer Ron Morgan’s more clever choreography.
A good ensemble can make or break a show, no matter how talented its leads. It should be noted that these chorus members gel nicely. Their chemistry on stage creates a nice backdrop, adding bits of color that occasionally draw the audience’s focus without distracting from the main action.
Sally Scharbrough is delightful as Patsy, a dingy dancer with a few memorable comedic moments, and you won’t be able to keep from laughing at cowboy Samuel McKanney’s antics throughout.
What: “Crazy for You”
When: Runs through April 4
Where: Beef & Boards Dinner Theater
John Belden is former arts editor of the Daily Reporter. He lives in Irvington. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.