Monday, 11 December 2017

Theatre Review: Crazy For You - Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: ATG
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Musical
Genre: Comedy
Date: December 8 2017
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool

A love triangle within a musical is as old as the theatre industry itself, but when the two men involved are the same person??? That's something different, and this forms a major arc for Crazy For You.

The greater emphasis of the show is about the run-down Gaiety Theatre in Deadrock, Nevada which is threatened with closure by the banking authorities of New York. Chief to this is Bobby Child (Tom Chambers), who after a failed dance routine to impress Bela Zangler (Neil Ditt), the head of the Zangler Theatre in his hometown, is sent by his mother to Deadrock to carry out the impending takeover of the venue. This angers the feisty Polly Baker (Charlotte Wakefield), a talented theatre performer in her own right, who vows to never speak to Bobby Child again. As the Deadrock community band together to try and save Gaiety Theatre, though, Bobby develops a crush for Polly, but his advances are spurned.

Cue Bobby taking on the role of Bela Zangler, pretending to be the head of the New York theatre in order to help Polly and friends put on a show that would save Gaeity Theatre, whilst also getting an opportunity to become romantic with Polly herself. This goes ahead, and as Polly starts to feel attracted to "Zangler", everyone works on bringing this show to life as a means of saving the venue.

Unfortunately, the show is a flop; only two people turn up to see it, and even they aren't actually there to see the show. The disappointment felt by all changes into optimism as "Zangler" convinces everybody to try again, with the belief that next time they try to launch the production, it will be a real success. That becomes the focus, and Polly is getting ever closer with "Zangler" ... until the real Zangler comes to town, and all kinds of slapstick comedy and confusion ensues.

The tone is light-hearted throughout, even during the moments when things are not looking good for the central characters. Multiple identities as a means to finding love and saving the theatre make for an interesting twist, and lead to some amusing situations once the real Zangler turns up (including a scene where he and Bobby, both dressed the same, perform something of a mime act as they do the exact same movements, almost becoming mirror images of one another). The scenes themselves are funnier than the dialogue, though there are a few choice one-liners throughout the production. Charlotte Wakefield is believable and likeable as Polly, and Tom Chambers does a great job when you consider that he is essentially playing two of the show's main characters. The supporting cast are very good, and it's worth noting that this show does not have an orchestra; all of the backing instruments are played live by cast members who are a visible part of the story.

It's also interesting to see a story about a theatre within a theatre; though old-fashioned and Americanised, it acts as a guide for any other theatres which may be struggling, and how the right show with the right performers can reverse the fortunes of the venue tenfold. The settings are well-crafted, and at times Chambers is required to climb and almost fall from fairly notable heights, adding a slight feeling of suspense to activities. The only disappointing aspect, which would be more from the perspective of the crew themselves, is that Crazy For You suffered from the challenging winter weather conditions (and the opening night not happening due to technical problems), meaning that fewer people than normal were able to experience this particular production.

Summing this one up, Crazy For You delivers a lot of entertainment with a nostalgic feel, and is a feel-good show for older audiences in particular to enjoy as we head into the Christmas season.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good